BLUNT BUTCHER /ANCHOR
Such is the level of indoctrination in Kashmir that a group of Jihadi youth posed to photographers in north of the Valley in 2016 summer, carrying Pakistan-China flags with inscription, “Long live Pakistan-China friendship, Kashmiris are waiting for your help China’. Did any of the radicalised youth, who openly preach violence in the name of religion and bash India with full venom, knew what is happening in China? Had they been told and had India been like China, the youth would have thought twice to speak a word, least to carry flags. The Jihadi mentor Syed Ali Geelani too has been publicly eulogising China despite knowing the plight of Muslims in that country. In September last year, New York Times carried a sensational story by Chris Buckley with details how Muslims were being detained in China for transformation. Giving vivid graphic account, he writes that on the edge of a desert in far western China, an imposing building sits behind a fence topped with barbed wire. Large red characters on the facade urge people to learn Chinese, study law and acquire job skills. Guards make clear that visitors are not welcome. Inside, hundreds of ethnic Uighur Muslims spend their days in a high-pressure indoctrination programme, where they are forced to listen to lectures, sing hymns praising the Chinese Communist Party and write “self-criticism” essays, according to detainees who have been released. The goal is to remove any devotion to Islam. Abdusalam Muhemet, 41, said the police detained him for reciting a verse of the Quran at a funeral. After two months in a nearby camp, he and more than 30 others were ordered to renounce their past lives. Muhemet said he went along but quietly seethed. This camp outside Hotan, an ancient oasis town in the Taklamakan Desert, is one of hundreds that China has built in the past few years. It is part of a campaign of breathtaking scale and ferocity that has swept up hundreds of thousands of Chinese Muslims for weeks or months of what critics describe as brainwashing, usually without criminal charges. Though limited to China’s western region of Xinjiang, it is the country’s most sweeping internment programme since the Mao era. China has sought for decades to restrict the practice of Islam and maintain an iron grip in Xinjiang, a region almost as big as Alaska where more than half the population of 24 million belongs to Muslim ethnic minority groups, mostly Uighurs. After a succession of violent antigovernment attacks reached a peak in 2014, the Communist Party chief, Xi Jinping, sharply escalated the crackdown, orchestrating an unforgiving drive to turn ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities into loyal citizens and supporters of the party. “Xinjiang is an active period of terrorist activities, intense struggle against separatism. In addition to the mass detentions, the authorities have intensified the use of informers and expanded police surveillance, even installing cameras in some people’s homes. The atrocities have touched lowest depths, leading to escape of detainees to countries such as Turkey and Kazakhstan. The government’s own documents describe a vast network of camps – usually called “transformation through education” centers – that have expanded without public debate, specific legislative authority or any system of appeal for those detained. The New York Times interviewed four recent camp inmates from Xinjiang who described physical and verbal abuse by guards; grinding routines of singing, lectures and self-criticism meetings; and the gnawing anxiety of not knowing when they would be released. Their accounts were echoed in interviews with more than a dozen Uighurs with relatives who were in the camps or had disappeared, many of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid government retaliation. The long days in the re-education camp usually began with a jog. Nearly every morning, a detained Muslim recalled, he and dozens of others – college graduates, businessmen, farmers – were told to run around an assembly ground. Impatient guards sometimes slapped and shoved the older, slower inmates, he said. Then they were made to sing rousing patriotic hymns in Chinese, such as “Without the Communist Party, There Would Be No New China.” Those who could not remember the words were denied breakfast, and they all learned the words quickly. Most days, he said, the camp inmates assembled to hear long lectures by officials who warned them not to embrace Islamic radicalism, support Uighur independence or defy the Communist Party. In government documents, local officials sometimes liken inmates to patients requiring isolation and emergency intervention. “Anyone infected with an ideological ‘virus’ must be swiftly sent for the ‘residential care’ of transformation-through-education classes before illness arises,” a document issued by party authorities in Hotan said. The number of Uighurs, as well as Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities, who have been detained in the camps is unclear. Estimates range from several hundred thousand to perhaps a million, with exile Uighur groups saying the number is even higher.
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© 2017 State Times Daily Newspaper