Have Indian liberals learnt anything from Fai's conviction?

The conviction of Ghulam Nabi Fai, who used ISI money to wine and dine Indians who favoured the Kashmiri separatist cause, should cause liberals to introspect.

R Jagannathan March 31, 2012 13:35:37 IST
Have Indian liberals learnt anything from Fai's conviction?

The conviction of Kashmiri separatist Ghulam Nabi Fai by a US district court for failing to disclose that his Kashmiri American Council (KAC) was funded by the Pakistani spy agency ISI is an indirect indictment of some alleged Indian liberals as well.

The conviction, which gives Fai two years in prison and another three years of “supervised release”, could be the result of the souring of the US-Pakistan relationship after the killing of Osama bin Laden by US special forces last year.

The Indian government may be happy to see him put away for a bit, but India’s liberals – who were the main beneficiaries of Fai’s all-expenses-paid invitations to pro-separatist seminars and junkets – need to introspect. Are they selling their souls for a few freebies and foreign jaunts that are intended to convince US lawmakers that India’s liberals favour Kashmiri separatism?

Have Indian liberals learnt anything from Fais conviction

Kashmiri separatist Ghulam Nabi Fai. AFP

They may have concerns about human rights abuses in Kashmir – or Manipur or elsewhere – but most are not pro-separatist in the way Fai projected them in America.

Fai used ISI funds to pick and chose his Indian guests based on their “progressive views” on Kashmir. Those whose positions were closest to that of the separatists were called for his conferences along with a few whose views were essentially pro-human rights. But they were “useful idiots” to call in order to tell American lawmakers that India had no case in Kashmir.

No one on Fai’s guest list was ever remotely critical of the separatists. This is how the ISI used Fai to “manufacture” an Indian liberal consensus that coincided with the Pakistani policy on Kashmir. Unwittingly – or even wittingly – our liberals served the ISI’s cause.

Fai, in fact, chose his people carefully to prove that the backers of the Kashmiri cause were not “ordinary” bleeding hearts, but people with clout.

For example, Justice Rajinder Sachar was commissioned by the UPA to author a report on the socio-economic plight of Muslims in India.

Dileep Padgaonkar was one of Manmohan Singh’s three interlocutors on Jammu & Kashmir.

Then there were people like Rita Manchanda, local partner of the India/Pakistan Women Waging Peace movement, Ved Bhasin, Editor of Kashmir Times, Gautam Navlakha, Kamal Chenoy and Praful Bidwai, rights activists and writers.

But have Indian liberals learned anything from their embarrassing association with Fai? It does not appear so. Some 53 of them, in fact, wrote a letter asking the US court which convicted Fai to show him leniency.

Among the writers were Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Ved Bhasin and Gautam Navlakha.

While Rajmohan Gandhi is a peacenik in the Gandhi mould, the US attorney who sought Fai’s sentencing, in fact, suggested that Navlakha was “introduced to an ISI general for recruitment by Fai at ISI's direction." (Read this and this)

Navlakha has, of course, rubbished this, but his views on Kashmir are clearly unbalanced against India. In fact, he only thought it was “politically unwise” of Fai for having taken ISI money and did not need to “feign personal hurt or anger” at Fai on this count.

He went further, and claimed that the US law enforcement authorities had “magnified” the “crime that Fai sahib committed” by not disclosing where he got his money. He complimented Fai for doing “marvelous and effective lobbying” on the $3.5 million he received from the ISI. Says Navlakha: “Put it another way, Fai Sahib used the limited resources to good use.”

To rub it in, Navlakha even goes on to suggest that Fai may have been “set up by US agencies or done in at the behest of India…”. (Read his whole statement here).

Navlakha is no liberal. He is just wedded to the mob financed by the ISI. One hopes the other liberals who wanted spared Fai are not in the same boat. At the very least, they must look at the colour of the money they accept so willingly.

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