Dr. Humaira Gowher
KASHMIR Global Council wants to give voice to Kashmiris globally’: An Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at Purdue University, USA, and a recipient of a post-doctoral fellowship from National Institute of Health, USA, Dr. HumairaGowher was recently in Kashmir for her second visit in a year. She is also the spokesperson of Kashmir Global Council. In an interview with Rising KashmirPolitical Editor, FaisulYaseen, she talks of the reason of floating Kashmir Global Council and its goals, BurhanWani’s killing and how killings in Kashmir are connected to military finances, Kashmir’s pluralistic culture and how human rights violations were affecting the psyche of the people, need for a unified approach and a unified political organization at times when focus on geo-economy is set on the region that Kashmir is part of. Excerpts
What is the Kashmir Global Council? : It is a US-based Non-Government Organisation (NGO), not a charity organisation. The organisation is barely supported by the board. It has come into being to start a discourse on Kashmir.
After witnessing last year’s uprising, some of the stalwarts of the freedom movement realized that things were changing in Kashmir and decided that there was a need to reorganize ourselves. They felt the biggest problem for the people of Kashmir was that small voice, if not coherent, does not get heard.
So the idea was to create an organisation that is more streamlined, where people from different walks of life, irrespective of the differences in their ideologies, come together like the way even Sardar Patel came in the fold of the Indian National Congress. The idea was to give voice to the people of Kashmir globally.
Who heads the organisation and who are the other board members? : Initially, FarooqSiddiqi, the Consultant Engineer in Ontario, Canada, has been chosen as the President. The other board members are Prof. Nyla Ali Khan, author and visiting professor at the University of Oklahoma and Rose State College; Mufti ShowkatFarooqi, Attorney at Law, Columbia Law School; MueenHakak, an engineer working for a global technology firm in Ontario, Canada; Asian Institute of Management Saint Laurette, Canada; Raja Muzzafar, the Executive Director at South Asia Democracy Watch (SADeW); Dr. Parvez Mir, who practices medicine in New York state; Dr. Faroque Khan, Director IMANA International Collaboration; AltafQadri, writer and columnist in Texas; FerozPader, heart surgeon at John Hopkins Hospital Washington, Washington DC; Dr. Hafiz Baba who works for the International Engineering Consulting, University of Nottingham in Canada; Gaffar Tapa, CEO Travel Business, New York; Dr. Sadat Drabu, a veterinarian working at Herongate Animal Hospital in Ontario, Canada, and me.
I am an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at Purdue University in the US. I am originally from RajouriKadal area of Srinagar.
At the peak of uprising in Kashmir, in the year 1991, I moved to Aligarh and eventually received my college and university degree from AMU. As a young female student in AMU, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Kashmiri girls were raised in a more egalitarian society. Kashmir girls were modern, free thinking and quite dude-type compared to girls for other regions and ethnicities studying there. Visiting home every year during summer breaks would leave all of us torn and disturbed. We never had to previously get off the bus and walk through an army patrol with automatic guns, watch some young people held back, pray for their lives while getting back the bus. In Aligarh, whereas, most of the students around us shared a laughter on a common joke, we Kashmiri students also huddled in often to cry for a common cause, that so many were killed and tortured, that so many were displaced, that schools and colleges are dysfunctional, that our Pandit friends were lost potentially forever. Our hearts have always connected through a mutual pain and doso even today.
During my previous visit to Kashmir, just after the killing of HizbulMujahideen commander, BurhanWani’s I witnessed the hell that is let loose here. People are tortured and killed and used for political gains. There are reports that Burhan was killed just before the Indian Army’s fiscal year closing. The Defense budget (US$ 53.5bn) for 2017-18 fiscal year was raised by 7 percent and is 5th largest defense budget of the world. India spends 2.5 percent of its GDP on military expenditures which is comparable to 3 percent spend by the leading nations of the world including the United States. With no accountability for misuse of all this money and power, the human rights violations by the Indian security forces in Kashmir and other parts of the Indian subcontinent are unacceptable.
Kashmiris are skeptic about the Kashmiri diaspora that launch organisations in the name of Kashmir cause: The idea of forming this organisation was that we cannot let India and Pakistan run our narrative. So we thought if we could create globally a popular pro-Kashmir narrative. Around 40 to 50 members including me attended the recent meeting at New York. In the earlier meeting held at Niagara, Canada, the organisation was given a structure and eventually the bylaws for the organisation were framed and approved on by all the board members. For transparency, the constitution and its bylaws which are followed by the organisation are open to public at www.kashmirglobalcouncil.com
The meeting at NewYork was attended by doctors, engineers and well respected people from all walks of life. More importantly, all the members are Kashmiris from all parts of Kashmir. We have chapters in almost all continents and our goal is to achieve it in every city of India, Pakistan and around the globe that are of Kashmiri origin with a slogan ‘One Kashmir, One Voice’. The idea of our organisation is to streamline the voice of Kashmiris. We do not want to be in limelight. We believe we have not gotten our first independence yet. We believe the entire thing be taken back to the place where we get our first independence, a struggle that was led by Kashmiris for Kashmir. We want to move Kashmir’s freedom movement toward the struggle for the right to self-determination of the people of Kashmir as defined in the UN charter. We have members who have different ideologies. There may be some who might want Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan, others may want Kashmir to be independent, yet others may be for Kashmir to be part of the Indian state. The differences are wonderful considering that they can bring people of different ideologies to come forward for a table talk. That in the least might be a solution to one of the problems in Kashmir, which is how to bring our cultural diversity back. Members come to our organisation at their own risks. We want people to come voluntarily, and more democratically.
What is the organisation presently working on? : Presently, we are trying to create chapter heads in different parts of the world and most importantly in Kashmir.