Balkanization is a geopolitical term originally used to describe the process of fragmentation or division of a region into smaller regions.

The term finds origin in the division of the Balkan Peninsula which was held in its entirety by the Ottoman Empire into a number of smaller states. By and large the division of countries gives leaves poignant history and a hostile future and as such the world balkanization is seen as pejorative. However, in recent years the term comes vis-à-vis democratic rights of an ethnic group and the sustenance of its people. Thus new dimensions of balkanization have come up and rendered the issue very much debatable. The seeds of balkanization are sown in time when groups of different ethnicity, language, and creed are co-existent in one geopolitical location. There is an inherent tendency in people to get separated from each other and make an entity of their own identity. The tension only grows when in a region, one entity feels that its rights have been pushed to margin by others. In absence of appropriate representation and a strong voice, people begin to feel that they may be better benefitted if they have a separate nation of their own. This leads to agitations – in cases for more rights, more representation and in cases for a separate nation-state. For obvious reasons the process becomes violent in the race to gain ‘freedom’ and retain resources. Fragmentation of the Byzantine Empire into emerging ethnic kingdoms marked the entire 14th century on the Balkan Peninsula. The coining of the term itself had to wait five centuries for the time of the emergence of Modern Balkan States in the 19th‐century and the retreat of the Ottoman Turks. Balkanization was increasingly used by the rising Western powers during romanticism, allegedly first by British diplomacy forced to revert its support of the Ottomans. Thus Balkanization is hand-in-hand with modernization, if not early modernism, coming out as its casualty. The next Balkanization emerged in 1875-76 with the squeezing and the thinning of the Ottoman remains in the region. This caused the rapid change of multiple borders as the two competing treaties were held almost simultaneously. Trying to consolidate the borders for at least one quick generation, one was held by Russia in San Stefano and the other by Otto van Bismarck in Berlin. The following Balkanization had to wait until the Balkan Wars and the Fall of Austro-Hungarian Empire. More specifically: two “Balkan Wars” occurred. In the first in 1912, small new nation states, which had gathered together against the long domination by the Ottoman Empire, cooperated in ethnical cleansing of Slavic Muslims from the Balkan territory. The “Balkan War II” occurred just a year after in 1913 when the same Balkan nation states went

against each other in the race to win as much land for any given national territory. Bosnia was special because of its earlier annexation by the declining Austrian-Hungarian Empire, which produced the first safe heaven for European Muslims. It was only when post-WWI diplomacy consolidated these small Balkan nations into the compound kingdoms of Romania and Yugoslavia that the term was laid to rest. This lull even continued after WWII through the second Yugoslavia granted to Tito by the Western sponsors, Churchill and Roosevelt, to keep them all safe from Stalin. However, with the death of Tito, the thread binding the country (and for many reasons, NAM too) withered away. Very recently, Kosovo also declared its freedom and finds itself in the centre stage of international politics. The concern of Russia (which considers it illegal) and China (which has expressed concern) perhaps present the real worry of large unions of ‘unsatisfied’ parts of country insistent on declaring their independence. Ayn Rand quoted in Global Balkanization: “As to the stagnation under tribal rule -take a look at the Balkans. At the start of this century, the Balkans was regarded as the disgrace of Europe. Six or eight tribes, plus a number of sub-tribes with unpronounceable names, were crowded on the Balkan Peninsula, engaging in endless wars among themselves or being conquered by stronger neighbors or practicing violence for the sake of violence over some microscopic language differences. Balkanization - the break-up of larger nations into ethnic tribes - was used as a pejorative term by European intellectuals of the time. Those same intellectuals were pathetically proud when they managed, after World War I, to glue most of the Balkan tribes together into two larger countries: Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. But the tribes never vanished; they have been popping up in minor explosions all along, and a major one is possible at any time.” The case of Soviet Union propounds the context of centralized development in handful of regions. With the obsession of Cold War at hand, the Soviet government concentrated on high end technology development in the field of defense, space exploration etc. The center of power was at Moscow and the requirements of the remote areas of the union took back seat. By 1982 the stagnation of the Soviet economy was obvious, as evidenced by the fact that the Soviet Union had been importing grain from the U.S. throughout the 1970s, but the system was so firmly entrenched that any real change seemed impossible. A huge rate of defense spending consumed large parts of the economy. The transition period that separated the Brezhnev and

Gorbachev eras resembled the former much more than the latter, although hints of reform emerged as early as 1983. After the Andropov and Chernenko interregnum, Gorbachev rose to power amidst Afghanistan war. Glasnost and Perestroika took heavy casualties on the Soviet Union and the dissention which was being piled up for two-three decade in the Soviet constituents took a violent shape and dissolution of the USSR was just a matter of time. The gun powder was ignited by the act of Aijerbaijan on people of Armenian descend. There was wide spread demand from the constituent Soviet unions to get separated from the USSR and finally the inevitable happened on the Christmas day of 1991. When the government made steps to provide a little bit of autonomy the smaller states in the Union were only too eager to cede away. But autonomy cannot be completely blamed for this cessation because the desire to cede away was seeded in the era of heavy centralization and this centralization only gave water and manure to the seed. The era of autonomy only showed the seed the path to bloom into a fully fledged tree. Whereas Soviet republic dissolved only when leeway in terms of freeness (glasnost and perestroika) was granted by the government and the dissolution was not too bloody a struggle; whereas on the other hand Yugoslavian dissolution was a completely messy and bloody affair- a direct opposition to centralized power. United States of America seems to be exemplary model of how autonomy can curb balkanization. Each of the 50 states in America has their own set of law which, in many cases, is entirely different from the others – capital punishment, gun control, drinking age etc. The states are also at complete autonomy to formulate and execute their laws. However, the reasons for non-cessations movement may not lie in autonomy alone. Consider the fact that the American economy – industry, agriculture, services are highly decentralized over the entire area of the country. The states also compete with each other to lure the industry to establish in their zones. Besides, the ethnic conflicts based on origin, language are almost non-existent since apart from the native Indians, the ethnicity and origin of people is similar. Balkanization of America is generally presented as a call against US immigrant rights to keep ethnic and religious origin intact. Largely responding to the growing Latin population in Northern America which succeeds in keeping its language autonomy, those calls echo racist calls for forced assimilation by spreading fear from emerging claim for difference. Balkanization here is particularly aimed as an accusation against Mexicans,

who in the minds of racist movements do not belong to ‘Whites, Yellows and Blacks’ and are thus subdividing perceived monolith of the Caucasian race. The concept of balkanization in India is multi-dimensional – lingual, ethnic, religious and ideological. Centralization can curb the impending balkanization as a short term measure. Heavy centralization means a strong centre always looking down on the weaker states. Any slightest dissention is being dealt with a heavy hand by the centre. This will surely intimidate the divisive forces to take any revolutionary step but at the same time it will pile up their dissentions within themselves which will explode sooner or later. A government that uses an iron clad hand for enforcing the ‘nationalism’ on its states and its people would perhaps be looking down the barrel of revolution in long term. There can be no question regarding decentralization of economy. The after-effects of localization of economic centers are already visible in Mumbai – the call for return of people from UP & Bihar to their own states and voices of Marathas first. Implausible, though it may seem to many, the centralization of economy has also taken the government’s focus from traditionally agricultural zones like Vidarbh and Rayalseema. However, the question regarding the extent of centralization of powers remains. Considering the size of the country and the demographic distribution administering the country through a centralized power is quite enormous a task. Especially when there is a multi-party system of politics in India and there is a whole lot of regional political parties with strong regional and ethnic (caste based) support base. Any plan for a strong centre will first be opposed by the regional powers whose hegemonic influence over a particular region will be seriously jeopardized. A strong centre will create more tension than the existing situation. This also calls for the analysis of the argument regarding autonomy – can it satisfactorily answer the call for separation? In a set up like ours where the nation is characterized by so many difference in social, economic parameters, the forces of separation cannot be left unchecked. The smaller parties may gradually call for higher independence from the Indian union for electoral gain which might not be the favorable situation for us. Autonomy is a double edged sword if not used properly it will harm in more ways. And to reap the benefits of this weapon one has to have a certain level of maturity and a favorable political set up which, unfortunately India lacks. As German sociologist Georg Simmel put it:

The deepest problems of modern life derive from the claim of the individual to preserve the autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming social forces, of historical heritage, of external culture, and of the technique of life. Some special cases like Punjab’s Khalistan, Kashmiri Separatist movements also exist which have to be considered specially, for there is/was a presence of external element in these states. The agitation took the form of violent struggle and is considered terrorism. Such cases only advocate the presence of capable, strong centre. State autonomy is unthinkable in nations where the cessation movement has assumed the flavor of terrorist sabotage. For example autonomy will fail to prevent balkanization, in fact gather momentum for it, if granted to countries like Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. So we stand at a point where neither autonomy nor heavy centralization is of any good help to prevent the evil of balkanization. At present we have a quasi-federal set up. This is a mid way between full autonomy and full centralization. The states have been provided autonomy in many important matters but there is provision for central control of the states through some administrative machinery. In this way the states cry for more power has been answered so also the control of the states when the state government becomes wayward. But the quasi-federalism as practiced is not the appropriate method. We need to address issues like equitable distribution of industrialization, removing regional disparity, spread of education and awareness throughout the country. Balkanization is a concept born out of mind. The perception of man towards a particular situation gives shape to the ideology of balkanization. If people begin to think that they are not less developed to their neighbors or the union government is giving them as much importance as to any other state then will not have the urge to get separated. The only way to combat the evil of balkanization is to attack it at the level of human brain. It can be tackled by developmental administration. The development activity - be it on an autonomous stare or a centralized state always work as a force against balkanization. Whenever there is development people begin to understand that the government is working for them and they will not have the courage or any valid reason for ceding away from the union.

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