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Elites and Political Change vis-a-vis Mass Movement Politics in Uttarakhand

At the time of independence, hill region of United Provinces was organised into three districts under Kumaun Commissionary. The districts of Almora, Nainital and Pauri Garhwal were under the administrative control of the Commissioner of Kumaun. Besides this, the Commissioner of Kumaun was the British Political Agent to the Kingdom of Tehri then ruled by Narendra Shah. In 1949, after merger of Tehri state, the district of Tehri . also formed part of Kumaun Commissionary.

To ensure better administration of the hill region, larger unwieldy districts were split into smaller ones and three new districts Uttarkashi, Chamoli and Pithoragarh were carved out in 1960. In 1968 Kumaun Mandal was split up into two Mandals – Kumaun Mandal and Garhwal Mandal. Dehradun hitherto in Meerut Commissionary was included in Garhwal Mandal. By this time, eight districts formed part of hill region in two Mandals.

The reorganization of districts however did not bring relief to the hill people. The region continued to be treated at par with the rest of districts in plains, not withstanding the stark reality of economic disparity and harsh living conditions of the people. Customary rights of people over forest remained a bone of contention all through the history of hill region.

Uttarakhand under U.P. Reorganisation Act 2000, came into existence after a prolonged politicization of the issues of deprivation, maladministration and neglectful attitude of U.P.’s governing elite towards hill region. The politicization of these issues continued since 1947, through the conferences, seminars and representation and culminated into mass movement marked by violence and highly provocative steps of U .P. Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav who turned a villain rather than the hero in the formation of separate hill state, despite the fact that under political compulsions and strategy his party supported the cause of hill state. The existing Uttarakhand as a unit of Indian Union is formed of thirteen districts, two of which i.e. Udham Singh Nagar and Haridwar are predominantly non-hill districts, demographically and geographically.


Uttarakhand for the purpose of present analyses is taken as a region having traditional traits of social structure; under persistent influence of modernization. With these premises this lower Himalayan part of India as a newly born state of Indian Republic has witnessed political change through mass movements.

Political change

Political change has to be analysed in a historical perspective addressed to political forces resulting in a gradual change of sociopolitical structure into democratic one and also in a process of regionalisation of politics under the influence of development issues.

Mass movement politics, before and after independence has been instrumental in the politics of Uttarakhand. It can be taken into account through the counter forces which aimed at replacing the established elite (or system) through mass. mobilization. In the realm of democracy within the more inclusive notion of the term, political change is to be perceived as formation of new individuals in the stream of elites from amongst the masses. Thus political change in a democratic setup indicates to an interaction between the ruling minority and the majority, instead of a simple dominance by the former over the latter as in a feudal society (1).

Mass movement politics

Mass movement politics, is to be conceptualized as a loosely organised effort by a large number of people, especially those not forming part of elites (political elites in Mosca’s term) to bring about pervasive change in existing, social, economic or political institutions. The viability of a mass movement depends on the gravity of issue(s) around which it is built up. Moreover in articulating issue(s) and in organizing the masses, the conscious efforts of a certain sections of elite strata is a prerequisite of mass movement. Such efforts invariably result in the formation of an apparatus, which serves as the nucleus of the movement. Thus the role of the elites, which is always a minority in a community, cannot be ignored in studying mass movement politics (2).


The genesis of mass movernent politics can be traced back to the feudal era in Uttarakhand, particularly in the princely state of Tehri, which merged into the republic of India in 1949, under popular pressure rather than Central intervention.

Gorkha rule (1804-1815) in Garhwal Rajya was ended after the Anglo-Nepali war. The prince Sudarshan Shah who had escaped to British territory returned back to, and set up his capital in Tehri. The British took the part of Garhrajya, which was economically and strategically the most important. The prince was given the remainder part known as Tehri state. Under the ‘sanad’ granted by the British Government on March 4, 1820, the British suzerainty over the state was established (3).

During the war with Gorkhas, some members of Brahmin sub-caste Saklani, namely Shiv Ram, Tula Ram, Kashi Ram and Nand Ram, used their influence to obtain the support of the locals in favour of the raja and the British. In recognition of this support the British awarded them a ‘jagir’ consisting 32 villages, i.e., a territory not subject to overall lordship of the raja. And these Jagirdars were termed as ‘muafiddars’. They had direct obligations towards the British, and such direct relationship ultimately proved a challenge to the overall authority of the raja in internal matters (4).

The Raja of Tehri, Sudarshan Shah, – established his rule through restoring feudal institution. And a set of elites emerged in the social set-up. Members of the royal family, jagirdars, thokdars, sayanas and sacerdotal force, these elites form the power structure to use Bottamore’s phrase, ‘with specialised interest of social significance’. These social institutions were the ‘prerequisite to the possession and retention of power’. Caste structure and economic stratification, thus provided stability to the rule of raja Sudarshan Shah and his successors till the merger of the state in 1949.

The elite section of the society – jagirdars and thokdars had the right to bonded labour from the villagers. Common man’s status being that of the tiller, directly ruled by jagirdar or thokdar was based on exploitation. The raja was projected as the living image of Badrinath (Bulando Badri) by the class of priests, who were obliged by the gift ofl and as ‘gunth’ ,’sadabrat’ and ‘vishnuprite’. Administrative setup of the state created social superiors, who also exploited the masses, ‘najarana’ was common.


The elite strata having traditional basis of power and influence does not give opportunity in the circulation of power elite, nor it paves way for emergence of the new elites. In the feudal setup, masses did not have counter elite to challenge the ruling class. Yet there had been some sort of socially legitimate device which provided to the common masses an opportunity to raise their voice of protest and express discontentment against the ruling authority. By way of organising ‘dhandak’, the masses would seek solution of their grievances. ‘Dhandak’ as a form of mass-protest prelude that the subjects had the right to approach the raja for redresselof grievances raised against the officials, jagirdars or thokdars. Thus ‘dhandak’ as a device used to set right the differences and conflicts of interest occurring between the state and the subjects. It was also a means to regain those popular rights and customary privileges which at time were usurped by the state (6).

In protest, the villagers would create unruly situation – disobey the laws of the state, let their cattle roam freely in the corn fields and go to the ruler in bunches to complain against the injustice, violation of rights or accesses committed by jagirdars and thokadars or state officials. This was the practice prevalent in the princely state of Tehri known as ‘dhandak’. This form of mass movement did play its role in the interest of peasantry.

Movement in Saldana and Rawain

The reaction of the people against injustice perpetuated by the feudals was witnessed for the first time in 1835, when in Saklana jagir the villagers raised their voice. Under Regulation 10 of 1817, the Saklana jagirdar enjoyed police powers, in all matters relating to jagir he was answerable to the British (Commissioner of Kumaun, who was political agent of the East India Company in Tehri). The jagirdar of Saklana started collecting excessive revenue. The revenue fixed by the British was Rs. 730 per annum, but the practice of realising unauthorised revenue reached the sum of Rs. 1300 in 1835. Besides this unpaid labour from the villagers of Saklana, forced them to come out of their hilly region with clock and cudgel, and enter the court of Major Young at Dehradun. They stated in their petition that illicit collection of taxes by the jagirdar had increased beyond their means (7).

On the recommendation of Major Young on February 7, 1838, the Board of Directors of the East India Company decided to put the jagir under direct control of the ruler of Tehri for all purposes. Henceforth, no complaint regarding the jagir was to be entertained by the Political Agent and the villagers were directed to first approach the raja of Tehri for resolution of their grievances (8).

Govind Singh Bist, the ‘founder’ (Chief) of Rawain, following the example set by Saklana jagirdar, also started to abuse his authority by collecting heavy taxes from the villagers. His cruelty surpassed even the Saklanies. In the case of non-payment he would sell cattle, women and children of the defaulter to obtain the expected revenue. The villagers, as a means to express their bitter feelings organised ‘dhandak’.

Peasantry movement

The reign of Bhawani Shah (1859-71) was marked by the peasant awakening in the state.

The pioneers of the awakening were Badri Singh Aswal and Shiv Singh Rautela. In seeking relief from increased revenue ‘dhandaks’ occurred when a violent uprising was initiated by Balvadra Bistand Nand Ram (9). In consequence of this uprising the raja was compelled to give relief from taxation. Aswal, the leader of the movement, later on was falsely implicated in a case and arrested. The court of raja sentenced him for six months imprisonment with a fine of one thousand. Aswal, against his arrest, appealed in the Court of Henry Ramsey (political agent) where he was found innocent. However, before he could be set free, he breathed his last (1868).

Unrest in Saklana ‘ During the rule of Kirti Shah (1887-1913), the people of Saklana jagir again expressed their resentment against the jagirdar. This time besides excessive revenue and forced labour, the jagirdar on his own imposed restrictions on the use of forests, which deprived villagers of their traditional rights. While opposing these practices, Roop Singh Kandari, who was a ‘sayana’ in a village in Saklana jagir, emerged as the leader of the masses. Roop Singh wanted the jagirdar to follow the British rules in dealing with the villagers instead of age old feudal practices. Raja Kiriti Shah, ultimately had to intervene in the conflict and on getting fIrst hand information the raja informed the Commissioner of Kumaun about the misdeeds of jagirdar. Consequently, the magisterial powers of the jagjrdar were withdrawn from him and, entire forest area was put under the direct control of raja.


The. unfortunate event known as the ‘Rawain Kand’ occurred in 1930. It aimed at suppressing the movement launched by the people of Rawain for the protection of their rights over the forests. In the British ruled hill region, Kumaun and Garhwal, under the new Forest Settlement Act in 1921, restrictions were imposed on the peoplein their use of forests and as such certain forest areas were marked as ‘reserved forests’. These reserved forests were used for government purposes. In 1927, the raja of Tehri, stepping into the shoes of the British, in regard to forest policy, imposed similar restriction on the use of forests. The people in the hill region thereupon started giving vent to their resentment over the forest policies of the British and the ruler of Tehri. In Tehri state, the resentment for the first time appeared amongst the people of Rawain, who came forward in strength and challenged the state authority in an organised manner (10). The most active among those who took the lead in organising masses against the forest policy in Tehri were Hira Singh of Naogain, Daya Ram of Kasera and Baij Ram of Kandari village. They formed the ‘Azad Panchayat’, which declared the use of forests as the traditional right of the people. Consequently, the people of Rawain formed a parallel government of their own on the pattern of Nepal. The leaders of the movement, Hira Singh and Baij Ram were formally declared as ‘panch sarkar’ and ‘teen sarkar'(11). The revolutionary current swept over Rawain and all the state officials fled the region for lack of their personal safety. In the absence of ruler, the diwan of the state, Chakradhar Juyal, after seeking permission from the Governor of United Provinces to use force in order to suppress the movement, took the command of state troops and left for Rawain. The armed forces of the state, surrounded the people when they assembled in the open ground bf Tilari and opened fire. In consequence seventeen villagers were killed and more than hundred were injured (12). After the end of turmoil, sixty eight persons were implicated on the charge of instigating the people of Rawain, including thee x-diwan of the state, Bhawani Dutt Uniyal and also a prominent journalist and editor of Garhwali – Viswambhar Dutt Chandola.


The nationalistic democratic force, initiated by the Congress brought for the class of elite, which tried to link the masses to an overall struggle at the national level, through opposition to the perpetual oppressive practices of rulers – both alien and Indian. In the hill region (Kumaun and Garhwal), the Indian freedom struggle was introduced for ‘the first time in 1916, through an organisation, ‘Kumaun Parishad’, when the prevalent practice of ‘kuli begar’ was taken up as an issue, affecting the common man. To abolish ‘kuli-begar’, a movement was introduced in British Garhwal in 1919, when two leaders of this region, Barrister Mukandi Lal and Anusuya Prasad Bahuguna after attending Amritsar Congress, heralded the process of socio-political awakening. It was in one of the meetings heid at Kotdwara and chaired by Barrister Mukandi Lal that two village chiefs – Iswari Prasad Dhyani and Mangat Ram Kainthola, announced their resignation from the hereditary post of village chief, since this institution at the village level was used as an instrument in imposing ‘kuli-begar’.

In Tehri state however, the penetration of the forces of nationalism and democracy took some more time, because the feudal forces resisted their early entry. Assessing the overall sweeping current of freedom struggle throughout the rest of hill region the ruler of Tehri in 1921 as a concession to emerging forces of democracy abolished ‘kuli-begar’, this effort, however, was not sincere one, the practice continued till the merger of the state. In 1923, he took still a more significant initiative and formed the ‘Rajya Parishad’ (State Legislature) composed of twenty elected and fifteen nominated members, reversing the then ratio of nominated and elected members (13).

Formation of the Prajamandal in Tehri

The Haripur Congress exhorted the people of Tehri and on January 23, 1938, a number of activist who had left the state, formally announced in Dehradun the birth of Prajamandal (14). The Maharaja of Tehri, Narendra Shah in an effort to check Prajamandal activists inside the state, immediately promulgated the ‘Act for Regulation’, under which the formation of any organisation without prior approval of the darbar of Tehri would be treated an unlawful activity (15). It therefore became difficult for the newly born organisation to function inside the state. Consequently the movement was directed towards urban centres like Lahore, Delhi and Mussoorie, where enlightened ‘pravasis’ formed various cells of the Prajamandal with its centre at Dehradun. The initial objectives of Prajamandal in regards to subjects of Tehri were: (i) abolition of import duty, (ii) abolition of forced, unpaid labour, and (iii) establishment of representative government in the state.

Sri Dev Suman in 1939 assumed the role of Prajamandal activists in Dehradun and became the force behind the movement. It was Suman’s inspiration that youth force came forward against feudal rule. Ram Chandra Uniyal, Khushal Singh, Pursotam Raturi and Ram Swarup Raturi, enlightened the subjects of the state to the ideals of Prajamandal. Working class was put under the fold of Prajamandal by Dr. Kushala Nand Gairola, Shiv Prasad Joshi and Brahmdev Sirswal. The Prajamandal movement became the target not only of feudal rulers in Tehri, but also of the British who considered it at par with the Congress. Sri Dev Suman was put in jail, where on May 9, 1944 he resorted his historic hunger strike, which lasted till his death on July 25, 1944.

Emergence of leftist force and azad panchayat movements

After the death of Sri Dev Suman, Prajamandal movement became weak, consequently communists came forward under the leadership of Nagendra Saklani and peasant leader Dada Daulat Ram. This leadership ultimately paved the way to the formation of Azad Panchayats. Initially the leftists relegated the Prajamandal to the background, but as soon as the struggle picked up strength, Prajamandal again took an active stance in the strife.

In order to enhance revenue, the officials in 1944, advised the ‘darbar’ of Tehri to increase the taxes and introduce changes in the Land settlement (16). Under the provision, barren unmeasured land was to be registered for the purpose of taxation. Unemployment was rampant, ‘bara begar’ system prevailed as usual. Besides, the reserved forests were to be protected by villagers in the event of fire in the jungle. The issue of ‘outsiders’ also caused dissatisfaction among the elite strata. The rulers often depended on outsiders, because of their non-involvement with the masses.

In this atmosphere, the communist chose Dang Chaura as the area of strategic importance for launching the mass movement as this area was stricken by acute famine. The movement had begun with opposing the settlement of 1944 and gradually encompassed other issues as well. Azad Panchayat movement resorted to non-payment of taxes forming independent Panchayats of villagers de-linking from Tehri rule. This movement gradually took masses under its fold and spread over other parts of the state – Saklana, Badiyalgaon and Kirtinagar.

State officials were deprived of ‘bara’ (free ration) and their instruction overruled by ‘satyagrahis’. Wine distilleries were set on fire. The unabated enthusiasm of the people forced patwaries to leave their posts and flee to safer places. The Jagirdar of Saklana declared separation of his ‘taluka’ (territory of the jagir) from the rest of Tehri state on the plea that the maharaja had failed in providing adequate support to crush the movement and he virtually surrendered the ‘taltika’ administration to the Azad Panchayat (17).

The Communist Party of India had entrusted Nagendra Saklani to launch the movement who reached Kirtinagar on Jan. 9, 1948. He collected people and constituted committees for taking over the state court and establishing the Central Azad Panchayat at Tehri. On Jan. 19, 1949 in a fight between the state police and officials on the one hand and the Azad Panchayat activists on the other hand, Nagendra Saklani and Mola Singh were shot dead.


Finally, the Azad Panchayatwas formed in Tehri under the leadership of Virendra Dutt Saklani. All state possessions were put under the supervision of Azad Panchayat led by Dada Daulat Ram. From January 16 to February 15, 1949, Dada Daulat Ram was the virtual custodian of the state. Subsequently the state was merged in the Republic of India.

Taking into account the historical perspective the traditional social structure identified with feudalism bears testimony that power of the community remained in few hands for successive generations. In the feudal setup the members of the nobility and the aristocracy along with elites belonging to religious institution particularly ‘mahants’ of various ‘maths’ and ‘ashrams’ wielded tremendous influence in the polity. The feudal system underwent changes after integration of the state. The forces of national liberation closely related to democracy operated in the state with Gandhi method of non-violence known as Prajamandal. Along with this, the current of socialism appeared on the political surface under the banner of Communist Party, which was equally antagonistic towards the feudal order.

During this phase the social forces might be identified as ‘the governing elites’, comprising individual who directly or indirectly played a part in the governance and a nongoverning elite comprising the rest (18). Political change that occurred during and immediately after the merger through mass movements in particular, explains the ‘impulse’ to rule in the case of governing elite and to get away with the rule (of feudal) in the case of non-governing elite (19).

Though after the merger a remarkable structural change from feudal to a democratic setup occurred, yet the social forces identified with religious, social, economic and political institution which took shape in the past did not lose their essence (20). And the fact remains that since 1952 the rajamata Kamlendumati Shah and her step son, the ex-ruler Manvendra Shah represented the Tehri constituency as members of Parliament – nine times. In other walks of polity also, the old power centres, though they seemed to have lost signifIcance in the new setup, continued to have influence in the state. In one way the integration of Tehri state was less a transformation than a transplantation of democratic and feudal structures. This explains social foundation of political institutions after the merger.

Thee hilly region of Uttar Pradesh after emergence of democracy, with new obligations imposed by the democratic structure witnessed changes. In the political structure a group of sub-elites emerged which comprised leaders at the levels of panchayats, municipalities, local political parties and regional committees formed for achieving certain goals. This group of sub-elite linked the masses with the upper strata elite (which Pareto calls the governing elite). This sub-elite in order to provide stability to the system is real measurement of the quality and stability of polity (21). With the increased size of the elite in a representative system, the political class (to use Mosca’s term) was divided into various party organisations, providing a way for social forces to participate in the political system and thus to balance or limit the influence of other social forces. This gives rise to the functioning of counter elites.

The hill region with specific sociogeographical conditions required specific treatment for its development and in this process after independence new forces with new issues emerged in the region, with a new set of counter elites taking mass movement as a strategy.


The University movement, Chipko and separate hill state movement (Uttarakhand Movement) played a significance role in the politics and development of the region. An overall analysis of these local movements gives insight to regionalisation of politics and its impact on decision-making vis-a-vis interaction between local elite and governing elite.

The University Movement

In the decade preceding the year 1971, the demand for a University in the region was discussed so much in the local press that it was not difficult to build up a movement around this issue. During the summer of 1971 the youth of Srinagar took initiative in this direction and formed an organisation, named Uttarakhand Viswa Vidyalaya Sangharsha Samiti (UVYSS), which was wholly confined to the issue of the University.

The entire movement which began in 1971 and came to an end in 1972, is in a way a story of UKVSS, the ups and downs of the struggle and finally the establishment of the University. On its formation the immediate task before the UKVSS was to convince the State Government that the University should be located at Srinagar. The younger leadership that prevailed over the elder generation believed that the ordinary channels through which the demand had been pressed before were not very satisfactory. To them the right approach would be direct confrontation with the authorities and nothing else.

The movement began with relay hunger strike at Birla Government College Srinagar and gradually widened the scope and methodology coyering almost entire Garhwal region. Swami Manmathan, who emerged as the central figure in this movement took the movement right upto village level by seeking cooperation and participation of Block Pramukhs and other village elites. Indefinite fast, ‘gherao’ and ‘bandh’ were frequently organised at various towns and routes of pilgrimage from Rishikesh to Badrinath and Kedamath were used to sent the message of movement outside Uttarakhand through leaflets distributed and circulated to outsiders – tourists and pilgrims. The opening of Garhwal University ultimately was announced by Mrs. Indira Gandhi on October 9, 1973, at Srinagar. And on December 1,1973, a gazette extraordinary announced the decision of the U.P. Government to setup the two universities – one at Nainital and the other at Srinagar (Garhwal).

Chipko Movement

The Chipko movement took birth on March 27, 1973 in Gopeswar in Chamoli district of Garhwal division, when one Satvodaya worker, Chandi Prasad Bhatt organised the people to oppose commercialisation of forests. People of the region were deprived to use ash tree for agricultural implements. These trees were sold by U .P. Government to Simon Company of Allahabad to make sporting goods. The people reasserted their rights over the forest products. The movement was initiated for the first time in the forest of Rampur Fata. The method of Chipko was simple – villagers would hug the tree when the lumberjacks of forest contractors were approaching to fell them down. The event of Rampur Fata was followed by Chipko in the forest of Reni in Chamoli district. This event was marked by the leadership of Gaura Devi – a village women who led the women folk to save the trees. The initial objective of this unique movement was to save the hill forest from exploitation by the outsiders, and the organisation for achieving this objective then came to be known as ‘Uttarakhand’ Sangharsh Vahini (UKSV)’.

In 1977, within the movement a division appeared when protagonist of Chipko movement, Sunder Lal Bahuguna started proposing total ban in felling. His contention was that deforestation had caused ecological problem, thus dependency of locals on forests for their needs and total ban on felling due to ecological reasons; these two contradictory objectives came on the surface. In 1977, the issue of denudation came under wide discussion and it covered various shades of opinions. The issue was debated and publicized in the local and national press extensively. Thereafter Sunder Lal Bahuguna took the lead of the movement and it became a movement for ecology. The government of U.P. resorted to force in leasing out forests to contractors for commercial purpose. In Hewal Ghati and Salhet forest areas in December 1977, Chipko was introduced. The U.P. Government had to send PAC to assist contractors and forest officials. The elected representatives however were in tune with government policy. The elite section forming part of non-governing elite – a section of Sarvodaya and CPI leaders supported the Chipko. The movement succeeded in placing ecology at the centre stage while forming forest policy. Its impact on decision making at national level cannot be undermined, though it began with ‘local needs’ to be preferred over commercial use of forests.

Separate Hill State

After independence the issue of separate hill state could not get sufficient support as the power elite at the higher level did not favour it. In 1946, Badri Dutt Pandey demanded separate hill state, which was turned down by the then Premier of United Provinces G.B. Pant, as U.P.’s dominance over national politics owing to largest number of M.P.’s from this state would have suffered after division of U.P. This policy of domination over national politics remained a central cord of the Congress party right from Pant to Tewari. General Secretary of CPI P.C. Joshi, time again demanded autonomy for the hill region. Manvendra Shah ex-ruler of Tehfi state in his capacity as M.P., also raised the issue of separate hill state. Counter elite from the region over the years after independence made efforts’ in this direction – submitted memorandum to the P.M., organised conferences, rallies and protested on various occasions to draw the attention of power elite. Dharna and demonstrations at Boat Club by separate hill state protagonists were frequently organised from time to time, yet no central organisation conclusively setup for the purpose, with full strength did emerge. However stray events in this direction not only kept the issue alive, they educated the masses to a large extent . and helped in forming collective psyche of the hill people to strive for separation from U.P.

On 24-25 June 1967 ‘Parvatiya Rajya Parishad’ was formed under the leadership of Oaya Krishna Pandey. This may be taken as a solid organisational step in achieving the objective of separate hill state. Narayan Dutt Sundriyal, Communist leader of CPI took over as Secretary of this organisation. It was in 1968 that the Prime Minister agreed to have a separate Planning Cell for the hills. In 1970, P.C. Joshi formed one organization named ‘Kumaun Rastriya Morcha’ to achieve the objective of separation of hill region. It was in 1971 that ‘Uttarakhand Rajya Parishad’ was reorganised and Pratap Singh Negi (M.P.), Kripal Singh, Sridhar Chamoli and K.S. Negi along with Narayan Dutt Sundriyal became active and subsequently Narendra Singh Bist (M.P.), Indermani Badoni (MLA), Meharban Singh (MLA) and Captain Shurvir Singh joined this organisation. In 1978, Trepan Singh Negi a prominent leader of Tehri joined. the organization. During Janata Party regime on January 13, 1979, under the banner of ‘Uttarakhand Rajya Parishad’ a prominent section of elites including Manvendra Shah, Khushal Mani Ghildiyal, Trepan Singh Negi, Puran Singh Dangwal, Suman Lata Bhadola, Pratap Singh Puspan, Pratap Singh Bist, Baba Mathura Prasad Bamrara, etc. participated in a demonstrated at Boat Club.

Formation of Regional outfit: Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD): On July 24, 25 Dwarika Uniyal a prominent journalist convened ‘Parvatiya Vikas Jan’ Sammelan at Mussoorie. This Sammelan was attended by socially active and reputed persons including Nitya Nand Bhatt Dr. D.D. Pant, Jagadish Kapari, N.K. Uniyal, Lalit Kishore Pandey, Vir Singh Thakur, Hukum Singh Panwar, Diwakar Bhatt, D.P. Uniyal, Vinod Chandola, Vinod Barthwal, and Devendra Sanwal.

It was in Anupam Hotel Mussoorie on 25th July 1979 that Uttarakhand Kranti Dal, the first regional political outfit was formed. Dr. D.D. Pant, a prominent educationist and ex-Vice Chancellor of Kumaun University took over as the first president of the party.

A narrow escape

Chance and wisdom play sometime significant role. In 1980, Jaswant Singh Bisht won the assembly seat from Ranikhet on UKD ticket; after this victory UKD became a force to be recognized by power that be. Dwarika Uniyal, Dr.D.D. Pant and Nitya Nand Bhatt discussed autonomy issue for hill region with Sanjay Gandhi. Sanjay Gandhi called N.D. Tiwari to participate in the discussion, the delegates of UKD however expressed their reservation to discuss the issue with Tiwari, apprehending N.D. Tiwari’s opposition to the move. It is reported that Sanjay Gandhi and Buta Singh had agreed to give two Parliamentary seats to UKD and autonomy to hill region, at the event of Congress forming Central Government. However, this could not be, as Sanjay Gandhi died prematurely (22).

In 1983 and in 1989 Kashi Singh Airi and Jaswant Singh Bisht represented Didihat and Ranikhet assembly seats respectively in V.P. legislature as UKD members. Kashi Singh Airi remained a force behind UKD, perusing the sole objective of separate hill state. He was elected in 1993 and again in 2002 along with his 3 other members in the Uttarakhand Assembly after the formation of hill state. In 2007 Uttarakhand Assembly, UKD won 3 seats, Kashi Singh lost his seat from Didihat.

The agenda of hill state and role of National Political Parties: Division of U.P. vis-a-vis formation of hill state took a long way with ups and downs in its journey. It was ultimately the popular pressure of the people of hill region who took the cause of separate hill state to streets. and organised massive mass demonstration for years, that political parties one after another shifted their stand and started supporting the cause of hill people. It was unprecedented movement in the sense that leaders instead of leading the masses began to follow them. The nucleus of the movement was UKD, yet it was relegated to the back footing by ‘Sanyukta Sangharsha Samiti’ which constituted sub-elites of other political parties. In other words the issue was hijacked by BJP and the Congress. Here we refer some of the shifting stands of prominent leaders and their parties:


In July 1987, BJP President Atal Bihari Vajpayee pronounced the demand of hill state as separatist demand. Yet, the National Executive of BJP under the leadership of L.K. Advani, passed the resolution of smaller state and took the cause of hill state (Uttarakhand) along with Jharkhand. This demand in November 1988 was approved in the Vijaywada convention of the BJP.

Janata Dal/Samajwadi Party

Janta Dal included the formation of Uttarakhand in its manifesto in 1989, yet Mulayam Singh Yadav after the formation of his government refused the contention of hill state. Assessing the situation in the hill politics, since BJP had taken up the issue in its agenda, Mulayam Singh on August 26, 1992 openly advocated the formation of Uttarakhand. Moving a step forward he constituted one committee at the government level headed by Rama Shankar Kaushik and another at local level headed by his party secretary Vinod Barthwal to chalk out details in the direction of Uttarakhand.


Congress, though never supported the issue, its leaders in their individual capacity did not lag behind in supporting the hill state issue. On 26 September 1991, Dr. AmbarRizavi, a prominent Congress leader ftom U.P., accepted the fact that separate hill state demand had its roots in the poverty of this region. In October 1991, Harish Rawat, a prominent Congress Leader from Kumaun (at present Congress state chief of Uttarakhand) said that his party is not opposed to hill state, he however expressed his inability to include the issue in the Congress manifesto. On the other hand in March 1992, another Congress leader of national repute N.D. Tiwari is reported to have said that the demand of Uttarakhand was not in the national interest and that this demand was detrimental to national unity (irony was that the same N.D. ultimately took a graceful refuge in Uttarakhand as C.M. when ousted from Central leadership of Congress).


With the twists and turns in the mass movements discussed above, it is evident that regional traits in the politics of hill region did not result in a strong hold of regional outfit, where issues raised by the elites penetrate deep into collective psyche of the masses setting a norm for regional politics. It is because national or for that matter established political parties took up regional issues by way of infiltration in the local movements through sub-elites at local level.

An overall exploration of recent history of Uttarakhand with reference to mass agitations helps in assessing the political culture. By political culture we mean psychological dimension of political system. It consists of attitudes, beliefs, values and skills, which are current in an entire population as well as those special propensities and patterns, which may be found within special parts of the population. Thus regional or ethnic groups of a political system may have special propensities or tendencies. These tendencies located in particular groups may be referred to as sub-culture. This proposition in analysing regional politics vis-a-vis major political parties may help understand the pattern of political behaviour in the face of ‘regions with in region’ and ‘caste basis of politics’, notwithstanding the fact that regionalism activates the politics of change when elites belonging to different political ideologies meet on certain issues in the interest of the region as a whole.

Moreover mass movement launched within a region, on specific demands concerning the region only, more often than not, explain the gap between aspirations of the people and role accomplishment of democratic institutions in the sphere of development.


1. Bottamore, T.B. 1969. Elites And Society, Penguin, England, p. 16.

2. Polsby, Nelson W. 1963. Community Power And Poiitical Theory. Yale University Press, London. Raymond, A. 1957. The Opinion of the Intellectuals. Secker and Warburg, London.

3. Atchinson 1882. Treaties, Engagements and Lands, Vol II, p. 58.

4. Dabral, S.P. 1971. Garhwal Ka Rajneetik tatha Sanskritic Itihas, Vol. 6, Veergatha Prakashan, pp.138-146.

5. Bottamore. T.B., op. cit., p. 7.

6. Saklani, A. 1987. History of a Himalayan Princely State, Delhi, p. 76.

7. English Premutiny Record, Political Letters Received, Series 2, Part II, 1836-1840.

8. Ibid.

9. Raturi, H.K. 1980. Garhwal Ka Itihas, Bhagirathi Prakashan, p. 475.

10. Karm Bhumi, Jan. 26, 1936.

11. ‘Panch Sarkar’ and ‘Teen Sarkar’ were the terms used in Nepal for the Maharaja and the Prime Minister respectively.

12. Dabral, S.P., op. cit., p. 313.

13. Ibid., 291-92.

14. Ibid., p. 334.

15. Ibid., p. 340.

16. Land Settlement Report, Tehri Darbar, Registers I, 2, 4 (the documents are now available in the Government Record, Allahabad).

17. Dabral, S.P., op.cit., p. 97.

18. Pareto, Vilfredo 1935. The Mind And Society (3 vol.), London, pp. 1423-24.

19. Mosca, G 1939. The Ruling Class, McGraw Hill, London, p. 50.

20. Schumpeter, J.A. 1943. Capitalism, Socialism And Democracy, London, pp. 12-13.

21. Mosca, G, op.cit., p. 53.

24. Bhatt, T.C. 2000. Uttarakhand Andolan. Takshashila Prakashan, New Delhi. p. 214.