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China Is Exporting Its Anti-Muslim Strategy to India

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In July 2009, days after violent riots in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang and homeland of the mostly Muslim Uighurs, Chinese authorities took the drastic move of shutting down the Internet and all other communications. For 10 months, the entire region—larger than Texas and home to more than 20 million residents—was cut off from the world.

A decade later, just across the border, Indian authorities cut Internet, mobile, and even postal communication in Muslim-majority Kashmir as they stripped the state of its special autonomy. Despite their allowing, on October 14, a limited number of mobile phones to function, Kashmir for the most part remains isolated to this day, and no one knows when communication will be restored.

“The current Kashmir shutdown, and in particular the turning off of the Internet and communications, is awfully similar to the one in Xinjiang post-2009 riots,” James Millward, a professor at Georgetown University and an expert in Central Asian history, said. “One wonders if [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi is taking a page from the Chinese book there.”

In fact, Kashmir and Xinjiang, which are separated by the Himalayas, share many worrying similarities. The 2009 Xinjiang shutdown was just the start of a series of horrors for Uighurs. Under the guise of anti-terrorism after a series of attacks and, notably, a 2008 incident that killed dozens Chinese policeman in Kashgar, the space for Uighurs’ expression and freedom has gradually shrunk, as all aspects of their cultural, social, and religious lives have come under the control of Chinese authorities.

Today, the region is host to a techno-digital dystopia, with massive surveillance policing nearly every aspect of Uighur lives. Since 2017, the repression has taken an even darker turn, with the building of massive concentration camps hosting upward of 1.5 million Uighurs, few of whom have been charged with any crime.

“Kashmir and Xinijang have many parallels,” Ovais Sultan Khan, a human rights activist and director of Future Council, a Delhi-based think tank, said. “Uighur Muslims are facing genocide by the Chinese state, and both India and China are using their own tactics to oppress Uighur and Kashmiri people.”

It was unfortunate quirks of colonialism and history that led each Muslim majority region to become an unwilling part of a larger neighbor. Kashmir became part of India in 1947 in a move that remains contested, while Xinjiang became part of the newly founded People’s Republic of China in 1949, after a military invasion that ended a short-lived independent Turkic Muslim state. Neither have had referendums or any form of self-determination, making them de facto modern colonies.

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