Thursday, March 06, 2008

Excessive Regionalism

When I wrote my article ‘Excessive Nationalism and Blurring of Local Identities’, some readers interpreted it as promotion of excessive regionalism. In fact, I never did that. In that same article, I wrote the following:

Excessive nationalism when not really in use sometimes vents itself as other isms- such as regionalism or communalism. As a corollary, certain groups starting out with parochial and radical regionalisms and communalisms get legitimacies when they portray themselves as nationalists. For example, Shiv sainiks who named themselves after Shivaji (who is considered a patriot under a national banner), first targeted Tamils in Mumbai, displaying their excessive regionalism, and later transformed themselves into a group targeting Muslims, displaying their excessive communalism. They get their legitimacies from many educated Hindus when they champion nationalism. Many Hindus laud Bal Thackeray and his Shiv sainiks when he takes a belligerent stand against Pakistan during a cricket season. Shiv sainiks get their legitimacy as true patriots and they use this slogan to cover up many of their other isms.

Certain groups move between these various isms very easily. The defenders of Kannada in Bangalore target Tamils on Cauvery issues, and then vent it out on non-Kannadigas during other incidents showing excessive regionalism, but also portray themselves as the defenders of the nation when protesting against Narayana Murthy over his comments on National Anthem. BJP and its affiliations use this card on a regular basis. They are defenders of national prestige and pride on the national arena while targeting Muslims and Christians in their local constituencies.

Why I touched upon excessive nationalism in that article instead of concentrating on excessive regionalism is very simple. In India and in most nation-states, nationalism and its excesses are always touted as virtues while regionalism and its excesses are always derided as villains. Hence, in India, excessive regionalism was already discredited, like what Tamils preach in Tamil Nadu was always derided by most non-Tamils. Therefore, there was no need to go about writing on a topic which was already a mainstream opinion.

Since, I have decided to touch upon this topic, let me write a bit about excessive regionalism.

I am against excessive isms. Either it is excessive socialism or excessive capitalism, or excessive regionalism or excessive nationalism – it is not good for anyone.

In that article, I asked for promotion and tolerance of local identities. That does not mean rejection of other local identities or imposition of our identities onto others.

Promotion and tolerance of local identities does not mean support for excessive regionalism, just the way promotion of diversity and different cultures does not mean support for excessive nationalism.

Raj Thackeray and Marathas

Raj Thackeray is a byproduct of Shiv Sena ideology. He only pushes the agenda of Shiv Sena little too prominently to the discomfort of its leaders who want to play a national game. He comes as an embarrassment to these leaders, but in reality, his agenda is an outgrowth of the core ideology.

The way Shiv Sena grew into prominence is by targeting non-Marathis, South Indians in Mumbai, not very different from what’s happening now with Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.

Excessive regionalism, as clearly promoted by Raj Thackeray, that targets people of other states has its roots in Shiv Sena who target Muslims at the national level. Many Hindus love Shiv Sena on the national level because they target Muslims, but balk at what Raj Thackeray is doing because one of their own kin is now being targeted.

I keep repeating in this blog many a times that the common element in all these groups is hatred. Once you foment lot of hatred, it is not like a tap or a hose that you can turn it off when you want to or focus it onto one single element. That hatred once stored is bound to come into open and it will negatively affect all kinds of people.

Narendra Modi and Gujarat

When I wrote my article, ‘Excessive Nationalism and Blurring of Local Identities’, some readers pointed out that Modi is an example of regionalism that I was purportedly promoting.

This is what I said:

"What will save India is its diversity. While Hindutva forces continue to unify all Hindus under one banner, regional and other distinct groups will continue to prop their own factions. That alone will save India. I encourage and promote such local identities."

To which, Ledzius said...

And I believe this is precisely one of the reasons Modi won. Unlike any Congress leader who would have been a stooge of the Centre, Modi was seen by many Gujaratis as a symbol of Gujarati pride (more than even that of Hindutva). The fact that Sonia resorted to name-calling only helped Modi further, as many Gujaratis were incensed by what they felt was an affront on Gujarati pride.

That is an extremely wrong extrapolation of my thesis. Let me explain.

Narendra Modi is fomenting hatred. He is marginalizing Muslims to win marks from Hindu worldwide. One day, if he has his way, he would have marginalized them enough to make them a completely incapacitated group without any voice.

After that, haranguing against ills from Muslims will not fetch him votes. He will turn his hatred to others. Who are these others?

Already, Narendra Modi and his workers have clearly outlined their hidden agenda- for those who want to see it. They would like to target Christians, and that will be even faster and easier job since they are in a much smaller minority in Gujarat, and then Communists, who are again non-existent in Gujarat. So who are these others?

In many speeches, Narendra Modi and his party members rallied the voters towards him on the slogan of a great Gujarat. In future, the hatred has the capacity and all the inclination to turn against non-Gujaratis. The same support that Hindus are extending to this ideology is bound to create a strong force that will fight against non-Gujaratis, the way it happened in Maharashtra with Shiv Sena.

Excessive Nationalism and Excessive Regionalism

Hate groups have the capacity to move between excessive regionalism and excessive nationalism at will. On the national level they are bound to target enemies of the nation or enemies of an identity that identifies them as a nation-group. On the regional level, they are bound to target enemies of the state or enemies of an identity that defines them as a state-group.

My thesis of promotion of local identities is to allow, promote and tolerate various identities without have to reject others or impose ours onto others.


  1. very good analysis

  2. I agree with your analysis. Excessive "isms" or bad. Narendra modi promoting Gujarthi pride is different from Raj Thackarey's marathi pride. Narendra modi does not ask non gujarathis to get out of state. In recent years, he does not even talk against muslims. I agree some of his 2002 speeches are targetted against muslims. (Hum paanch, hamara pachis) None of his election speeches are targetted against muslims. Biased media always read between words.... and assign ulterior motives to his speech. Targetting terrorist is not targetting muslims. "Secular!!" india always thinks protecting or supporting terrorist is favouring muslims. Persons speaking against terrorism are branded as Anti-Muslims in India.

  3. Sujai,

    I would like to know your criteria for declaring an -ism excessive. Have been thru both these articles: the current regionalism one and the other nationalism one. Please clarify.

    I think you were getting into it at the end of the post, which felt like it ended a little abruptly.


  4. Sujai:

    I think you are ascribing more flexibility to cauvinistic ideologies than they actually have.

    In my view, Shiv Sena example proves exactly the opposite point than what you have concluded. Look at it this way. Shiv Sena started as a party of Marathi chauvinism. It tried hard to gain a national platform by converting its regional chauvinism to religious chauvinism but without any good success. Even after shifting gears to anti-Muslim plank, it still failed to take off on a national level. Today they are back to square one. They started as a Marathi chauvinist party and remain so despite their national aspirations.

    The analysis of Moditva is also flawed on the same account. RSS lives on jingoistic hindu nationalism. Marginalizing, christians and communists is very much within the ambit of this philosophy and you might see its proof in Gujarat. However, if you are expecting that one day after finishing off Muslims, Christians and Communists, Modiism will take the inevitable route of anti-gujarati propoganda, then you have not understood RSS correctly. Concept of nation-state is as sacred to RSS as it was to Fascist Italy. Regional chauvinism goes against the very essence of nation-state fascism and can never cut the ice with the rank and file of RSS.

  5. It is the yin and the yang. Every +ism has a -ism. There is an opposite ism for every ism. Capitalism has socialism. Nationalism has Regionalism. The key is balance. To echo jai's comment - let's finish this article with a sequel on what you consider as the "extreme".

  6. When some thing is being considered wrong, like excessive -isms, why are they still popular? Why do they get mass votes? If excessive isms are bad then the regional parties mentioned in your article would not been allowed to get the popularity that they now have got. When majority of people have advocated regionalism by voting for the local parties advocating them, what is wrong with this? Majority of the people feel that it is good - so chalta hai, just like majority of the people are tolarant on corruption - woh bhi chalta hai. Better, the clever tolarant ones join in.

    Tolarance is not always a good quality to have. In-tolarance is not always bad.

    Destination Infinity.

  7. I guess if an -ism

    "allow, promote and tolerate various identities without have to reject others or impose ours onto others"

    its not considered excessive (last line of the post). I read that as not rejecting other -isms or imposing our -isms onto others.

    But why am I having to extrapolate like this? I hope Sujai clarifies.


  8. What is extreme ism?

    I wrote:
    I am against excessive isms. Either it is excessive socialism or excessive capitalism, or excessive regionalism or excessive nationalism – it is not good for anyone.

    First of all, when I made the above sentence I was not really sure if I wanted to pen down that statement. The reason being there is no clear definition of what constitutes an ism. And the blanket statement like the above may not be appropriate since the definition for an ism itself is so loose.

    For example, is extreme humanism bad? Is extreme altruism bad? So far, nobody died of extreme humanism or altruism. So what am I talking about?

    I guess I did not qualify what isms I am talking about. Hence the confusion!

    I think I was referring to organized ideologies. Regionalism pursued as organized ideology is one of those extreme isms.

    What I mean by organized ideology is – it involves indoctrination, brain-washing, imposing your ideas or identities onto others; it involves building organizations based on this ideology; it involves creating forces that rally for you when need them; it involves subjugation, discrimination, persecution, ostracism, ill-treatment, marginalization, of ‘others’, where ‘others’ are defined as those who do not express faith in that ideology or whose identity is not same as those of the adherents of that ideology;

    Some people have misconstrued my promotion on promoting local identities as promotion of regionalism (or its excess). I clarified my position as:

    My thesis of promotion of local identities is to allow, promote and tolerate various identities without have to reject others or impose ours onto others.

    This position of mine, to the best of my knowledge, does not come under the above definitions of excessive regionalism or organized ideology.

  9. We are living in a country where we do not talk of why, when,what and where. For example Sri krishna eloped Rukmini., why the reason is eactlu un known. Because there so many stories by perverted and who wnat to take this as advantage. The reason is rukmini wantes to marry sri krishan with her parents consent, sent a message to sri krishna, asking him to rescue her from the cluches of characterless, mannerless person. Then only sri krishna took the action.
    Similarly, everybody knows that if sri rama kills anu body they go to swarag, if he has killed a meditating tribal man what wrong has occured. That sc/st fellow went swarag for which he was meditating, poor mindless brahimin has choosen narak, to stay on this earth. Of course entire ramayan is written by a sc/st person, guided by Narad a brahmin. Eventough the entire country is strong believer of Humanism, which preaches peace, harmony and serenity. Since we are all blindly devided by religion, race,cast and regionism there is no let up from this devide and rule people, until unless we change our attitudes and behave more maturedly. Alreadt there is lot of unrest in this land of sanctity which upheld always Humanism torch always ablaze. Are we so mean in menatality, does all our will power is lost with the wind. This is the country where always a great person has born and shown the path of virtuality to all others. Are we so deaf and dumb. Is this loud and clear.

  10. "until unless we change our attitudes and behave more maturedly"
    Bheemeswar, you are as matured as a new born child


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