Over the past few months communication coming in and out of Kashmir, the highly contested land between India and Pakistan, has been increasingly difficult. The Indian government lead by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken steps to blackout the region in to order to once and for all place Kashmir under Indian control.
The move has been roundly condemned by international groups, and serves as another dire warning of ostensibly liberal democracies engaging in authoritarian and illiberal behavior. This week, Hafsa Kanjwal, a Kashmiri Muslim woman and assistant professor at Lafayette college, talks about the complex history of Kashmir and the current lockdown the region now faces.
HAFSA KANJWAL: For too long India has been able to commit human rights violations in Kashmir without significant pushback because so many countries have strong economic ties with India and they see India as this obvious space for investment and a huge market. But I think that narrative of Indian soft power needs to kind of slowly erode. India is seen around the world as a place of Bollywood and yoga, and nobody can imagine the kinds of violations that the Indian government does.
CHRIS HAYES: Hello and welcome to “Why Is This Happening?” with me, your host Chris Hayes, there’s a phrase that someone said to me, I think tweeted at me or emailed me, and I think it might have even been in response to a podcast we did. That was the sheer number of things that require our moral attention is exhausting. It was a phrase which I keep thinking about because I keep obsessively reading the news as is my job and also my compulsion, which it’s funny how that works out and doing the show. There’s just so much just about the president and domestically. And then I will see something happening abroad and I’m like, “Oh my God, that looks awful.”
One of the things we’ve done in this podcast is to use this podcast to talk in-depth about things that are happening outside of the US that require our moral attention that are where people are suffering or being persecuted and to explain the foundations of that. We’ve done that in the podcast discussion. We did it on the origins of the war in Yemen, which the United States is culpable in insofar as we back the Saudis. We have backed and greenlit that war. We talked about it with the million members of Muslim minorities in Western China who are in reeducation internment camps.
There is something else happening not that far from Western China actually, that also requires our moral attention. And that is the situation in Kashmir. We’re going to explain the background and history. This serves as a Kashmir 101 primer in this episode, which is fascinating, and maybe you have encountered it or maybe you’re very close to this issue. But the basic story is that Kashmir is always been in a highly contested piece of land between India and Pakistan and since Partition, there have been battles and wars fought over it.
Two-thirds of it is controlled by India and India has a very popular, right-wing, Islamophobic demagogue running it named Narendra Modi. Modi in the last few months has taken moves to blackout Kashmir and to once and for all put it under Indian control. The mechanism and means he’s used to do that is terrifying. I mean I started seeing the story because a few months ago I started to see people retweeting into my feed that they hadn’t heard from family members in three days and then a week and then two weeks and then a month. Human rights groups have documented terrible conditions and abuses in Kashmir. There is essentially a kind of lockdown that is happening there.
What makes this particularly chilling is in the example of Western China and Uyghurs, and these are different situations, China is run by an authoritarian, single-party state called the Chinese Communist Party that does all sorts of awful things and has a government that is not a liberal democracy. India is the world’s largest democracy. It has a constitution and courts and rules of law and should ostensibly be the kind of place where the kind of authoritarian repression that’s happened in Kashmir is not possible and yet it is happening. To me, it is an extremely dire warning about the threats of what we might call illiberal democracy. Right? Those are not, and I want to be very clear here, that’s not like, “Oh it’s just India and bad India and bad Modi.” No, those threats are everywhere, including here in our home country.
Originally published at https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/contextualizing-lockdown-kashmir-hafsa-kanjwal-podcast-transcript-ncna1069986