Nationalism is not a political theory but merely a sentiment of togetherness, communion, historic connection or a common ethnic conciousness. It is a unit formed by a sense of common defense or aspiration to present themselves in international arena or the desire to emerge as an economic & political power to establish hegemony or a religious sentiment.
Regional Conciousness on the other hand is awareness or knowledge where people identify themselves with a geographical area, either on the basis of language or same ethnicity. Regional Conciousness leads to regionalism where regionalism is the personification of a group or community with land.
Regionalism is either based on the ethnic conciousness or strive for economic growth or aspiration for cultural identity existing between the national tide.Regionalism is not antithetical to nationalism rather it contributes in the growth of nation as it highlights the regional problems through their demands which further helps in national integration.
In the Indian context, regional disparity – interstate or intrastate – is the sole casue behind regional conciousness. Through meeting the regional demand, greater nationalism can be made.
The interstate dispute are the other factor behind regional conciousness:
India’s geographic dimensions are vast, in size as well as in a variety of physiography. All regions are not suitable for settled agriculture at the same level of technology.
Some areas such as river basins have attracted concentrated settlements whereas other areas such as the deep forests have been isolated to a great extent. Here we have tribal settlements practically untouched by the winds of change that have blown over the other areas.
The peopling of India over time has had a deep impact on the ethnic characteristics of the different regions of the country. This is reflected in the concentration of the Palaeo-Mediterranean in the south, of the Mediterranean and the Nordics in the North and North-West, of Palaeo and Tibeto- Mongoloids in the Himalayan realm and the northeastern valleys, and of the Proto-Australoids in the Aravali-Vindhya-Chhotanagpur belt.
The actual picture is far more complex but the recognition of these major tendencies of distribution are of some significance in understanding the regional structure of the country.
It may, however, be noted that as we move from the geographical periphery towards the centre, ethnic distinctiveness loses much of its relevance since different categories merge with each other imperceptibly in the vast expanses of the Indian subcontinent through continuous contacts over thousands of years.
There is considerable weight in the assertion of Cohon when he states that, “even though historically and contemporaneously there is a tremendous diversity physically in India, there is, roughly speaking, a physical type which is Indian”.
The ethnic characteristics of the population as a factor of regional differentiation in the social sphere is of particular relevance in the case of the tribal people. The Negrito communities have been by and large assimilated into other racial groups and the remnants are restricted now to parts of the Andamans and the Nilgiris. The Proto-Australoid communities have been squeezed into the agriculturally negative areas of the Aravali-Vindhya-Chhotanagpur belt and are generally living at a low level of development.
The Palaeo and the Tibeto-Mongoloid communities have lived in closed worlds of the mountain realm of the North and the North-East in relative isolation over centuries using low levels of technology in tropical forest ecosystems.
These regional identities are being integrated in the democratic polity of India through inducing impulses of growth into them. Regional strains and stresses, that still persist, are the consequence of the differing levels of development as between the tribal and the adjacent non-tribal communities, and the strains can be eliminated only by minimizing such disparities.
The most potent institution which, in spite of its extremely negative role, continues to exert tremendous influence on social life in India is the caste system. While originally rooted in Hinduism, it has brought other religious groups—the Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians—under its influence.
It is said that, as a result of the conversion, a person may lose his religion in India, but he never loses his caste. While the phenomenon of caste is all-pervasive, it has its distinct regional forms. M.N. Srinivas has pointed out, while there is a horizontal unit in the higher castes of the sub-continent, each of them is also linked vertically with the lower castes in its own specific regional setting.
Harrison has focussed attention on this important feature of the caste system in the following words: “The caste structure in India divides into a series of regional caste structures, all threaded loosely together within the all-embracing hierarchy of the Hindu society.” Of particular significance for the social geographer is the regional dimension of the distribution of the socially and economically deprived caste groups—the Scheduled Castes in India. Their concentration reflects, in important ways, the incidence of poverty within the regional structure and indicates the varying magnitude and breadth of socio-economic exploitation in the different regions of India.
Language, the vehicle of communication, is perhaps the most important manifestation of the social cohesion of a group. Linguistic diversity in India, therefore, reflects regional differentiation, on the one hand, and is an important factor in region formation, on the other. The magnitude of linguistic diversity in the country has sometimes been overstated. It may be noted that only 23 out of the 187 languages of India account for 97 percent of the population.
The intimate link between the spoken word and the territory is brought out effectively by the fact that the local dialects have been, since ancient times to the present, designated by the geographic names of territories where they were spoken—for example, Avanti, Prachaya, Sauraseni, and Dakshinatya of the Natya Sastra or Bhojpuri, Bundeli and Awadhi of today.
As we move above the dialect to the higher levels of the linguistic hierarchy, we once again meet the fourfold regional division;
(i) the Dravidian region of the South,
(ii) the Indo-Aryan region of the North and the North-West,
(iii) the Mon-Khmer and the Tibeto-Mayanmar (Burmese) region of the North- East and the Himalayan realm, and
(iv) the Austric region of the Aravali-Vindhya Chhotanagpur complex.
While the fundamental role of language in regional differentiation in the social geography of India needs to be properly understood, it would be erroneous not to recognize the strong trend of inter-language cross-fertilization that has been spread over millennia.
During the last three thousand years, each of these distinct groups of languages has come into close contact with the remaining groups, and “out of this contact has arisen a vocabulary which shows a Pan-Indian characteristic,” says Katre.
The religious composition of the population constitutes an important web in the social fabric of the country. India is the original home of Hinduism, which constitutes the system of beliefs and rituals for the great majority of its people. The horizontal spread of Hinduism from its cradle in the land of the Sapta Sindhu has brought the entire country under its influence, But, as Srinivas has rightly pointed out, a distinction needs to be made between ‘all India’ Hinduism and ‘regional’ Hinduism.
The folk ethos of rural India is so deeply rooted in diverse ecologies that religious ideas and values, in spite of an underlying unity, have acquired specific forms in regional moulds. The worship of the Mother Goddess, for example, which is the sheet-anchor of the religious beliefs of all agricultural peoples, is all-pervasive; but Kamakhya Devi is specific to Kamrup, Durga Devi to Bengal, Vaishno Devi to the foothills in the North-West.
It has in fact been suggested that a hierarchy—ranging from village mai to deities of regional and all-India significance—may be identified which provides the backbone of the regional structure of folk religion in India. Unlike Hinduism, whose distribution is widespread throughout the country, the other religious communities have a marked tendency towards clustering and concentration. The Muslims, against popular belief, are a predominantly rural community with a marked concentration in the Kashmir Valley and the adjacent Kargil district, Mewat, Rohilkhand and Upper Doab, Ganga Delta, Malabar, and the Lakshadweep. The Sikhs, though extremely mobile, are concentrated in the districts of Punjab and parts of Haryana. A great majority of the Christians live in the southern territories of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Goa and have their significant clusters in Chhotanagpur and the North-Eastern states. The tribal territories have a strong concentration of animistic and totemistic beliefs.
While it is true that religious beliefs constitute an important element in the spiritual life of the people, the role of religious diversity in the Indian polity has quite often been exaggerated. Religious communities are intertwined with each other within regional systems.
They do not constitute separate national streams, confronting and interacting with each other at the level of the nation. The Kashmiri Muslims and the Kashmiri Hindu have far more in common in the totality of their responses than either the Kashmiri Muslim and the Assamiya Muslim or the Kashmiri Hindu and the Tamil Hindu.
All the more remarkable in this process of cultural synthesis is the traditional role of fairs and festivals all over the land. The Hindu shrines and holy places, the Islamic mosques and dargahs, the Jain teerthasthalas, the Buddhist monasteries, and the Christian churches, draw their devotees from many parts of India; some of them like Varanasi, Rameshwaram, Ajmer, Bodh Gaya, and Old Goa are shrines of national status; and they not only draw their devotees from all over India but from Indians of other religions as well. These and the regional shrines act as strong notes for the cultural and emotional integration of the nation. In their economic functions, most of them, like the Pushkar Lake fair, serve to strengthen these bonds.
An interesting balance between diversity and unity can be seen in most of our cultural expressions and art forms as well. The two classical systems of Carnatic and Hindustani music, though having a common aesthetic and technical base, have developed their own distinctive flavour and style.
At the same time, there has been and continues to be a lot of exchange oiragas, melodies, techniques, and styles between the two. At the popular level, though each region has its own distinct folk or tribal music, mutual influences are not rare.
There are popular ballads on heroic themes or folk tales and legends in different parts of the country with interesting similarities of motifs, styles, and techniques. Almost all parts of the country have songs related to the rhythm of the seasons. Many musical instruments like dhol, madal, mridanga, bansuri, shahnai are found in different regions with local variations in their names, shapes, and in the manner of playing them.
In the sphere of dance also, the classical systems of North, East, and South like Kathak, Odissi, Manipuri, Kuchipudi, Bharatnatyam, and Kathakali have, in spite of a common heritage of aesthetic principles, evolved their own distinctive styles and flavour, frequently through interaction with the popular and folk dances of their region, which are more closely integrated with the life of the people.
The country has a magnificent variety of dramatic forms in different regions—both traditional and folk. Most of them carry forward some of the aesthetic principles laid down in the Natya Sastra and follow common or similar conventions.
There are interesting instances of migration of forms and performers with an intermingling of various communities and groups, e.g., Krishna Parijat in the South is performed by Muslim performers; or, the singer-performers of Kathiawar have migrated to Andhra to perform a particular form of Ramayana. Dummy horse performances are common in Kutch as well as in Tamil Nadu.
Such mingling of the common features and distinctive elements is a characteristic of other art forms also, like painting, sculpture, architecture, poetry, both in the sophisticated urban traditions as well as, indeed, more pronouncedly, in the popular folk traditions of different regions.
Considering the totality of the processes discussed above, the essential feature of the social geography of India appears to be the symbiotic relationship between centripetal and centrifugal forces in the Indian polity, producing a delicate balance of unity in diversity.
The centripetal forces were released by the horizontal spread of techniques and other socio-economic and cultural traits, which, on the one hand, got impregnated into regional systems and contributed to their integration into larger entities, and, on the other, got sustenance from these regional systems and became transformed in this process to play their integrative role more effectively.
The centrifugal forces were generated by the requirements of different ecosystems and man’s interaction with them, leading to regionally specific responses to varying landscapes. In an important sense, the history of India is the history of the interaction of these two kinds of forces.
In spite of the differences in the natural environment of the various regions, the monsoonal rhythm of the seasons provides a strong element of uniformity. The alternation of the dry and the wet seasons and the concentration of the life-giving rains to a few months in the year is, by and large, an all-India phenomenon, even though the magnitude of the dryness of the dry season and the wetness of the wet season varies greatly from one part of the country to the other.
The all-pervasiveness of the monsoons—in spite of the many regional variations—has provided the natural base for a certain degree of uniformity in man-nature interaction throughout the length and breadth of the country; the unity of India is strongly rooted in this commonness.
The horizontal spread of cultural and socioeconomic attributes from different parts of the country to one another and the constant and ever-growing give and take through inter-regional contacts and exchanges have generated a process of cultural fusion which has created strong bonds of unification and integration.
The development of inter-regional economic linkages and the emergence of a national home market during the last two hundred years or so, though constrained by the negative influences of imperialist exploitation, have played an important role in unifying the country.
The British, by striking at the roots of the self-sufficiency of the village community, brought the bulk of rural India into a largely unified all-India market. The establishment of networks of railways and other means of communication greatly facilitated this process. The requirements of the economy also generated inter-district and inter-state migrations on a considerable scale, breaking the age-old isolation of regional groups from each other.
Of special significance in this connection was the rural-urban migration stream which brought together into urban agglomerations, people who spoke different dialects or professed different faiths, but were citizens of an emergent India.
The attempts made since 1947 to correct the distortions introduced by the British in the regional structure of the country and the accelerated rate of socio-economic development have furthered the consolidation of the national home market and have thus strengthened the foundations of Indian nationhood.
The unity and diversity of India are not two opposing features that can grow at each other’s cost. They are symbiotically linked and support and sustain each other. Any attempt to over-emphasise either of these would disturb the delicate balance.
Those who view India as a monolith and those who view it as a mechanical mixture of diverse elements put together by the British are both in error and do not understand one of the characteristic features of the Indian polity, that has made India what it is.
When we talk of the need for national integration in India, we essentially refer to certain major aspects of the problem, namely: (i) cultural (i.e. regional and linguistic variation); (ii) social (i.e. differentiation of caste, communities, and tribes); (iii) economic (i.e. rural-urban divergence and unequal income groups among them); and (iv) political (i.e. differences of ideology, and interests within the larger framework of the democratic political system).
Regionalism and sub-regionalism are unavoidable in a country as vast and expansive as India. Nothing is more basic to the very concept of federalism than regionalism and sub-regionalism. Once the federal nation-state comes into being and national freedom becomes a reality, the regional sentiments and demands also manifest and assert themselves. This has been the lesson of history.
Not infrequently, those supporting the cause of ‘unity* and ‘integrity” of the country and the nation consider any and every attempt to support or defend sub-regional and regional interests as divisive, fissiparous, and disintegrative. This is not a correct approach. It is to be remembered that in a country of manifest diversities like India, unity does not mean uniformity, nor does integration mean centralization.
In India, there is a strong case not only for the existence but also for the growth of healthy regionalism (including sub-regionalism) perceived from a democratic perspective and political angle.
The process of national integration itself involves the integration of these viable regions as a pre-condition for the development of national identity. For instance, to be Indian’ does not necessarily mean that one cannot be a Tamilian, Telugu, Bengali, Maharashtrian, Gujarati, Kashmiri, Assami, Naga, etc. National unity can genuinely grow out of a healthy reconciliation between regionalism and nationalism. However, it is evident that like chauvinism, unhealthy regional or sub-regional patriotism is equally cancerous and disruptive.
The main challenges to India’s efforts at building a new national identity by coalescing its multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-caste, multilingual and multi-regional population around a unified national consciousness could be identified at three points:
(i) inadequate distribution of goods and services, resulting in economic disparity and rampant poverty;
(ii) persistence of socioeconomic inequality between and within the rural and the urban segments of the people, and
(iii) political populism and political exploitation by competing parties and groups by pandering to divisive and violent communal, caste, and regional sentiments.
Structural violence is in-built in an unequal society because a society that is divided within itself is a society in tension, a society in the perpetual tussle between its affluent and impoverished parts. In this situation, the pent-up frustration and anger of the “have-nots’ lead to tension and violence.
A huge proportion of the population below the poverty line offers a striking contrast to the affluent part of the nation that consumes a disproportionately large chunk of the national income. It is in such a social setting that opportunistic politicians in competing for electoral politics exploit the sentiments of the common people by using populist slogans. One aspect of populism is parochialism.
By playing up to the parochial sentiments, short-term electoral gains are possible. In India, parochialism has many forms, the most common of them being communalism, casteism, tribalism, and narrow regionalism.
All these are harmful to the nation and the country as a whole. But the other side of ‘populism’ is exaggerated nationalism. When all valid and viable diversities are trampled mercilessly and all genuine and positive sub-national identities are uncritically attacked as ‘divisive’, ‘fissiparous’, and anti-national, then the healthy balance between the ‘whole’ and the ‘parts’, the ‘general’ and the ‘particular’, is lost. Regimentation is as big an enemy of enlightened nationalism as narrow-minded sectionalism, populist parochialism or bigoted regionalism is.
National integration is necessary for modernization. It involves the readjustment of the loyalties of the people. The values of a tribal, a feudal, and a parochial ethos give way to the ideas and ends of a democratic, egalitarian, and evolving national society. Integration is thus a movement away from traditionalist allegiances towards a modernist allegiance—a movement for the establishment of a new national identity.
In the language of functional politics, the term ‘national integration means, and ought to mean, cohesion but not fusion, unity but not uniformity, reconciliation but not a merger, accommodation but not elimination, assimilation but not extinction, synthesis but not non-existence, solidarity but not regimentation, of the many segments of the people in territorial sovereignty.
National integration may be summed up to signify a condition of unity in diversity in which the components and the whole are equally valid and mutually interdependent. National integration presumes the existence both of unity and diversity. Because if there is only unity then integration is not necessary, and if there is only diversity then integration is not possible.
Obviously, then, integration is not a process of conversion of diversities uniformity but a congruence of diversities leading to a higher level of unity in which both the varieties and similarities are maintained. It may also be remembered that all diversities are not and need not be construed as divisive in their operation. Viable plural societies anyhow presume that diversities are reconcilable.