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Regionalism as a concept in Sociology

Regionalism is defined as a phenomenon in which people’s loyalties revolve around their region or place of origin. It is based on number of factors like language, race, religion, geography and other related factors. It is a result of diversity and disparity where the conflict is around insider –outsider complex. Regional movement is an identity movement seeking special privileges, protection and concessions from the state. It is an exercise for self-governance that aims to culminate itself into new state formation. The Gorkha Land agitation in the Darjeeling hills is the assertion for self-identity. Region –state conflict usually takes place in the institutional structure of the state system where by a region questions the distributive policy of the state as discriminatory, exploitative and unfavorable to the well being of the regional community. This perceived sense of neglect force people to assert their regional identity on more pronounced manner and it takes the form of movement. Harihar Bhattacharya in his Federalism and Regionalism in India 2005 writes that regionalism is rooted in India’s diversity of languages, culture, tribe and religion. It is also encouraged by the geographical concentration of these identity markers in particular regions fuelled by sense of regional deprivation. According to Harrison, regionalism is a precursor to nationalism. What starts, as a regional aspiration will grow into nationalistic aspiration. Paul Brass wrote that in India regionalism is a result of social set up where masses drive larger gratification from caste, community and region and not from a pan- Indian identity. However the concept of regionalism has undergone many changes over the years. Rajni Kothari believes that regionalism has made federalism more deep rooted in India with the rise of true-multi party politics. Regionalism can also act as a healthy competitive force and hence can be instrument of progress. According to Dipankar Gupta regionalism may not be necessarily anti-people and anti-nation. Regionalism becomes a threat when it borders on chauvinism and interests of a region are branded as diametrically opposite to interests of other nations. The bitter water disputes in south Indian states are manifestation of such regionalism.

Regionalism can have two aspects:

Functional aims to strengthen roots of federal system to promote and preserve local culture etc.

Dysfunctional that has fission tendency to disintegrate the political system and can lead people against one another.

Regionalism in its parochial meaning can be dangerous to the national unity of the nation. If regionalism is ingrained with positive meaning of regional pride and spirit healthy competition can lead to more diversity and faster growth and development also. Iqbal Narain has identified three main types of regionalism in India:

Supra state Regionalism that is built around the issues of common interest in which group of states form a common political alliance directed against either the similar alliance of other states or the union. The Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu is an example.

Inter state regionalism is conterminous with state boundaries and involves juxtaposing of one or more state identities against another on specific issues which threaten their interest. River water in general and border disputes.

Intra state regionalism where one community is against the state in which they are situated. It aims at assuring self-identity and self-development. The Gorkha land movement in the Darjeeling hills.