India: Muslims Protest Outside Kolkata Chinese Consulate – OpEd


Scores of Muslims led by the Calcutta-based Islamic Association for Peace staged an hour long protest outside the Chinese consulate in the city’s Salt Lake area on Saturday morning at the start of the Chinese Lunar Year.

Displaying banners and raising slogans against the large scale “oppression of Muslim Uighurs” in China’s Sinkiang province , the protestors also condemned Beijing’s  “cartographic aggression” by showing the whole of Arunachal Pradesh as Chinese territory in the 2O23 Standard Map published by its Ministry of Natural Resources. 

The protestors raised slogans that Arunachal Pradesh is an “inalienable part of India” and called for immediate restoration of the religious rights of the Uighur Muslims in Sinkiang.

“The Chinese authorities have stopped the Islamic practice of naamaz ( prayer) five times a day and warned Muslims against keeping beards and their women from putting on burqa (full dress with veil). Tens of thousands of them have been sent to re-education camps so that they become Communists and give up their religious practicses”, said Najib Ullah, chairman of the Islamic Association of Peace (IAP) while addressing mediapersons at the venue of the demonstration.

He said the Chinese authorities had resorted to mass sterilisation of Muslim women in Sinkiang and resorted to extensive torture of Muslim families when they have tried to practise Islam in the right spirit.

“Sinkiang for Uighurs is now a huge prison. It is facing demographic aggression through transfer of tens of thousands of Han Chinese to the province,” Najibullah said. “What happened in Tibet before is now happening in Sinkiang. This is the worst form of state-sponsored majoritarianism.”

China has been accused of committing crimes against humanity and possibly genocide against the Uyghur population and other mostly-Muslim ethnic groups in the north-western region of Xinjiang.

Human rights groups believe China has detained more than one million Uyghurs against their will over the past few years in a large network of what the state calls “re-education camps”, and sentenced hundreds of thousands to prison terms.

A series of police files obtained by the BBC in 2022 has revealed details of China’s use of these camps and described the routine use of armed officers and the existence of a shoot-to-kill policy for those trying to escape.

The US is among several countries to have previously accused China of committing genocide in Xinjiang. The leading human rights groups Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have published reports accusing China of crimes against humanity.

IAP chairman Sheikh Sultan quoted many cases  from the US congressional testimony of Louisa Greve, Director of Global Advocacy, Uyghur Human Rights Project.

  • An explosive new report  finds that Uyghurs are subjected to forced labor for “processing much of the seafood sent to America and Europe. The report finds that “at least 10 large seafood companies in China have used more than a thousand Uyghur workers since 2018. During that time, those companies shipped more than 47,000 tons of seafood—including cod, pollock, shrimp, salmon, and crab…” In addition, the report states, “In the past five years, the U.S. government has spent more than two hundred million dollars on seafood from importers tied to Uyghur labor for use in public schools, military bases, and federal prisons. 
  • Two days later, the C4ADS research institute published a report on mining, including gold, mapping “the relationships between Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region-based mines reliant on forced labor and global networks of finance and trade — including hundreds of American companies and the index fund portfolios of several major asset management firms.” 
  • The current largest supplier of lithium is the Bolivian government, which has handed Chinese conglomerates large stakes in raw lithium extraction, which will then be processed in China and used to manufacture electric vehicle (EV) batteries and other products. 

The Chinese consulate in Calcutta have witnessed frequent protest demonstrations by local groups supporting the cause of Tibet and also by front organisations of India’s ruling BJP.  While the pro-Tibet groups have agitated over lack of religious and ethnic rights of ethnic Tibetans and efforts to marginalise them by huge transfer of Han Chinese population, the BJP-linked groups have protested over frequent Chinese military intrusions across the Line of Actual Control from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh.  This is however the first time Muslims in Calcutta have protested over Uighur persecution in China’s Sinkiang province.

Syed Bashir

Syed Bashir is a senior journalist and leading political commentator on Bangladesh.

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