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  • Writer's pictureAslam Abdullah

The Voice of Kashmir: An Untiring Freedom Fighter

He often finds himself lost in his childhood memories in what was then a quiet and peaceful hamlet some 16 K.M. from Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir. The green pastures,  the tall trees, the running ravines, the talkative prairies, simple living, and the love and affection among less than 100 families chase his imagination every time he stands to speak about his country.

In Geneva, Paris, Istanbul, Makkah, London, or Washington, you name a capital hosting an international conference on peace and justice. You can see him running the corridors with a briefcase packed with documentation about his people trying to convince the rulers, religious leaders or other dignitaries that the people of Jammu and Kashmir deserve dignity and the right to self-determination accepted by the United Nations and denied by the government of India.

The Hindu nationalists want him eliminated. India's intelligence agencies wish to have him alive. But the people he grew up with in the sober and serene Valley of Kashmir in the 50s and 60s remember him with tearful eyes and utmost respect for the work he has done for the cause of Kashmir.

Some of those who grew up with him are still alive. Many have left this world suffering humiliation and persecution from an army that treated the Muslim people of Kashmir as enemies and a political elite that thrived on their helplessness. The younger generation did not see him. He is a legend in their mind, a freedom fighter, a faithful servant of the Kashmiri people, a brave man who has worked tirelessly to give hope to millions who have been living the life of enslaved people in the Valley under the occupation of a democratic and secular India that has denied Kashmiris the right to choose their future.

Since 1981, Dr. Ghulam Nabi Feh, the executive director of the Washington-based Kashmiri American Council, has been living a self-imposed exile serving the Kashmiri cause. At 75, his enthusiasm for motivation is not less than when he was in his early 20s. To him and his elder Syed Hussain Geelani and many others go the credit of organizing the most effective campaign for the right of self-determination in Kashmir. That was when the so-called official leadership of Kashmir had almost thrown in the towel and was ready to accept the control of the Indian government against all international norms and resolutions. Jamat Islami, Jammy, and Kashmir invited the Imam of Kaaba to its conference on the life of the Prophet. Feh was instrumental in taking the revered Imam to almost every district in the Valley, inspiring people to remain steadfast to their right of self-determination. In these grassroots gatherings, hundreds of thousands of young boys and girls, older men and women, heard the chants of freedom, self-dignity, and justice once again. The Valley woke up, and the hope of a new Kashmir ignited.

It was one of the most extraordinary. Grassroots movements in Kashmir that took everyone by surprise. It shocked the intelligence, panicked the administration, and frightened the politicians. They all pointed their fingers at Feh and issued his arrest warrants. Luckily, he knew about the raid and left the Valley quietly with a vow that his love for his people and dedication to their cause would always be a priority.

It was a decision he knew he would always make. He was one of those few young Kashmiris who had the opportunity to go to college and complete a Bachelor of Science degree. A lucrative teaching job waited for him. However, he was impressed with his mentor, Syed Geelani, and decided to work as an advertisement manager on a meager salary for a magazine published by the Jamat e Islami, an organization different in its charter and objectives than its namesake in India and Pakistan. His father, who had seen the misery of his people for decades, felt disappointed, but Feh was convinced of the cause, and he persuaded his father to give his blessing to his new venture.

Here, he learned how his people were subject to humiliation and persecution. Every Muslim Kashmiri was a suspect in the eyes of the Indian intelligence agencies. They had the power to detain anyone and everyone on any charge. He discovered that even his religion was an object of ridicule among government officials. He heard even doctors telling Muslim Kashmiris that their religion was the source of their mental and physical sickness. He also learned how politicians, Kashmiris, and others exploited his people and used them as pawns in their race to earn favors from the intelligence agencies.

Feh was aware of the sentiments of his people. He identified with them and made many friends in different parts of Kashmir. Together, they all dreamt of a new Kashmir comprising highly educated people living with dignity and freedom without being suspected in the country they lived in for centuries.

He knew that the dream would come true one day because people were the ones who had weaved it. However, the decision of the government of India implemented through the local government to arrest him forced him to leave the country and turned him into a refugee, moving from one country to another to find a home in the United States.

During this journey, he completed his Ph.D. in communication, led movements for interfaith reconciliation on U.S. campuses, and served as an undeclared ambassador of people's Kashmir in hundreds of conferences worldwide.

During the last 45 years, he met hundreds of rulers and higher officials seeking a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir issue. The Indian intelligence followed him like a shadow. They tried to buy him, persuade him to return to India, and even threatened to harm him. With the help of the U.S. intelligence agencies, they wanted to prosecute him for being an agent of Pakistan, a charge the U.S. government dropped later. He was under house arrest for two years, yet not a single day passed when he did not sing the glory of his cause and people.

During these long years, the government of India tried to entrap him several times. Its leaders tried to hold secret talks with him to persuade Kashmiris to abandon the cause of self-determination. But he remains committed to his ideals. He did not compromise his principles. He never left the part of peace and was the first to question the legitimacy of violence against non-Muslims in the Valley. Even when Hindu nationalists showed their determination to paint the Muslim population of Kashmir as terrorists, he appealed for a peaceful resolution.

Now, he devotes 14 to 16 hours of his daily routine to his cause, focusing on his cause with the hope that a day will come when his people will be free. In several subsequent articles, you will read about his struggle to understand the history of his people, his vision, and his contribution to a cause that many people have forgotten or consider a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan. It is a struggle for self-dignity and determination, a reason that every international law supports and God endorses.

Through these articles, you will learn how movements for freedom face obstacles and challenges at all levels. Be prepared to read a fascinating story, a history of a living freedom fighter, and the biography of Dr. Ghulan Nabi Feh.

His Work

Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai is the Secretary General of the Washington-based "World Kashmir Awareness Forum" and the World Forum for Peace & Justice Chairman. He is also the founding chairman of the London‑based' Justice Foundation', 'International Institute of Kashmir Studies,' and 'Kashmir Press International.' He is also the founding member of the Board of Directors of Istanbul-based "The Union of NGOs of the Islamic World" (UNIW).

He was the elected national President of the Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada between 1984-88. He was also a member of the Majlis-e-Shoura of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) between 1984-88.

As a student leader, he represented the International Federation of Student Organizations at many international conferences. 1986 he addressed the United Nations Conference in New York on Technical Cooperation Among Developing Countries.

Dr. Fai was invited to New York to attend the United Nations Conference on Conflict Resolutions in September 1992. He was also invited to Vienna, Austria to the United Nations Second World Conference on Human Rights in June 1993. During the Vienna conference, he was elected chairman of the NGO ‑- Unrepresented Peoples and Nations of the World (UPN).  

He attended the Third Global Structures Convocation organized by the United Nations, Washington, D.C., in July 1993. He was invited as the guest speaker by the World Affairs Council, Cedar Rapids, Michigan, in 2001 and the World Affairs Council, Richmond, Virginia, in 2003.

He addressed the 46th through 61st Sessions of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) in Geneva and also participated in the 41st through 57th Sessions of the United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities in Geneva. He also attended the 1st through 16th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. 

He participated in the 42nd Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York in March 1998. He addressed the U.N. Annual Conference on 'Regional Conflicts: Threats to World Peace and Progress' in 1992 in New York and spoke on "Kashmir Today," at the Foreign Service Institute of the United States, State Department on June 6, 1998. He attended the Third Global Structures Convocation on "Human Rights Global Governance and Strengthening the United Nations" in 1994 in Washington, D.C.

He was invited to attend the 3rd, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th Summit of the Heads of the State of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in January 1981 in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, December 1992 in Dakar, Senegal; in December 1994 in Casablanca, Morocco; in December 1997 in Tehran, Iran; in November 2000 in Doha, Qatar; and in October 2003 in Putrajaya, Malaysia; in March 2008 in Dakar, Senegal respectively. Dr. Fai attended these Summits as a member of the "True Representatives of the People of Jammu & Kashmir." During the OIC Summits. Dr. Fai met more than three dozen Heads of the State and Heads of the Government.

He addressed the preliminary Session at the Centennial Conference of Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago in August 1993, in Barcelona, Spain, in 2004, in Melbourne, Australia, in 2009, and in Salt Lake City, United States, in 2015.

Dr. Fai was the speaker at the International Conference on Conflict Resolution, which was held in Petersburg, Russia, in 2001. He was the guest speaker at the First International Conference on Atlantic Studies on in Spain in October 2006. The Galizan Institute for International Security and Peace Studies, Galiza, Spain, organized the conference. 

The European Parliament invited him to present a briefing paper for "Kashmir Round‑ Table," held in Brussels in October 1993. The Washington-based U.S. Institute of Peace also invited him to submit a paper for the Conference on Kashmir in January 1994. He participated in the Kashmir Roundtable at Capitol Hill, organized by the Washington‑based Congressional Human Rights Foundation in June 1994.

He attended the 42nd Session of the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in New York in July 1994. He participated in the United States Department of State's conference on "Human Rights Policy in the Post Cold‑War Era" in April 1995, which was held in Washington, D.C. He attended the United Nations 50 Committee conference in San Francisco in June 1995.

He was invited to XX Conference of Heads of State of the Non‑Aligned Movement in September 1995 at Cartagena, Columbia as a special guest of the President of Columbia.

He was invited as a guest speaker by 'Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, Italy' to speak on Kashmir in Islamabad, Pakistan in 2006. Pugwash has been given the Nobel Peace Prize for its activities for nuclear non-proliferation.

Dr. Fai organized eight International Kashmir Peace Conferences at Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.; two International Kashmir Peace Conferences in New York City, two in Latin America; four conferences on thematic areas of human rights in Geneva, Switzerland; one in Rotterdam, Netherlands, two in Brussels, Belgium.

Leading diplomats, politicians and academicians from India, Pakistan, Kashmir, Europe and United States were invited to these conferences to explore all possible options for the peaceful settlement of Kashmir dispute. 

Dr. Fai is the "Distinguished Member" of the Republican Senatorial Inner Circle. He was awarded the "Republican Senatorial Medal of Freedom" in 2005. This is the highest honor the Republican Member of the United States Senate can bestow. Dr. Fai was also awarded the Prestigious Distinction of the National Republican Senatorial Committee Commission in June 2007 as a dedicated Republican and inspiring leader. On October 12, 2007, he was presented with the "American Spirit Medal", the highest and most prestigious honor to be given to an individual. 

Dr. Fai was selected as a member to New York-based Strathmore's WHO'S WHO list in January 1995 for his public relations, education and communication expertise. He was included in the constellation of Five Hundred Leaders of Influence, a listing that is reserved for Outstanding Leadership for Public Relations and Excellence in Global Relations. He was also included in the International Who's Who of Intellectuals in recognition of his distinguished achievements. He is also a member of the National Register's Who's Who in Executives and Professionals.

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