Kashmiri-American Leader Ghulam Nabi Fai Visits Northern California
ByRas H. Siddiqui
Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai or “Dr Fai” as he is known by many people across the world visited Northern California recently and addressed gatherings in the San Francisco Bay Area, Monterey and Sacramento. This writer was able to hear his address at a get-together at the Kabob and Chutney Restaurant in California’s Capital on Wednesday, March 26, 2014, an event jointly put together by the American Muslim Alliance (AMA) and The Pakistan-American Democratic Forum (PADF) whose leader Dr Agha Saeed was very much present there.
Dr Fai was recently released early from a minimum security facility after being sentenced for activities related to the Kashmiri-American Council (KAC). The details of the case are widely available on the internet and will not be discussed here, but the organizers of his visit had introduced him both as “The Most Distinguished Kashmiri-American Thinker” and “The Recently Released Political Prisoner”, a voice of an oppressed people.
One is well aware that post-9/11 America has had little patience for Muslims seeking political or even humanitarian justice worldwide. The damage that the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in 2001 have done to the Palestinian and Kashmiri cause still lingers. But neither of these issues has been resolved or gone away. Millions of people associated with them continue to suffer. And where there is continued suffering there cannot be peace, with a potential for violence never far away.
Speakers at the Sacramento event included Hazem Kira, Talat Sattar and Muhammad Salim Akhtar. They presented words of welcome and introduced both Dr Saeed and Dr Fai. For the purpose of this report we will focus on Dr Fai’s speech and what he had to say. One knows that it is risky to even write about issues such as Kashmir these days but since Dr Fai not only writes, talks and breathes Kashmir he lives it, and one can see that his passion for the cause of his people has not diminished.
After greeting everyone, Dr Fai explained the relevance of the Kashmir issue today. He went back at length into history and pointed out how American Presidents and other high officials starting from President Harry Truman to President Barack Obama (over 60 years of time has passed) have been both involved and concerned about a place 10,000 miles away from this country. The Kashmir issue has been brought up at the UN in a resolution co-sponsored by Britain, France and China. President Kennedy involved himself in the problem in 1962 and President Clinton called it the most dangerous place on earth. President Obama has been on record at least five times on a willingness to facilitate an understanding on the issue between India and Pakistan while keeping in mind the wishes of the Kashmiri people.
“You should not be apprehensive about talking of Kashmir,” said Dr Fai. He said that the issue of Kashmir was not terrorism. He added that even the judge that sent him to prison said that his work was about bringing peace (between India, Pakistan and in Kashmir). He added that the movement since 2008 has been non-violent and a more recent “Million Man March” in Srinagar brought out more than a million people with no guns in sight.
Earlier that week in Monterey, California Dr Fai had presented eight points to ponder over that would create the necessary harmony for peace in Kashmir and the region. Dr Fai elaborated on these eight points as: “(i) The rights of all members of minorities in Jammu and Kashmir should be protected at all costs; (ii) All those persons who have been displaced from Jammu and Kashmir since 1947 should be encouraged to return;( iii) The members of the Pandit community displaced in the recent past should be facilitated to return and their rehabilitation guaranteed; ( iv) The ‘Armed Forces Special Powers Act’ (AFSPA) should be repealed as recommended by the leadership of civil society of India, like Justice Rajiner Sachar and Ambassador Kuldip Nayar; (v)The bunkers from villages and towns need to be dismantled; (vi) The release of political prisoners would go a long way to hasten the progress of peace and reconciliation in the region; (vii) The Kashmiris should be integral component of the ongoing peace process as they are the primary stake holders. They should be inclusive in the peace process with India and Pakistan as it will facilitate permanent, durable and honorable settlement of the Kashmir dispute, and (viii) The leadership of both India Pakistan must recognize that there can be no settlement, negotiated or otherwise, without the active and full participation of the people of Jammu and Kashmir living on both sides of the Cease-fire Line, including the Kashmiri diaspora.”
In Sacramento speaking on what should be done in America today, Dr Fai said that young people in this country need to step forward, get involved and hold seminars on Kashmir, especially on college campuses. He also called for increasing the awareness of the Kashmir issue within the strong inter-faith dialog taking place in America. And last but not least, he called on Muslims to raise their hands in prayer for people suffering in the region.
During the Question & Answer session that followed Dr Fai’s speech, one was reminded of a major event that once took place during the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in 1998, where the late Nelson Mandela surprised everyone, including the Indian Premier, by publicly calling for the need of resolving the Kashmir issue (and offering NAM’s help). On the great man’s recent passing, the mainstream Indian media chose not to bring up that point as they waxed eloquent about his many achievements including the ending of apartheid in South Africa.
In conclusion, one finds that Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai is as committed as ever to the cause of Kashmir in spite of his recent incarceration. He remains a man of integrity and sincerity in many eyes, one who has had to work in an environment akin to a cesspool where he was certainly not in the running for a popularity contest. His quest is, and always has been, for Kashmiri “Azadi” (freedom) and for that he is up against many powerful forces. And we do know that there is no bigger irritant in the international diplomatic arena today than an unarmed man who keeps bringing up unpopular truths (unfortunately), and especially when everyone knows that he is right!