Patrick B. McGuigan
Oklahoma City – President Donald Trump has disappointed many with his strong tilt in favor of Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The Turkish strrongman is a Muslim who suppresses both Muslims and people of other faiths. Trump has backed him even at the cost of abandonment of America’s long-standing friends in the region, the Kurds.
The U.S president has similarly afforded Prime Minister Narenda Modi of India, a Hindu nationalist, comfort and considerable rhetorical support. Trump has done this even as the strongman has shredded remaining vestiges of the great compromise that ended the British colonial era and laid the basis for the nation we call India.
There was for decades hope that India, a potentially great nation that has already emerged as a world economic power, could establish a representative and dynamic form of government.
For decades after the United Kingdom left behind governance of the region, even as the Hindu majority flirted with outright oppression of varied minorities, wise heads managed to stay out of fights in the Middle East and nearby regions.
A series of national governments gave at least many minorities reasons to believe a brighter future would be fashioned. Respect for India’s Muslim minorities nationwide and for the people of Kashmir the west and northwest of the sub-continent was once upon a time a potential crown jewel for India, but it was one that always fraught with tension and contradictions.
Hope steadily eroded after the region was militarized in 1989 – to the point that locally-based political representation was suppressed.
Today, active oppression is the status of quo in India’s Kashmir, as vestiges of regional autonomy have evaporated under Modi. His political party is intent on forging a permanent ultra-nationalist reality, one in which Modi’s like-minded Hindus use the levers of government to assure permanent power.
In the course of the past year, an end to policies, laws and constitutional provisions have brought a much-lamented end to remaining legacies of partial automony for the region.
Recent local elections were a travesty, one in which only Modi allies had real ability to campaign and seek support.
The family of my friend Nyla Ali Khan, a frequent contributor to CapitolBeatOK and The City Sentinel newspaper, is presently in peril – under virtual house arrest even as the Indian government insists they are free to come and go as they please.
Regional reporting from diverse corners gives the lie to the assertions of free movement but it’s not clear how much longer reasonably fair sources of information about events in India and Kashmir will be obtainable here in America.
Over recent days, Dr. Nyla — who teaches at the university level here in Oklahoma — shared observations with me, adapted from her recent online posts, which are read around the world:
“The nationalist chauvinism, religiosity, and triumphalism after the revocation of the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir in the ‘new’ India, which I don’t recognize, is demoralizing and reprehensible.”
The people of the region “acceded to India in 1947 when communal frenzy was raging throughout the subcontinent. Our ancestors thought that India represented the ideals of secularism and democracy. They believed that despite temporary aberrations, Hindus, Muslims and other others would unite.”
Their better natures fed hopes “there would be rule of law and a democracy where religious persecution would cease.”
Her family, Nyla says, believed “that the life of a Hindu was as sacred as that of a Muslim, and any harm to a Hindu should be prevented at the cost of our lives, because our religion taught us that it was our duty to defend and help our neighbor, who may be weak.
“Today, I see the government of a democratic country … depoliticizing the people of one of its federating units.”
Within the past few days, her mother’s siblings were “categorically told … that they were free to move around.” But then last week, when one aunt and an uncle attempted to visit Nyla’s parents, “they were not allowed to go beyond a few yards” outside their home.
Then, “their gates were shut, and the finality of their detention was established.”
Other notable Kashmiri leaders have been kept from moving about freely.
Meanwhile, Modi speaks of opponents as “insurgents” or even as “terrorists.”
Dr. Nyla said this past weekend, “[L]egal discourse might change but it is armed might that bestows authority on nation-states, giving them the legitimacy to wage wars and to annihilate peoples in the wake of those wars.”
In the capital of our own country, there have been two congressional hearings into the powder-keg of tensions in Kashmir, but nothing substantive has come of those deliberations. Dr. Nyla reflected she would “recognize the legitimacy and efficacy of Congressional hearings on Kashmir only when I see a constructive change on the ground in Kashmir.”
Pakistan – where Muslim factions contending within a permanent militaristic state remain intent on destruction of those possessing shades of Islamic difference, ethnically and spiritually — is not a fitting home for the secular and democratic traditions that have characterized Kashmir’s adherents of Islam.
As America fumbles away moral authority in the subcontinent, the communist government of China is intently courting favor with both nations.
China is forging powerful trade ties with India and not coincidently is completing reconstruction (literally) of the ancient “Silk Road” with Pakistan. News reports indicate the new Silk Road can sustain the weight of … tanks and other large military vehicles.
Behind it all, never forget: Both Pakistan and India are nuclear powers.
Americans needs to care, even if we are not in the mood to care.
NOTE: Patrick B. McGuigan is founder of CapitolBeatOK, an online news service, and publisher of The City Sentinel newspaper, an independent news organization based in Oklahoma.