Separatism: India’s Cleavage in the Horizon

Secessionist movements in the Indian sub-continent have so far been on the basis of identity. In 1947, religious identity mattered. Later in independent India, there have been movements for Khalistan, Nagaland, Dravida Nadu, Kashmir and a few others — some serious and some fringe movements — that have been based on ethnic grounds. These conflicts have always risen out of the separatist’s sense of being oppressed by the Indian state in some sense or the other; rightly or wrongly.

Now, there is a conflict in the horizon that appears very different. This is going to be a struggle between the disenfranchised and impoverished heartland versus the relatively prosperous and over-represented southern part of India. Particularly, Kerala and Tamil Nadu versus the rest of India. The contours of this conflict was discussed in a slightly different context elsewhere. The main thrust of it is: owing to freezing of the delimitation exercise in 1976 by the Indira Gandhi government and because of fertility rates in KL and TN falling well below replacement rates since then, the two states have a disproportionately large representation in the Lok Sabha compared to their current populations. The extent of this skew is shown in the chart below,



Further, bear in mind the other calculation we made to estimate the impact of each citizen in an election across these states. Typically, in a contest in Tamil Nadu or Kerala, the individual citizen has a probability of about e^(-350) in impacting the outcome. In UP, Bihar or Madhya Pradesh that would be about e^(-450). This is over and above the representation advantage that the two states enjoy and that’s about 30%.

This problem is only going to dramatically worsen. The fertility rates of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and UP are currently 3.1, 3.6 and 3.4 respectively; still well above replacement levels. More importantly Tamil Nadu and Kerala have fertility rates of 1.7 and 1.8 respectively; pointing to an already shrinking population in a generation. If the same trend continues, a quick back of the envelope calculation extending the above assumptions estimates that in another 40 years under the same conditions, the typical Tamil or Malayalee person will be twice as important to India’s polity compared to a Hindi speaking one. And this person would very likely extend the already accrued social advantages quite dramatically too. This phenomenon affects the three poor states of UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh the worst. However, even the mediocre and relatively well off states like Gujarat and Maharashtra stand to lose.

In the not too distant future, especially when the BJP is in power, they will figure this out. After all the BJP has the most to lose in such a scenario. The cleavage of such disenfranchised rest of India vis-a-vis Keral & Tamil Nadu means that India’s problems of the future are likely to be pre-empted by the prosperous few than the impoverished many. The AIADMK manifesto already vociferously opposes the redistribution of wealth across states that’s proposed by Raghuram Rajan Committee; it may well be just a precursor.

The two states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu also lead the country in every single social development indicator that is measured among large states. Their per-capita income happen to be well over the national average and their tax base is reasonably high as well. They are also culturally distinct from much of India. After all neither Tamil nor Malayalam derive from Sanskrit. Unlike the secessionist movements in Nagaland — where shockingly the Indian state bombed its own citizens into submission using the IAF — or Kashmir, this cleavage in political relativism will be from a position of strength. A Dravida Nadu was sought by the Dravida Kazhagam in the late 1940s and through the 1950s. But that was from a narrative of victimhood and a reaction to MK Gandhi and INC trying to impose national assimilation through Hindi imposition in 1937. This, if played well, could be analogous to some of the separatist movements in Spain that put forward arguments that are remarkably similar to that of the AIADMK.

A reasonable bet to make at this time will be: a political entrepreneur, in Andrew Wyatt’s terminology, will come up with such a secessionist movement in the next decade and a half. If that entrepreneur is from South India, it’d be largely peaceful. If the demand instead originates from the victimised North India, the results will be ugly. It’s better the rich person walks out from a bad marriage before the poor one sues both to bankruptcy. Isn’t it?

9 thoughts on “Separatism: India’s Cleavage in the Horizon

  1. Red

    I love the idea of North India as a mega Telengana, wanting to separate. But your narrative doesn’t account for the constitutional freedom of movement. The impoverished masses from the North could just begin to migrate South and West, balancing both representation and checking development :-)

  2. Patel

    Sir, but then don’t you think this will take much longer to become a potent ideology on its own, given the inertia of South Asians as a whole? By that time I’m sure either India would’ve devolved into federalism on its own or countries as we know them will cease to have much relevance.

  3. Afridi

    Facts and figures to back up what I have been feeling for a long time. Progressive and prosperous Tamil Nadu has no place in regressive India. Kudos sir.

  4. dagalti

    Kindly clarify how serious you are so I can accordingly enjoy or squirm.

    Malayalam vocabulary has quite a bit of Sanskrit, doesn’t it?

    1. Puram Post author

      Vocabulary having words and the language deriving from are two different things. But sure, feel free to squirm.

  5. hemen parekh

    Manifesto Misconduct ?

    In its manifesto released yesterday , Congress has promised to create 10 Crore ( = 100 million ) new jobs in next 5 years , if voted to power

    Now , EC’s Model Code of Conduct tells political parties ,

    ” If you make any promise in your manifesto , you must also spell out , how
    you are going to fund it ; how – and from where – you are planning to
    raise the money to fulfill your promise ”

    No such explanation / clarification in Congress Manifesto !

    Only EC can say whether this is a blatant violation of Code of Conduct

    Provided , BJP / AAP lodge a complaint with the EC

    But BJP / AAP can do better than just lodge a complaint

    In their own respective manifestos , they too , can promise to generate 100 million new jobs in 5 years , if voted to power

    But strictly , in

    > Organized Private Sector

    > Un-organized Private Sector

    > Self – Employed Sector

    Now each job will require an additional Capital ( fixed + working ) of Rs 1 million , on an average

    That means , these Sectors ( not the Government ) will need to raise ,

    > Rs 1 million * 100 million ( Rs 10 Lakh * Crores )

    If voted to power , we ( BJP / AAP ) will enable these Sectors to raise this amount of funds thru introduction of following schemes :


    These Sectors will be allowed to invest their Black Money ( whether stashed locally or abroad ) in specific , Government – Approved , ” Infrastructure Bonds ” . No questions will be asked as to the source of the funds and the interest earned will be tax-free for a period of 10 years


    Since the emphasis is on Job Generation , companies will be ” incentivized ” to hire more permanent persons
    The incentive will be in the form of reducing Corporate Income Tax ( % ) as a company’s employment goes up by setting in motion , ” INVERSION of JOB REDUCTION ” regime , under which ,

    ” The more jobs a company creates , the less Corporate Tax it pays ”

    Example :

    > Up to employment of 100 persons …………………………. 30 % tax
    > 101 – 500 persons……………………………………………. 25 %
    > 501 – 1000 persons …………………………………………… 20 %
    > 1001 – 5000 persons ………………………………………….. 15 %
    > 5001 – 10,000 persons …………………………………………. 10 %
    > Above 10,000 persons …………………………………………. 5 %

    Let us celebrate those who provide employment to large number of persons


    * Government is already over-staffed . It is hiring 4 persons to do the work of one !
    Hence , no new jobs will be created in Government or in PSUs for next 5 years
    There will be a ” Recruitment Freeze ” in government – except for the defense services
    Government / PSU employment will be allowed to shrink thru resignations / retirements / deaths etc , by adopting the rule of ” No Replacements ”


    Every unemployed person registering under this scheme will get an interest – free loan of Rs 50,000 / – from any scheduled bank where he / she opens a bank account , repayable in 10 years. Central Government will insure these loan-re-payments
    A suitable mechanism will be put in place to prevent misuses such as ,

    * Duplicate loans from different banks

    * Already employed persons applying for loans

    * A loan-taker taking up a job after availing a loan


    ” Inverse ” the ” Personal Income Tax ” slabs as follows :

    > Up to Rs 5 lakhs………………… NIL tax
    > 5.1 – 10 lakhs………………….. 8 %
    > 10.1 – 20 lakhs…………………. 6 %
    > 20.1 – 50 lakhs………………… 5 %
    > 50.1 – 100 lakhs………………… 3 %
    > Above 100 lakhs…………………. 1 %

    This will encourage tax-payers to honestly declare their entire income and eliminate tax-evasion / black money generation at the very source itself !

    Under such a scheme , Rs 5 * Lakh * Crores worth of estimated Black Money will return to the official ” White Money ” banking stream , during FY 2014-15 itself !

    Can you imagine everyone wanting a ” Cheque Payment ” only !

    And this White Money will get deployed in the CAPITAL MARKET , officially !

    With this , we expect the SENSEX to cross 50,000 by 2019 !

    Listed ” Private Sector ” companies will be able to attract funds at very low interest rates and deploy these for creating productive assets / employment

    These funds will also encourage Private Sector companies to take up long duration Infrastructure Projects – without asking the Governments to guarantee ” Viability Gap Funding ”


    Under this scheme , companies will be granted an ” Accelerated Depreciation ” on incremental Capital Assets created during the year

    This will encourage companies to plough back their profits into creating manufacturing capacities , thereby improving the contribution of manufacturing to our GDP

    Simultaneously , this scheme will give a huge boost to India’s Capital Goods Industry – the mother of all industries !

    I hope the Manifesto – Writers of BJP / AAP etc examine these schemes and ask of themselves ,

    ” Will these meet EC’s Code of Conduct ? ”

    And , will these Manifesto Authors dare to promise ,

    ” If voted to power , we will enact a law that makes each Manifesto , a legally binding Contract between the people of India and the party making the promises – breach of which , will be punishable by a jail term , of not less than 10 years ”

    * hemen parekh ( 27 March 2014 / Mumbai )

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