CBSE Notes | Class 12 | Political Science | Politics In India Since Independence | Chapter 8 - Regional Aspirations
The chapter introduces students to the various political aspiration of the regions in the Indian Sub Continent. The chapter talks about nation building, and the regional autonomy that the regions demanded. We also highlight various accord that took place: Punjab, North-East etc.
Building a nation is not something that can be achieved once and for all. Every time, new hurdles arose, as well as some old issues that had never been totally resolved. People from many regions began to express their desire for autonomy as the democratic experiment progressed.
People in several parts of the country, particularly in Assam, Punjab, Mizoram, and the developments in Jammu and Kashmir, engaged in long conflicts and often aggressive and armed statements.
What were the characteristics of the movements?
The emergence of regional autonomy aspirations began in the 1980s.
People's armed assertions, government repression, and the collapse of democratic and electoral systems were all part of these movements. The majority of these conflicts were protracted and ended in negotiated settlements or agreements with the central authority.
The agreements were made through a conversion process aimed at resolving controversial topics within the framework of the constitution. The road to the agreement was always raucous and often violent.
What was unique about the Indian approach?
Indian nationalism attempted to strike a balance between unity and variety.
The Indian approach was quite different from that of many European countries, where the cultural variety was seen as a threat to the country's survival. The democratic approach accepts regional political expressions and does not regard them as anti-national.
Democratic politics allows parties and groups to speak to people about their regional identity, aspirations, and concerns.
It also means that regional issues and challenges will be given the attention and consideration they deserve during the policy-making process.
Political confrontations over problems of regional power, rights, and independent existence are prevalent among governments that desire to recognise diversity.
India has encountered numerous problems since independence, including partition, displacement, absorption of princely states, state reorganisation, and so on.
After independence, the question of Jammu and Kashmir arose.
It was not only a struggle between India and Pakistan but also a question of the people of Kashmir's democratic ambitions.
Nagaland and Mizoram, both in the North East, have seen strong movements for independence from India.
Some Dravid groups in the south also sought their own homeland. Following these events, mass movement for the construction of linguistic states erupted in many regions of the world.
The states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Gujarat were among those affected by the riots. There were protests in the south, particularly in Tamil Nadu, opposing declaring Hindi the country's official language.
In the North, there were strong pro-Hindi demonstrations demanding that Hindi be made the official language soon.
During the 1950s, people who spoke Punjabi began to demand a separate state for themselves. In 1966, the states of Punjab and Haryana were formed as a result of this agreement.
It was decided to form the states of Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand, and Uttaranchal (now Uttarakhand).
The country's internal boundaries were redrawn. The problem in other areas, such as Kashmir and Nagaland, was so complicated that it could not be solved during the first phase of nation-building.
Jammu & Kashmir
The 'Kashmir issue' has long been regarded as a key point of contention between India and Pakistan.
Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh are the three social and political regions that makeup J&K. The people of Kashmir are predominantly Muslim and speak Kashmiri, with a small Hindu minority speaking Kashmiri.
Jammu is home to Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs who speak a variety of languages.
Ladakh is a mountainous region with a small population that is evenly split between Buddhists and Muslims. The issue of Kashmiriyat, or Kashmiri identity, and the people of J&K's desire for political autonomy.
The Sources of the Issue
Before 1947, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) was a princely state. Hari Singh, the territory's Hindu monarch, opposed a union with India and attempted to negotiate an autonomous status for his state with both India and Pakistan.
Because there was a Muslim majority in Kashmir, Pakistanis believed it belonged to them. However, this is not how the masses perceived it. They identified as Kashmiris.
The National Conference's Sheikh Abdullah led a movement within the state to depose the Maharaja, but he was opposed to joining Pakistan.
The National Conference was a non-denominational organisation with a long history of working with Congress.
Pakistan launched tribal infiltrators from their side to conquer Kashmir in October 1947, forcing the Maharaja to seek Indian military assistance.
India provided military assistance after the Maharaja signed an 'Instrument of Accession' with the Indian government.
It was also agreed that after the situation had stabilised, the people of J&K's opinions on their future would be ascertained.
In March 1948, Sheikh Abdullah became the Prime Minister of the State of J&K (the head of the state's administration at the time was known as the Prime Minister).
India pledged to preserve Jammu & Kashmir's autonomy.
What is the Instrument of Accession?
The Instrument of Accession was a legal instrument formed by the Government of India Act 1935 and used in 1947 to allow each of the princely states under British supremacy to join one of the new dominions of India or Pakistan founded by the Partition of British India.
Internal and External Conflicts
Pakistan has always contended that the Kashmir valley should be a part of the country.
In 1947, Pakistan funded a tribal invasion of the state, as a result of which one portion of the state, known as ‘Azad Kashmir,' came under the Pakistani administration.
Article 370 of our Constitution grants Kashmir unique status. In comparison to other Indian states, Jammu and Kashmir have more autonomy under Article 370.
The state had a constitution of its own. The State was exempt from all provisions of the Indian Constitution. Only if the State agrees do laws passed by Parliament apply to J&K.
People outside of J&K argue that the special status provided by Article 370 does not allow full integration of the state with India and that J&K should be treated like any other Indian state.
Another group, primarily Kashmiris, believes that the autonomy granted by Article 370 is insufficient.
A section of Kashmiris has voiced its dissatisfaction.
First, the promise that accession would be referred to the people of the state afterwards was not kept, leading to calls for a "plebiscite." In actuality, the special federal status promised by Article 370 has been eroded. In the state of Jammu and Kashmir, democracy has not been institutionalised in the same way.
What changed in terms of political dimensions after 1948?
Sheikh Abdullah was the driving force behind massive land reforms and other programmes. His stand on Kashmir's status was causing a growing schism between him and the national government.
In 1953, he was fired and imprisoned for a number of years. The leadership that succeeded him did not have as much public support and was only able to administer the state with the help of the federal government.
Several elections have been tainted by severe charges of fraud and rigging. During the majority of the period from 1953 and 1974, the Congress party had a significant effect on state politics. For a time, the National Conference (minus Sheikh Abdullah) remained in power with Congress' active support, but it eventually united with Congress.
Sheikh Abdullah and the Indian government attempted to strike a deal on multiple occasions. Sheikh Abdullah became the Chief Minister of the State after Indira Gandhi made an arrangement with him in 1974.
He resurrected the National Conference, which won a majority in the 1977 assembly elections.
After his father's death in 1982, Farooq Abdullah, Sheikh Abdullah's son, assumed command.
The Governor quickly removed him, and a breakaway section of the National Conference rose to power. The trust that Kashmiris had earned in democratic processes following the agreement was shattered.
In 1986, the National Conference agreed to form an electoral alliance with Congress, the federal government's main party.
After the Insurgency
Farooq Abdullah was re-elected as Minister after the National Conference-Congress alliance won the assembly elections in 1987.
The results did not represent a popular opinion, and the entire election process is thought to have been rigged. This resulted in a political crisis in Kashmir, which worsened as the conflict grew.
In 1989, the state was engulfed by a militant movement dedicated to the creation of a distinct Kashmiri country.
Pakistan provided moral, material, and military support to the militants.
For numerous years, the state was under President's rule and effectively under the control of the military forces.
A Call for Regional Self-Government
In 1996, the National Conference, led by Farooq Abdullah, came to power in Jammu and Kashmir with a proposal for regional autonomy for the state.
In 2002, the election in J&K was fairly fair. The National Conference lost its majority and was replaced by a coalition government led by the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and Congress.
"Separatist politics arose in Kashmir in various forms," says the author.
One group of separatists wants Kashmir to be its own country.
There are also others who want Kashmir to become part of Pakistan. Another strand wants the people of the state to have more autonomy inside the Indian union.
The concept of autonomy appeals to the people of Jammu and Ladakh in a unique way. They frequently complain about being ignored and being behind the times. As a result, there is just as much demand for intra-State autonomy as there is for state autonomy.
The public's initial support for militancy has given way to a desire for peace. The Centre has begun talks with a number of separatist parties. Instead of demanding an independent country, most separatists in talks are attempting to renegotiate the state's relationship with India.
Jammu and Kashmir is a living example of a diverse society and political system.
Despite these differences and divergences, the State's multifarious and secular culture has generally stayed intact.
The decade of 1980s also witnessed major developments in the State of Punjab. The social composition of the State changed first with Partition and later on after the carving out of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. The rest of the country was re-organised on linguistic lines in the 1950s,
Punjab had to wait till 1966 for the creation of a Punjabi speaking state.
The Akali Dal, which was formed in 1920 as the political wing of the Sikhs, had led the movement for the formation of a ‘Punjabi suba’.
The Sikhs were now a majority in Punjab.
The Akalis came to power in 1967 and then in 1977. On both occasions, it was a coalition government.
The Akalis discovered that despite the redrawing of the boundaries, their political position remained precarious.
Firstly, their government was dismissed by the Centre mid-way through its term.
Secondly, they did not enjoy strong support among the Hindus.
Thirdly, the Sikh community, like all other religious communities, was internally differentiated on caste and class lines.
The Congress got more support among the Dalits, whether Hindu or Sikh, than the Akalis.
It was in this context that during the 1970s a section of Akalis began to demand political autonomy for the region. This was reflected in a resolution passed at their conference at Anandpur Sahib in 1973.
The Anandpur Sahib Resolution asserted regional autonomy and wanted to redefine the centre-state relationship in the country.
The resolution also spoke of the aspirations of the Sikh qaum and declared its goal as attaining the bolbala (dominance or hegemony) of the Sikhs.
The Resolution was a plea for strengthening federalism, but it could also be interpreted as a plea for a separate Sikh nation. The Resolution had a limited appeal among the Sikh masses.
After the Akali government had been dismissed in 1980, the Akali Dal launched a movement on the question of the distribution of water between Punjab and its neighbouring States. A section of the religious leaders raised the question of autonomous Sikh identity.
The more extreme elements started advocating secession from India and the creation of ‘Khalistan’.
Cycle of violence
The leadership of the movement passed from the moderate Akalis to the extremist elements and took the form of armed insurgency.
Militants made their headquarters inside the Sikh holy shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, and turned it into an armed fortress.
The Government of India carried out ‘Operation Blue Star’, in June 1984. The Government could successfully flush out the militants, but it also damaged the historic temple and deeply hurt the sentiments of the Sikhs.
A large proportion of Sikhs in India and abroad saw the military operation as an attack on their faith and this gave further impetus to militant and extremist groups. A still more tragic turn of events complicated the Punjab problem further.
Assasination Of Indra Gandhi
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31 October 1984 outside her residence by her bodyguards.
The entire country was shocked by this development, in Delhi and in many parts of northern India violence broke out against the Sikh community.
The violence against the Sikhs continued for almost a week. More than two thousand Sikhs were killed in the national capital, the area worst affected by this violence. Hundreds of Sikhs were killed in other parts of the country, like Kanpur, Bokaro and Chas.
Many Sikh families lost their male members and thus suffered great emotional and heavy financial loss.
Twenty years later, speaking in the Parliament in 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed regret over these killings and apologised to the nation for the anti-Sikh violence.
The Longowal Accord
In 1984, the new Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi initiated a dialogue with moderate Akali leaders.
In July 1985, he reached an agreement with Harchand Singh Longowal, then the President of the Akali Dal.
This agreement, known as the Rajiv Gandhi - Longowal Accord or the Punjab Accord, was a step towards bringing normalcy to Punjab.
It was agreed that Chandigarh would be transferred to Punjab, a separate commission would be appointed to resolve the border dispute between Punjab and Haryana, and a tribunal would be set up to decide the sharing of Ravi-Beas river water among Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.
The agreement also provided for compensation to and better treatment of those affected by the militancy in Punjab and the withdrawal of the application of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Punjab.
Militancy and counter-insurgency violence led to excesses by the police and violations of human rights.
The central government had to impose President’s rule in the State and the normal electoral and political process was suspended.
It was not easy to restore the political process in the atmosphere of suspicion and violence. When elections were held in Punjab in 1992, only 24 per cent of the electors tuned out to vote.
Militancy was eventually eradicated by the security forces. But the losses incurred by the people of Punjab Sikhs and Hindus alike were enormous.
Peace returned to Punjab by the middle of the 1990s.
The alliance of Akali Dal (Badal) and the BJP scored a major victory in1997, in the first normal elections in the State in the post-militancy era.
The State is once again preoccupied with questions of economic development and social change. Though religious identities continue to be important for the people, politics has gradually moved back along secular lines.
The region is also known as the seven sisters as it comprise of the seven states of India. Hency, the region is connected to the rest of the country by a 22-kilometre corridor. Aside from that, the region borders China, Myanmar, and Bangladesh, and thus acts as India's gateway to Southeast Asia.
Since 1947, the region has changed dramatically. Tripura, Manipur, and Meghalaya's Khasi Hills were once princely states that united with India following independence.
The entire North-East area has experienced significant political reorganisation. Nagaland became a distinct state in 1960, Meghalaya, Manipur, and Tripura in 1972, and Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram in 1986.
The North-East became a landlocked region after India's partition in 1947, which harmed its economy.
Its politics remained impenetrable as well. At the same time, due to influxes of migrants from neighbouring states and nations, most states in this region experienced significant demographic shifts.
The region's isolation, complex socioeconomic nature, and backwardness in comparison to other areas of the country have all resulted in a complex set of demands from several North-East states.
The broad international border and poor connection between the North-East and the rest of India exacerbated the sensitive nature of politics in the region.
The politics of the North-East is dominated by three issues: aspirations for autonomy, secessionist movements, and antagonism to "outsiders."
In the 1970s, major initiatives on the first issue paved the way for huge changes on the second and third issues in the 1980s.
What were the Autonomy demands of the North-Eastern states?
Except for Manipur and Tripura, the entire region was part of Assam at the time of independence. When non-Assamese people thought that the Assam government was forcing them to speak Assamese, they demanded political autonomy.
Throughout the state, there were dissent and protest riots. The leaders of Assam's major indigenous clans aspired to secede.
They established the Eastern India Tribal Union, which was eventually renamed the All Party Hill Leaders Conference in 1960.
They urged that Assam be divided into tribal states. Finally, Assam was divided into numerous states, rather than a single tribal state.
Tripura and Manipur were also elevated to the status of states. By 1972, the reorganisation of the North-East had been completed.
Communities such as the Bodos, Karbis, and Dimasas in Assam desired their own states. They fought for this demand through public opinion mobilisation, popular movement, and insurgency.
More than one community claimed the same territory. It was no longer possible to create smaller and smaller states.
As a result, additional aspects of our federal structure were employed to meet their desires for autonomy while remaining in Assam.
District Councils have provided autonomy to the Karbis and Dimasas, while the Bodos have lately been awarded Autonomous Council.
Autonomy demands were easier to respond to because they included utilising various parts of the Constitution to accommodate diversity.
It was far more difficult when some factions wanted a separate country on a consistent basis, rather than out of a fit of rage.
For a long period, the country's leadership had to deal with this issue in at least two North-East states.
The Mizo Hills have constituted an autonomous region within Assam after independence. Some Mizos claimed they were never a part of British India and hence did not qualify for membership in the Indian union.
After the Assam government failed to appropriately respond to the great famine in the Mizo Hills in 1959, the independence movement garnered public support.
The Mizo National Front
The Mizo National Front (MNF), founded by Laldenga, was formed in response to the Mizos' outrage.
The MNF began an armed war for independence in 1966.
It marked the beginning of a two-decade conflict between Mizo militants and the Indian army.
The MNF waged a guerilla struggle, received government support, and found refuge in what was then East Pakistan.
The Indian security forces responded with a slew of coercive measures, the most of which were directed at the general public. Even the Air Force was used at one time.
People become more enraged and alienated as a result of these measures. Everyone was a loser at the end of two decades of conflict.
This is where the political leadership's maturity on both sides made a difference.
Laldenga returned to India from exile in Pakistan and began talks with the Indian government.
Rajiv Gandhi led these talks to a successful finish. Rajiv Gandhi and Laldenga signed a cease-fire agreement in 1986.
Mizoram was awarded full statehood with unique powers, and the MNF promised to stop fighting for independence.
Laldenga was appointed Chief Minister.
This agreement marked a watershed moment in Mizoram's history. It is one of the most tranquil areas in the region, and it has made significant progress in literacy and development.
Nagaland's tale is similar to Mizoram's, only it began far earlier and has yet to reach a happy conclusion.
Angami Zaphu Phizo, a branch of the Nagas who declared independence from India in 1951, was their leader.
Many proposals of a negotiated settlement were turned down by Phizo.
The Naga National Council began an armed battle for Naga independence. A segment of the Nagas struck an agreement with the Indian government after a period of violent insurgency, but this was not acceptable to other rebels.
Nagaland's problem has yet to be fully resolved.
Movement Against Outsiders
As a result of the large-scale migration to the northeast, a particular challenge occurred. These latecomers, whether from India or elsewhere, are viewed as potential competitors for jobs and political influence, as well as encroachers on scarce resources such as land.
This issue has taken on a political and occasionally violent tone in several North-Eastern states. The Assam Movement, which ran from 1979 to 1985, is the best example.
The Assamese suspected the presence of a sizable number of unauthorised Bangladeshi Muslim settlers.
They believed that without identifying and deporting these foreign nationals, the indigenous Assamese would be reduced to a minority.
Despite its natural resources such as oil, tea, and coal, Assam suffers from widespread poverty and unemployment.
These were believed to be being drained out of the state with little benefit to the populace. The All Assam Students' Union (AASU), a non-partisan students' organisation, spearheaded an anti-foreigner movement in 1979.
The movement also targeted illegal immigrants, Bengali and other foreigner dominance, and erroneous votes.
The movement campaigned for the deportation of all foreigners who entered the nation after 1951. The campaign employed a number of innovative strategies to mobilise Assamese from all walks of life, collecting support from across the state.
Additionally, there were other tragic and violent incidents that resulted in the destruction of property and the loss of human life. Additionally, the movement aimed to disrupt train traffic and oil supply from Assam to Bihar refineries.
Negotiations between the Rajiv Gandhi administration and the AASU's leaders culminated in 1985 with the signing of an accord.
The Accord of 1958
Under this agreement, foreigners who relocated to Assam during and after the Bangladesh conflict, as well as afterwards, were to be recognised and deported. Following the movement's victory, the Asom Gana Sangram Parishad and the AASU amalgamated to become the Asom Gana Parishad, a regional political organisation (AGP).
It was elected in 1985 on a platform of resolving the foreign national issue and establishing a "Golden Assam."
While the Assam Accord established peace and altered the face of Assam politics, it did not tackle the issue of immigration.
Outsiders continue to be a contentious issue in Assam politics, as it is in many other parts of the North-East.
This is an especially acute situation in Tripura, where indigenous people have been reduced to a minority in their own territory.
In Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, the indigenous population's hostility for Chakma refugees is founded on the same feeling.
What are the lessons to be learned from these examples?
The first and most fundamental lesson is that regional interests are critical in democratic politics. The manifestation of regional challenges is not exceptional nor unusual.
Even smaller countries, such as the United Kingdom, have regional ambitions. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are no exception. Both Spain's Basques and Sri Lanka's Tamils face separatist movements.
Regional demands must be addressed on a regular basis in a large and diverse democracy like India. The process of nation-building is never-ending.
The second lesson is that dialogue, not repression, is the appropriate response to regional ambitions.
The third lesson discusses the importance of power-sharing. It is insufficient to have a formal democratic organisation.
It is insufficient to assert that governments and regions have autonomy in their own domains. The nation is divided into regions.
As a result, regions must have a say in the destiny of the country. If areas are excluded from national decision-making, they may acquire a sense of injustice and alienation.
The fourth lesson is that regional economic differences contribute to a perception of regional prejudice.
India's development has exacerbated regional imbalances. Naturally, backward states or regions within some states believe that first and foremost, their backwardness should be addressed and that the Indian government's policies are to blame for this imbalance.
Regional imbalances and migration between regions occur when some states stay impoverished while others expand rapidly.
Finally, these cases reflect our Constitution's authors' forethought in addressing challenges of diversity.
India's federal structure is very adaptive. While the majority of states have equal powers, some, such as Jammu and Kashmir and the states of the North-East, have special provisions.
The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution vests each tribe with complete sovereignty over their customary laws and practices. These clauses were crucial in resolving some of the most challenging political issues in the North-most East.
In the region, separatist aspirations are discouraged. Regionalism has been regarded as a necessary component of democratic politics in India.