Separatism is the advocacy of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental or gender separation from the larger group. As with secession, separatism conventionally refers to full political separation. Groups simply seeking greater autonomy are not separatist as such. Some discourse settings equate separatism with religious segregation, racial segregation, or sex segregation, while other discourse settings take the broader view that separation by choice may serve useful purposes and is not the same as government-enforced segregation. There is some academic debate about this definition, and in particular how it relates to secessionism, as has been discussed online.
Separatist groups practice a form of identity politics, or political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of the group's members. Such groups believe attempts at integration with dominant groups compromise their identity and ability to pursue greater self-determination. However, economic and political factors usually are critical in creating strong separatist movements as opposed to less ambitious identity movements.
Resistance by victims of oppression, including denigration of their language, culture or religion.
Influence and propaganda by those inside and outside the region who hope to gain politically from intergroup conflict and hatred.
Economic and political dominance of one group that does not share power and privilege in an egalitarian fashion.
Economic motivations: seeking to end economic exploitation by more powerful group or, conversely, to escape economic redistribution from a richer to a poorer group.
Preservation of threatened religious, language or other cultural tradition.
Destabilization from one separatist movement giving rise to others.
Geopolitical power vacuum from breakup of larger states or empires.
Continuing fragmentation as more and more states break up.
Feeling that the perceived nation was added to the larger state by illegitimate means.
The perception that the state can no longer support one's own group or has betrayed their interests.
Opposition to political decisions.
Ethnic separatism can be based on cultural, linguistic as well as religious or racial differences. Ethnic separatist movements were relevant since they represented historical delineations between states, or in recent times, were the cause of conflicts between peoples in Europe, Africa and Asia with different ethnic/linguistic origins.
Some separatist groups seek to separate from others along racial lines. They oppose interracial marriage and integration with other races and seek separate schools, businesses, churches and other institutions, and often separate societies, territories, countries, and governments:
White separatism in the United States and Western Europe seeks separation of the white race and limits to nonwhite immigration under the argument that these policies are necessary for white race's survival.
Zionism sought the creation of the State of Israel as a Jewish homeland, with separation from gentile Palestinians. Simon Dubnow, who had mixed feelings toward Zionism, formulated Jewish Autonomism, which was adopted in eastern Europe by Jewish political parties such as the Bund and his own Folkspartei before World War II. Zionism can also be seen as somewhat ethnic too, however, as its definition of who is Jewish has often included people of Jewish background who do not practice the Jewish religion. It is further complicated as some who had ancestors who converted to Judaism, such as some Ethiopian Jews, may not share ethnic history with the Jews, however, are considered to be so but not without debate.
Sikhs in India sought an independent nation of Khalistan after an agitation in the 1970s and 1980s for implementation of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution (demanding things such as a greater share of river water and autonomy for Punjab) resulted in the storming of the Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple) by the Government of India troops in 1984. The storming of the temple to flush out Sikh Militants who were gaining momentum in their agitation for greater autonomy for Punjab resulted in Sikhs demanding an independent state for the Sikhs situated in Punjab known as Khalistan. The conflict escalated and led to an assassination of the Prime Minister of IndiaIndira Gandhi as a retaliation of an Indian military operation called 'Operation Blue Star' directed against the Sikhs' holiest shrine, the Golden Temple, in which many innocent Sikh civilians too lost their lives. The revenge murder of Gandhi evoked a Congress Party led backlash in the form of the Sikh genocide, which started in New Delhi and swept India in November 1984. That only further strengthened the Khalistan Movement, but it was largely subdued owing to the efforts of the police in Punjab. The controversial response by the Punjab State reportedly involved the use of human rights violations in the form of unexplained disappearances, faked encounters killings, rape and torture. However, many in the Sikh diaspora in the West and even Sikhs in India, still support the idea of Khalistan, but support is dying and generally the Indian Sikh population is patriotic towards India or at least not supportive of the idea of Khalistan.
How far separatist demands will go toward full independence, and whether groups pursue constitutional and nonviolent action or armed violence, depend on a variety of economic, political, social and cultural factors, including movement leadership and the government's response. Governments may respond in a number of ways, some of which are mutually exclusive. Some include:
accede to separatist demands
improve the circumstances of disadvantaged minorities, be they religious, linguistic, territorial, economic or political
adopt "asymmetric federalism" where different states have different relations to the central government depending on separatist demands or considerations
Allow minorities to win in political disputes about which they feel strongly, through parliamentary voting, referendum, etc.
^Bavaria's right to separate itself from the Federal Republic of Germany: "Das Recht auf Eigenstaatlichkeit" [The Right to Statehood] (in German). landesverband.bayernpartei.de. October 28, 2006. Archived from the original on July 21, 2013. Retrieved August 3, 2013.
^Dobratz, Betty A.; Shanks-Meile, Stephanie L. (Summer 2006). "Strategy of White Separatism". Journal of Political and Military Sociology. Archived from the original on 2011-01-12. Retrieved 2008-05-07.
^"On Separatism in Latin America". E-International Relations. 2013-05-20. Retrieved 2022-06-04. Another separatist movement involved Venezuela’s oil rich state of Zulia, which is located on the western border with Colombia. The right-wing elites in Zulia’s government controlled the vast majority of Venezuelan oil production and thus the country’s revenues.
^Link to:Archived 2008-06-11 at the Wayback Machine
Chima, Jugdep. "Effects of Political Leadership on Ethnic Separatist Movements in India" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Palmer House Hotel, Chicago, Illinois, April 12, 2007, (PDF); Chima, Jugdep. "How Does Political Leadership Affect the Trajectories of Ethnic Separatist Insurgencies?: Comparative Evidence from Movements in India" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Marriott Wardman Park, Omni Shoreham, Washington Hilton, Washington, DC, September 01, 2005 (PDF).