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

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Uttaranchal : Same Wine, Same Bottle, New Label?

The movement for Uttarakhand was forged on a unity of interests between people of the 'pahar' region. However, statehood has widened the 'pahar-maidan' conflict and has also thrown into abeyance the long history of participatory movements the region has seen as well as any moves towards sustainable development.

Uttaranchal was formally born on November 9, 2000, the 27th state of the Indian Union. Its creation brings to an end the struggle for a separate state of Uttarakhand, carved out of Uttar Pradesh, comprising the hill regions of Garhwal and Kumaon. It is well known that the idea of a separate hill state was first mooted by the veteran CPI leader, P C Joshi, in 1952, and was only feebly and intermittently revived in the following decades. However, before the Uttarakhand movement which peaked in 1994-96, the case for a separate hill state was more frequently based on the argument that UP was too large to effectively administer, than in any independently validated claim for, or any argument about the inherent desirability of, Uttarakhand.

It was only in the early 1990s, provoked by the attempt of the then Samajwadi Party government in UP to impose the recommendations of the Mandal Commission in this region, that the demand for a separate state of Uttarakhand acquired its more recent and familiar form as a political movement. The provocation was extreme, not only because a quota of 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in a region where they constitute 2 per cent of the population seemed inordinately disproportionate, but also because, this is a region which has for long borne the burden of unemployment, including that of the educational unemployed.1 The preponderance of students and young people in the mobilisation that followed is explained by their fear that the hills would be inundated with ‘outsiders’ from the plains, leading to a further reduction of even such dismal educational and employment opportunities as were available.

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