Separatist movements of India

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Secession in India typically refers to state secession, which is the withdrawal of one or more states from the Union of India. Threats or aspirations to secede from India or arguments justifying secession have been a feature of the country's politics almost since its birth in 1947. Some have argued for secession as a constitutional right and others as from a natural right of revolution. Some state movements seek secession from India itself and the formation of a new nation from one or more states.

The most high profile separatist actions have been in Kashmir. The Khalistan movement in Punjab was active in the 1980s and the 1990s. Smaller-scale insurgency has occurred in North-East India, in the states of Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur and, Nagaland. The more important issue with these states however is territorial dispute with neighbours such as Pakistan and the PRC, rather than independence from the India.

India introduced the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in 1958 to put down separatist movements in certain parts of the country. The law was first enforced in Manipur and later enforced in other insurgency-ridden north-eastern states. It was extended to most parts of Indian-administered Kashmir soon after the outbreak of armed insurgency in 1989. The law gives soldiers immunity against prosecution unless the Indian government gives prior sanction for such prosecution. The government maintains that the AFSPA is necessary to restore normalcy in regions like Kashmir and Manipur.[1]


Assam until the 1950s; The new states of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram formed in the 1960-1970s. The capital of Assam was shifted from Shillong to Dispur, now a part of Guwahati. After the Indo-China war in 1962, Arunachal Pradesh was also separated out.

After 1947, the Government of India carved several states from the erstwhile Colonial Assam to abate the secessionist movements by the diverse tribes of the region. The Government also gave autonomy to several tribal areas. However, some tribes continue to demand complete sovereignty.

The militant organization United Liberation Front of Asom demands a separate country for the Assamese people. The Government of India had banned the ULFA in 1990 and has officially labelled it as a terrorist group, whereas the US State Department lists it under "Other groups of concern".[2] Military operations against it by the Indian Army that began in 1990 continues until present. In the past two decades some 10,000 people have died in the clash between the rebels and the government.[3] The Assamese secessionists have protested against the illegal migration from the neighbouring regions. Since the mid-20th century, people from present-day Bangladesh (then known as East Pakistan) have been migrating to Assam. In 1961, the Government of Assam passed a legislation making use of Assamese language compulsory; It had to be withdrawn later under pressure from Bengali speaking people in Cachar. In the 1980s the Brahmaputra valley saw a six-year Assam agitation [4] triggered by the discovery of a sudden rise in registered voters on electoral rolls.

The Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA), established in 1996, advocates a separate country for the Muslims of the region.[5] The United People's Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) demands a sovereign nation for the Karbi people. It was formed in March 1999 with the merger of two militant outfits in Assam's Karbi Anglong district, the Karbi National Volunteers (KNV) and Karbi People’s Front (KPF).[6] The United People's Democratic Solidarity signed a cease-fire agreement for one year with the Union Government on 23 May 2002. However, this led to a split in the UPDS with one faction deciding to continue with its subversive activities while the other commenced negotiations with the Government.[citation needed]


Bodoland is an area located in the north bank of Brahmaputra river in the state of Assam in north east region of India, by the foothills of Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh; inhabited predominantly by Bodo language speaking ethnic groups. Currently the hypothetical map of Bodoland includes the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD) administered by the non-autonomous Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). The map of Bodoland overlaps with the districts of Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri in the state of Assam. The Bodo people seek an independent state.[7]

Dravida Nadu[edit]

The Dravida Nadu (or Dravidistan) movement, aimed at creating a sovereign country for the speakers of the Dravidian languages in southern India, was at its height from the 1940s to the 1960s. The movement featured non-violent political activism by the Justice Party and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). Initially, the demand of Dravida Nadu proponents was limited to the Tamil-speaking region, but later, it was expanded to include other Indian states with Dravidian speakers in majority such as Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka).[8]) Some of the proponents also included parts of Ceylon (Sri Lanka),[9] Orissa and Maharashtra.[10]

Due to fears of Tamil hegemony, the movement failed to find any support outside Tamil Nadu. The States Reorganisation Act 1956, which created linguistic States, weakened the demand further.[11][12] The DMK deleted the demand for Dravida Nadu from the party programme in 1960, and abandoned it completely in 1963. Currently it is not an ongoing movement and has no popular support thus it is not anymore a separatist movement.


The insurgency in Kashmir, the most notable one, has existed in various forms. Thousands of lives have been lost since 1989 due to the intensification of both the insurgency and the fight against it. A widespread armed insurgency started in Kashmir with the disputed 1987 election with some elements from the State's assembly forming militant wings which acted as a catalyst for the emergence of armed insurgency in the region.[13][14]

The Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan has been accused by India of supporting and training mujahideen.[15][16] to fight in Jammu and Kashmir.[17][18] According to official figures released in Jammu and Kashmir assembly, there were 3,400 disappearance cases and the conflict has left more than 47,000 people dead as of July 2009. However, the number of insurgency-related deaths in the state have fallen sharply since the start of a slow-moving peace process between India and Pakistan.[19]


Main article: Khalistan movement
Flag used by the UNPO to represent from 24th January 1993 to 4th August 1993; the membership was permanently suspended on 22 January 1995.

The Khalistan movement aims to create a separate Sikh country. The territorial definition of the proposed country ranges from the Punjab state of India to the greater Punjab region, including the neighbouring Indian states and parts of Pakistani Punjab.[20][21][22] The movement was mainly active in the Punjab state of India from the 1970s to the early 1990s.

After the partition of India, the majority of the Sikhs migrated from the Pakistani part to the Indian province of Punjab, which then included the parts of the present-day Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Following India's independence in 1947, The Punjabi Suba Movement led by the Sikh political party Akali Dal led to the trifurcation of the Punjab state. The remnant Punjab state became Sikh-majority and Punjabi-majority. Subsequently, a section of the Sikh leaders started demanding more autonomy for the states, alleging that the Central government was discriminating against Punjab. Although the Akali Dal explicitly opposed the demand for an independent Sikh country, the issues raised by it were used as a premise for the creation of a separate country by the proponents of Khalistan.

The secessionist movement became active in the 1970s, under the leadership of Jagjit Singh Chauhan and others. In the 1980s, some of the Khalistan proponents turned to militancy, resulting in counter-militancy operations by the Indian security forces. In one such operation, Operation Blue Star (June 1984), the Indian Army led by the Sikh General Kuldip Singh Brar forcibly entered the Harimandir Sahib (the Golden Temple) to overpower the armed militants and the religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. The handling of the operation, damage to the holy Akal Takht and loss of life on both sides, led to widespread criticism of the Indian Government. Many Sikhs considered it as a desecration of the holiest Sikh shrine. The Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards in retaliation. Following her death, thousands of Sikhs were massacred in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, termed as a genocide by the Sikh groups.[23] The subsequent Punjab insurgency saw several secessionist militant groups becoming active in Punjab, supported by a section of the Sikh diaspora. Indian security forces suppressed the insurgency in the early 1990s, but Sikh political groups such as the Khalsa Raj Party and SAD (A) continued to pursue an independent Khalistan through non-violent means.[24][25][26] Pro-Khalistan organizations such as Dal Khalsa (International) are also active outside India, supported by a section of the Sikh diaspora. Now this movement is not an ongoing one hence it should not be considered as an active separatist movement [27]


The Nagalim is a proposed independent country for the Naga people. In the 1950s, the Naga National Council led a violent insurgency against the Government of India, demanding a separate country for the Nagas. The secessionist violence decreased considerably after the formation of the Naga-majority Nagaland state, and more militants surrendered after the Shillong Accord of 1975. However, a section of Nagas, operating under the various factions of National Socialist Council of Nagaland, continue to demand a separate country.


The National Liberation Front of Tripura (or NLFT) is a Tripuri nationalist organization which seeks for Tripura to secede from India and establish an independent Tripuri state. It has actively participated in the Tripura Rebellion. The NLFT manifesto says that they want to expand what they describe as the Kingdom of God and Christ in Tripura. The Tripura National Volunteers (also known as the Tribal National Volunteers or Tripura National Volunteer Force) was founded in 1978 with assistance from the Mizo National Front.[28]


Story evolving with breaking developments.

Other movements[edit]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Racine, Jean-Luc (2013). Secessionism in independent India: Failed attempts, irredentism, and accomodations. Secessionism and Separatism in Europe and Asia: To have a state of one’s own (Routledge). pp. 147–163. 


  1. ^ "India campaign over 'draconian' anti-insurgent law". BBC News. 17 October 2011. 
  2. ^ Country Reports on Terrorism, 2006
  3. ^ Five killed in Assam bomb blasts - Dawn
  4. ^ Hazarika 2003
  5. ^ "Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA)". South Asia Terrorism Portal. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  6. ^ SATP - UPDS
  7. ^ Hawkesworth, Mary (1992). Encyclopedia of Government and Politics. Routledge. p. 1203. ISBN 978-0-415-03092-2. 
  8. ^ Taylor, Richard Warren (1982). Religion and Society: The First Twenty-five Years, 1953–1978. Christian Literature Society (for the Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society, Bangalore). p. 242. OCLC 9007066. 
  9. ^ Welch, Claude Emerson (1967). Political Modernization: A Reader in Comparative Political Change. Wadsworth Pub. Co. p. 173. OCLC 941238. 
  10. ^ James H. Mills, Satadru Sen, ed. (2004). Confronting the Body: The Politics of Physicality in Colonial and Post-Colonial India. Anthem Press. p. 145. ISBN 978-1-84331-032-7. 
  11. ^ Thapar, Romesh (1978). Change and Conflict in India. Macmillan. p. 75. ISBN 0-8364-0222-7. 
  12. ^ Rao, C Rajeswara (1973). Defeat Separatist Conspiracy in Andhra. Communist Party of India. p. 28. OCLC 814926. 
  13. ^ "Kashmir insurgency". BBC (London: BBC). Retrieved 1 November 2010. 
  14. ^ Hussain, Altaf (14 September 2002). "Kashmir's flawed elections". BBC (London: BBC). Retrieved 1 November 2010. 
  15. ^ Pakistan's shadowy secret service - BBC News
  16. ^ Nato's top brass accuse Pakistan over Taliban aid - Telegraph
  17. ^ At Border, Signs of Pakistani Role in Taliban Surge - New York Times
  18. ^ A NATION CHALLENGED: THE SUSPECTS; Death of Reporter Puts Focus On Pakistan Intelligence Unit - New York Times
  19. ^ Indian officials say 3,400 missing in held Kashmir (18 August 2009; AFP)
  20. ^ Crenshaw, Martha (1995). Terrorism in Context. Pennsylvania State University. p. 364. ISBN 978-0-271-01015-1. 
  21. ^ The foreign policy of Pakistan: ethnic impacts on diplomacy, 1971-1994 ISBN 1-86064-169-5 - Mehtab Ali Shah "Such is the political, psychological and religious attachment of the Sikhs to that city that a Khalistan without Lahore would be like a Germany without Berlin."
  22. ^ Amritsar to Lahore: a journey across the India-Pakistan border - Stephen Alter ISBN 0-8122-1743-8 "Ever since the separatist movement gathered force in the 1980s, Pakistan has sided with the Sikhs, even though the territorial ambitions of Khalistan include Lahore and sections of the Punjab on both sides of the border."
  23. ^ Deol, Harnik (2000). Religion and nationalism in India: the case of the Punjab. Psychology Press. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-415-20108-7. Retrieved 22 July 2011. 
  24. ^ "Amnesty International report on Punjab". Amnesty International. 20 January 2003. Archived from the original on 3 December 2006. Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  25. ^ "Fresh case against Chohan; Khalsa Raj Party office sealed". The Tribune, Chandigarh, India. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  26. ^ "SAD (A) to contest the coming SGPC elections on Khalistan issue: Mann". 14 January 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  27. ^ Punj, Balbair (16 June 2005). "The Ghost of Khalistan". Sikh Times. Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  28. ^ "Assessment for Tripuras in India", Minorities at Risk Project, UNHCR Refworld, 2003-12-31, retrieved 2009-03-15 
  29. ^ Anand, Dibyesh (2011). Hindu Nationalism in India and the Politics of Fear. Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 56–59. ISBN 978-0230603851. 
  30. ^ "SIMI a secessionist outfit: SC".