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Regionalism in Indian politics

 Regionalism: Historically regionalism began with the conquest of Burma. Historically, traditionally and to a great extent in geographically, culturally, linguistically Burma was different from India. In case of religion it resembled with India as Buddhism prevailed there. But it was never part of Maurya, Gupta or Mughal empire.

Taking advantage of this fact British rulers of India sent Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal emperor to Burma and kept him in prison at Rangoon. As Burma was never part of Mughal rule, so last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar died there as unknown lonely prisoner. Congress dominated India but was unable to make any impact in Burma, so Congress leader Tilak was kept as prisoner in Burma.

As neither Congress nor Muslim League possessed influence on Burma, so they agreed for separation of Burma from India in 1935. 

Along with this separate provinces of Sindh, Orissa, N.W.F.P. etc. were created. These new creations encouraged demand of statheood after independence which is continuous even now so this topic is given in detail here. 

Demand For Separate Statheood After 1947

Another form in which regionalism has found an expression in India is that some of the areas have been demanding separate state, on the basis of history tradition, geography languages etc. where the people of the area could develop their culture and language etc. The problem here is much less serious, as compared with regionalism which finds expression in the forms of a demand for separation and complete going out from Indian Union. Because in this case all that is wanted is that a new state, out of the existing state or states, should be created. The States Reorganisation Commission led by justice Fazal Ali, H.N. Kunzroo and K.M. Pannikar had made certain recommendations about the reorganisation of states in 1956 on linguistic basis, but as already pointed out, these recommendations created several serious problems and those regions which were not satisfied with its report turned out violent and in many parts of the country there were violent demonstrations showing their resentment. Some section of society demanded creation of separate state for their linguistic areas, etc.    

Creation of Gujarat and Maharashtra–States Reorganisation Commission had recommended that Bombay should remain a bilingual state, but also suggested the creation of a separate state of Vidarbha by adding some areas of Madhya Pradesh. There were violence in the state and two separate organisations, namely Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti and Maha Gujarat Janata Parishad were founded which struggled for the creation of the separated states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Both these Samitis got sufficient support from the masses. During second general elections both these parties won good number of seats in the state legislatures. In August 1959, Congress Working Committee decided to bifurcate the state and in May 1960, two separate states of Gujarat and Maharashtra came into existence. Bombay or Mumbai became capital of Maharashtra.

Demand for Separate Vidarbha State: The States Reorganisation Commission had recommended the creation of a separate state of Vidarbha. This was however, not accepted by the government, which very much frustrated the people of the area. In 1960, the government, however, decided to bifurcate Bombay that resulted in the demand for the creation of separate state of Vidarbha once again. But again it was turned down. In order to forcefully and effectively press their demand the people of the region organised Nag Vidarbha Andolan Samiti, which also organised violent demonstrations near Nagpur city. The assurance of government of Bombay that Vidarbha area will be given special representation and finances for its development, which will be in proportion to the population of the region, did not satisfy them. The government, however, did not agree to the creation of separate state of Vidarbha. These days the movement has practically came to an end, but demand for separate state is still continuous though neither Congress nor B.J.P. is supporting it.

Bifurcation of Punjab: Some leaders of the Sikhs such as master Tara Singh and Saint Fateh Singh etc. had been demanding for quite sometimes back the creation of a separate state of Sikhistan outside the Union of India. But such a demand had no mass support. Those who made such attempts, thus, found themselves isolated. But they forcefully demanded that they should have a state where Punjabi culture could be fully developed. The result was that composite states of Punjab into two separate states of Punjab and Haryana in November, 1966. Both states have Common High Court and capital at Chandigarh.

Himachal Pradesh was created so demand for the creation of hill states. All Party Hill Leaders Conference demanded a separate hill state to be carved out of existing Assam state. On the other hand, the government suggested that in Assam there will be two units one each comprising of plain and hill areas. Each unit will have maximum powers, whereas regional federation will have some selected subjects. But after sometime Assam Pradesh Congress Committee came out with the idea that composite culture of Assam could not be developed, if hill and plain areas were thus divided. This was responded by All Party Hill Leaders Conference in sufficient measure and in December, 1967, they demanded that in case their demand for the creation of hill states was not immediately met they will resign their seats from the legislature. Actually the members representing Khasi Jaintia and Garo Hills resigned their seats from the Assembly in May 1968. There were hartals and peacful demonstrations in their state. Ultimately government agreed to the demand and Meghalaya state was created in April 1970, but Meghalya is still not peaceful.

Bengali speaking people of Cachhar District demanded a separate state of their own in Assam. But this demand was turned down whereas Bengalis in Assam were demanding creation of a state, the Assamese organised themselves into Lachit Sena which demanded that all non-Assamese should leave the state. The government of Assam took an indifferent view of the agitation and the agitators became active. They boycotted Republic Day celebrations held in January 1968. There were some violent demonstrations as well. The result was that central government instructed the state government to deal strictly with the agitators. The agitation slowly died down. But in 1979, All Assam Student Union and some other organisations started an agitation that all foreign nationals, who do not belong to Assam should be indentified and thrown out of the state. The agitation included boycotting and picketing at state and central government offices in the state, hartals, blockading of traffic, both land and air and disrupting of supplies of goods to be sent to other states, out of Assam. The agitation had popular support from the people of Assam. Several attempts made by central government and state leaders to satisfy them produced no effect. The agitators continued to press their demand that all foreign nationals, who came to the state after 1951 should be sent out of it. The offer of the Prime Minister, that no year should be fixed, but the task of identification should be started with 1971, was not accepted by these leaders. The agitation under Assam Gantantra Parishad proved a success and when elections were held in the state the Parishad won absolute majority in the state legislature and also won many Lok Sabha seats. On 15th August, 1985 Assam Accord was signed between All Assam Student Union which was organising the agitation and the government of India. By this it was agreed that the base date for detection and delection shall be 1.1.1966 and with this problem found a peaceful solution, but disturbances still are common.

Formation of Andhra Pradesh: Regionalism raised its head in Andhra Pradesh in a very forecful manner. The State Reorganisation Commission had recommended that Telugu speaking areas of Hyderabad should be united with Andhra Pradesh but this step should not immediately be taken because there was every fear that these people might be exploited by more educated and advanced people of Andhra. It, therefore, recommended that there should be a separate Telengana state. But after Third General Elections a demand was made that if 2/3 majority of legislators of Telengana decided for merger with Andhra then step towards merger might be taken. But the government decided that both Andhra and Telengana should remain together. Accordingly an agreement was reached between the two regions in which it was provided that a regional committee would be set up to solve the problems of Telengana. The members belonging to the region would be automatically members of the Committee. It was also agreed that revenue which would come from this region would be spent on its development. Another salient point of the agreement was that the people of Telengana would get all senior posts falling vacant in that region. At the political level it was provided that the state shall have a deputy chief minister, in addition to chief minister and that both of them will not belong to the same region. This was impractical solution so it could not be implemented to the satisfaction of concerned parties.

Though the agreement was signed in 1956, but it did not work well and in 1960 there was a widespread demand by the people of Telengana that they should get a separate state. Peaceful agitations were started, though subsequently these became violent. It took a turn for such worse and army had to be called to control the situation. There was burning to private property and firing by police on the demonstrators. But many prominent leaders extended their support to the movement started by the Telengana Region Praja Samiti. Several assurances by the prime minister that the people of Telengana region would be given fair deal did not serve the purpose. The agitation had the support of several political parties. The Congress Party workers and leaders formed a separate body, called "The Telengana Congress Committee'. Cabinet Ministers in the Andhra Cabinet belonging to Telengana region resigned. But inspite of all this in August 1969 the Government of India decided not to create a separate Telengana state. In turn Telengana  members of Andhra Legislature decided not to extend their support to the government, but it made no impact and Telangana is in Andhra.

In 1970, when the elections were round the corner, Prime Minister wanted to have some compromise with the agitators, so that Congress came out victorious in the state. She promised that a separate state of Telengana would be carved out in 1973 in case 2/3 legislators of that region of that time so wanted. But the proposal was turned down and the Samiti decided to contest the Lok Sabha elections as a separate party. It won 10 out of 14 seats in the state. After the elections negotiations, however, again started and following agreement was reached between the Samiti and the Congress Party:

(a) The Samiti will merge itself with the Congress party.

(b) After a lapse of three years the Prime Minister will decide whether there should be a separate Telengana state or not.

(c) Telegana Regional Committee will be given a statutory status.

(d) There will be a separate five years plan for the region.

(e) That a person from Telengana region will be state chief minister.

(f) Constitutional validity of mulki rulers regarding employment will not be challenged. These were wrong suggestions.   

But this agreement divided the Samiti. Some of the leaders of the movements were not at all satisfied with this and wanted a separate Telengana state. The agitation was continued by them. In 1972, some of the state leaders demanded that Telengana should be made a separate state, and they started agitation for this, which soon took a violent turn. Army had to be called to control the situation. In order to control the situation the then prime minister Smt. Indira Gandhi gave her formula about enforcement of Mulki rules 'which had become a bone of contention' whereas Andhra region demanded its abolition, Telengana region wanted its strict enforcement. But formula did not solve the problem and agitation practically brought civil administration to a stand still and ultimately president rule was imposed in the state in January 1978 meanwhile efforts were made to reach a settlement. A new formula was put forth to solve the tangle. This was wrong idea.

According to this formula Telengana Regional Committee will cease to exist and Mulki rules will be abolished. In all matters of recruitments to the lower posts local candidates will be given preference. In order to look into the grievances of civil servants a high power tribunal will be set up and there will be state level planning board with sub-committees for different backward areas. It was also provided that a central university will be set up in Hyderabad. In order to give effect to these decisions Constitution 33rd Amendment Act was passed in December 1973 which made no impact, and status-quo continued.

But formula did not work and a new committee, Telengana Rights Protection Committee was formed in 1974. The aim of the Committee was to launch an agitation for the creation of a separate state of Telengana. It appeared that the situation which had been brought under control with great difficulty, was likely to again out of control. But it did not so happen. There was no agitation in the state on this issue during emergency period. When Janata Party came to power in the centre in 1977, Congree Party continued to remain in office in the state. During this period of Janata rule and thereafter, the state has been comparatively free from the agitation. Demand for separate state of Telengana has practically ended but demand is still continuous. Telugu Desam Party is opposing creation of Telangana but some Congress and B.J.P. leaders are in favour of Telengana state.

U.P. and Uttranchal: In fact, there had been no part of the country in which demand for creation of separate states had not come. In U.P. some leaders have been demanding that the state should be bifurcated and separate states carved out. The hill areas of the state have been demanding a separate state to be carved out of present state of U.P. Now Uttranchal has been created in 2000 A.D., and a separate Jharkhand state has also been created. 

Demand of Gorkha Land: The Gorkhas living in hill areas of West Bengal, particularly in Darjeeling demanded a separate Gorkha Land. Under the leadership of Subash Ghising, they started agitation which at times took a violent turn which resulted in great loss of lives and property. The Government of India and Government of West Bengal, however, take a strong attitude and made it amply clear that there was no scope for the creation of a seperate state for the Gorkhas to be carved out from existing West Bengal. Ultimately Gorkha National Liberation Front which was launching the agitation agreed to sit on the negotiation table and agreed to the formation of Autonomous Gorkha Council, within the state of West Bengal. The Council has since been formed and enjoys considerable autonomy. GNLF swept the polls during the first elections to the Council. Demand of Gorkha land has ended as it failed to get popular support. 

Bodo Land: The Bodos in Assam have launched an agitation for the formation of separate state out of existing state of Assam. They have also been organising bandhs, disturbing normal life in the state. They have, however, agreed to come to negotiation table. Negotiations have already started between their representatives with representatives of Assam government and those of Central government.  

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