Fai’s arrest: Ansari questions Padgaonkar’s credibility – Hari Om

Prof. Hari Om“The chargesheet and reports which have emanated from Washington DC, Brussels (Belgium), London and Scotland Yard (UK) vindicate the stand of concerned Indians that some Indian fifth columnists were offering their services to Pakistan through ISI and Kashmiri separatists like Ghulam Nabi Fai, with a view to propagating the Pakistani view that Jammu & Kashmir was not an integral part of India and was a disputed territory with Pakistan having a legitimate claim over it.” – Prof. Hari Om

The United States, which is not a friend of India by any yardstick, has done the needful, doubtless for its own reasons. Syed Ghulam Nabi FaiThe arrest of the US citizen and Pakistani Kashmiri agent Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, director of the American Kashmir Committee (AKC), by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on July 20, has stunned the Anglo-American-Asian world.

Fai has been living in the United States since 1990. One of the charges levelled against him by the FBI is that he was operating from Washington DC on behalf of the Pakistan Government and influencing American opinion on the issue of Jammu & Kashmir, without registering himself with the competent authority as a Pakistani lobbyist.

Dileep Padgaonkar & Radha KumarThe charge-sheet levels serious charges against Fai and accuses him of using Pakistani money for preparing an anti-India ground in the United States (which should hardly come as a surprise to the American administrations that have successively bankrolled Islamabad for decades). Its real merit lies in the fact that it exposes – in black and white – a deep connection between Fai and several “anti-India” Indians, including chief interlocutor for Jammu & Kashmir Dileep Padgaonkar. All these notables of the Indian elite have enjoyed Pakistani hospitality and given legitimacy to the Pakistan-sponsored hate and break-India campaign, frequently describing India at the AKC (read Inter-Service Intelligence)-sponsored seminars as barbarous and anti-democratic.

The chargesheet and reports which have emanated from Washington DC, Brussels (Belgium), London and Scotland Yard (UK) vindicate the stand of concerned Indians that some Indian fifth columnists were offering their services to Pakistan through ISI and Kashmiri separatists like Fai, with a view to propagating the Pakistani view that Jammu & Kashmir was not an integral part of India and was a disputed territory with Pakistan having a legitimate claim over it.

Farooq KathwariIt would be a distortion of sorts to say that Islamabad and Fai were able to rope in certain “Indians” for utilizing their services. The truth is that these anti-India elements had themselves cultivated Pakistan to enjoy the worldly pleasures of wining and dining and cushy stays at 5/7 Star hotels abroad. Bartering the national interests was a lucrative business. Hence, it would be a crime against man and god to give credit to Islamabad and its dreaded ISI and the likes of Fai, Farooq Kathwari et al, who have spread their tentacles across Europe, USA and the Muslim world at the behest of Pakistan and its Indian Kashmiri subordinates like Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

It is a different story that the Union Government utterly failed to discharge its obligations towards the nation by calling the Pakistani bluff and isolating, exposing and bringing to justice these anti-India Indian agents of Islamabad. Again, it is another story that Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal refused to comment on the issue saying “it is a private affair.” Anti-nationalism is a private affair for a regime that is hell bent upon de-nationalising public resources for private capitalists and multinational corporations!

R.K. SinghAll credit to the new Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh who had the courage to say at Thimpu (Bhutan) that “the arrest of Fai had become overdue.”

It was only to be expected that the FBI revelations and related stories filed by reporters from Washington DC, Brussels, and London would cause a stir in India. The nation stands outraged and feels the authorities must take stringent action against those associated with the AKC and similar London, Brussels and Scotland-based outfits. It will be shameful if the Government of India does not act to retrieve the situation. A beginning must be made with a crackdown on the Kashmiri separatists who had been taking advantage of New Delhi’s leniency to travel abroad to the Fai and other seminars and bad-mouthing and defaming the Republic.

It is significant that interlocutor M.M. Ansari has spoken out boldly against chief interlocutor Dileep Padgaonkar’s participation in the Fai seminars: “If it is true that he has M.M. Ansariknown the activities of some such activists (Fai) elsewhere and still he has been doing it, I would say that will be most unfortunate.” Mr Ansari added that, “In Kashmir, there was an air of suspicion as nobody believed the other person.” And he pointedly queried: “How can you join a conference without knowing the credibility of the individuals and the institution?” Indeed, how can you?

More to the point, Mr Ansari raised questions about whether or not the Government of India was aware of Mr Padgaonkar’s seminar circuits and biases prior to his appointment as chief interlocutor on Kashmir. This is a very valid question, and one that will not go away easily. Hence, the Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram would do well to address it as soon as possible.

All this is tantamount to a blistering attack and a vote of no-confidence in Padgaonkar. In fact, Mr Ansari censured him quite openly and virtually asked him to put in his papers and say goodbye to the committee he has been heading since October 13, 2010. Ansari deserves bouquets and not brickbats for his bold stand.

Kashmir InterlocatursIt is hardly relevant to reflect on the support Padgaonkar immediately received from colleague Radha Kumar, as there is no fundamental difference between the two. However, one instance may be mentioned. In the third week of October last year, Padgaonkar along with Radha and Ansari visited Kashmir to interact with people there. During the course of their stay, they also visited the University of Kashmir. Interacting with the students there, Padgaonkar asked them to prepare a “roadmap for Azadi” so that the “same could be discussed with them during their next visit to Kashmir.” Radha went a step further and stated that, “they would ask the Government of India to amend the Indian Constitution to accommodate the Azadi demand.”

All this should help clinch the issue and establish that both Padgaonkar and Radha are on the same page. She defended Padgaonkar because she had to express solidarity with a man who has, like others, become an object of contempt and ridicule. Radha falls in the same category.

And what was Padgaonkar’s reaction when reporters asked him to comment on the controversy? He said: “He did travel on Fai’s invitation but that was a long time back and he did not have faintest of idea about his affiliation with ISI as Google was not available then.”

Dileep PadgoankarIs that an answer? And is that how senior journalists source their information? Padgaonkar is supposed to be one of the country’s top “opinion leaders,” a man who once famously bragged in a published interview that he held the second most important job in the country (next only to the Prime Minister!). He has been influencing public opinion for over three decades and has enjoyed the distinction of reporting from various world capitals, including Paris (France). But more than that, he has been writing on Jammu & Kashmir for years. Yet he says he didn’t know anything about Fai or about Fai’s connections with Islamabad. Indeed, a ridiculous and pathetic defence.

If one goes by this response and explanation, one can say without hesitation that whatever Padgaonkar wrote on Jammu & Kashmir was either based on hearsay or that he wrote his essays on the State on the virtual diktat of anti-India elements in Kashmir. There cannot be any other conclusion.

Ansari has hit the nail on the head and suggested the way out to Padgaonkar. But the question is: Will Padgaonkar respect the views of Ansari and quit and tender an unconditional apology to the nation for the crime he has committed? We will have to wait and see.

Will the tarnished UPA regime find the courage to give him the push or the shove and save itself from the embarrassment of accepting a Report from a man tainted with ISI hospitality to say the very least. For it is very clear that Padgaonkar, like all other “anti-India” Indians, has fallen from grace.

In this season of pilgrimage, the word on the street is that this is the Grace of Baba Amarnath. For the interlocutor’s report is all ready and waiting. It is said that the Government asked the members to hold it until the yatra ends, so that Hindu passions are not inflamed. Now the report is not worth the paper it is written on….

» Hari Om is former Chair Professor, Maharaja Gulab Singh Chair, University of Jammu, Jammu, & former member Indian Council of Historical Research