By Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai
Hundreds of Kashmiri Americans and friends of Kashmir staged a huge demonstration in front of the White House. Raising slogans: “Indian Forces: Out of Kashmir”, “No justice: No Peace” , “Freedom for all: Freedom for Kashmir”, “India State of Fear: Not Fair”, demonstrators urged the United States to help persuade India and Pakistan to initiate peace process along with the leadership of the people of Kashmir.
Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary General, World Kashmir Awareness Forum said that it is clear that resolving Kashmir dispute requires a careful evaluation of its many points of contention and addressing them one by one in a carefully drawn out process in which coming to an agreement on each, sets the stage for moving on to the next. The most basic set of principles must be established and adhered to regarding human rights, the interests of the Kashmiris themselves, and the preservation of vital interests that both India and Pakistan have at stake, and then to proceed with steps toward objectives that result in a win-win solution for all. Fai paid glowing tribute to Afzal Guru and Mohammad Maqbool Bhat. He said that Maqbool Bhat was an iconic and charismatic leader who struggled tirelessly for the right of self-determination of the people of Jammu & Kashmir.
Bhat’s selfless contribution to the cause of Kashmir will inspire generations to come. Fai quoted Arundhati Roy who wrote in ‘The Daily Guardian’, on 10 February 2013, “now he (Afzal Guru) has been hanged, I hope our (India’s) collective conscience has been satisfied. Or is our cup of blood still only half full?”
Barrister Sultan Mehmood Choudhary, former Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir said that the resolution of Kashmir issue could have enabled both Pakistan and India to spend their finite resources more on the development of their people rather than on defense expenditure. He expressed his admiration to the Pakistani and Kashmiri American community for being the ambassadors of peace in the United States for the cause of Kashmir. Given a chance, Kashmiris could be instrumental to encourage peace and stability not only in the subcontinent but in Afghanistan as well. As many experts of international relations now publicly say that the key to peace and stability in Afghanistan lies in Kashmir. Barrister added one cannot deal with the tensions between India and Pakistan without simultaneously addressing the bone of contention of these tensions – that is Kashmir. He said that the United States has a moral responsibility to persuade both India and Pakistan to settle the Kashmir conflict through meaningful dialogue.
Professor Imtiaz Khan, President, Kashmiri American Council said, “People of Kashmir gave a resounding rebuff to Narendra Modi during his recent visit to Kashmir. He was greeted with empty streets and shuttered shops, which was even reported by Indian press. Total closure was observed to convey to him the feelings of people of Kashmir. This clearly showed that people of Kashmir have rejected Indian occupation and expressed unequivocally their desire to take their struggle to its logical conclusion. Khan also emphasized that Kashmiris are giving huge sacrifices for attaining freedom and it is the obligation of the diaspora and all other people who share their sentiments to educate the masses in United States and other countries about Kashmir problem and ongoing atrocities in that region.”
Ali S. Khan, Executive Director, Kashmiri Scandinavian Council said that Kashmir’s painful situation is a rebuke to the world powers for their passivity. The world powers need to know that unless India accepts the realities known to the entire world outside the dispute will fester; and that any solution must satisfy democratic principles, the rule of law, and security for every inhabitant of Kashmir.
Saleem Bukhari of Srinagar said, Hurriyet Conference rejects any settlement within the framework of the Constitution of India but binds it to accept an alternative negotiated settlement among all the three parties – India, Pakistan and Kashmiri leadership – provided it reflects the will and aspirations of the people of the State.
Sardar Imtiaz Khan, New Jersey said were India to allow a referendum in Kashmir, it would prove to the world that it too is a great democratic country, and not the persistent and militaristic oppressor that it has become.
Sardar Taj Khan said Kashmiris are a nation with their distinctive culture and civilization. They have sacrificed over a hundred thousand lives for the liberation of their homeland, nobody should even think of ignoring them.
Amna Habib said that the people of Kashmir believe that human rights are cheapened when enforcement is selective. Therefore, they demand an impartial investigation so that culprits are brought to justice. Such an investigation has to be done by a neutral and international agency, like the United Nations.
Tooba Niaz said that the United States must understand that Kashmiris crave only what every American covets: human rights, democratic values, peace and justice, and believe that the United States successes elsewhere could be duplicated in Kashmir with persistence, moral suasion, and statesmanship.
Sardar Zubair Khan said that the Kashmiri people could be instrumental in providing a way out of this cycle of violence and period of uncertainty, only if they can be trusted.
Sardar Zarif Khan said that India has defied United Nations Security Council resolutions for more than 71 years because she knows Kashmiris will never vote in her favor. It is time for Pakistan and India both to get serious about talks.
Iqbal Chand Doddy said we firmly believe that the only way to achieve a peaceful and lasting solution to the Kashmir crisis in through dialogue and negotiations. There can be no solution to the conflict without the participation of the leadership of the people of Jammu & Kashmir.
Raja Liaqat Kiyani welcomed the audience for taking trouble to come from distances to attend this important event. Kashmir deserves the attention of the world powers and we will mobilize the public opinion to make it happen.
Sardar Sajid Sawar Khan said Kashmir dispute is about the right of self-determination of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. The people should be the makers of their destiny and not an alien power – India.
Sardar Zahid Khan said that the Indian army is responsible for many untold atrocities but one thing is quite clear that she could not break the will of the people for their right of self-determination.
Imtiaz Malik believed that freedom of expression and transparency to international human rights monitors are the most practicable steps that India might be urged to undertake in Kashmir to deter human rights violations and to develop a culture of restraint within the military forces.
Sardar Zukfiqar Roshan Khan who was the emcee emphasized that Kashmir was the flash point between the two nuclear countries of India and Pakistan which deserves the attention of the world powers. He added that it was our duty to support the people of Kashmir who are struggling for their right to self-determination.
Others who spoke included: Haji Shafi, Raja Mukhtar, Mushtaq Khan, Sardar Younis, Raja Sabir, Aftab Shah, Shafiq Shah, Sikender Sahib, Mrs. Tayyiba, Akram Butt and others.
Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai is the Secretary General of World Kashmir Awareness.