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Development and growth cannot quell dissent
Thirty-one people were killed and 94 injured when supposedly Uyghur terrorists attacked busy marketplace in Urumqi; the capital city of troubled Xinjiang province. I presume that probable readers know a bit about the troubled Western province of China and reasons about conflict of Uyghur Muslims with the dominance of ethnic Han Chinese inside what was once their dominated territory.

Like Tibet, Xinjiang is an autonomous region; both once dominated by non-Han Chinese people, but now huge demographic changes have taken place due to development projects and related migrations.

There is some support of Xinjiang’s external neighbors to the terrorist activity there though it would be misadventure and great mistake on behalf of Pakistani government if they are remotely involved in any anti-Chinese activities in the province. China is their friend and Pakistan definitely requires its support in offsetting Indian dominance in the region. But even without factoring India Pakistan should not. Not only because it is ethically incorrect but also because Chinese authorities can create far bigger troubles inside Pakistan. However, after the attacks Pakistani establishment has offered its help to China to deal with the rising insurgency in Xinjiang against the state. But in private Chinese officials are wary of possible Pakistani help to terrorist activities and many times they complain about it.

But Chinese authorities need to understand that changing demographic composition, even for some good idealistic purpose, is a bad precedent in autonomous regions. Be it Tibet or Xinjiang while development work is much required, there should be floating population to maintain the ethnic dominance of the national minorities. Moreover, if national minorities feel that the bigger share of the development and growth activities is going to the national majority then they would not support those activities and would be resenting against the state.

But even otherwise the people do not give up identity issues because the attempts to homogenize and modernize are improving their economic status. This is almost true for most of the people, particularly about Muslims. Majority of Muslims in China cannot be expected to be as mainstreamers as Han Chinese are. Nor they would ever be accepted as such by the Han majority, if past is any clue. The mistrust is both ways. But nobody should blame Chinese authoritarian system for the dissent because despite being different from Hans, the Muslims of China would welcome democracy only as the last resort but even that may not be fruitful to them as nationalistic sentiments in hypothetical democratic China would be very high.

China should understand that it is no West that it can offer huge opportunities to the people affected by homogenization and unification of various regions inside the country. Nor there is much glue among different people of China. Sure, Han Chinese are distinctly hugely dominating majority. But when one expects a group of minorities to be nationalist; who are completely different from the dominant majority, then he and she should be accommodative of theirs’ sensitivities as well. In this regards China can learn some lessons from India by considering various agreements and special status, the Indian Union government provides, to troubled regions, including in Jammu and Kashmir and in many of the North Eastern states.

India too needs to learn a lot of lessons from these recent events taking place in China. It cannot take all minorities for granted. While India has a lot of place for diversity and heterogeneity still Indian authorities need to understand and read the minds of various minorities not fully agreeing with the majority’s versions of nationhood and rights, privileges, and duties of citizens. These minorities are not always necessarily Muslims and in reality there are plenty more though far lesser numerous.

Sure, there should be dominance of majority. And nationally too major demographic changes against majority should not take place just like those against national minorities but regional majorities should not. Both majority and various minorities should be mindful of it. But majority rule should be flexible enough to consider diversity and heterogeneity. The majority should adopt localized subjective rules of game for those who do not fully agree with them. In short, the majority rule should be rational, objective and should be mindful of minorities’ rights.

Minimally, it should not be suppressive and offending, while at the same time minorities should be conformists to the extent possible as well. In this high consciousness era people look for identity-soothing politics and policies. The rate of growth of relative awareness among Muslims is very high. But as a rule this is true about all people, whether they are Hindus and Sikhs living in Europe and the North America or immigrants living in the Saudi Arabia. It is becoming increasingly difficult these days to suppress people even in authoritarian states like China. China has changed a lot since Tiananmen Square incident in 1989 and it has changed for better.

The better option for ethnic minorities in China would be to demand identity protection while consenting to change with time. They should look for protection of their local culture and demand laws appropriate to them in their national contexts. China would never allow imposition of Shariah laws for its Muslims no matter how good its relationships with the Islamic world are. Frankly speaking, I do not know whether China has place for personal laws for minorities or not but again Chinese authorities can take clue from India in regards to separate laws for different communities, including those for its majority, Hindus.

More aware among the majority Han Chinese people should not keep grudge against Chinese state nor should they think that their state suppresses minorities’ rights. There is no question of dissatisfied and historically challenging regions getting more than what Chinese authorities describe as genuine autonomy. What is required is the better understanding from all sides. No side should go to extreme. The more aware Chinese people should look for better labor laws and they should demand better social and physical infrastructure, better education, better jobs, better wages but nothing anyway near to full fledged democracy like those in the South-East Asia and the North Asia.

They should press for election process to proceed at municipality level. The process has already started in some regions. But it should happen in all regions, slowly but surely. All need to understand that all societies are at different stages as far as psychological evolution is concerned. Not all middle-income group countries are democratic. This is true about China as well as the Saudi Arabia. But then all need to be optimistic that with times brain changes and with it everything else. People should be patient and understanding in demanding curious things from their states. One day, in distant future, election will be norm in China though its President shall still be elected indirectly. I hope that there shall be some very positive changes taking place in the Saudi Arabia in near future and such would positively affect the whole Islamic world.

I am sure that Chinese people would maintain calm and not push for bigger reforms than what are possible naturally at this moment of time. State is very important in China. The people there should not develop xenophobia of any type either. The important point is not only to emphasize one’s view but also to understand others’ as well and such holds for all constituents of a society, including majority, minorities, immigrants, internal-migrants, permanent residents and refugees and possibly others.

Chinese state would become stronger by Chinese people becoming more rational and they putting only proportionate demands; what their state can offer and meet. But positive things in the Communist state are possible only by growth and development. For that, the better thing is that all be participating and feel participating in the nation-building. The Chinese people, in best of their interests, should abandon a monolithic version of nationalism and should spread their national identity somewhat. For radical Uyghur Muslims; they do not have even the remotest of chance to win the battle against the Chinese state. So, if offered talks, they should readily accept them.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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