Why I care about events in Kashmir

Oklahoma City — Some friends have wondered about my recent interest in the decision of the government of India to first erode and then revoke the semi-autonomous status of Kashmir within the geographic area identified on maps as India.

I have provided a forum to Nyla Ali Khan, a South Asian Muslim woman living in Oklahoma who is respected scholar, sought-after public speaker, and educator. She is a passionate defender of those in Kashmir, now suffering a period of legal, political and economic suppression, who long for restoration of what existed until just months ago AND who seek a path to a better future. 

As Nyla has written, “The imposition of Union Territory status on our State has no moral validity, even though it may be enforced for a while. I respect laws that represent the people’s will and secure their well being, not laws that are arbitrary and unilateral. I shall happily subscribe to laws that are made with the consent of the people and their representatives, not laws that are coercively foisted on the populace while elected representatives are behind bars and incommunicado.”

Aside from my work as an occasional publisher of Dr. Nyla’s work, I have written or reflected on Kashmir in my own voice. 

What follows is a response to the recent inquiries about my understanding and appreciation for Kashmir: 

First of all, my study of history has, since those blessed days that Sister Margaret Landis at Bishop McGuinness High School guided my understanding of the past, always seemed eclectic to friends, family and professional acquaintances. 

Second, however, “eclectic” – as developed in my mind over the decades — became a version of “pragmatic.”

The region of Kashmir extends across several nations, including India and Pakistan, with China claiming a part of the region as its own. 
In light of this current reality, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attempt to overlook the complex history of Kashmir is more than problematic. It is short-sighted. 

How can the communications blockade and information blockade, which had been in place in Kashmir since August 5 of this year, be rationalized by anyone? 

The sovereignty of a nation cannot be protected by holding 8 million of its citizens incommunicado and placing their elected legislators behind bars. 

How can a decision about the constitutional status of Kashmir be made without due process and consultation? 

The government of India decided to first curtail and then eliminate the status Kashmir had enjoyed since the founding of modern India at the end of the British colonial era. This should be a source of deep concern for all Americans who value the importance of trade and good relations with the people of the “subcontinent” in South Asia. 

At the end of the day, my interest in collapse of the historic compromise over Kashmir’s status within the Indian polity is not really “eclectic” but a reflection of my own understanding of essential things. 

My friend Dr. Nyla says: “Militarized peacekeeping, which we are seeing in Kashmir these days isn’t much different from aggressive military interventions. Which is why I am greatly appreciative of the call for the restoration of civil liberties, right to life, and right to dignity in Kashmir.”

I believe long-term peace in the subcontinent is essential to the future of humanity, but it must be a peace that flows from respect among peoples of differing religious and ethnic identities.

I was and remain a Reagan-style conservative, a believer in American exceptionalism of the sort the best U.S. president of modern times articulated. That worldview leads me to be concerned about the suppression of hopes for social progress, inclusive governance and a brighter future for all who live in the beautiful and historically significant land of Kashmir. 

I care about Kashmir because I care about my own country, and the stability of the world in times that are both challenging and troubling.

NOTE: Patrick B. McGuigan is the founder of CapitolBeatOK, an online news service based in Oklahoma. He is also publisher of The City Sentinel newspaper in Oklahoma City. The author of three books and editor of seven, he is a member of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame.