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Political Regionalism (क्षेत्रवाद) in Himachal Pradesh - A Historical Analysis

"Regionalism in Himachal Pradesh: balancing development aspirations with political and social challenges.".....Vishal Banga

Regionalism is the expression of a common sense of identity and purpose by people within a specific geographical region, united by its unique language, culture, language, etc. In a positive sense, it encourages people to develop a sense of brotherhood and oneness which seeks to protect the interests of a particular region and promotes the welfare and development of the state and its people. In the negative sense, it implies excessive attachment to one's region which is a great threat to the unity and Integrity of the country. In the Indian context generally, the term 'regionalism' has been used in the negative sense.

History of Regional Movements in India

  • The history of regional movements in India can be traced back to the 1940s Dravida Movement or the Non-Brahmin movement that started in the present-day Tamil Nadu.
  • Later, the movement resulted in the demand for a separate and independent Tamil state.
  • This, in turn, led to several other parties like the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) springing up in the Andhra region, with demands for separate statehood.
  • The decades of the 1950s and 1960s witnessed intense mass mobilisation, often taking on a violent character for the demands of statehood.
  • In 1954, the revolt for the separate state of Andhra for Telugu-speaking people, spearheaded by Potti Sri Ramulu and his eventual death, triggered the wave of political regionalism in India, with many princely states and other states making demands for a separate state.

This resulted in formation of the States Reorganisation Committee (headed by Faisal Ali) which recommended re-organisation of Indian states on linguistic lines, thus reinforcing the regionalist tendencies.

  • With the enactment of the States Reorganisation Act, 1956, linguistic states became a reality.
  • During 1970s and 1980s, owing to the intensification of tribal insurgency for separation and statehood, the Union government passed the North-eastern States Reorganisation Act, 1971.
  • It upgraded the Union Territories of Manipur and Tripura, and the Sub-State of Meghalaya to full statehood, and Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh (then Tribal Districts) to Union Territories which became states in 1986.
  • The decade of 2000s witnessed vigorous movements for the creation of separate states due to a rising sense of regional deprivation.
  • It resulted in the formation of the three new states Chhattisgarh out of Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand out of Bihar, and Uttarakhand out of Uttar Pradesh.
  • The latest addition to this is the state of Telangana created by the division of Andhra Pradesh in 2014.

Regionalism & Himachal Pradesh
In Himachal Pradesh present day consist of two types of hill areas. Before independence, the first type of areas were ruled by native princes. In these areas the people struggle was influenced by nationalist movement in British India, but its object was never to overthrown or totally eliminate their princely states. Most of these areas were of Old Himachal and popularly known as Simla Hills. The other hill areas which joined Himachal Pradesh in 1966 were under direct British adminstrative control before independence. The people in these areas participated in the struggle for freedom with the specific objective of overthrowing alien British rule. These areas were known as Punjab Hills. Thus in hilly region prior to independence, two types of movements were going on simulaneously i.e. the Prajamandal movement, and the freedom movement

With the reorganization in 1966 new areas added in Himachal which are mainly plain areas called new Himachal or as lower Himachal and the existing area is called old Himachal or upper Himachal. In terms of Geographical conditions the area belong to high hill areas in state is termed as upper Himachal while the lower foot hill areas is termed as lower Himachal. Congress government main leader and former six time chief minister Virbhadra Singh has dominance in Shimla Hill region while BJP has dominace in lower foothills as seen in election results also . As BJP CM candidate belong from lower Himachal and Congress candidates came from lower Himachal .Areas like Shimla, Kullu Sirmaur are much developed as compared to Kinnaur, Lahaul Spiti get less preference due the the reason of electoral gain in some areas. While in lower Himachal Kangra, Hamirpur and Mandi are much developed as compared to Bilaspur, Solan, and Una. With this sub regionalism in state priorties given to some areas and others left are ignored for the sake of regional political gains.

The present-day Himachal Pradesh consists of two types of hill areas i.e the Punjab hills and the Shimla hills.

  • Shimla Hills: Before independence, the Shimla hills were ruled by native Princes. In these areas the people's struggle was influenced by the nationalist movement in British India, but its object was never to overthrow or eliminate their Princely States.

  • Punjab Hills: The Punjab hill areas which joined Himachal Pradesh in 1966 were under direct British administrative control before independence. The people in these areas participated in the struggle for freedom with the specific objective of overthrowing the British rule. These areas are experiencing electoral politics from 1921 when the dyarchy was introduced in Punjab.

  • Thus, in hilly region prior to independence, two types of movements were going on simultaneously, i.e., the Praja Mandal movement (in Shimla Hill States), and the Freedom movement (In Punjab Hill States).
  • There seems to be hardly any divide among the voters of Himachal Pradesh which saw merger of some areas from Punjab in 1966 anymore as the two main political parties, Congress and BJP, have been performing well or badly in different areas. However, call it coincidence or a political strategy, the regional divide in political leadership of the hill state has come to stay.

Types of Regional Movements:
Secessionism is a form of regionalism that involves militant and fundamentalist groups advocating a separation from India on the basis of ethnicity or any other factor. Isac Muivah's National Socialist Council of Nagaland, the Islamic fundamentalist groups in J&K, ULFA in Assam are examples of such an extreme dimension of regionalism. Separatism is a demand for separate statehood within the Indian Union. Many times, linguistic or ethnic minorities within the states come together and unite against the majority community in that state. This kind of sub-regionalism was validated by the State Reorganisation Act of 1956.

The most recent examples include the formation of Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana. Meanwhile, there have been many demands including the creation of Bodoland for the Bodo-speakers in Assam; Gorkhaland for ethnic Gorkha (Nepali) people in West Bengal; a Bundelkhand state (covering part of Madhya Pradesh and part of Uttar Pradesh) for promoting the development of the region. Demand for Full Statehood, the union territories have been forwarding such demands like the NCT of Delhi.

Most of such demands have already been accepted. In 1971, Himachal Pradesh got the status of a full state and thereafter Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh (former NEFA) and Sikkim got full statehoods The Demand for Autonomy, since 1960�s, with the emergence of regional parties, the demand for state autonomy has been gaining more and more strength due to the central political interferences.

In Tamil Nadu the DMK, in Punjab the Akali Dal, in Andhra Pradesh the Telgu Desham, in Assam the Assam Gana Parishad, the National conference in J&K and in West Bengal the Forward Bloc have been continuously demanding a larger share of powers for the states. Demand for Regional Autonomy within a State, in some of the states, people belonging to various regions have been demanding recognition of their regional identities. The genesis of such demands lies in the regional imbalances resulting from inefficient planning for instance in J & K, the Ladakhis are demanding a regional status.

Cap Politics in Himachal Pradesh:
The electorates in Himachal Pradesh wear the loyalities not on their sleeves but on their heads. In other states voters may prefer to maintain silence about their affiliation to a political party during the polls. But in this hill state, they pronounce their loyality and support through their headgear.If cap is in maroon front the person belong from Bhartiya Janta Party( BJP ) supporter. And if green the person is with congress.The concepts of green and maroon stem from upper and lower areas of the state. The green symbolises the descendents of upper Himachal while the maroon one represents lower Himachal. It started with six time congress chief minister Virbhadra Singh who loves to don a green flap headgear almost throughout the year. His supporters to prefer to wear this colour of cap to express political solidarity with him. Likewise BJP leader and two time chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal has made the maroon flap his trademark. There is a large cultural divide in Himachal Pradesh on the basis of language, religion, folk songs, dances etc. In high hill areas language is of Tibbetan origin which is spoken by local folks while in plain or lower areas Pahari and Hindi is spoken by peoples. In some areas of Upper Himachal Peoples mainly in kinnaur high hills, Lahaul spiti follow Bodh religion due to contouring Tibbetan boundaries while in lower Himachal Hinduism , Islam is the main religion.

Dances, dresses, songs can also be compared in these areas. Nati is the favourite dance in high hills while in lower hills which is bit aligned to Punjabi culture Gidda, Bhangra is most prevalent in these areas. Also same is with cuisine Siddu is served in High hills while in lower areas Makki ki roti and sarson ka sag is served in winter mainly which is also famous in Punjab.

All these factors are not much important to peoples, they all live with unity but these cultural disparities are used for political advantages to gain votes, divide people on their political ideology for their party benefits and people get influenced by them and with in region , in one state people seen divided . If this thing keep on feeding people , then some areas which are not much developed cand demand separate administration which will cost government in many ways. Likewise in Kangra distt. Palampur, Jogindernagar, Fatehpur, Dehra are not much developed and the Distt. adminstation is in Dharmshala so it took so much time to these areas people to complained about the issuses, it very far from these areas so the demand arise for separate distt. adminstartion. So it is important for government to develop these areas equally the way others are.

Political Divide Between Old And New Himachal:

  • Both Old and New areas have 34 constituencies each. Traditionally old areas voted for Congress and new areas voted for BJP. Electoral data from 2003 to 2012 suggests that the Congress on an average won 17 out of 34 constituencies in old areas whereas BJP won only average 8 seats.
  • However, in 2017 elections, Congress has won only 7 seats whereas BJP has won 25 seats in old areas. Massive fluctuation in prices of apple and slow pace of its integration with national market could be the possible reason behind this.

Domination of Congress Party in Old Himachal:

  • Praja Mandals of Himachal Pradesh were merged in 1948 to form Congress party in Himachal Pradesh. All important leaders of Praja Mandal became part of Congress Party. This is the one of main reason behind the domination of Congress Party in these regions.
  • All three Congress CMs in the state, Dr Y.S Parmar (Sirmaur), Thakur Ram Lal and Virbhadra Singh (Shimla district) have come from old Himachal.
  • The hill state was traditionally ruled by Congress party, with Dr YS Parmar from Sirmaur district becoming CM four times in 1952, 1963, 1967 and 1972. The state saw the first non-Congress chief minister, Shanta Kumar, in 1977.
  • In the Congress, the leadership has remained in Shimla district after 1977, when Thakur Ram Lal from Jubbal Kotkhai became CM for a few months, taking over from Dr YS Parmar. Ram Lal, who won all the nine elections he contested from Jubbal Kotkhai assembly segment till his death in 2002, was Congress CM again in 1982 for a year, before Virbhadra Singh, then a minister at the Centre, was sent to replace him, mainly because of internal politics.

  • Since 1983, Virbhadra Singh, who hails from Rampur in Shimla district and has represented Jubbal Kotkhai, Rohroo and then Shimla (rural) Assembly constituencies in Shimla district, has ruled the roost, becoming CM six times. He was in the fray as CM candidate again in 2017, this time contesting from Arki segment in Solan district, vacating his constituency Shimla (rural) for his son, Vikramaditya Singh.
  • Political observers said the Congress party probably strengthened its hold in old Himachal area including Mahasu (upper Shimla), Mandi, Sirmaur, Chamba, Bilaspur districts after 1977, when a non-Congress leadership emerged from merged areas.
  • At one point of time, entire Shimla backed the Congress leadership strongly. It even gave rise to the figure (aath or saath  8 or 60), meaning that if the entire state goes one side, Shimla with its eight Assembly segments stood rock solid with the Congress leadership. But things have changed with time and with Dhumal coming to the fore in BJP.

Domination of Bhartiya Janata Party in New Himachal:

  • Shanta Kumar, a senior BJP leader and former Union minister, headed the Janata Party government in 1977. He became the BJP CM in 1990, when the party came to power in a pre-poll alliance with Janata Dal. Kangra has 15 Assembly segments.
  • BJP politics saw a transition of sorts in 1998, when Prem Kumar Dhumal, earlier in central politics, got the leadership role in the state and became CM in 1998 (when BJP entered into post-poll alliance with Himachal Vikas Congress to form government) and then in 2007, the first time the BJP came to power in Himachal on its own.
  • Four-time MLA, Dhumal was the chief ministerial candidate of BJP in the 2017 Assembly polls as well but lost his seat contesting from Sujanpur constituency. Then Jairam Thakur from Mandi was elected as CM till 2023.


  • Economically, Himachal Pradesh consists of two distinct regions: Agriculture� and �Horticulture�.
  • The agricultural region consists of lower Himachal and horticultural regions consist of Upper Himachal.
  • Economy of old areas is based on cash crops whereas new areas live largely under subsistence agriculture. In old areas, cash crops such as apples, potatoes, and ginger are more profitable than the conventional grain produced in new areas.
  • Fruit cultivation and production in the two regions reveal that horticulture has replaced the traditional agriculture in Shimla region but Kangra region lags behind in this transformation. In order to remove this disparity, Himachal Pradesh government tried to explore the possibility of introducing citrus fruits in the Kangra region and the Joint Directorate of Horticulture was established at Dharamshala in 1979 to help farmers of the region.
  • In agricultural regions, size of land holding is exceedingly small whereas in horticultural region, it is large. This is the reason behind fast urbanisation in new areas as people are leaving their villages due to increase in pressure on agricultural land.
  • Land Reforms in Himachal: Land reforms acts turned out to be a clear case of discrimination between two regions. The big land owners from Kangra were deprived of their surplus land, but orchards were exempted from land ceiling. In Kangra region, the landowner organised themselves to protect their landed interests. Laghu Zamindar Sabha was formed in 1973 to protect their landed interests. This sabha was naturally ally of Jan Sangh and later the Janta Party as both needed each other in the given political reality.

  • There is a large cultural divide in Himachal Pradesh on the basis of language, religion, folk songs, dances etc.
  • In high hill areas language is of Tibetan origin which is spoken by local folks while in plain or lower areas Pahari and Hindi is spoken by peoples.
  • In some areas of Upper Himachal people mainly in Kinnaur high hills, Lahaul Spiti follows Buddhism due to contouring Tibetan boundaries while in lower Himachal, Hinduism is the main religion.
  • Congress in state politics has followed a traditional leftist approach in politics which believes in secularism and is liberal in many ways and attracts people from different castes and religion whereas the BJP follows a rightist approach in politics and is seen as leaning towards people of particular religion.
  • Dances, dresses, folk songs can also be compared in these areas which forms the basis of regional divide among people. All these factors are not of much importance to the people of the state, but these cultural disparities are used for political advantages and to gain votes, political masters use the difference in political ideology of people for their party benefits and people get influenced by them on the basis of region or sub-region and can easily be divided then. This political agenda is not good for development in the state administration or on practical grounds where one region such as Shimla is high on development and parts of Chamba are still rural.
  • Regionalism is often seen as a serious threat to the development, progress and unity of the state. It gives internal security challenges by the insurgent groups, who propagate the feelings of regionalism against the mainstream politico-administrative setup.
  • Regional recognition in terms of state hood or state autonomy gives self-determination to the people of that particular region and they feel empowered and happy. Internal self-determination of community, whether linguistic, tribal, religious, regional, or their combinations, has remained the predominant form in which regionalism in Himachal Pradesh has sought to express itself, historically as well as at present time.

  • A public meeting was held in Shimla on the day of integration in 1966, headed by Satyawati Dang.
  • The meeting adopted a resolution demanding full-fledged statehood for Himachal Pradesh.
  • Tapinder Singh, MLA in Himachal Pradesh Legislative assembly moved a resolution to this effect on July 1967.
  • A new resolution was again passed in 1968 by the state legislative assembly which strongly urged the centre leadership and Union government to accept the demand for a separate state for Himachal Pradesh. They cited an increase in geographical area and smooth administrative functioning after 1966 as strong grounds for separate statehood.
  • All political parties, including the independents supported this resolution. After this resolution, a negotiating committee was appointed to take up the matter with the Congress High Command and the centre.
  • After these non-official resolutions were passed in both houses of Parliament. In view of the progress made by Himachal Pradesh in various fields and the demand of the people, Indian Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi made a declaration in the Parliament that Himachal Pradesh would be given statehood.
  • Pressure groups have become a very important part of an administrative system. These groups try to pressurise the administrative and political system of a country either to ensure that their interests are promoted or to see that at least their interests are not relegated to the background.
  • No system can function effectively without taking their viewpoint into consideration. In developing countries like India where there is a scarcity of various resources on the one hand and acute poverty and deprivation on the other, the pressure on administrative system is bound to be very heavy.
  • The pressure groups arise in different forms in different walks of life. They provide a stabilising mechanism and form a crucial component of the structural equilibrium which means that they perform the system maintenance function.

Different writers on comparative government have classified interest groups or pressure groups on the

Basis of their structure and organisation.
There are number of Pressure groups which work in different sectors in Himachal Pradesh:
  1. The Business Groups:
    The Business group is the most important and organised pressure group. They are also most effective. They are independent of the political parties that exist and they have enough resources with which they can safeguard their interests. They exert varied kinds of pressures, they try to influence planning, licensing bodies and economic ministries. Some businesspersons are always there in different legislatures at the Central as well as State level. In Himachal Pradesh main business groups are Himachal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Himachal Pradesh Laghu Udyog Sangh etc.
  2. Trade Unions:
    • The Indian Trade Union movement has rapidly developed. The trade unions were present prior to Independence. Under communist influence, the All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) was established in 1920s. The emergence of the communist movement also played an important role in the growth of trade unions in India.
    • The trade unions when required can be very vocal and militant in their actions to meet their demands. They work through the weapon of strike and have been able to achieve monetary gains in term of wage increase, bonus, change in wage structure, etc. These types of pressure groups have been able to encourage class consciousness and class solidarity among the workers. We have witnessed over the past few years the trade unions resorting to demonstrations, during the disinvestment by the government in public sector undertakings over the past few years.
    • Inspite of certain institutional limitations, such as, ideological differences, internal splits, external pressures, lack of international backing, the trade unions exert significant pressure at various levels of policy formulation.
    • In Himachal Pradesh, such unions are Lal jhanda union, Contract worker union etc.
  3. Professional Associations:
    HP Govt teacher�s association, H.P. Library Association, H.P. Medical Officer Association etc.
  4. Agrarian Groups in Himachal Pradesh:
    Apple Growers Association which consists of members from Shimla, Kullu, Kinnaur, Sirmour, Chamba and Mandi. This association was came into polity.
  5. Students Organisations:
    The student organisations in India have also acted as pressure groups both prior to Independence and after Independence. The All Bengal Students Association was formed in 1928. The All India Students Federation (AISF) was established in 1936. After Independence the political parties continue to be affiliated with student organisations. The All India Students Congress and later on the National Students Union of India (NSUI) are affiliated to the Congress Party. The All India Students Federation and Students Federation of India (SFI), are controlled by Communist Party of India. The Radical Students Union, Democratic Students Union, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) etc. are all affiliated to different political parties. They try to pressurise governmental policy on various crucial issues, their activities are not just confined to educational issues. Like the students organisations we also have teachers' associations. In Himachal Pradesh, caste groups also forms Pressure Groups the Himachal Pradesh Brahmin Sabha or Himachal Pradesh Brahmin Kalyan Board was formed to bring all Brahmin Organisations together to work collectively for the welfare of the community.
  6. Caste based groups in Himachal Pradesh are:
    Himachal Rajput Sabha, Himachal Jaat Kalyan Parishad, Anusuchit Jati-Janjati Kalyan Sangh.
  7. Pensioners:
    These are also emerging as a Pressure Group in the state of Himachal Pradesh, every district, constituency and division has a retired employee welfare committee of its own. Every district, constituency and division has a retired employers association and they have even forced the political parties to have separate pensioner cells as one of their fronts.
  8. NGOs in Himachal Pradesh:
    A non-governmental organization (NGO) is a non-profit group that functions independently of any government. NGOs, sometimes called civil societies, are organized on community, national and international levels to serve a social or political goal such as humanitarian causes or the environment.
Important NGOs:
  • Abhividbha: This NGO deals with education, health, women, old age care in rural areas.
  • All India Social Awareness: To spread awareness in the field of health, education, environment etc.
  • Ashiyana: To support all children and young adults with learning disabilities, regardless of gender, ethnicity or background. Their aim is to empower and support our members to improve their independence, choice and wellbeing through participation, social awareness and integration.
  • Awaaz Social Working Society: Work for MGNREGA.

Written By: Vishal Banga, Una, Himachal Pradesh
Ph no: 8219411908

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