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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Islamic warriors in Turkestan

Turkestan had experienced the worst type of tyranny and oppression under autocratic Khanates of mid – 19th century. It was despite the rulers and the ruled professing the same faith. Before the communist ideology swept Central Asians with the beginning of second decade of the 20th century, Central Asia was simmering with political discontent.

Soviet system pulled Turkestan out of political, social and economic stagnation and ushered in the culture of modern industrialised society. Anybody desiring to know this saga of this metamorphosis would do well to read the illuminating volume titled Dawn over Samarkand.

Religion in general and Islam in particular remained an important factor in the social history of Turkestan. Bukhara, now in Uzbekistan, was once called the second Madina. All the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence surfaced in the lands of Turkestan.

It is an irony that today some Sunni-Wahhabi theocratic regimes are dreaming of exporting Islam to Turkestan. Curiously enough, they want to achieve this objective by fanning the flames of fundamentalist terror. It is somewhat difficult to convince these regimes that Turkestan has been the home of three major civilizations known to man viz. Buddhism, Zoroastrians and Islam. Despite this, the Islamic fundamentalist-terrorist operatives in a sinister fashion have targeted Turkestan.

Afghan, Pakistani and Arab militants are reported to have participated in the August 1999 campaign led by the Farghana-based Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) to capture more than 20 villages in southern Kkyrgyzstan. Earlier, in July, these militants joined the Chechen contingents that stormed some parts of the tiny Caucasian republic of Dagestan, sparking off the second TechNet war.

IMU together with the Chechen guerrillas poses the most potent threat to stability in the region. They have been involved in terrorist bombings and dashes with security forces within Uzbekistan. Two separate attacks by its members in February and November 1999 resulted in more than 40 deaths.

Islam Karimov, the President of Uzbekistan. escaped a bid on his life by the IMU activists. He says that some of the militants were trained in Chechnya while others, including one of the top IMU leaders, Tahir Yuldashev, have taken refuge in Afghanistan. In June, the Taliban rejected a request of the Uzbek government to extradite Yuldashev.

As militants find ever-safer sanctuaries in the region, their sphere of operation expands to areas as far north as the Russian Federation, which has been the target of terrorist attacks in recent months.

The Uighur Islamists inspired riots in the Baren township near Kashghar in 1990, and again in Yining town near the Kazakh border in 1997 resulting in what observers believe “ considerable” though hitherto unspecified number of casualties. Periodic rioting has been taking place almost regularly. According to an estimate 45 uprisings took place in Xinjiang (Eastern Turkestan – now part of China) during April and May 1996 alone in which 65f, 000 people participated and over 1,000 were killed. The Chinese conceded that the region has become “unstable”.

Chinese authorities are cautious in identifying the elements responsible for these acts, putting the blame generally on “reactionary forces in the west, separatists and religious extremists.”  A German expert on  Eastern Turkestan, Dr. Fudrun Wacker, while quoting Chinese officials, told a seminar in Peshawar some time ago that “there are reports that the american CIA officials in Xinjiang in June 1997. Soon afterwards, the Uighur Chairman of the province revealed the existence of what he called the Party of Allah (Hizbollah), a fundamentalist Muslim party fighting for independence with about 1,600 active members.

Chinese officials believe these militants are being trained in Afghanistan and use Afghan heroin to fund their activities. These officials are grappling with the mounting influx of heroin from Afghanistan which targets more than one million heroin addicts in China, most of them in Xinjiang.

In the first week of February 1999, a Chinese delegation led by the head of the Asia desk at the foreign office in Beijing quietly visited Afghanistan to seek deportation of a number of Uighur militants wanted by the Chinese authorities in cases of terrorism and drugs. The Taliban told them. However, that no Uighur citizens were present in Afghanistan.



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World Kashmiri Pandit Conference, 1993
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