03 Jul 2019
GS Paper 1
After independence, integration and unification of India proved to be a long ongoing process that was beset with challenges. Examine. (250 words)
- Explain the challenges to integration and unification of India after independence.
- Briefly state the steps taken by the government to resolve these challenges.
- Explain its significance in contemporary times.
- Conclude by stating the possible steps that can be taken to maintain the unity and integrity of the country.
Violence and displacement followed by the partition, integration of the princely states and redrawal of internal boundaries based on languages were some of the immediate challenges faced by India post-independence.
To maintain the democratic aspirations of the newly formed nation state, the government took several steps such as- redivision of the territories of the state based on languages spoken by the people, convincing the princely states to integrate and including constitutional safeguards for the minority and marginalised communities.
Challenges to the unification and integration of India
- Accommodating the diversity of Indian society by taking into account the regional aspirations of the people, balancing between the rights of different regions and linguistic groups to retain their own culture.
- Formation of the states was not just a matter of administrative divisions. The boundaries had to be drawn in a way so that the linguistic and cultural plurality of the country could be reflected without affecting the unity of the nation.
- While the government felt that carving out states on the basis of language might lead to disruption and disintegration, the local leaders and people challenged this. Eg- the Vishalandhra movement caused great unrest and violence in the Telugu-speaking region.
- Ethnic tension in North Eastern states: Over 635 tribal groups in the region with distinct language and culture along with its relative isolation from the rest of the mainland, resulted into social-political disturbances and unrest for a few years.
- The isolation of the region, its complex social character and its backwardness compared to other parts of the country have all resulted in the complicated set of demands from different states of the North-East.
- The vast international border and weak communication between the North-East and the rest of India further added to the delicate nature of politics there. First Nagaland and then Mizoram witnessed strong movements demanding separation from India.
- Developing democratic practices in accordance with the Constitution by ensuring the development and wellbeing of the entire society and not only of some sections.
- Partition had deepened the communal tension in the country and it was important to assure the minority communities of their equal protection of rights to avoid further communal divisions within the nation.
- The discontent among these communities could destabilise the newly formed political system.
- Integration of as many as 565 Princely states after independence. These states became legally independent and were free to join either India or Pakistan or remain independent. However, this decision was left not to the people but to the princely rulers of these states.
- The integration of these states was important for the unification of the country.
- Under the State Reorganisation Act 1956, states were divided based on the linguistic and cultural differences between them. This ensured the united social life without losing the distinctiveness of the numerous cultures that constituted it.
- The cooperative federalism enshrined in the constitution (Schedule VII) empowered the regional identity, aspirations and provided autonomy to the states to solve their specific regional problems.
- At different points of time the Central Government created Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh out of Assam. Tripura and Manipur were upgraded into States too. Autonomous Councils were created to satisfy the smaller groups within the states without breaking the states down.
- Constitutional safeguards for marginalised and minorities: The adoption of the constitution of India highlighted the country’s strong beliefs in equality, liberty and secularism (reflected especially in the Fundamental Rights), assuring the marginalised sections of equality and justice.
- Articles 29 and 30 specifically protect the cultural and linguistic rights of the minorities.
- The leaders of independent India, especially Sardar Patel, negotiated with the rulers of princely states firmly but diplomatically bringing most of them into the Indian Union through the instrument of accession.
After independence, as a newly formed democracy, India came to terms with differences in society on several different lines and accepted the plurality of ideas and diverse ways of life. The challenges are still posed by the differences in the contemporary socio-political system of the country. These are reflected in continuing communal tension and intolerance towards the minorities and marginalised and also imperative in statehood demands.
Contemporary Indian society and political system can learn from the way these challenges were dealt with by the leaders immediately after independence, with a strong faith in the democratic values enshrined in the constitution, diplomatic negotiations with the regional demands of the people and by realising the significance of diversity of the country to maintain its unity and integrity.