India : Structural Dimension, Psychological Dimension, and Challenges




India: Structural dimension and Challenges:

In 1947 when India became independent it faced several problems, they included economic underdevelopment, poverty, illiteracy, social inequality, etc. The national movement for independence had provided India with certain values and goals that were to be the basis of nation building after independence. These values were of nationalism, secularism, and democracy and the goals were economic development and social change. The first task of India after independence was to preserve, consolidate, and strengthen India’s unity. Indian unity could not be taken for granted, it had to be strengthened by recognising India’s regional, ethnic, linguistic diversity. This was the problem of national integration or integration of Indian people as a political community. Democracy was considered essential for promoting national integration and bringing about social change. It was believed that economic development and democratic political order with social change would help in reducing poverty and removing caste and gender inequality.

The newly independent state of India had to take deliberate steps to integrate the nascent nation. One was the structural aspect of national integration. This was done through the constitutional process. The Constitution of India provided some key features that promoted national unity and national identity. The second was the psychological dimension that sought to promote the feeling of Indian nationalism. People who had various types of identities began to be united under the common umbrella of Indian nationalism from the latter part of the nineteenth century. This is the time when people with diverse identities began to develop the identity of being “Indian”. The ‘civilisational’ entity called India began to be transformed into a political entity called the Indian nation during the freedom struggle.

Structural Dimension:

The structural aspect of the balance between national unity and regional and sectional aspirations are seen in some of the following features:

  1. The core of the structural aspect of national consolidation was the creation of a democratic system of governance with a universal adult franchise. Democracy and national integration were compatible. The participation of diverse groups in the process of governance was possible only through the representative democratic system. The constitution also provided a federal structure with a strong central government, thus balancing the needs of the regions with that of the nation as a whole. The participation of local bodies was further strengthened through the Panchayat Raj amendments in the 1990s. (73rd and 74th Amendments)
    The Ministry of Panchayati Raj is a branch of the Government of India looking after the ongoing process of decentralisation and local governance in the States. In a federation, the powers and functions of the government are divided among two governments. In India, it is the Union Government and the various State Governments. However, with the passage of the 73rd and 74th amendment act of the Constitution of India, in 1993 the division of powers and functions have been further trickled down to Local Self Governments (Panchayat at Village levels and Municipalities and Municipal Corporations in towns and large cities). As such India now has not two but three tiers of Governments in its federal setup. Ministry of Panchayati Raj looks into all matters relating to the Panchayati Raj and Panchayati Raj Institutions. It was created in May 2004. The ministry is headed by a minister of cabinet rank. The ministry is now headed by Narendra Singh Tomar.
  2. Language is an important part of cultural identity. The Indian constitution grants recognition to various regional languages as official languages. The reorganisation of states in India was also done on the basis of language. There are 28 states and 8 Union territories in the country. Union Territories are administered by the President through an Administrator appointed by him/her. From the largest to the smallest, each State/ UT of India has a unique demography, history, and culture, dress, festivals, language, etc.
    According to the most recent census of 2011, after thorough linguistic scrutiny, edit, and rationalization on 19,569 raw linguistic affiliations, the census recognizes 1369 rationalized mother tongues and 1474 names which were treated as ‘unclassified’ and relegated to ‘other’ mother tongue category. Among, the 1369 rationalized mother tongues which are spoken by 10,000 or more speakers, are further grouped into an appropriate set that resulted in a total of 121 languages. In these 121 languages, 22 are already part of the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India and the other 99 are termed as "Total of other languages" which is one short as of the other languages recognized in the 2001 census.
  3. At the administrative level, there exists the All India Administrative cadre (IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS, etc.) This provides for a unified central bureaucratic system. At the same time, there is also the State cadre that provides for the state bureaucracy.
  4. The first National Integration Conference was held in 1961 to find ways and means to combat the evils of communalism, casteism, regionalism, linguism, and narrow- mindedness, and to formulate definite conclusions in order to give a lead to the country. This Conference decided to set up a National Integration Council (NIC) to review all matters pertaining to national integration and to make recommendations thereon.
  5. The Indian Constitution has specified certain Fundamental Duties for Indian citizens. India is a geographical and economic entity, having a cultural unity amidst diversity, held together by a civilisational perspective that binds the people together. The national freedom movement played an important role in bringing Indians together politically and emotionally into a nation and integrating them in a common framework of political identity and loyalty. The emotional or psychological integration is also promoted through such symbols as the National Song, National Flag, National Anthem, National Emblem, National Bird, National Animal, and so on.


One of the first challenges that India faced after independence was the integration of the Princely States into the Indian Union. There were some problems with the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Hyderabad, and Junagadh. For instance, the last ruling Nawab of Junagadh Muhammad Mohabat Khanji III being a Muslim was in favour of declaring the state as part of newly created Pakistan. But a plebiscite held on 20 Feb 1948, made Junagadh a part of India since 99.95% voted to join India. Eventually, this issue came to be resolved. The issue of Jammu and Kashmir experienced the first conflict with Pakistan (1947-48) and it continues to remain a challenge to peace and stability in the region. In the North East Nagaland had posed a problem that was also eventually resolved. Some of the other colonial areas controlled by the Portuguese and the French eventually became part of the Indian Union.

India crafted its policy of political and socio-cultural development within the framework of the Indian constitution. The Indian constitution recognised the diversity of India in terms of regions and language, and the need for a social transformation by incorporating social welfare provisions. On the economic front, the path to development was laid out with a predominant role of the government in the industrial sector within a policy of mixed economy. The Planning Commission was set up to prepare five-year plans which would indicate directions in which the Indian economy should move. The basic focus of Indian planning was on economic growth, generation of employment opportunities, and removal of poverty. Today, the NITI Aayog has replaced the Planning Commission.

New challenges emerged in the 1960s. The Nehru era of Indian politics ended with Lal Bahadur Shastri taking over the Premiership, to be followed by Mrs. Indira Gandhi. There was also an issue of Punjab where few Sikhs wanted the creation of Khalistan. The Khalistan movement is a Sikh separatist movement seeking to create a homeland for Sikhs by establishing a sovereign state, called Khālistān ('Land of the Khalsa'), in the Punjab region. The proposed state would consist of land that currently forms Punjab, India, and Punjab, Pakistan. The constant conflicts was followed by the assassination of the then PM Mrs.Indira Gandhi. Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated at 9:29 a.m. on 31 October 1984 at her residence in Safdarjung Road, New Delhi. She was killed by her Sikh bodyguards Satwant Singh and Beant Singh in the aftermath of Operation Blue Star. Operation Blue Star was an Indian military action carried out between 1 and 8 June 1984, ordered by Indira Gandhi to remove the Sikh Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed followers from the holy Golden Temple of the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar, Punjab. The collateral damage included the death of many pilgrims, as well as damage to the Akal Takht. The military action on the sacred temple was criticized by Sikhs both inside and outside India. This decade saw the growth of regional parties on the political scene. The 1960s also saw the beginning of a protest movement by the peasant class labelled as Naxalism. This movement grew in the sixties but was curbed by the State in the early seventies. However, it came back in a more violent form in the 1980s. It was described as one of the biggest challenges faced by India.

The North Eastern Region which comprises eight States is culturally and ethnically diverse having more than 200 ethnic groups which have distinct languages, dialects, and socio-cultural identities. The maintenance of peace and stability and ensuring the implementation of economic and industrial development has been a challenge for the Indian political system. States like Nagaland have seen a state of conflict since Indian independence, while Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Tripura have witnessed militancy since the sixties. In Assam, the problem was about the lack of development of the region with its resources being diverted elsewhere. The Assam oil blockade (1980) was one of the first agitations that focused on the demand for the economic development of the region. Later, the Jharkhand agitation followed the same logic.

The democratic system of governance of India was suspended for a brief period of time in the 1970s when an Emergency was declared. The influx of refugees from East Pakistan had begun in the late sixties, it escalated in the 1970s eventually leading to a conflict and the creation of a new state of Bangladesh. The other crisis that grew into a major confrontation was the demand for Khalistan in the state of Punjab. This agitation forced the Indian government to use force against the separatist movement. The assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was the first such political assassination, a direct result of the use of force to tackle the Punjab agitation. A second such assassination was of Rajiv Gandhi who lost his life to a suicide attack by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for having taken decisions on the Tamil question in Sri Lanka. The religious conflict in India escalated in the 1980s. The events at Ayodhya (Ram Janmabhoomi/ Mandir-Babri Masjid dispute) and its repercussions in 1992 in the form of Mumbai riots brought in new dimensions to militancy in India.

The late 1980s and the 1990s once again brought the problem of Jammu and Kashmir in the forefront. The agitation saw a change in the nature of militancy that shifted from a state-centric terrorist activity to a modern abstract terrorist struggle. Militancy started in the Kashmir Valley with the movement for ‘Azadi’. India went into an economic transformation in the 1990s. It slowly abandoned the socialist pattern of economic development and opted for economic liberalisation. This was a new approach to tackle the problem of economic development in India, an approach that led to economic recovery and a relatively high and stable economic growth. Over the last decade and more there have been several issues that have posed a challenge to peace and stability in India. These issues have been in the areas of economic development, social and cultural problems, etc. Challenges are also faced due to caste and religious unrest, extreme forms of regionalism, economic disparities, etc.

These issues include the following:

  1. Cross Border Terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir
  2. Left-Wing Extremism in certain areas
  3. Terrorism.
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