The case for a smaller India?

This may elicit strong emotions.
(or, given one's few commenters....not)

Reading about the various flare-ups across the country, and considering with despair (as always) the morass of lunacy that is Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, one cannot help but compare it to the situation in Europe.

Thanks partly to the break-up of the Soviet Union, the last decade-and-a-half has seen the emergence of hordes of small countries - Macedonia, Liechtenstein, Moldova - and there's the ever-growing possibility of further fragmentation - Catalunya, Scotland. Most of these are reversals to ancient boundaries formed by groupings of race, community, language, and sometimes, geography. In a sense, they are also break-aways from artificial and forced groupings from the countries/kingdoms/republics into which they were amalgamated at some point over the centuries.

(The parallel here with business is interesting - mergers and acquisitions till the monster becomes too big to be any good, followed by divestments and spin-offs, resulting in smaller, more competitive entities)

Which brings us back to India.

The region has always been one of disparate entities - small kingdoms, large empires, the classic North-South divide thanks to the Vindhyas, the vague boundaries of Hindustan stretching at one time till Iran and Cambodia. It never was a country till the British came along. And they, followed by the Iron Man, did incredibly well to coalesce all these little and large fiefdoms into one structure. 'India' was supposed to be the ideal of how different cultures, religions, and languages can all survive and inter-mingle.

And while that may be true to some extent, it's not really been that great an experiment. Regions are still quite fiercely local in outlook and behaviour, intra-country practices are quite cumbersome to implement, and national policy is more or less a joke. And while there is an inherent charm about travelling through the country, and experiencing such a gamut of ideas, tastes, and colours - it doesn't really fit the concept of a country per se.

A country usually has one common denominator, be it geography, race, or language. Yes, they do have smaller communities within, which differ from the majority, but the common factor binding the majority is nearly identical across that country. This applies to any country that one can think of, off the top of one's head - Italy, Botswana, Vietnam, Greenland. Even the US and UK, quite possibly the most 'international' of all countries, have English as the common thread (even if it is in different accents). You cannot not know English to have any hope of merging into the mainstream - and one is not entertaining side-arguments about deliberately ignoring ghettos and illegal immigrants.

But India is so different. In essence, it is a region, not a country.

Take the North-East. Perennially disregarded by the rest of the country, only tolerated because they grow lots of tea and have mines, and only bothered about when India plays cricket in Guwahati. The percentage of people in Western, Southern, and Northern India who would be able to immediately visually identify a person as coming from the North-east region (let alone the actual state), and not from China or Nepal? Very, very, very small....almost neglible.

Take Bengal. Has more in common with Bangladesh than the rest of the country.
Take HP and J&K. More Afghanistan than India.
Take the South. So clearly not concerned about anything above the 16 degree latitude line.

Is it any wonder that, as of this moment, there are so many terrorist/freedom-fighter groups demanding further break-ups of the states that they have been assigned to?

So one wonders - where does this go in ten years? Further fragmentation of current states, or a gradual devolution of power to regions? Turning back to Europe, could it be possible that a more successful system for India would be one similar to that of the EU, with separate regions allowed to create their own laws and systems, with common business laws uniting them.

Because, let's face it, a nationwide system isn't working. You cannot simply general policies simply because the country is so varied. And so many of the ideas meant to unify the country, or prepare a standard base across all states (the ICSE/CBSE board system, for example) have not really worked to the extent they were created for.

And that would also help preserve ethnic identities and customs, and allow those who know them to really implement them. And to those who say this is just a throwback to ghetto-isation, and will result in closed communites, I say look to the EU. Clearer laws are causing freer movement and resulting in migrations not just from the East to the West, but in reverse too.

One suspect there is a good paper in this.


Revealed said...

Sorry bout delayed response. But couldn't resist commenting. I had this exact same conversation with a coupla friends of mine (granted we were a tad under the influence then but still) and we arrived at pretty much the same conclusion. Hardly anyone I know is brought up to think that they are Indian *before* they are Tamil or Punjabi or Gujarati or what have you. I think another reason for the lack of national identity is that there is precious little to be proud of in India. At least not the way an American is presumably proud of being an American, of wearing that badge and accepting that tag. Maybe with more globalisation, opening up of the markets, growth, hopefully agro reforms, things will get better?

??! said...

Maybe...but the question is should it?

I'm not sure either system works - bigger countries or smaller countries - and I keep thinking of Lennon's words. What if there really were no 'countries' (in the technical sense)?

Revealed said...

See, that to me is too idealistic. Territories are our most primitive instinct. It's bound to stick around for quite a bit. If you didn't have a 'mine' what context would you place the world in?

Revealed said...

Also, is it necessarily a bad thing? Isn't it easier to grow as smaller units than as a huge big unit? The molecules that adapt the best to new situations are the ones that are at an ideal size, no? Neither too big nor too small.

Revealed said...

Sorry bout the flooding (she sez as she continues to post comments. sheesh)

??! said...

Idealistic, true.
But the 'best-for-current-situation' logic is probably most apt. After all, some countries do combine, while some break-up.
Wouldn't it be fascinating to map out the growth and division of countries over the last millennium?

Revealed said...

Yeah, it would actually. Make for some very interesting reading. Especially if colonial presence is marked out in red.