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  • 1. Can Separation Lead to Integration? The Impact of the Extension of Reservation and the Creation of Small States on National Identity in India By Dean McHenry, Jr. Claremont Graduate University A paper presented at the 2008 South Asian Studies Association Meeting
  • 2. The Problem
    • There appears to be a contradiction:
    • On the one hand, India seeks to build national unity among its citizens.
    • On the other hand, policies it uses to achieve this goal involve the promotion of separation and division among citizens.
  • 3. Two Examples of Policies that Divide People in India
    • Reservation policies: Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) are given privileges that other groups do not have—dividing them from the rest of society.
    • Smaller state policies: Existing states are subdivided and new states are created out of them—dividing people in the new states from those in the former states.
    • Unity aim: Socially and economically “excluded” should be given privileges for a short period of time so that they will be enabled to “catch-up” with, and join, mainstream Indian society.
    • Impact: A few are helped, but identity with SC, ST or OBC groups often becomes more important than that with the nation.
    • Unity aim: Creation of new states would reduce animosity among groups within states and foster more rapid development, thereby promoting a sense that there were advantages in being a citizen of India.
    • Impact: In some places, its prospect seems to foster animosity between people within a state; and, subsequently, demands for further subdivision.
  • 6. Promotion of Unity
    • Bring the most excluded into the mainstream.
    • Increase the significance of the center.
    • Defuse divisive conflict among groups.
    • Foster development among estranged groups.
    • Encourage democratic participation
  • 7. Promotion of Disunity
    • Strengthen the caste system.
    • Creation of a variety of additional problems.
    • Creation of within-caste divisions.
    • Enhance power of particular leaders.
    • Weaken India’s economy.
  • 8. Conclusions
    • The fact that India has persisted for over 60 years suggests that the policies fostering reservation and state creation have not significantly undermined unity.
    • An examination of such policies provides an ambiguous answer to the question of whether policies involving division and separatism might promote unity.
    • Contextual factors are the key to determining whether the policies promote or undermine unity.
    • Nevertheless, both policies promote an aspect of national unity for they require acknowledgment of the authority of the Indian government for their implementation.
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