ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Political Construction of Sub-National Identity

The Uttarakhand Movement: Construction of a Regional Identity by Pradeep Kumar; Kanishka Publishers, New Delhi, 2000; pp 228, Rs 495.

With Uttaranchal, the 27th state of the Indian Union, coming into being on November 9, 2000, the publication of this book could hardly be more timely. Pradeep Kumar, a political scientist at Punjab University, seeks to map and account for the movement for a separate hill state of Uttarakhand with reference to the two explanations most commonly offered for sub-nationalism in Indian politics. If the first wave (1950s and 1960s) of regional movements was grounded in linguistic and cultural assertions, he argues, the second wave in Vidarbha, Telengana and Marathwada (in the 1970s and 1980s) was linked largely to economic deprivation. In the current phase, it is the author’s contention that demands for statehood, while driven primarily by economic factors, have typically involved also the political construction of identity. Indeed, in the case of the newly-created states, it is by a ‘fusion’ of identities (e g, Garhwali and Kumaoni in Uttarakhand, and Mundas, Orans, Santhals and Horos in Jharkhand) rather than ‘fission’ that this has proceeded.

There is another element of Pradeep Kumar’s thesis that deserves attention. He makes a distinction between centrifugal and centripetal tendencies and emphasises repeatedly that the political culture of the Hindi heartland, including Uttar Pradesh, has been markedly centripetal in nature. This attribute is viewed as being shared by and colouring the political practices and orientations of the hill people also, thereby suggesting that even in their agitation for separate statehood, they remain pro-centre rather than regionalist. From this, the author infers the main reason for the manifest lack of popular faith in the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal in the elections of 1996 and 1998, and the evident preference for a national party, whether the BJP or the Congress (Tewari). It also, he argues, explains why many people in Uttarakhand – certainly the majority of his respondents – preferred Union Territory status for the initial period, rather than statehood.

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