In other words, it is the manifestation of those neglected socio-political elements which fail to find expression in the mainstream polity and culture. These feelings of frustration and anger resulting from exclusion and neglect find expression in regionalism.
Prejudices and biases have a lasting impact on the mind of the people. They themselves do not play a part in the political process, but as a psychic factor they do influence their party organisations and their political behaviour. Seen in this perspective, regionalism in India, as elsewhere, is basically a psychic phenomenon. It has its root in the minds of the people.
The emergence of the independent Lahore Kingdom under the capable legendary leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was a deep and everlasting impact on the minds of the Sikhs of the region. Similarly, people of Maharashtra can never forget the heroic deeds of Shivaji. Since politics sometimes is emotional, not rational, people adore these heroes and their achievements. They often identify themselves with them. This helps in arousing the sentiments of the people which are later exploited by the regional political leadership.
The resurgence of regionalism in various parts of the country has emerged as such a serious problem that it literally threatens to divide the country. The creation of new states like Jharkhand, Uttaranchal (Uttarakhand) and Chhattisgarh in recent times is in fact the expression of territorial regionalism. Again, the demand for Bodoland, Vidarbha, Telangana, Gorkhaland, etc. cannot be traced in the earnest desire of the people to have their regional identity, which results from regional imbalances.
In fact, it is the natural desire of the people in a region or territory to make rapid social and economic development so that they may live happily. But in course of time when some part of the region makes rapid development, and other remains neglected, then the feelings of anger and frustration creep into the mind of the people which find expression in demand for a separate homeland. Thus, this development imbalance in which some part of the state receives special attention and other areas are neglected and allowed to rot causing immense suffering and hardship to the common appeared in the form of Gorkha movement, Bodo movement, Telangana movement, etc.
There is certainly no denying that social Utopias of leaders like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru were mainly responsible for the lopsided development of the country and the creation of the society in which a few rolled in wealth, the majority of the people yearned for food.
In fact, regionalism in India appears in four forms, e.g. demand of the people of certain areas for separate statehood, demand of people of certain Union Territories for full-fledged statehood, demand of certain people for favourable settlement of inter-state disputes, and the demand of the people of certain areas for secession from the Indian Union. However, it is agreed that the rise and growth of regionalism is rooted in the failure of the national political system to meet the aspirations of the people.
This marks the inefficiency and incapability on the part of the authority concerned-the Parliament, the Executive-to respond to the people’s expectations and efficiently handling the growing unrest and deepening conflict. Besides, the local leadership is to be held equally responsible, which fails to reconcile with the aspirations of the people. The mixed economy of India, consisting of large state sector and corporate sector, miserably failed to generate job opportunities for majority of people who are forced to live a life of poverty, illiteracy and starvation.
Large portions of the population are underhoused and live a life without benefits of rudimentary health care. In this situation in which the teeming millions languish under the crushing burden of poverty, only about twenty per cent of the populations enjoy the benefits of development. This ever- widening gap between the two groups of India constitutes the root cause of inter-ethnic, inter-communal and inter-regional conflicts-various manifestation of regionalism.
Regional parties play a prominent role in the spread of regionalism and in creating regional consciousness. Since these parties have their political existence in regional support, they arouse it to gain its benefits to serve their end. It is a well-known strategy of the regional leadership to launch their agenda against the Centre, i.e. the opposition party for discriminating against the state with political motives. Besides, the regional press, which is primarily language-oriented, immensely contributes in the emergence of regionalism.
It is a powerful vehicle for the expression of regionalism and regional sentiments. The views expressed in them are, often quite contrary to those in the English media, i.e. national media. In an age of coalition governments, where regional forces in the country are strengthening, vernacular press has become more vocal and articulates. Naturally, it has strengthening effect on regional sentiments.
Thus, the need of the hour is to develop a realistic perception of regionalism at the conceptual level focusing on righteousness and judicious outlook on the part of the political parties. If this objective is achieved, then the realisation of the idea of different communities, speaking diverse languages and each linked with particular cultural expression, “thinking globally, acting globally and seeing human unity in diversity in practical terms” too would become a distinct possibility.