Various news agencies reported, few days ago, on Kashmiri separatists raising Chinese flags along with Pakistani flags. To anyone familiar with the political aims of the Kashmiri separatists, it strikes as an odd entity to claim help from. Kashmiri separatism, as the story goes, has seen resurgence of an Islamic identity as well as opposed to the centuries long syncretic Kashmiriyat. Kashmiri separatists, as a principle, have espoused resisting the Centre on various grounds but the core of those involve India, for them, being a supposedly Hindu country and are oppressing Muslims of Kashmir. This rhetoric amplified after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister.
Kashmiris raising a modified Chinese flag (Image: newsx)
Thus, it counts as ironic when the same separatists who advocate resisting India for religious reasons are asking China for help when China has persecuted Muslims as a matter of deliberate policy.
From Turkestan to Xinjiang
The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, located in the northwest, is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious region that was primarily Uighur-Muslim dominated, though over the years with migrations and settlement by Han Chinese people (with government encouragement), the Uighurs are currently at around 45.84% while the Han are 40.48%.
Uighur Muslims break their fast during Ramadan (Image: twitter)
Though demographic changes are inevitable, the assertion that there is something mala-fide about it can be based on the trend of Uighur Muslims being marginalized over the years, with Beijing government taking an active role. This has varied from incidents like forcing Imams to dance and tell that prayer is bad for the soul, to customary fasting bans on Muslim students, teachers and civil servants. There have also been allegations and suppressed incidents of violent crackdowns on protests. With the absence of a free media, it is nearly impossible to find incidents of the oppression that is unacknowledged, unlike Indian media in Kashmir.
The long-time animosity of the Uighur community is reflected by an East Turkestan Movement, an Uighur dominated movement for an independent East Turkestan, though the extreme isolation from the world community as a whole has sadly driven a few radically oppressed Uighurs to armed insurgence.
Xianjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, as per Chinese claims (Image: theblaze)
What’s in a name?
Names are more than what one chooses to call. Names are reflections, of identity, personality, culture, history and pride. In a move that seemed to be from a George Orwell novel, China issued a ban on 22 Muslim names among the Uighurs in the Hotan prefecture, even threatening forbid children with those names from attending school unless their parents change them.
It is unimaginable anywhere else in the world, and even more so in India. Can you ever imagine India banning names for being “too Muslim”? It would be a matter of utter outrage, and it should be. Any liberal person would agree that something as natural as choosing names should never ever be suppressed by a state for simply sounding Islamic.
Thus, this strange tyranny of names, part of Beijing’s overbearing attitude towards Uighurs is the reason why a growing number Uighurs want freedom in the form of a free nation. The name most of the Uighur people choose to call their home is East Turkestan, not Xinjiang.
The name itself has Persian connotations rather than the native Uighur language, but the growing animosity of Uighurs towards the Chinese state’s hegemony on their culture is such that even the Mandarin name Xinjiang is felt as a Han Chinese imposition on a Turkic people, thus driving them to find solace in a name that originates from the very same Persianized Islamic culture that was embraced by the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughals, forming the base of Indo-Islamic syncretism.
Uighur diaspora protesting Chinese oppression in Washington DC (Image: shoebat)
The sound of silence
The Pakistani state and Kashmiri separatists have often spoken in concert on India’s mishandling of Kashmir and have often pounced on India’s mistakes and missteps to paint a picture of deliberate oppression. While one can concede that India’s handling of Kashmir is rife with tons of problems and unresolved issues, there has been a lack of acknowledgement that most failures are products of over-reaction and a lack of foresight, but they are not necessarily the same as systematic oppression. In other words, the underlying principle is still of good faith, though the ruling party BJP has often been accused of side-lining it for immediate gains.
The new firebrand Salafist clerics in Kashmir who preach of a jihad against a “Hindu India”, give sermons of the West and Israel’s crimes against the Ummah are yet to talk with the same intensity of China’s more systematic, deliberate policy of Muslim oppression. Their silence hangs rather loudly.
In other words, the already questionable stand of Kashmiri separatists has fallen even further in legitimacy. Their supposed love for their fellow Muslim brethren of Kashmir seems to ring hollow if they ask serial Muslim oppressors for help against a state that has had a Muslim as President, Vice President and Home Minister in some point of time.
Also, they cannot afford to pretend that this happens in some obscure corner of the universe – the China-occupied Aksai Chin is a part of the Xianjiang region. They have to literally look around in the neighbourhood to see Muslims that oppose tooth and nail the same behemoth whose banners they enthusiastically raise in Kashmir.