For over 70 years, India’s iconic Republic Day Parade at Rajpath in New Delhi, comprising a tableau of different states, union territories, and ministries, along with cultural dances of all the regions, has been aiming to showcase the country's unity in diversity.
While for many, the historic day is about wearing nationalism on their sleeves and being proud of the country, especially watching the amalgamation of its different religions, regions, and cultures on one platform, secessionist movements in north-eastern India as well as tribals’ demand for autonomy present a different picture. It somehow shows the other side, challenging India’s salient feature of “unity in diversity”.
The tribal dances of the northeast will once again be performed at Delhi’s central vista, Rajpath, during the parade, while north-eastern India remains a volatile, insurgency-affected region in the country.
Composed of eight states – Meghalaya, Manipur, Assam, Mizoram, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Sikkim – the north-eastern region began witnessing secessionist movements right after independence in 1947, which haven’t ended yet.
On Thursday, the chiefs of six militant outfits of northeast India said in a joint statement that they “resolve to call a total shutdown in the entire WESEA (Western Southeast Asia) region on 26 January, 2020, to stop or to hinder such ritual celebrations”.
About the Republic Day celebrations in the region, the outfits said: “But this is purely anachronistic imposition in this part of the world, as the citizens of this region are not allowed to enjoy Republicanism in the true sense of the term”.
“The so-called republican constitution of India fails to actually entitle the peoples of this region to republican liberty”, the statement said.
The outfits alleged: “Indian rule in our region is theoretically republican, but in reality, deep-rooted oppression of the indigenous is prevalent, which is quite contradictory to republicanism".
There was a time when more than 120 militant groups operated in the northeast, but it still remains a potential tinderbox, according to an essay on the international relations website The Geopolitics.
Conflicts Part of Nation's Life
The first independence movement began in Nagaland, where the Nagas were fighting for a separate country during the British era. They have their own flag, independence day, and refuse to recognise themselves as part of India.
However, former secretary general of the parliament’s lower house, the Lok Sabha, and political scientist Subhash Kashyap believes that diversity is part of unity in India.
“In India, if somebody is in linguistic minority, they can be in the religious majority and if somebody is a religious minority, they can be in linguistic minority, so on and so forth”.
He believes that stating the conflict in the northeast as a demand for independence is judgemental.
“Conflicts are part of a nation’s life and anybody can raise the slogan of Azadi (independence). That is freedom of expression. People can certainly ask for independence but they certainly don’t represent [the] majority”, Kashyap says.
He continues: “Legitimate view of their majority is presented in the parliament. The legitimate expression of their views has to be seen in the house of parliament and state assemblies. Only elected representatives can present the people and not those divulging into violence. Hence, the Republic Day Parade is the representation of India”.
In Mizoram, the demand for independence began in 1966, after people in the region did not receive assistance from the federal government during the massive Mautam famine.
While Assam and Tripura have been fighting to protect their ethnicity and tribal culture, which has been endangered due to migration from Bengal, the root cause of militancy in Manipur was the forceful merger of the former Manipur Kingdom with India.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.