Politics of sub-regionalism and pressure groups in the Himachal Pradesh:-
A sub-region refers to a small area within a region. Due to various factors, the people of a sub-region feel that they possess a distinct identity. A movement for the separation of that sub-region from a state or for the redressal of grievances in the sub-region is known as sub-regionalism.
The present day Himachal Pradesh consists of two types of hill areas. Before independence, the first type of areas 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 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 administrative 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 popularly known as ‘Punjab Hills’. Thus, in this hilly region prior to independence, two types of movements were going on simultaneously, i.e. the Praja Mandal movement, and the Freedom movement.
PRAJA MANDAL MOVEMENT IN SHIMLA HILLS:-
In 1939 the idea of forming Praja Mandals was conceived in the session of “All India State Peoples’ Conference” at Ludhiana and consequently Praja Mandals originated in several Hill -States of Himachal. The main object of the Praja Mandal movement was the democratisation of the administration of the Himachal Hill-Rulers. The ‘Himalayan Riasti Praja Mandal’ came into existence to co-ordinate the work of the Praja Mandals in December, 1939, and was made responsible for directing the activities of the political and social workers in numerous Hill-States. Simultaneously, Praja Mandals were organised in Chamba, Sirmaur, Mandi, Bushahr, Sundemagar and other small Princely States. In the beginning, the All India States Peoples’ Conference faced many problems in its attempt to establish its units in Hill-States as Princes adopted a hostile attitude to the growth of any effective and organised public opinion in their respective States. As a result, the popular movement in Himachal remained comparatively weak. Entry of Praja Mandal workers were banned by the Rannas of small states like Ghund, Theog, Balson, Bhagal, Bhajji, Beja, Darkoti,and Keonthal on the pretext that this was the policy of their State that no outsider be allowed to represent the case of their subjects and the local workers of the Praja Mandals were arrested. The British authorities too became suspicious and watchful and warned State governments against the activities of Praja Mandal and its sister organisations. This followed the famous Bhai Do Na Pai’ movement, which meant not to give an3^hing, and to co-operate with the rajas. To help British in the Second World War, the Raja of Sirmaur started extracting large sums of money, wanted recruits and foodstuff as his contribution from the people. When the exaction reached a limit,, the people of Panjhota formed a ‘Kishan Sabha’ and requested the ruler to personally listen to their tales of woe against the high-handedness of the officials. On the refusal of the Ruler to accede to their request, they formed an independent government and their stirring slogan was ‘Bhai Do Na Pai’. It was an extension of civil disobedience movement, which led to the imprisonment of a large number of Praja Mandal workers. Thus, the Panjhota agitation in Sirmaur became a landmark in the people’s struggle for emancipation. This movement was regarded as an extension of the Quit India Movement of 1942. As a result of such attempts a general awakening and political consciousness grew among the masses. The strong emergence of Praja Mandals in Himachal Pradesh had led to the abolition of the menace of Slavery, Beggar and Begaries by the Rulers, which further became one of the important causes for the organisation of Praja Mandals in Himachal Pradesh.
PRAJA MANDAL MOVEMENT IN PUNJAB HILLS :-
The main objective of the various Praja Mandals functioning in Punjab Hill-States was to overthrow the British rule. The hill areas of Kangra, KuUu, Lahaul -Spiti met with a different fate after their capture by the British as a result of Anglo-Sikh war of 1846. The Britishers decided to pension off the rajas and to take these areas under direct British administrative control. All these areas were grouped together and organised into one district of Kangra, with headquarter at Dharamsala. The control of British administration gradually tightened and by an appeal to the martial traditions of hill people, they were able to turn these hills into fertile recruitment area for their Dogra Regiments. The British rulers were, therefore, very sensitive to any growth of the feelings of nationalism in these areas and were extra vigilant to curb and suppress any beginnings of national movement. All these measures and precautions. however could not prevent the spread of nationalistic feelings, especially after Mahatma Gandhi’s efforts to transform Indian National Congress. In Kangra region with the help of Mahatma Gandhi very successful Satyagraha was launched in which many Congress leaders participated. Besides, the Quite India Movement also had received good response from Kangra people. Inspite of all repressive measures, the foundation of national movement had been deeply and firmly laid in the Kangra district. By 1945 a network of Praja Mandals had been set up in the Hill-States of Himachal Pradesh. The political developments taking place in the British India spurred the hill people to organise themselves into a single political organisation to better protect their rights and co-ordinate their activities for the democratisation of the Princely order. As the Praja Mandal movement gathered momentum, its constituents in various Hill-States were merged in 1946, into the ‘Himalayan Hill States Regional Council’, which under the leadership of Dr. Y.S. Parmar, Pandit Padam Dev, Mr. Shiva Nand Ramaul and others played an important role in the integration of Hill-States and the formation of Himachal Pradesh.
After independence, the Praja Mandal launched on 18 February, 1948, the ‘Suket Satyagraha’ for the merger of Princely States, which received an overwhelming support of the people. This revolution has shaked the Himalayan States, and within a week threefourths of the States were liberated without firing a shot. Ruler after ruler signed the merger agreement and on 15 April 1948, came into existence the Chief Commissioner’s Province of Himachal Pradesh . This province consisted of “30 big and small Hill States. These were Chamba, Mandi, Suket, Bushahr and its tributaries Kaneti and Delath; Keonthal and its tributaries Koti, Theog, Madhan, Ghund and Ratesh; Baghal, Baghat, Jubbal with its tributaries Rawin and Dhadi; Kumarsain, Bhajji, Mahlog, Balsan, Dhami, Kuthar, Kunihar, Mangal, Beja, Darkoti, Tharoch, Sangri and Sirmaur. Politically, however, the formation of Himachal Pradesh may be regarded as pure adhocism as no definite policy was followed by the Indian government in the integration of these States. The Himachal Pradesh of 1948 was neither of proper shape nor size. The geographical boundaries were disrupted by Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU), and the Chamba district was separated from the rest of the Himachal Pradesh by the Kangra district of Punjab. Again, “though Shimla was the capitEil of Himacheil Pradesh, it was in Punjab…. the political and geographical set up of Himachal was thus very vague” . Nevertheless, the merger of these Princely Hill-States was of great historical and administrative significance. On account of the construction of Bhakra Dam, Bilaspur State was made into a separate Chief Commissioner’s Province on 15 August 1948, as its ruler Raja Anand Chand was against the merger of his State with Himachal Pradesh In the absence of political parties in 1948, Praja Mandals were the only forum through which the hopes and aspirations of people got reflected . To give a concrete shape to the promises made during struggle by the leadership, the Praja Mandals were merged to form the Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee, but the leadership soon realised that there was the need to have a proper shape for Himachal Pradesh without losing its identity and ‘Pahari’ culture and Ethos. With the inauguration of the constitution on 26 January 1950, Himachal Pradesh became a Part ‘C State . On lst July, 1954, Bilaspur which was also a Part ‘C State was finally merged in Himachal Pradesh . However, the State Reorganisation Act, 1956, converted Himachal Pradesh into Union Territory. The clock of democracy was put back in and its Legislative and popular ministry was abolished. As the demands for the Punjabi Suba and merger of hills with Himachal were intensifying, the Jana Sangh and Maha Punjab Samiti opposed the demand of a ‘Greater Himachal’ or a ‘Punjabi Suba’, fearing that the Hindus in Punjab would be reduced to minority. They pleaded for ‘Maha Punjab’ by merging PEPSU and Himachal Pradesh with Punjab so as to make it a strong border State . The leadership of Himachal Pradesh realised the intention of the protagonists of ‘Maha Punjab’. To foil their designs, the Pradesh leadership decided to raise the demand of ‘Vishal Himachal’ more vigorously and work with hill people of Punjab . The Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee in its memorandum demanded the merger of KuUu and Kangra with Himachal Pradesh. Similarly, the government of Himachal Pradesh pleaded for the merger of Kullu with Himachal but the merger of Kangra was left to the discretion of the people of Kangra. The hill people got an opportunity to realise their aspiration of ‘Vishal Himachal’ when in 1965 the Union government decided to reconsider the demand for ‘Punjabi Suba’ on linguistic basis . The decisions of the Union Government provided the hill people of Punjab an opportunity to forcefully voice their demand for integration with Himachal Pradesh because of cultural, social and linguistic similarities . The Punjab Hill -States-the districts of Shimla, Kullu, Kangra, Lahaul -Spiti, the Nalagarh areas of Ambala district, parts of Una Tehsil of Hoshiarpur district, and portions of Pathankot tehsil of Gurdaspur district— were merged on 1st November, 1966, with Himachal Pradesh. On 31st July 1970, the Central government decided to grant Statehood to Himachal Pradesh. On 18 December 1970, the State of Himachal Act was passed and the new eighteenth State was inaugurated on 25 January 1971. Thus, the present shape and status of Himachal Pradesh was the result of a long struggle of 23 years in an on- going process of political development has stated that “Himachal has been granted Statehood not because of the size of population, nor because of its area but because of the need to preserve the distinctive culture entity of its people”. The birth of Himachal Pradesh is strongly associated with the emergence of Praja Mandals in Princely Hill-States. It was due to the active participation of Praja Mandals that the Princely Hill-States were liberated and integrated into one unit. After independence, the Congress Party has been benefited essentially due to the conversion of Praja Mandals into Congress Committee and the 23 years struggle for the attainment of Statehood was one of the most important factors which led to the strong emergence of the Congress Party in Himachal Pradesh. Hence, the Congress reaped the dividend and ruled the State for most of the time.
Pressure groups in the Himachal Pradesh:-
Pressure group may be defined as formally organized group of people, sharing common interest that tries to influence government and political parties, particularily the ruling parties, for attainment of its goal. In order to pursue its goal, the pressure groups facilitate legislators and administ’^ator with technical information, not easily available. Pressure groups invent and initiate policy. With the emergence of mass media, pressure groups manage to flow information between government and governed. The most important thing about pressure groups is that they are self conscious. This means member of groups perceive important differences between “we” and “they”.
In order to understand the politics of pressure groups i.e. Apple Growers Association members, political attitudes, the history of the formation of Himachal statehood and its culture is important. The majority of AGA members are from Shimla, Kullu, Kinnaur, Sirmour, Chamba and Mandi districts known as old Himachal. Because climatic condition of these districts are suitable for apple cultivation. Whereas Hamirpur, Kangra, Una districts which were the part of erstwhile Punjab subsequently merged with Himachal Pradesh have distinct culture, language than old Himachal and the climatic condition of these districts are not suitable for apple cultivation, therefore, none of the members of AGA are from these district. Though Kullu district is the exception which was the part of Punjab but the district is culturally more kin to Shimla district. Thus Apple Growers Association is imbibed with politics of sub-regionalism. Though the association is officially unaffiliated to any political party, its members did have their political preference and affiliations. Their political preference was measured in terms of the parties to which they have voted right from 1980 parliamentary to 1993 elections. The Apple Growers Association have attracted more members with Congress preference since 1980 onwards. The Janta party got disintegrated in 1980 and the major groups of Janta party assumed new names sucli as erstwhile Jan Sangh was named BJP. In 1980 Parliamentary election, 66.66% of the total members of the association voted for Congress and 27.02% voted for BJP, 4.50 per cent of total members of AGA did not reveal their vote preference. 1.80 per cent of the total members of AGA, voted for CPI (M). We have also analysed the income range of the members who voted for CPI(M).
The preference of majority of members to congress party can be explained because of poor performance of Janta Party in the centre, the other reason, the Congress Government headed by Thakur Ram Lai was empathetic to problems of growers. In 1980 in Himachal Pradesh defection took place on large scale and many Janata Party and MLA’s defected to congress and congress which had only eight MLA’s under the leadership of Thakur Ram Lai succeeded in forming the Government. At the same time, a deadly fungal disease known as apple scab damaged, the apple crop completely and apple growers were unable to make their both ends meet. The Congress Party headed by Thakur Ram Lai ennounced 50 paisa per Kg. for scabbed apple, as a relief to apple farmers. But some of the apple growers manuplated this grant to their advantages and lakhs of rupees were earned by these people. This latter came to be known as a ‘scab scandal’ in the State. And this issue was greatly exploited by political parties especially by the BJP. In 1982 state legislative assembly election, congress won with thin margin and formed the Government under the leadership of Thakur Ram Lai as a Chief Minister. In this election Shanta Kumar, alleged the Congress government of regional discremination of merged area. He alleged that lower region i.e. district of Hamirpur, Kangra, Una and Bilaspur were being neglected and the apple growing areas were being pampered. In order to consolidate their position in the merged area the apple scandal was blown out of proportion. In 1985 election again 64.86 per cent of the total members of AGA voted for Congress and 28.37 per cent of the members voted for BJP. In 1985, voting trend was similar to 1980’s election with minor deviation of 1%, which was gained by BJP.
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