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. Some have argued for secession as 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. But all separatist movements in India lacks people's support and does not emerged as mass political movements.

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, Assam 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 has introduced several Armed Forces Special Powers Acts (AFSPA) 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 in 1990 after the outbreak of armed insurgency in 1989. Each Act gives soldiers immunity in specified regions 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]


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.[2][3]

The Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan has been accused by India of supporting and training mujahideen.[4][5] to fight in Jammu and Kashmir.[6][7] 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.[8]

However, despite boycott calls by separatist leaders, 2014 Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections saw highest voters turnout in last 25 years since insurgency has erupted. It recorded more than 65% of voters turnout which was more than usual voters turnout in other state assembly elections of India. It considered as increase in faith of Kashmiri people in democratic process of India.[9][10][11]


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.[12][13][14] The movement was mainly active in the Punjab state of India from the 1970s to the early 1990s.

However, Like most of other separatist movements of India, Khalistan movement too lacked people's support, 2014 Indian General election recorded more than 70% voters turnout in Punjab.[15] Currently Khalistan movement is inactive.

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.[16] 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.[17][18][19] 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 [20]

North East India[edit]

Further information: Insurgency in Northeast India


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".[21] 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.[22] 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 [23] 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.[24] 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).[25] 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]


The Nagalim is a proposed independent country for the Naga people. In the 1950s, the Naga National Council led a violent unsuccessful 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 which lack people's support.

2014 General Elections of India recorded voters turnout of more than 87% in Nagaland which was highest in India.[26]


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.[27]

However, separatist movement lacked people's support as 2014 General elections in India recorded more than 84% voters turnout in Tripura which was one of highest in India.[28]

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. ^ "Kashmir insurgency". BBC (London: BBC). Retrieved 1 November 2010. 
  3. ^ Hussain, Altaf (14 September 2002). "Kashmir's flawed elections". BBC (London: BBC). Retrieved 1 November 2010. 
  4. ^ Pakistan's shadowy secret service - BBC News
  5. ^ Nato's top brass accuse Pakistan over Taliban aid - Telegraph
  6. ^ At Border, Signs of Pakistani Role in Taliban Surge - New York Times
  7. ^ A NATION CHALLENGED: THE SUSPECTS; Death of Reporter Puts Focus On Pakistan Intelligence Unit - New York Times
  8. ^ Indian officials say 3,400 missing in held Kashmir (18 August 2009; AFP)
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Crenshaw, Martha (1995). Terrorism in Context. Pennsylvania State University. p. 364. ISBN 978-0-271-01015-1. 
  13. ^ 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."
  14. ^ 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."
  15. ^ "State-Wise Voter Turnout in General Election 2014". Election Commission of India (Government of India). Press Information Bureau. 21 May 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ "Amnesty International report on Punjab". Amnesty International. 20 January 2003. Archived from the original on 3 December 2006. Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  18. ^ "Fresh case against Chohan; Khalsa Raj Party office sealed". The Tribune, Chandigarh, India. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  19. ^ "SAD (A) to contest the coming SGPC elections on Khalistan issue: Mann". 14 January 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  20. ^ Punj, Balbair (16 June 2005). "The Ghost of Khalistan". Sikh Times. Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  21. ^ Country Reports on Terrorism, 2006
  22. ^ Five killed in Assam bomb blasts - Dawn
  23. ^ Hazarika 2003
  24. ^ "Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA)". South Asia Terrorism Portal. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  25. ^ SATP - UPDS
  26. ^ "State-Wise Voter Turnout in General Election 2014". Election Commission of India (Government of India). Press Information Bureau. 21 May 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  27. ^ "Assessment for Tripuras in India", Minorities at Risk Project, UNHCR Refworld, 2003-12-31, retrieved 2009-03-15 
  28. ^ "State-Wise Voter Turnout in General Election 2014". Election Commission of India (Government of India). Press Information Bureau. 21 May 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2015.