India Table of Contents
INDIA'S ETHNIC, LINGUISTIC, AND REGIONAL complexity sets it apart from other nations. To gain even a superficial understanding of the relationships governing the huge number of ethnic, linguistic, and regional groups, the country should be visualized not as a nation-state but as the seat of a major world civilization on the scale of Europe. The population--estimated at 936.5 million in 1995--is not only immense but also has been highly varied throughout recorded history; its systems of values have always encouraged diversity. The linguistic requirements of numerous former empires, an independent nation, and modern communication are superimposed on a heterogeneous sociocultural base. Almost 8 percent of the population, approaching 65 million people at the time of the 1991 census, belongs to social groups recognized by the government as Scheduled Tribes (see Glossary), with social structures somewhat different from the mainstream of society. Powerful trends of "regionalism"--both in the sense of an increasing attachment to the states as opposed to the central government, and in the sense of movements for separation from the present states or greater autonomy for regions within them--threaten the current distribution of power and delineation of political divisions of territory.
Data as of September 1995