Delhi To Probe Fai Strands In Kashmir21 July 2011
Srinagar: Kashmiri separatists, journalists and human rights activists are likely to face investigations following the arrest of the Kashmir American Council (KAS) chief, Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, in the United States on charges of being on ISI payroll. As possible strong repercussions here of the development, the union government was understood to be contemplating urgent scrutiny into the nature of the links some prominent Kashmiris, including a few leading columnists, might have with the self-exiled proponent of the Himalayan regionís right of self-determination. Media reports claimed that the FBI had already got in touch with the union home ministry which was awaiting the outcome of Dr.Faiís questioning, and the charges the US authorities would bring against him, in what could eventually prove to be a major political unravelling in Kashmir. Sources minced no words about the central governmentís intentions to seize upon the FBIís findings about the KAC chiefís operations to tighten the screws on key political players here. ďSeparatist leaders in Kashmir too will feel the heat of Dr. Faiís arrest,Ē a senior officer in the home ministry said, claiming that it had already started an investigation. The centre was said to be drawing up a list of individuals who had attended conferences and seminars organised by Dr. Fai in the US and Europe, casting a wide net that includes prominent Kashmiri journalists and columnists apart from important figures in the separatist camp. A number of Indian media personalities, intellectuals and former diplomats too are said to be being listed for inquiry due to their participation in Dr. Faiís programmes in the past. The home department here has been activated on a new front now for the groundwork to ascertain the form and content of what officials suspect could be an extensive network. The state police chief, Kuldeep Khoda, had yesterday thrown unmistakable hints of the course the state government would take by describing Dr. Faiís arrest as an important development. Khoda had said that any possible moves to get Dr. Fai extradited to India could be initiated only after the charges against him became clear. A prominent name doing the rounds is that of noted journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, who heads New Delhiís team of interlocutors for Kashmir. Admitting to having been invited to, and attended, some events organised by Dr. Fai, Padgaonkar said that he had had absolutely no inkling of him being an ISI agent then. Padgaonkar said he did not remember the year now but he 'quite liked the meeting and did not suspect any hanky-panky'. The journalist said he felt there was a need to put forward the Indian point of view even if the outfit was pro-Pakistan. 'This was a time before Google searches or deep background searches. There were leading journalists from Pakistan attending the seminar. We had no idea about Fai's connections. I wouldn't have gone had I known or had there been even the faintest of suspicions (about the source of the KAC funds),' Padgaonkar added. Padgaonkar said he declined a few months back 'a similar invite from a London-based Kashmiri barrister (Abdul Majeed) Tramboo to attend a seminar on Kashmir in Brussels after my sources told me the outfit was dubious'. According to The Telegraph, journalists such as Kuldip Nayar, Padgaonkar, Harinder Baweja, Ved Bhasin, Rajmohan Gandhi and activists Rita Manchanda and Gautam Navlakha and politician Subramanian Swamy had attended some of these seminars. Bharat Bhushan, who writes on India-Pakistan relations , declined to deny or confirm if he participated in any event organised by the group. Siddharth Varadarajan, national bureau chief of The Hindu, said Fai invited him to attend a seminar in 2009. 'But I declined,' Varadarajan said, adding that he made enquiries and decided 'it was best not to attend'. 'But my decision to not attend isn't a judgement or commentary on people who did attend as they could have had different assessments (of the KAC and Fai's activities),' he said. What aroused Varadarajan's suspicion was Fai having listed India's envoy to Washington Meera Shankar as one of the speakers at the event. 'I checked with my sources on how come she was attending? They told me she wasn't,' Varadarajan said. But not everybody is apologetic about engaging with the KAC or Fai. Activist Gautam Navlakha felt that Fai could not be vilified as an ISI agent on mere allegations. Navlakha, who attended at least two KAC-organised meetings in the last few years, cautioned about jumping to conclusions even before Fai was convicted. 'I know Fai. I have enjoyed his hospitality and my conversations with him. Whatever the nature of funding may be, in my eyes his conviction as a Kashmiri remains impeccable,' Navlakha said. New Delhi and its mission in Washington kept away from the KAC, knowing it was an India-bashing outfit. But there weren't any express instructions to Indians from outside the government not to attend KAC-organised events. 'Some Indian journalists and activists did put forth very strongly the Indian position on Kashmir in these seminars,' a source said.