A common definition of separatism is that it is the advocacy of a state of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental or gender separation from the larger group. While it often refers to full political secession, separatist groups may seek nothing more than greater autonomy. While some critics may equate separatism with religious segregation, racist segregation, or sexist segregation, most separatists argue that separation by choice is not the same as government-enforced segregation and may serve useful purposes. There is some academic debate about this definition, and in particular how it relates to secessionism, as has been discussed online.
Separatist groups practice a form of identity politics, "political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups." Such groups believe attempts at integration with dominant groups compromise their identity and ability to pursue greater self-determination. However, economic and political factors usually are critical in creating strong separatist movements as opposed to less ambitious identity movements.
How far separatist demands will go toward full independence, and whether groups pursue constitutional and nonviolent or armed violence, depend on a variety of economic, political, social and cultural factors, including movement leadership and the government's response. Governments may respond in a number of ways, some of which are mutually exclusive. Some include:
accede to separatist demands
improve the circumstances of disadvantaged minorities, be they religious, linguistic, territorial, economic or political
adopt "asymmetric federalism" where different states have different relations to the central government depending on separatist demands or considerations
allow minorities to win in political disputes about which they feel strongly, through parliamentary voting, referendum, etc.
Some separatist groups seek to separate from others along racial lines. They oppose interracial marriage and integration with other races and seek separate schools, businesses, churches and other institutions; and often separate societies, territories, countries, and governments.
White separatism in the United States and Western Europe seeks separation and survival of the white race and limits to nonwhite immigration. According to two sociologists writing in 2000, most separatists formally reject any ideology of white supremacy, but some left-wing advocacy groups still continue to oppose such separatist groups.
Zionism sought the creation of the State of Israel as a Jewish homeland, with separation from gentile Palestinians. Simon Dubnow, who had mixed feelings toward Zionism, formulated Jewish Autonomism, which was adopted in eastern Europe by Jewish political parties such as the Bund and his own Folkspartei before World War II. Zionism can also be seen as somewhat ethnic too, however, as its definition of who is Jewish has often included people of Jewish background who do not practice the Jewish religion. It is further complicated as some who had ancestors who converted to Judaism, such as some Ethiopian Jews, may not share ethnic history with the Jews, however, are considered to be so but not without debate.
The Partition of India and (later Pakistan and Bangladesh) arose as a result of separatism on the part of Muslims.
Sikhs in India sought an independent nation of Khalistan after an agitation in 70's and 80's for implementation of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution (demanding things such as a greater share of river water and autonomy for Punjab) resulted in the storming of the Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple) by the Government of India troops in 1984. The storming of the temple to flush out Sikh Militants who were gaining momentum in their agitation for greater autonomy for Punjab resulted in Sikhs demanding an independent state for the Sikhs situated in Punjab Khalistan movement. The conflict escalated and led to an assassination of the Prime Minister of IndiaIndira Gandhi as a retaliation of an Indian military operation called 'Operation Blue Star' directed against the Sikhs' holiest shrine, the Golden Temple, in which many innocent Sikh civilians too lost their lives. The revenge murder of Gandhi evoked a Congress Party led backlash in the form of the Sikh genocide, which started in New Delhi and swept India in November 1984. That only further strengthened the Khalistan Movement, but it was largely subdued owing to the efforts of the police in Punjab. The controversial response by the Punjab state reportedly involved the use of human rights violations in the form of unexplained disappearances, faked encounters killings, rape and torture. However, many in the Sikh diaspora in the West and even Sikhs in India, still support the idea of Khalistan, but support is dying and generally the Indian Sikh population is patriotic towards India or at least not supportive of the idea of Khalistan.
^ abSee D.L. Horowitz's "Patterns of Ethnic Separatism", originally published in Comparative Studies in Society and History, 1981, vol 23, 165-95. Republished in John A. Hall, The State: Critical Concepts, Routledge, 1994.
^Link to: Chima, Jugdep. "Effects of Political Leadership on Ethnic Separatist Movements in India" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Palmer House Hotel, Chicago, Illinois, April 12, 2007 (PDF); Chima, Jugdep. "How Does Political Leadership Affect the Trajectories of Ethnic Separatist Insurgencies?: Comparative Evidence from Movements in India" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Marriott Wardman Park, Omni Shoreham, Washington Hilton, Washington, D.C., September 01, 2005 (PDF).