Questioning Borders: Social Movements, Political Parties and the Creation of New States in India

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19 Citations (Scopus)


As the world's largest multi-ethnic democracy, India has a federal constitution that is well-equipped with administrative devices that offer apparent recognition and measures of self-governance to territorially concentrated ethnic groups. This article analyzes how demands for political autonomy—or statehood—within the federal system have been used as a frame for social movement mobilization. It focuses on the most recent states to have been created in India: Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand, which came into being in 2000. These are the first states to have been created in India on a non-linguistic basis. Their creation has triggered questions about whether the creation of more, smaller states can improve political representation and help to make the state more responsive to diverse needs in India. This article draws attention to the processes which have brought borders into question, drawing social movements and political parties into alignment about the idea of creating new states. It ultimately looks at why the creation of states as a result of such processes may not lead to more substantive forms of political and economic citizenship on the part of marginalized communities. While the focus of the analysis will be on the processes that led up to statehood, the conclusions offer some insights into why pro-poor policy shifts at the national level in India have uneven regional effects. Despite the change in national political regime in India with the election of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance in 2004, marginalized groups in India continue to experience the state through the refractive lens of multiple regional political histories.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-87
Number of pages21
JournalPacific Affairs: an international review of Asia and the Pacific
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


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