When I started my blog about three years back, I decided to stay away from writing about politics. The reason for this was simple. The blog would be read mostly by relatives and friends, who read them as a courtesy to me and not because I am a great writer. Their views and my opinion may not be on the same page on politics; so why create an argument and lose whatever little readership I might have or friendship for that matter. Also there are so many subjects to write about; so I restricted my blogs to my adventures (ill conceived or otherwise), travel, movies and tributes.
I am making an exception here and I hope it will remain an exception. This is not just about politics but more about the double standards of the western press, the torch bearers of freedom and free speech.
When we were in school, in Geography (or social studies) lesson, we learnt Kashmir is divided into two halves; one is a part of India and the other we called POK or Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Pakistan called it Azad Kashmir (free Kashmir). Our part of the Kashmir which we saw in movies, was beautiful and many Hindi and other language feature films were shot in some of the handsomest locations there (at least a song sequence). For a resident of perennially hot spot Chennai, Kashmir with snow capped mountains, crystal clear lakes, pine trees and houseboats was a dream holiday destination. We also studied that J & K was given a special status under article 370 when it acceded to India after we got freedom from the British rule.
From the early eighties, trouble started brewing in J & K and successive Indian Governments (mainly Congress Governments) made the situation worse by dismissing democratically elected state Governments, played one against other for some petty gains. J & K was always a contentious issue for us with Pakistan and Pakistan, since they did not have anything else to do, brought the subject in all forums and Kashmir became a headline on daily news.
It was also the time, I started listening to BBC and reading international newspapers. First thing which struck me was the map of India looked different than the one we knew how India looked. Kashmir was shown as a separate entity and not a part of India. When we started having problems in the state of Punjab due to militancy, the map of India shown by these free press showed where the killings took place and since Punjab is close to Kashmir, we would invariably see Kashmir shown separately.
What struck me as odd was the way the Indian press and the foreign press reported these militant attacks. The Khalistan movement wanted a separate state of Punjab and indulged in horrific acts of violence. They blew up police stations and buses and killed innocent civilians indiscriminately. While our press reported these as acts committed by terrorists (rightly so), the free press of the West called it as an act of rebels. Rarely you would get to see the term ‘militants’ but not ‘terrorists.’
If you are familiar with history and what happened in the UK when IRA was doing the same what Punjab militants were doing in India, you would have noticed that any violent act committed by IRA even if a bicycle was set on fire on a London street, it was termed as terrorist act. But when it came to reporting an incident when bus load of people were asked to get down and members of one community were lined up and killed, it was just an act of rebels, not terrorist act. These reports were full of stories on how Indian forces always acted with brutal force.
These double standards continue to this day. There were many acts of terror in Mumbai and other cities till the 2008 terrorist act which killed hundreds of people and many foreign national also were killed. But before 2008 BBC or any other media did not call it a terrorist act. But when it came to the bombing of couple city buses in London, no one hesitated to call it an act of terrorists within an hour. Yes, if you suffer, it is by an act of rebels, but when we sneeze it is because of a terrorist act.
Rightly or wrongly India had this Non Aligned Movement started by Mr. Nehru in the fifties and during cold war, though non aligned, we were more aligned towards USSR while Pakistan was supported by the US; so it was not difficult to see which side the English speaking press would take.
Things started to change only after India opened up the economy which is the underlining part of this story. The map of India shown in the western media, started showing Kashmir as Indian Administrated Kashmir and not ‘occupied Kashmir.’ As we progressed slowly, the foreign media started showing little more respect to us. Yes we suddenly had Indian woman crowned Ms. Universe and Ms. World as if the world found beauty in Indian women only when the economy opened up. Of course it is all about economy and free market. Everyone wanted to get into Indian market and what better way to sell a thousand tons of lipsticks and millions of padded bras than showing the most beautiful women in the world who happen to be from India use them?
I had this suspicion for a long time and it was confirmed by this newly found leniency towards India. If you are a great economic power, you can get away with anything. America can go to far off places from Korea to Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan and wage war with them to protect peoples’ right to have democracy or to defend liberal values. It does not matter whether the people in the country want that or not. It has left out only Burma (ruled by militia for decades) and few tiny African countries because they have no oil or any other resource which America is interested in. Can anyone explain if people in Iraq are happier now after Saddam Hussein was killed because he had non existing weapons of mass destruction.
Closer to home, few would know about Uyghur problem of China. Uyghur is Turkic ethnic muslim minority in Xinjiang region. China wants to integrate them into the national mainstream. The Uyghur minority, about 9 million of them live in the region, don’t want this. Though the province is the largest in China occupying nearly third of this vast country, only 10% of the land is inhabitable. You would read occasional article about the treatment of Uyghur and the ‘soft steps’ the Chinese Government is taking them to integrate their lot. I am quoting extensively from an article written by Yinzi Huli, a Chinese Journalist in ‘Spiked.’
“In the cities of Hotan, Kashgar and Urumqi, armoured cars, machine guns and spot checks are an everyday sight. In many urban and rural areas, beards have been made illegal for devout Muslim Uyghurs; and it became a crime not to watch state-run Chinese TV (even though many Chinese agree that the quality of state TV is itself a crime). Uyghurs are prosecuted for giving babies certain Muslim names, and the government even tried to force devout Muslims in Uyghur areas to sell alcohol. The suspected Uyghur involvement in the Erawan shrine bombing in Bangkok and evidence of links to ISIS have emboldened the Chinese state to step up monitoring and persecution in Xinjiang.” You can read the full article here:
How China gets away with this? It is their economic might and everyone wants to have a bite of the world’s second largest economy cake.
Now does any of these things happen in Kashmir? Of course there is a huge army presence and some high handed acts by security forces take place. I don’t deny that. But are they forced to remove beard or forced to study RSS/BJP doctrine or forced to drink alcohol? Certainly not. Again quoting Mr. Yinzi Holi,
“But what the statistics miss is that in the past 50 years, Uyghurs have gone from constituting around 70 per cent of Xinjiang’s population in 1949 to 26 per cent today, while the majority Han population (92 per cent of the national population) has increased from six per cent to 40 per cent in Xinjiang due to a deliberate strategy known as Hanification.”
In the last seventy years, only the Hindus have been displaced from Kashmir, driven out of their own homes. The article 370 ensured that no one from outside can buy property in Kashmir. If Hans constitute 92% of Chinese population Hindus constitute about 82% of Indian population. And yet, the population of the Hindus in Kashmir have declined and not increased as it happened with Han population in Xinjiang region.
When I first heard about the withdrawal of Article 370, I actually felt sad. I am not an expert, either to understand the magnitude of the article’s provision and why it was given or I can argue about the legal validity of withdrawing the temporary provision. Indian Supreme Court will decide on that. I felt sad because, it was not democratically done and Indian democracy is something about which I am very proud of. It was done with a sledgehammer force. So I have explained my position. Now let us talk about reactions.
The elected representative of Ladakh Mr. J Tsering Namgyal gave a stirring speech while the act of withdrawing the special provision was discussed in the parliament. Ladakh is the largest parliament constituency in India and more importantly formm more than 50% of land area of J & K. He said, after 71 years of begging the union government to make a Ladakh a union territory, the voice of Ladakh’s people has been heard. This is not an outsider’s opinion. He is, after all, the elected representative of the region. This went largely unreported in left leaning Indian media and blacked out in most of the western press.
Taveleen Singh is one of the Indian journalists I respect most. In an article published today, she talks about how the problem in Kashmir grew over decades first from Saudi Arabia’s funding for separatists’ activities and later how Pakistan made it their life mission to brew trouble in Kashmir. Of course she talks about our own screw-ups as well. Tavleen Singh Article:
And then there is an article by Geeta Pandey in BBC News. She has written that everyone she met in the last week has vowed to bear arm and fight India. And in the last few days, I have read nothing but stories of the same variety in BBC news. Geeta Pandey BBC Article: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-49294301
Now Taveleen Singh, the journalist I talked about, is covering J & K for the last thirty years and the BBC correspondent is also claiming that she has been doing stories on Kashmir for the last twenty years.
Read both the articles and I will leave it you to judge which is more balanced.
The pro democracy protests have been going on for few weeks in Hong Kong. I have been visiting Hong Kong since 1997 and my first trip coincided with The British Government handing over Hong Kong to China. So I have some friends in HK and only two weeks back I talked to Mike (lives in Hong Kong) extensively about this. So I have some perspective on what’s happening in HK.
Take a moment (actually two minutes) to watch this video. In this interview by Channel 4, Victor Gao of China National Association of International studies, replies to the question on ‘One State Two Systems until 2047.’ You can see how China speaks in one voice to the free media of the world. To me this comes not only from their nationalism but also from the fact that China is now an economic powerhouse. If we had opened up the economy a couple of decades earlier, today, I am sure, we would be talking with such confidence.
One country one voice; when it comes to issues that concerns the nation.
I have been an avid reader of The Economist for many years till I stopped the subscription about a year back. The idea of reading a left leaning liberal magazine is to get another perspective of things. I tolerated when the magazine found only negative stories to publish about India. Of course it has only negative stories to publish about every country – ‘Euro will perish, Spain will be doomed with 40% unemployment’ etc. Of course none of that happened. But when it went too far in critiquing our Prime Minister, I wrote to them saying I would definitely like to read other point of view as long it is written with balanced mind but this is just nothing but hatred towards a democratically elected Prime Minister and stopped my subscription. Before this year’s general election it has asked Indians ‘throw’ Mr. Modi out. Thankfully no one listened.
While we were discussing the withdrawal of Article 370, I told Naga, that as a nation we can do the right thing (democratic or otherwise) only when we become powerful and quoted China/Taiwan/Uyghur issues. China has decided that this works for them and developed the might to carry out what it wants. The same is true with America and western world. Only we in India, want approval from the western world. High time we stopped this and do what is good for our country and not what will look good in foreign media.
Hundreds of people take tremendous risk to their lives and try to migrate from Mexico to USA every day to have a better life. The head of the free world calls them drug smugglers and terrorists. Just few thousand of them annually. India has allowed migration from Bangladesh for many years and millions have them have come to India to have a better living conditions than what could they have in their own country. We are not talking about a thousand or two but millions of them. They eke out a living here working very hard. But when India wants to have some restrictions on how many can come every year, we are lectured by the world that we should show leniency towards all immigrants whether they come legally or not. These are the same countries which don’t allow a boat load of people from Africa who risk their lives by making a passage on the treacherous sea on flimsy boats.
Yesterday The Economist sent me an email asking me to renew the subscription with higher discount in the rate, as if it was the price which made me to stop the subscription. Thank You Mr. Economist. First you find a way to report something positive about us; then I will think of subscribing to your elite magazine.