The Financial Express

Freedom wars, guerrillas and terrorists

| Updated: December 03, 2020 13:30:11

Evaly and Fianancial Express Evaly and Fianancial Express
Freedom wars, guerrillas and terrorists

People have quite often been seen confused over aimless separatist wars. There are also terrorist groups fighting genuine liberation wars. Coming to the former, many governments and organisations at times extend support to them --- though out of initial ignorance. Of nearly 40 such globally known conflicts, only a handful could meet their cherished goals. The goals range from establishing a new sovereign state carved out from a large one, implanting a radical ideology as state policy replacing the 'reactionary' one etc. Sometimes, state powers with ulterior motive and non-political vested interests involve in these terror activities. Their chief objective turns out to be destabilising a country or any of its region. Some go to the lengths of overthrowing legitimate governments.

Thanks to the joining of the whole nation and strong backing from foreign countries, especially India, the 1971 Liberation War could result in the creation of the independent Bangladesh. The united Bengalee nation was fortunate in that the anti-Liberation War campaigns had failed to gain ground during the nine months. Attempts by the then Pakistani rulers to portray the all-out armed struggle as separatism carried out by 'Indian agents' failed miserably. The Liberation War was far from being an act of sabotage carried out by ragtag separatists. Instead, the whole nation fought the sanguinary war. At the forefront were the thousands of Freedom Fighters with only one goal --- independence. Analysts shudder to think today about the consequences of a premature or wrong decision in leading the war or formulating its policies. Had the enemies' stratagems succeeded during the later phase of the Freedom War, it would be known to the world today as a failed separatist movement. At this moment, the tragic end of the short-lived state of Biafra in eastern Nigeria comes to mind.

Few of the younger generations today are fully aware of the Biafra fiasco. It was also a full-scale freedom struggle waged by the ethnic Igbo people in Nigeria. The Republic of Biafra was declared by its leaders in 1967 and known as a secessionist state in West Africa. The state was also seen as a product of the Nigerian Civil War. In a twist of realities, the Igbo people's war against the federal military rulers was made to be known as a separatist step. After the survival of the new state from 1967 to 1970, the Nigerian Federal Military Government slapped a total blockade of Biafra. It led the famine-stricken and death-haunted Biafra administration to surrender to the military government. Those who do not believe in destiny or fate are sure to point at the realities in the pre-war Bangladesh. Those include the dedicated Bengalee leadership in the 1960s and the 70s, the mono-racial and mono-cultural people's unity in remaining committed to their resolve --- achieving freedom from the oppressive Pakistani rulers.

At the moment, lots of people are at a loss in defining the rationale of the TPLF (Tigray People's Liberation Front). The Front located between Eritrea and Ethiopia wants an independent and sovereign status for the province of Tigray. As reportedly chronicled in the regional history, the province has been fighting for a separate politico-cultural status through the ages. Analysts find it unfortunate for the Tigray people being not able to settle their festering problem a few years ago. Immediately after the end of the 'Eritrean war' with the creation of the sovereign united state of Ethiopia, the thorny issue of Tigray could have been solved amicably. To the woes and displeasure of Ethiopia, and the sufferings of the Tigrayans and the Ethiopians in the region, it did not happen.

Nobody knows how long the largely ill-timed TPLF offensive against Ethiopia and the latter's all-out campaign will continue. The confrontation no longer remains limited to hit-and-run separatist war on the part of Tigrayans. The armed conflict appears to be turning into a conventional war. Analysts have already warned of snow-balling the still-limited conflict into a multi-faceted regional war.

The 20th  century and the two decades of the present century have been witness to 40 separatist wars, termed 'conflicts' by quarters upholding conservatism. Most of them are fought in Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, Latin America and parts of South and Southeast Asia. Except a few pockets, Europe and North America are still free of separatist conflicts. Many of these 'wars' have, however, petered out inconclusively. A lot of others have flared up after remaining dormant for years --- and even after official declaration of the wars' end.

As a ready example, one may cite the case of FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), which has lately threatened to restart their 'unfinished' 52-year revolution. They reached an amicable understanding with the Colombian government a few years ago. Even truces reached between the British Government and IRA (Irish Republican Army) were reneged on several times to destabilise the whole North Ireland. The situation in the strife-torn region is now apparently normal.

The Basque guerrillas' (ETA) armed conflict with Spain and France finally ended with the imprisonment of the members of the terror outfit. Originated in the autonomous community of Basque in northern Spain, the guerrillas operated in their earmarked areas. Many of the younger generations today hear about the 'Basque Country heroes' from their elderly relatives. The Shining Path (Communist Party of Peru) had to meet a similar fate. It was headed by Joaquin Guzman. It claimed itself to be a liberator of the have-nots. But the group finally emerged as a mercilessly terrorist organisation, appealing mainly to segments of rural and aboriginal youths. Outwardly a charming person, the party chief Guzman managed to raise ideological followers in all parts of the developing world, including even India and Bangladesh.

The number of formidable guerrilla wars going astray is not small. Those were fought in all regions of the world. A lot of them survive today in the chronicles of these wars narrated in the books by former fighters. After the disbanding of the weakened groups, or jail-term or execution of the supreme leaders, the general cadres returned to normal life. The Polisario Front of the 1970s targeting an end to Moroccan presence in West Sahara fizzled out in 2019. Several guerrilla organisations were active in Mexico even three decades ago. Only a handful of them are now operative. They include mainly the Zapatista National Liberation Army. The others have reportedly disintegrated or now exist in isolated pockets.

After Latin America, the region that emerges most affected by separatist conflicts is the Indian sub-continent. Large tracts of India remain torn by myriad types of guerrilla wars. Apart from the Jammu & Kashmir flashpoint, almost all regions of the vast country are plagued with one or the other terror unrest. Kashmir has been the scene of a fierce terrorism and an 'independence war' as well as activities by dozens of splinter terror groups for the last 60 years. A detailed portrait of the terror-related feuds and sufferings of innocent Kashmiri people can be found in Arundhati Roy's new fiction 'The Ministry of Utmost Happiness'. She spares none; and even the security forces deployed to the valley for conducting combing operations surface prominently in her book. The other parts of India torn by terrorism prompted by ethnic, ethno-religious, racial, regional and other extremist causes include east-central and south-central regions. Of late, the Seven-Sister states have emerged as new terror hotspots.

Even peacefulness in the traditionally beckoning tourist spot of Darjeeling has started becoming elusive. The recent activities of the region's political party Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) has started making tourist operators and aspiring tourists feel edgy. The party's objective is the creation of a Gorkhaland state in the region. In order to see the objective materialise, the GNLF has joined hands with a relatively impatient faction of the political platform.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's LTTE, one of the most formidable separatist groups in modern times, which formed a 'Tamil government' in the country's north-east has been crushed by the Sri Lankan army. Whether separatism is an acceptable means of achieving politico-economic and ideological goals is debatable. Ironically, the leaders and cadres engaged in these wars are prepared to go all-out to defend their stance. It's true, logical separatism on occasions may lead to emancipation.             


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