On the 9th of November, Uttarakhand is going to complete 16 years of its statehood. On 9th November 2000, along with Jharkhand and Chattisgarh, modern Uttarkhand came into existence after being separated from Uttar Pradesh. Unlike Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, which got separated from Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand was not separated on the basis on economic backwardness.
Despite being a hilly region, the fact is that even the district of Kumaon and Garhwal region were more prosperous and educated than any district of Uttar Pradesh. Almora was the most literate district in all of UP as per the census of 1991. While half of the people of Uttar Pradesh were living under the poverty line, in Uttarakhand, at least every family owned a house, had food to eat and clothes to wear. I have never found any Pahari begging on the streets in my entire life or even working as a labourer. The lowest job being done by a pahari person is to work in any hotel as a waiter. Most of the Pahari people are employed in the Army and at least every family has one person having a government job. While in Jharkhand and Chattisgarh, conditions were different. Both these states are mostly tribal and economically backwards as compared to the rest of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
So, demand for a separate state was justified on the basis of economic non-prosperity. But the question is why the people of Uttarakhand wanted a separate state, while they were far ahead in every prospect as compared to the rest of Uttar Pradesh.
"Economy was not the base demand of Uttarakhand, identity was"
Actually, “Pahari Identity” was the core ideology behind the Uttarakhand movement. There is no common ground between the culture, traditions, deities, festivals and language of Kumaon and Garhwal and that of the rest of Uttar Pradesh.
The culture and traditions of Kumaon and Garhwal are more similar to the neighbouring state of Himachal and even Jammu and Kashmir than to any region of Uttar Pradesh. The culture, ethnicity and language of East UP are similar to Bihar, while that of West UP is similar to Haryana. But, Kumaon and Garhwal find no similarities with any of these regions.
The statement that Uttarakhand got separated from UP is in itself false, as Kumaon and Garhwal were independent regions and there was originally no state named Uttar Pradesh. In the past, Kumaon and Garhwal were ruled by the Panwar, Chand, Sah and Katyur dynasties for many years. Even when the whole of North India, including Uttar Pradesh was under the Islamic Mughal rule, the Kumaon and Garhwal regions of Uttarakhand were independent. No Islamic invader in the entire history was ever able to conquer the Kumaon and Garhwal regions. Under the British Raj, the Britishers organised the states as per their convenience and Kumaon and Garhwal were under the Northern Province, but Tehri Garhwal was still an independent state. After independence, the Tehri State too, along with thousands of other bureaucracies, became a part of the Republic of India. So, the whole of Uttarakhand became a part of Uttar Pradesh for governance. This was similar to the arrangement when a major part of lower Himachal used to be a part of Punjab. But, Uttarakhand as a state came into existence much after Himachal was formed. The demand for Uttarakhand was heavily crushed by the Uttar Pradesh government several times. It went to an extreme when the leader of Samajwadi Party, Mulayam Singh Yadav ordered to open fire and rape the hundreds of women involved in the Uttarakhand Andolan at Rampur Tiraha in Muzzafarnagar.
The people of Uttarakhand never felt at home being a part of Uttar Pradesh. Whenever the question of the heritage of the state came up, the Uttar Pradesh government promoted the Mughal culture, which was a symbol of their slavery, as their own culture.
Actually, Uttar Pradesh has nothing that they can call as their own culture. The culture of the Nawabs that is considered to be that of Uttar Pradesh is actually from Iran and has nothing to do with Uttar Pradesh. Every state of India has its own traditional dance form and culture, but UP, having a population of 20 crores, has nothing of the sort. Years of the Mughal rule has crushed the whole of UP. Cultural ignorance became another reason for separating from UP.
The main reason, however, was a difference in the thinking and culture of the people. In the capital city of Lucknow, while the MLAs of Uttrakhand take an auto or rickshaw, like a common man, to reach to the Vidhan Sabha, the politicians of UP move with a whole convoy of 30 vehicles, while leisurely doing whatever pleases them and having Paan and spitting wherever they want. While in the hilly regions of Uttarakhand, the women are the backbone of the economy, in Uttar Pradesh, women don’t even step out of their houses without permission of their male guardians. A common mentality in UP was that if a woman is travelling alone or is going out without a veil, she is inviting for her rape. On the other hand, there is no custom of carrying a veil in Uttarakhand. The UP police had the same mentality about women, in the rape cases of the Rampur Tiraha incident.
Nowadays, people start commenting on things without having proper details. They perceive every state and culture from a similar perspective and start comparing them from the point of view of development. However, economic development is not the basis of every movement.