Xinjiang, a restive region in China’s north-west, is in the news again. At least 156 persons have been killed since Sunday in the worst bout of violence in China since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.
Comparisons have been drawn between Xinjiang and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). They are not based on fact or on history, for that matter.
Trouble began after peaceful protests by the ethnic Uighur community in the provincial capital Urumqi turned violent. The violence was directed towards Han Chinese settlers in the city. This was the result of pent-up anger against the death of two Uighur factory workers in a brawl with Han Chinese persons in Guangdong province.
China’s travails in Xinjiang have led to comparisons with our experience in J&K. That is an invidious comparison, if it can be called that. Xinjiang has over the past five-six decades seen an influx of Han Chinese as part of state policy to change the demographic composition of the province. This is a strategy to “pacify” China’s far-flung provinces dominated by troublesome minorities. Tibet and Xinjiang have been at the receiving end of this policy. On paper, these provinces are “autonomous”; in reality, they enjoy little cultural freedom.
In J&K, different regions of the state have different cultures, and none of them has been trampled upon. Persons from other Indian states cannot settle in J&K by law. Also, there are rights available to J&K under Article 370 of the Constitution that are available to no other state of the Union.
The fact is that while J&K has always been a part of India and the dispute with Pakistan is a residue of colonial history, China simply marched its citizens into Xinjiang after 1949, when Mao Zedong came to power. While some may claim that the end results have been similar in the two cases, that is hardly true: The histories of the two regions are as different as cheese and chalk.
This is not an occasion to gloat over Chinese difficulties. After all, President Hu Jintao had to cancel his engagements at the G-8 summit at L’Aquila in Italy and rush back home. It is, however, an occasion to remind the comrades in Beijing that the route to jihad lies through the old Silk Route. Perhaps, in more perceptive moments, Beijing will realize the dubious role of countries such as Pakistan in fomenting unrest in the region.
Xinjiang and Kashmir: Is there any similarity? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org