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Are the separatist movements in India legitimate?

Are the separatist movements in India legitimate?

TestFunda ,  03-Dec-08

The Stakeholders:

India, Pakistan, Kashmir, China, Arunachal Pradesh, Vidharbha, Telangana, Gorkhaland, Punjab and others


·         India has had a history of separatist movements, going back to times before independence.

·         These movements have stemmed because of a sense of difference and segregation on one or more of three main matters: religion, language and ethnicity.

·         These movements have been either state re-organisation movements or independence movements demanding complete independence.

·         Most of these movements have, at times, taken to indiscriminate violence in order to be heard.

Key points:

·         The causes of separatist movements are varied but they inevitably focus on the lack of confidence in the central government’s ability to address issues that matter to these groups or people.

·         The primary claim has been that India has historically never been a single nation. It was organised as such for merely administrative purposes by the British.

·         Historically, many such movements have met with success:  the Irish War of Independence and the independence movements in the various Balkan and east-European nations being prime examples. This potentially inspires the separatist movements in India.

·         Some movements, such as the act of secession of the Confederate states from the Union during the American Civil War, were heavily crushed and never resurfaced.

Claims to legitimacy:

·         Differences in language and ethnicity have been long-standing reasons for freedom from the rule of a demographically different nation. Before independence and for some time after that there was a demand for a separate “Dravidstan” comprising the South Indian states. These states also objected to Hindi as the national language, citing that North Indians would have a distinct advantage in legislative matters.

·         The North-Eastern states were independent kingdoms before British rule and were certainly never a part of any kingdom based in Central-India.

·         Myanmar was given freedom from British India since it was ethnically different from most of mainland India.

·         The efforts of the central government to appease the people of these regions have been found to be wanting.

·         Small regions within bigger states that are ethnically different feel that they are not adequately represented in their State Assembly and that their needs are not met. They, therefore, seek to form a separate state governed by their own people.

·         In addition to the oppression, groups may even want to engage in secession if they feel that their culture and language are being oppressed by the state and they are being assimilated by a larger group that is unfavourable to their interests.

Possible Reasons for classification as illegitimate:

·         Most of the separatist movements have resorted to violence against the local police forces and to high-ranking officials of the bureaucracy in an effort to focus attention on their causes. This has not gone down well with the central government, leading to many of the separatist groups being classified as militant organisations.

·         A lot of separatist movements have not approached the matter democratically and are often found to lack popular support among the people they claim they represent. This lack of support quite rightly questions their claims of legitimacy.

·         Upon India achieving independence, many of the former kingdoms were given the offer of joining India, joining Pakistan or staying independent. Circumstances coerced most of the kingdoms to join the Union of India while others did so wilfully. Given this nature of act, the separatist movements draw flak.

·         The State Re-organisation Committee drew the boundaries of the various states based on the languages spoken there. For small regions within these states to want to form separate states though they speak the same language goes against the originally agreed upon premise under which the states to have been formed.

More Links

·         Terror Groups in India

·         Kashmir Separatist Movement: The All Party Hurriyat Conference

GD Topics:

1.       Should India agree to hold discussions for a plebiscite with those groups seeking independence from Indian rule?


·         Escalating violence and a demand to be heard cannot go unnoticed. The government must at least engage in preliminary discussions to address the issues at hand.

·         The Armed Forces Special Powers Act provides the Army with a free hand to do as they please in the North-Eastern states without any consequences of police investigation. This act has been abused by the armed forces in these regions to viciously attack suspected militants with no evidence.  All this has lowered the people’s expectations of government assistance.

·          India cannot claim to be the world’s largest democracy and at the same time prevent people within the union from deciding what is in their best interests.

·         Fighting extremists in various parts of the country is a drain on the national exchequer. But most importantly, it demands a heavy toll in terms of human life. The only peaceful solution is to hold a plebiscite, so that people can choose what lies in their interest. Fears of such demands springing up in other parts of the country are unfounded because most states realize the advantages of sticking with the union.


·         Any kind of discussion can only take place if the agitating group has adopted democratic processes, rather than violence, as a means of getting its point across.

·         Militant action cannot be tolerated. If the central government gives in even once, people everywhere would resort to violence as a means to achieve their ends.

·         The Constitution of India dissuades Indian states from declaring independence. It also bans separatist political parties.

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