Decoding the Uighur Puzzle
The Uighurs of Xinjiang are a living mystery. The Uighur Muslims of China, which have Turkic roots, are largely ring-fenced by the Chinese regime from the rest of the world. There is very little that you can learn about their literature, art, history, language, and existence per se. Seems like very little has been preserved by the Chinese regime or allowed to be preserved. In reality, the Dragon has used grossly draconian measures to control potential unrest in the restive resource-rich region of Xinjiang.
Since 2009, some Xinjiang cities have witnessed some deadly clashes with the Han Chinese and the Chinese security personnel stationed in the region. Beijing has been vocal about the Uighur separatists that are allegedly trained in Afghanistan’s Nuristan and Pakistan’s lawless Pasthun-dominated tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. The Chinese government has accused these separatist groups of fanning the religious and sectarian strife in the otherwise peaceful region, which have led to some knife attacks at train stations and markets. As a matter of fact to a very large extent the reasons for the violence is the heavy-handed policies imposed by Beijing on the Uighur Muslims.
Xinjiang became a part of the Communist China in 1949 as a result of the Chinese military conquest. After the conquest the Communist regime officially begun the tinkering of the region’s demographics. The Han Chinese which constituted just 6% of the population in Xinjiang in 1949 are over 40% in present day Xinjiang! The Communist regime in China ferried scores of Han Chinese from other parts of the country to Xinjiang to manipulate the regional demographics. While around 80% of Uighur work on farms the Han Chinese have built businesses and have occupied high paying private sector jobs or lucrative public sector vacancies. For instance, the capital Urumqi, a city of skyscrapers has 75% Han Chinese population, which is a glaring manifestation of how the demographics of the region have been artificially tinkered by the Chinese regime.
Some of the other draconian measures are the monetary motivation for interfaith marriages between the ethnic Uighurs and Han Chinese. According to James Leibold a political scientist at Australia’s La Trobe University, the Chinese government has announced an annual payout of 10,000 Yuan (over $1,600) for five years. Undoubtedly, the ethnic Uighurs are perceiving it as an unwelcome interference in their ethnic and religious affairs. Astonishingly, Ramadan fasting is prohibited in Xinjiang at the same is perceived by the Communist regime as a form of radicalization that needs to be curtailed!
Also, the Chinese have already begun to bulldoze the Old city of Kashghar that once was at the heart of the fabled Silk Road travelers. The Old city of ancient mosques and mud houses that once offered much needed respite to the exhausted traders has been bulldozed to pave the way for more skyscrapers and special economic zones. The government also demolishing the old bazaars and localities with narrow streets and lanes for bigger gated community-like apartments. The Uighurs are seeing their hundreds of years of houses and bazaars being demolished for more modern amenities, which they had never requested for. As an Indian, imagine our government thinking about doing the same in Old Hyderabad or Purani Delhi! It’s an attack on the ancient credentials of the place and tantamount to gross violation of history and cultural heritage!
Another way the Chinese government manipulates the demographics in Xinjiang is through, the hukou system. Unlike India migrating to a new city in China is a very complex affair. If someone wishes to shift into a different and a larger city within China, the migrants are required to have advanced degrees, should be skilled, or must secure a job at a well-known private company or a government establishment. Without these the migrants wouldn’t be eligible for the hukou, or household registration and other state-level entitlements like access to education, healthcare and social insurance. However, in the case of Xinjiang, the hukou is available without any professional qualifications or required skill set, whatsoever!
An Anxious and Insecure China
The Chinese manipulation of the Uighur demographics and the vocal criticism of India for entertaining the idea of granting a visa to an Uighur activist manifests China’s own weakness. Interestingly, in Kashmir, which is India’s equivalent of China’s Xinjiang, India has done a remarkable job by protecting the demographics, culture, language, and unique identity of the Kashmiri population. Today, a lot of tourists, both domestic and international visit Kashmir for leisure and religious pilgrimage. A lot of local Kashmiri newspapers report local incidents freely. Indian media personnel can freely cover events in the Jammu and Kashmir. This reflects the confidence of India in her liberal and secular credentials! On the contrary, Xinjiang is being ring-fenced from the world, where no foreign journalists and tourists are allowed to enter without the government approval! This unsurprisingly reflects China’s lack of confidence in her supposedly progressive activities in the Xinjiang region.
Besides, the Chinese support for the Pakistani terror assets is a manifestation of their fears related to their territorial integrity, concerning Xinjiang. The Chinese Politburo is counting on the Pakistani intelligence-Military-Terror Assets nexus to neutralize the Uighur militia allegedly thriving in Nuristan & the tribal areas of Pakistan. While I agree that India’s move of denying a visa to the Uighur activist was grossly upsetting, however, Chinese reliance on Pakistan’s dubious terror assets exposes China’s lack of self belief in her ability to deal with the Uighur separatists, independently. Despite of China’s flamboyant exhibition of her military might a bunch of “Knife wielding” Uighurs are forcing China to cut deals with failed states & failed individuals who have not just failed themselves but their larger & progressive Ummah, too. While India’s weaknesses are largely overblown there’s little talk about China’s lack of self belief!
Does it really make sense to thrash the Indian government for China’s lack of self-belief? While it’s true that we could have allowed Dolkun Isa to deliver that speech in India, but, as a country, are we really that strong a global power to become the voice of the oppressed and suppressed people all over the world? Is India really prepared for it?
Image Credits: Wiki media