Regionalism in India

1.What is meant by Regionalism

Regionalism is a strong attachment to one’s own region. For Example, in India people identify themselves based on their states like a Tamilian, a Bengali, a Bihari etc, more than the identity of an ‘Indian’.

Regionalism can be narrowed down to a smaller unit like a village. For Example, in India, villages have remained with their own identity for many centuries. Every person of a village identify themselves with their village more than their district, state or their country.

2.Factors Responsible for Promoting Regionalism

India is a country with wide diversity and plurality. No other country in the world had existed with a broad unity, peace and tolerance as India does. This unity in diversity of India is praised by many countries around the world. Despite this unity there are sources of regional conflict. The following factors explains the factors that cause regionalism.

2.1 Geographical Factors:

  • India has a very diverse geographical landmass.  As a result of geographical differences, there is a huge variation in climate.
  • These differences in climate causes changes in lifestyle and food habits. For example, North India is very cold during winter and very hot during summer. This is not the case in South India which is hot and humid all throughout the year. Thus people’s clothing and lifestyle are varied due to this fact.
  • People belonging to hilly region of Himalayas have adopted themselves with high altitude and cold conditions. People living in forests (For Example, Tribes) depend on it for food, shelter and other needs. Thus they have a lifestyle that is significantly different from the rest of the population.

2.2 Historical Factors:

  • During Ancient phase of history, It was only during the time of Ashoka’s rule, India became a single political entity. In the other phases, India was largely ruled by regional kingdoms, For Example, Cholas and Pandyas of South India and Satavahanas of Andhra.
  • During Medieval India, India was ruled by kings who belonged to various sections of Islam. It was only during Akbar’s rule, India again became united. Even though his rule had a central government like character, there were numerous governors who ruled the smaller provinces and had their own autonomy and culture. For Example, The Rajputs.
  • India again become politically united during the British rule. The British however due to their policy of divide and rule, encouraged the regional differences. They gave autonomy and concessions to numerous princely states. They fought wars by using one king against another.For Example, Carnatic wars. This prevented the formation of a unified country.

2.3 Linguistic Factors:

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  • India has 22 official languages that is recognised by the constitution. But there are around 1635 mother tongues as per 2001 census.
  • There are 29 languages with more than 10 Lakh native speakers. The mother tongue of a person creates a profound attachment to his own language and hence the identity of belonging also develops. The change of names of Bombay to Mumbai, Bangalore to Bengaluru, Madras to Chennai shows the affinity of people towards their language.
  • This linguistic unity has been a major factor in the formation of states during post independent India. Apart from emotional attachment, it also created ease in communication for day to day activities, administration and establishment of a business.
  • Hindi has been envisaged by the constitution to be promoted as a Lingua Franca (connecting language or a common language). Indian Government after independence has made efforts to promote Hindi. But there has been widespread agitation against this move from non Hindi speaking states. For Example, The Anti Hindi agitations
  • In the present day, the unity of our country is threatened due to differences in languages. Linguistic differences discourage people to travel from one area to another.
  • Residing and settling in any part of India is a fundamental right enshrined in the constitution but linguistic differences create discomfort and confusion for taking up jobs and make a living.
  • Thus people prefer more to work and settle in their respective regions. This prevents the intermingling of people from different states.
  • Language also plays a role in exposure to a set of ideas and upbringing. For example Bollywood and Hindi TV channels are mostly followed by Hindi speaking states whereas movies, music and shows based on regional languages are followed by people belonging to that region. This inhibits informal conversations based on tastes and preferences.

2.4 Religious Factors:

  • Regionalism in India also has a religious dimension. India was united with Pakistan before independence. The differences based on religion has led to the creation of Pakistan.
  • The violent demand for an independent country of Khalistan in the 1980s was based on Sikh religion.

2.5 Political Factors: 

India’s politics and its political parties showcase the regionalism present in our country. They are broadly divided into

  1. National Parties
  2. Regional Parties
  • National parties have a stronghold in many states. They work based on an all India agenda.  For Example, The Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
  • In many states, the national parties like BJP and Congress are not able to get a stronghold in many states due to the predominance of regional parties
  • Regional parties are mostly confined to a single state. They work based on the interest of the state. For Example, Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.
  • Political aspirations of leaders remains a major source of regionalism. For example, regional political parties have used the regional and linguistic identities to secure votes.
  • They have created an imaginary threat from outsiders and promise their vote bank for securing their land for themselves and to eliminate outsiders. Regional parties and fringe elements in various states have campaigned for this agenda.

2.6 Economic Factors:

  • Economic factors also contribute to the development of regionalism. For example, some states and regions  are better in terms of development like infrastructure, healthcare, job opportunities etc.,
  • These economic factors causes problems between regions. For example the formation of states like Jharkhand and Telangana were based on lack of development.
  • The problem of Naxalism has its roots in economic deprivation of people belonging to this region.

2.7 Ethnic Factors:

  • India has many ethnic differences. This has been proven by anthropological research.
  • India is home to as many as 645 Scheduled tribes as recognised by the constitution.
  • These ethnic differences formed the base for demands for political autonomy and secession. For example, the Nagas of Nagaland are demanding a nation based on their ethnic identity.
  • Some demands have taken the form of violent armed struggle with established governments.
  • All these factors pose a threat to India’s unity.

2.5 Cultural Factors: 

Culture of Indian population varies with respect to region. When a citizen from other cultural group offends these traditions or shows cultural insensitivity, there arises the seeds of conflict.

2.7.1 Caste system:

  • Caste system attributed differing social status to different sections of the population. It has also promoted sectarian and sometimes regional aspirations. For Example, The Vanniyars of North Tamil Nadu are demanding a separate nation based on caste identity

2.7.2 Rituals and Festivals:

  • Festivals of both religious and secular nature are celebrated in India. But they are numerous and vary according to the region
  • Hinduism is followed by a majority of people in India. Even within Hinduism, festivals and rituals vary widely based on region
  • There are numerous tribal festivals that showcase the tribal way of life. For example, Hornbill festival in Nagaland
  • Thus regional differences also produce variations in the festivals and its observances

2.7.3 Past Traditions:  

Cultural unity of  a group of people also depends on noble deeds, myths and folklores of local heros. For example, Shivaji in Maharashtra, Maha Rana Pratap in Rajasthan, Lachit Borphukan of Assam are revered by the local people.


3. Solutions to contain Regionalism

  • Political parties should try to avoid partisanship. The appeals made to electorate based on regional identity must be stopped. They should aim at bringing a national unity besides all sectarian interests.
  • Economic Development of our country must be uniform and measures must be taken to ensure it. The Development of underdeveloped, backward regions and naxal hit areas must become a priority to avoid discontent of people.
  • Games like cricket has seen an national unity based on shared emotion. Similarly reviving our National games like Hockey can become a symbol of unity
  • Cultural sensitization programs must be taken up in colleges to avoid hatred based on regions and promote friendship among students
  • Fairs and festivals can be conducted to promote national identity. For example, the setting up of food stalls from all states in Delhi during Independence day celebrations. Similar attempts can be done throughout the country to promote a National brotherhood
  • The role of National Integration council must be revamped to solve conflicting regional aspirations
  • Developing Hindi as a lingua franca among all Indians should be achieved in a peaceful and non coercive manner


  1. Wikipedia
  2. The Hindu
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