Patrick B. McGuigan
Oklahoma City, OK – In a recent speech to Oklahoma members of the national “Inns of Court,” a leading American voice for her native Kashmir — Dr. Nyla Ali Khan – addressed “politics that create short-sightedness” during the current crisis in northern India.
A crowd of around 190 people attended the speech, held at the Oklahoma Bar Association headquarters on North Lincoln Boulevard, near the Oklahoma state Capitol. Khan spoke to the group of law professors, lawyers, students and judges, members and guests of the Holloway, Ginsburg and Turner Inns of Court.
In an interview with The City Sentinel, Dr. Khan said the audience was “engaged and asked great questions” – candidly reflecting that was a source of great satisfaction to her.
A widely-published author, Khan teaches and speaks at institutions at state institutions of higher and tertiary education. In addition to her academic writings, she often writes for The City Sentinel newspaper and the online news service, CapitolBeatOK in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma City Community College, one of the institutions where she teaches, circulated this succinct description and distillation of her January 15 speech:
“When Kashmir joined India in 1947, their only condition was they would retain autonomy, or the right to make their own laws. This autonomy was protected by Article 370 in the Indian Constitution. In August, the Prime Minister of India renounced Article 370 and split Kashmir into two federally administrated territories.
“The area has since been under heavy military control, and a communications blackout was imposed. The people of Kashmir are under strict curfew. Schools are closed, the internet has been disconnected, and a large number of elected politicians who support the government have been jailed. Many have condemned the special status annulment as an attack on democracy, and unconstitutional.
“By talking with the legal community, Dr. Khan hopes to emphasize the importance of the constitution and address the issue of decentralization in a federal country. Dr. Khan hopes that constitutional provisions are implemented, and fundamental rights are restored in Kashmir. She believes that the constitution acts as a strong framework for any country, and is responsible for ensuring a smooth functioning government.”
The full title of her speech reflects her abiding interest in the course of human events in her native land: “Revitalization of Federalism and Restoration of Civil Rights in Kashmir.”
Over recent years, Khan has secured a unique level of respect for the candor of her analyses of events in India, as she has garnered positions of trust. She is a member of the Oklahoma Governor’s International Team (OKGIT), membership on the state Commission on the Status of Women and, this past year, one of those included on the annual listing of “50 Making a Difference” selected by The Journal Record newspaper.
Khan has developed deep affection for the state and people of Oklahoma, her new home, saying “Community is the courage to bridge divides. Oklahoma has taught me that community is the ability to organize and mobilize for social change.” She said, after her speech to the Inns of Court, “I realized that in order to question politics that create short-sightedness I would need to get involved in advocacy work.”
The author of this report believes that the emergence of Nyla Ali Khan in Oklahoma’s public life and in community discussion of seminal issues is in and of itself a contribution to the greater good of our state and the nation.
Several attendees took to Facebook and other online platforms to comment on the recent address.
Jeff Hubbard, an attorney in state government, reflected: “A passionate, extremely interesting and eye opening speech that was very informative for the many listeners who haven’t been informed.”
Shazia Ahmad, one of her Facebook friends, declared:“You are a voice of millions.”
Another, Riki Snyder, commented, “[Y]our presentation … provided essential insight in to the lives of those suffering in Kashmir and Jammu. This story must be told, but this recalling of events, past and current, cannot be easy for you.”
In comments sent to The City Sentinel, Khan said her hope is “to see … provisions of the Constitution of India implemented in Kashmir to restore … fundamental rights.” She believes “there is nothing legitimate about indefinitely curbing the civil liberties of a people.”
The granddaughter of the former head of state of Jammu and Kashmir, Khan explained, “[P]olitics was not handed down to me as an abstract notion. On the contrary, it was crystallized for me as the eradication of a feudal structure. It was the right of the tiller to the land he worked on. It was the unacceptability of any political solution that did not take the aspirations and demands of the Kashmiri people into consideration. It was the right of Kashmiris to high offices in education, the bureaucracy and government; the availability of medical and educational facilities in our State. It was the preservation of literatures and historical artifacts that defined an important aspect of our culture. It was the formation of the Constituent Assembly of J & K (Jammu & Kashmir) to institutionalize the Constitution of the State in 1951, which was an enormous leap toward the process of democratization.”
Khan believes, “[I]n a federal set-up the best way for emotional integration and national unity is not the over-centralization of powers but its decentralization leading to the restoration of power in the hands of federating units, which have acceded to be a part of the federation. The Constitution of a country provides a strong framework, but it is for those who are responsible for the smooth functioning of institutional mechanisms of government to implement constitutional provisions.”
As she becomes an important figure in this, her new home, Khan takes continued pride and comfort, she explains, in “in a cultural identity that was generated in a diverse and pluralistic space.”
NOTE: Patrick B. McGuigan, author of this report, is the founder of CapitolBeatOK.com, an online news service, and publisher of The City Sentinel newspaper. He is the author or editor of ten books on law, public policy and government. The photo atop this story shows the audience at Dr. Khan’s Jan. 16, 2020 speech to members of Oklahoma’s “Inns of Court.”