Practice Question – Discuss the sociological aspects of movements for separate States.  [UPSC 2013]

Approach – Introduction, Give a detailed description about  socio-cultural dimensions of separatism, Give causes and features of such movements, Illustrate with examples, Conclusion. 



As India consists of a large number of regions with diverse social and cultural compositions and different levels development of economy and infrastructure it has been facing regional movements since it became independent. The Reorganisation of the states in India in 1956 did not solve problems related to regional disparities. Even after the formation of a particular state, a region or more within a state start regional movements for autonomy, independence or even secession from the union of India.



Regional movement is an identity movement seeking special privileges, protection, and  concessions from the state. It is a movement for regional self-governance. In other words, it means a movement for state formation — a movement seeking pluralisation and federalisation of existing polity and political process. There are two potential and significant causes of the emergence of regional movement — one is the interregional or intercommunity conflict, and other is the conflict between region and the state. Interregional conflict is usually shaped around insider-outsider complex — a complex that nurtures nativism and son-of-the-soil ideology. This, in other words, means a natural claim of the insider for better and preferential treatment by the state, particularly in terms of resource distribution and reservation of jobs for the locals.

Region-state conflict usually takes place in the institutional structure of state system, wherein a region questions the distributive policy of the state as discriminatory, exploitative and unfavourable to the overall well-being of the concerned regional community. It is from this perceived sense of deprivation, neglect and ‘internal colonialism’ that the people of a particular region organise themselves into a movement seeking in most of the cases separation from the existing state, or in select instances settling with some autonomy arrangements within the same state. Here, it may be contextually mentioned that in the federal-plural process of nation and state–building, it is the high degree of democratisation and competitive political mobilisation, which generally transform a territorially concentrated sociocultural group into a self-conscious political community, questioning the hegemony of dominant group (other regional community) in state apparatuses and policies, particularly those affecting its identity structure and developmental needs. Viewed in this perspective, regional movement
appears to be non-centralist and self-determining and defining ideology of protest against hegemony of state power and dominant regional group.



In India, territory and community are symbiotically linked. A region is known by the community, which lives in it, and community is designated and characterised by the geo-specifics of  the given region. The demand for separate statehood arises from the synthesis between the two – community and geography.

People having distinct socio-cultural identity, concentrated in few contiguous districts within the existing state-systems seek a separate state in order to preserve, protect and promote their identity. It is argued that a separate state would provide them a political identity and a constitutionally documented institutional space for interest articulation and protection within the Indian nation.

Linguistic purism is another facet of socio-cultural regionalism. This in other words means preservation of cultural identity. Identity factor is extended to delimit state’s encroachment upon the cultural space of a particular regional community. Cultural homogenisation by the state on the pretext of having a uniform national cultural identity is opposed. Therefore, most of the regional movements emphasise autonomy especially in the socio-cultural realm.

Located within the realms of identity and development, regionalism for sub-regional groups serves as an ideology through which they seek to define their own administrative and political identity; and, their relationships with broader territorial  state, regional state, and inter-community relationships. Regionalism provides them a bargaining space in the overall process of nationalism and federalism.



Militants in India’s northeast once enjoyed vast popular support since they, in their formative years, voiced genuine grievances of the people such as poor governance, alienation, lack of development and an apathetic attitude from the central government in New Delhi; in recent years, however, this influence has been reduced. Nevertheless, in most of the states in the northeast, anti-government militants retain significant nuisance value and often indulge in successful strikes against government interests.

With small arms being easily available in the region and the neighbouring countries, capabilities of even relatively smaller groups to challenge state authority have dramatically grown over the years. As a result, militant groups have successfully transformed themselves into huge abduction and extortion rackets collecting regular contributions from the public, government servants and the business houses. With little protection available from the state government, people have often found it convenient to bribe the militant groups for peace, rather than risk death and abduction.



State’s response to regional movements has been varying. We do not find any consistent policy in this regard. However, certain patterns and principles can be discerned in this regard. They are: (i) secessionist demand could not be conceded, rather, secessionism would be suppressed by all necessary means; (ii) central government would not concede those regional demands based exclusively upon religious differences; and (iii) the demands for the creation of separate linguistic would not be conceded unless such a demand is socially wide and economically viable.

We find a positive change in the official attitude towards regionalism and regional movement. Government can concede ethnic claims of self-governance within the permissible autonomy framework of Indian Constitution. Now regionalism is very much integral to the process of nationalism and federalism. In fact the constitution of India itself recognises the notion of an autonomous region. It is with the extension of cultural autonomy, and initiation of democratic process with officially earmarked economic package of development that India has been able to contain ethnic separatism, and making regionalism ultimately the part and parcel of national life.



To sum up, regional movements are indicative of the identity movements of people in a particular region or state, which seek special privileges, protection and concessions from the state. There are both imaginary and real reasons for the rise and growth of these movements. Ever since India became independent, regional movements have taken in different parts of the country on one or the other basis – territorial, ethnicity or economic backwardness of the agitating areas. The response of the state to regional movements has not been uniform. Depending on the situation the state has been indifferent, accommodative or coercive to such movements.



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