By Sajjad Shaukat
Indian Minister of External affairs Jaswant Singh who served the BJP for 30 years was expelled from the party for praising Mohammad Ali Jinnah (Founder of Pakistan) and echoing the pain of the Indian Muslims in his book, “Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence.” While pointing out the BJP’s attitude towards the minorities, Singh wrote: “Every Muslim that lives in India is a loyal Indian…look into the eyes of Indian Muslims and see the pain.” He warned in his book, if such a policy continued, “India could have third partition.”
In fact, taking cognizance of the separatist movements in India and New Delhi’s use of brutal force through military in suppressing them, in one way or the other, Jaswant Singh has shown realistic approach in his book.
Undoubtedly, large number of separatist movements in different parts of India, which are posing serious threat to Indian federation, needs an appropriate analysis.
In this regard, on August 28, 2017, Darjeeling Police arrested three active supporters of Gorkhaland movement on charges of involvement in arson and violence that took place in the hills in June. The situation in Darjeeling hills remained tense, as the indefinite strike demanding a separate state in the hills entered its 74th day. The Internet service in the hills remains suspended since June 18, 2017. New Delhi is making every effort to create differences in the ranks of Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC). Gorkha Janmutkti Morcha (GJM) leadership, especially its youth wing wants not less than an independent Gorkha state. Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamta pledged that a division of the Darjeeling Hills from Bengal would be resisted by blood. Even the center in New Delhi is not ready to create a Gorkha state, despite the fact that GJM has been an ally of the ruling party BJP. Demand for separation of Gorkha land was also made in 1907, 1929, 1941, 1952 and 1984. The current movement is because of Mamta’s hard line policies—promoting Bengali language at state level.
India has had its share of insurgencies. In all, an estimated 30 major armed insurgency movements are sweeping across the country, reflecting an acute sense of alienation on the part of the people involved. Broadly, these can be divided into three broad categories; movements for political rights i.e. Assam, Kashmir, South India and Khalistan, movements for social and economic justice i.e. Maoist (Naxalite) and North-Eastern states and movements based upon religious grounds like that of Laddakh.
The escalation of centrifugal tendencies fostering insurgency and separatist movements in India is mainly due to complete failure of the Indian Government to address the root causes.
In this respect, however, Naxalites or Maoists is second major freedom movement after that of the Indian Occupied Kashmir. Indian former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called Maoist insurrection, “the single biggest internal-security challenge”, whereas, Home Secretary G.K Pillai reiterated the magnitude of this threat, saying that the Maoists want to completely overthrow the Indian state by 2050.
Maoists inhabit an area known as the ‘Red Corridor’ that stretches from West Bengal to Karnataka state in the southwest. They are active across 220 districts in 20 states forming about 40% of India’s geographical area. They also threaten to extend operations in major urban centers, including New Delhi. Indian intelligence reports disclosed that insurgents include 20,000 armed men and 50,000 regular or fulltime organizers and mobilizers, with the numbers growing.
The seven states of Northeastern India called the ‘Seven Sisters’ are ethnically and linguistically different from rest of the country. These states are rocked by a large number of armed and violent rebellions, some seeking separate states, some fighting for autonomy and others demanding complete independence, while keeping the entire region in a state of turmoil. These states include Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. These states accuse New Delhi of apathy towards their issues. Illiteracy, poverty and lack of economic opportunities have fueled the natives’ demand for autonomy and independence.
Tamil Nadu is another area where separatist movements are haunting federation of India. In the wake of their defeat by the Sri Lankan military in the Jaffna peninsula, the freedom fighters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) took refuge in the adjoining Tamil Nadu State of India, where on account of common ethnicity, religion, language and culture they mixed easily and enjoyed mass support for their cause.
Overtime, LTTE regrouped and recruited volunteers from amongst the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees and the local population and began to amass weapons and explosives. There is a strong anti-India and pro-secessionist sentiment in Tamil Nadu. Most people want independence from India despite sharing a common religion, Hinduism. They put up an argument that religion is not a binding force that can override other considerations, such as language, culture, ethnicity, people’s aspirations and an identity which entitles them to an independent existence.
Kashmir freedom movement which has been accelerated in the Indian Held Kashmir is the deadliest nightmare for the country. This long standing issue has serious repercussions for regional peace and security.
Reportedly, in 2015, Indian Minister of Home Affairs Rajnath Singh has highlighted his focus to build the capacity of security forces engaged in fighting uprising and separatism. Indian Central Government finalized the raising of Indian Reserve Police Battalions (IRBPs) in Indian Occupied Kashmir and Naxal/Maoist hit states or Left Wing Extremism (LWE) areas, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Out of the total 25 IRBPs proposed, five were for IOK and 12 for LWE affected states whereas rest of 8, IRBPs for other states.
The mentioned increase was a part of overall drive against Naxal/Maoist affected states and the Indian Controlled Kashmir, including other regions where similar movements continue unabated against the political, social and economic system of India, which is based upon injustices. Now, IRBPs have totally failed in suppressing insurgency and separatist movements in various regions of India.
It is notable that the one of the important causes of the disintegration of the former Soviet Union was that its greater defence expenditure exceeded to the maximum, resulting into economic crises inside the country. In this connection, about a prolonged war in Afghanistan, the former President Gorbachev had declared it as the “bleeding wound.” However, militarization of the Soviet Union failed in controlling the movements of liberation, launched by various ethnic nationalities. On the other hand, while learning no lesson from India’s previous close friend, Indian fundamentalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the BJP extremist party is acting upon the similar policies.
Instead of redressing the grievances of the people by eliminating injustices against them, Indian Goverment is depending upon ruthless force to crush these movements through security forces. Therefore, India’s unrealistic counterinsurgency strategy will badly fail, culminating into political suicide of the India union.
Nevertheless, poor economic policies, heavy defence spending, neglected social development, growing serpent of radical Hinduism, ancient caste system and divisive/pressure politics are just few triggers of these secessionist movements.
India, instead of addressing actual domestic problems and peoples’ genuine grievances also resorts to blaming its neighbours for fueling these movements. In the pretext, New Delhi is also acting upon war-mongering policy against Pakistan and China.
It is also speculated that Indian government on the pretext of escalation of tension with China in Doklom region, will increase the number of armed forces in ‘Seven Sister’ regions, as an attempt to neutralize the uprisings there.
Again, it is noteworthy that the escalation of centrifugal tendencies, fostering insurgency and separatist movements in India is mainly due to complete failure of the Indian Government to address the root causes. This situation has a potential to lead to a domino effect in South Asian region, which will be detrimental to regional security and peace.
It is mentionable that under the mask of democracy and secularism, Indian subsequent regimes dominated by politicians from the Hindi heartland—Hindutva (Hindu nationalism), have been using brutal force ruthlessly against any move to free Assam, Kashmir, Khalistan, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, Tripura etc. where wars of liberation continue in one or the other form.
Nonetheless, like the former Soviet Union, separatist movements which pose a serious threat to Indian federation, will culminate into disintegration of the Indian union.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations