The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Monday, December 31, 2012

Liberation movements in India

Muhammad Daheem

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - India is a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and multi-religious state. It is facing serious separatist and liberation movements in different regions. The major controversial areas include Assam, Punjab and Kashmir. People of several regions including Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland are passing through identity crisis phase. The basicfactors behind the separatist and liberation movements are ethnicity, ideology and religious identity. The most high profile liberation movement is run by the people of occupied Kashmir. India introduced AFSPA in 1958 to suppress separatist and independence movement in Manipur. Later on, it was enforced in other insurgency-ridden north-eastern states. It was extended to most parts of Indian controlled Kashmir soon after the armed- struggle began in Kashmir in 1989. The fraudulent law gives Indian forces immunity against prosecution “unless the Indian government gives prior sanction for such prosecution.” Human rights organizations claim that it is an open license to shoot and kill civilians.

North-east region is situated between Indic Asia and Mongoloid Asia. The tribal people, in this region, belong to Sino-Tibetian family. Several communities, here, are struggling for independent states. Thousands of people have lost their lives for the cause of freedom because of war like situation in this region. The Indian army has been accused of massacre of people fighting for theliberation of their soil. The common people as well as leaders of the north-east India claim that their territory was not part of India. It was included in India without the approval of the local people. Ethnically, linguistically and culturally North-East India is different from the mainstream India. The people, in general, face identity crisis and the local people show their abhorrence for Indian administration. Territorial disputes among states are common and tensions between natives and immigrants are multi-fold. Illiteracy, poverty and lack of economic opportunities are some of the major causes of separatist movements. Several underground organizations are working for independence.

According to Assam police several Muslim fundamentalist groups are active in Assam including the MULTA, MULFA, UMLFA and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami. The Islamic radical groups want a chain of Islamic courts to follow the tenets of Shariat in Assam. The United Liberation Front of Assam is a separatist group seeking to establish a sovereign Assam through armed struggle. Ethnic riots erupted in Assam between 1979 and 1985. The Government of India had banned the organization in 1990, declared it a terrorist organization and started military operation against it. The government failed to overpower the militants. In the past two decades some 10,000 people died in the clashes between the rebels and the government. The United Liberation Front of Assam and several other groups in north-east India are demanding liberation from the Indian Union. The two nation theory has its roots in Assam. It means that Hindus and Muslims are two different nations. A number of people, particularly Islamic militants, want to join the East Bengal. Islamic Manch says that it will work for the “willful merger of areas of Assam with the East Bengal.

The people of Bodoland are also struggling for independence. Bodoland is an area located in the north bank of river Brahmaputra in the foothills of Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh. Nandita Haksar, a leading human rights lawyer, says “the north-east is very distinct from the rest of India essentially because of race.” It is claimed that the north-east was never a part of the Indian empire, though a limited number of people used to come here as teachers, traders and soldiers from India. The major religions of this area are Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. Animists and some sects also exist here. In Tripura Bengalis are in majority. The people, in these areas, in general, believe in local nationalism that leads to the separatist movements and a challenge to the authority of Indian government. The population of Nagas is more than one million. The independence movement started in the Naga Hills in 1950. They are fighting against Indian imperialism and demanding a separate homeland. A number of other ethnic groups have politically joined hands with them. It is pertinent to mention here that ethnicity plays major role in the separatist movements in north-east India. The growth of local nationalism is strong enough to tackle with Indian influence. Some militant organizations are fighting for the cause of liberation for the Garos.

The Naxalitie movement is one of the major separatist movements in India. The militants are real danger to Indian sovereignty. India has failed to overpower the strength of the militants. In 2008, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the Naxalite movement as the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by India. More than hundred separatist movements are working in different regions of India. India’s Maoist insurgency is fighting for communist rule and greater rights for tribal people. It started its adventures in West Bengal in the late 1960s. It has its stronghold in 40% area of the sub-continent “stretching from the north-east to central India.” Maoists are perhaps aware of the potential for a tactical understanding with the ethnic separatist groups in the battle against the Indian forces. The NNC and the NSCN consider Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai as the “greatest leaders of the century”. India accuses China of backing Maoist guerrilla fighters.

Khalistan, the Land of the Pure, is a proposed Sikh homeland in Punjabi speaking area of Indian held Punjab. The movement started in the early 1980s and reached its climax in 1984. Indian army attacked Golden temple & killed Thousands of Sikhs including Bhindranwale in BLUE-STAR Operation. Though Indira Gandhi crushed Khalistan movement, the idea of Khalistan is still popular in rural Punjab. Indira was assassinated by her own Sikh guards in retaliation. Khalistan Commando Force, Babbar Khalsa International, Khalistan Zindabad Force, International Sikh Youth Federaton and Khalistan Liberation Force are major organizations. The movement operates from different countries including Canada, the United Kingdom and several other countries. Indian government issued a white paper on Kashmir issue in 1948. In his statement the then Prime Minister of India said “ I have stated our Government’s policy and made it clear that we have no desire to impose our will on Kashmir but to leave final decision to the people of Kashmir.”According to Security Council’s resolution 47 on 21-04-48 “the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the Kashmiris expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.” In other words the fate of Kashmir would be decided in a free and fair plebiscite in this region.

Several groups in Kashmir are fighting against Indian atrocities. The freedom movement in Kashmir escalated in 1989. Since then thousands of people have sacrificed their lives for the causeof freedom.

It is heart-rending to mention the poor condition of communities in India. It is an uphill task for them to find employment or secure place for living in this country. It is a country that claims to be a progressive but still lives in the dark ages. Majority of the minorities are still struggling hard to achieve true freedom. The country is still in the grip of upper class Hindu minority. A number of militant groups have been working for the establishment of independent states since 1947. The separatist and liberation movements can gain momentum at any time to a possible division of the country into several parts.

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