Fai, my beleaguered friend

By K.N. Pandita

It was the summer of 1992. An African NGO at the UN Human Rights Commission at Geneva had given me accreditation, and I spoke usually on IDP issues at the UN.

I sat sipping coffee in the lounge. A neatly dressed person of rather smallish height, carrying a portmanteau, came to me, introduced himself as Ghulam Nabi Fai, pulled the chair and sat down. I leapt, and fetched him a sizzling coffee, and we both sat down to speak in chaste Kashmiri. We felt, or I felt, relaxed. In response to his inquisitive probing, I said that I was a Kashmiri Pandit and a RAW agent. He chuckled, but had no courage to say he was ISI agent. 

Our long association usually interspersed with pleasantries and sarcasms continued throughout our two decade-long associations in Geneva, Brussels, London, Washington and elsewhere. Talking to his flock from both sides of Kashmir at Geneva or Brussels, he used to tell them about me,” This Pandit is the guide and path finder for the Indians.” I think for a long time he did believe that I was a mole of Indian intelligence. My reaction was let sleeping dogs lie.

I will recount only two jokes about him that I can recollect. Once, Fai and I sat in the spacious lounge at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva with a large group of Kashmiri separatists drawn from both sides of Kashmir whom he was briefing. We talked on Kashmir culture. Fai was euphoric about Kashmiryat and delivered a short but passionate speech. I posed a question. What is Kashmiriyat, please concretize. He started with many elementary things, salt tea, wazeh-wan, kangari blisters (nareh taet) etc. I quipped, “Fai Sahib, our real Kashmiriyat was the widespread head skin disease of favus (khaer in Kashmiri and Ganjapan in Hindi). Curse the Indians, now not a single Kashmiri afflicted with favus is to be found in the valley.” Peals of laughter from the audience. Fai retorted, “Damn you! We could be squire with the Indian might but you damned Pandits of Kashmir are our Achilles heel. Such sadists are you, the Lucifer.”

At the NGO Committee meetings of the ECOSOC at UN in New York, India opposed Fai’s application for ECOSOC status for his NGO (KAC) and Pakistan opposed my application for the same for our NGO (Asia-Eurasian Human Rights Forum). Year after year and session after session since 2001 our applications were deferred because the Indians and the Pakistani delegates opposed us respectively. I told Fai let us make a compromise formula. We tell both Indians and Pakistanis to accept both and we still work together in unison as human rights activists. With this proposal, we first met the Paki but unofficially. After hearing our proposal, he exclaimed in Persian, “ yak na shud du shud” meaning so far there was one scourge but now there will be two of them. We all had a hearty laugh, and neither of the two has been granted status so far. I wonder what this Committee will do with our application in its next meeting when it again comes up for consideration.

Fai is suave and a soft spoken person. He is a decent man in his bearing, never irritated, never angry. At lunch time, he would often beckon me to come along to the restaurant for eating together. We did so many times. But once I had a 2-hour long one-to-one meeting with late Ayub Thukar in Geneva. We talked about the need of inter-community dialogue without government interference in Kashmir to bring normalcy in the strife-torn valley. It was around 2003. In the course of that talk, Thukar hinted that we did not need inclusion of Fai in our effort as Fai was only pseudo-academic and a failure on ground strategy. Some months later Ayub Thukar died of throat cancer in London but some weeks before his death he had sent me an email saying he cherished the return of peace to the valley.

In my personal meetings with Fai, he never talked of politics much less Kashmir politics. He talked mostly of Kashmiriyat and many vague things. I never felt any need of dragging him to a discourse on political issues.

In the briefings at the UN in Geneva, Fai seemed to be dominated by another anti-India and pro-separatist activist and theoretician, namely Barrister Abdul Majid Tramboo, who is now running the Brussels branch of Fai’s Kashmir Centre. While Fai would like that knowledgeable persons like I on Kashmir situation should be given the freedom to ask questions in the seminar/briefings and express views, Tramboo manipulated the briefings in a way that he left no scope for anybody to ask a question. The reason is that the speakers they dragged to the platform like Galloway and Victoria Schofield and others were paid persons and far removed from the history of Kashmir and the sub-continent. We would and often did corner them and expose them. So both Fai and Tramboo preferred to keep us out of those briefings.

Fai’s main work was to influence opinion makers, law makers, human rights activists, intellectuals and NGOs in the US and in Europe in favour of Kashmir’s secession from India and accession to Pakistan. He never supported independence of Kashmir. In that sense he is a dedicated Jammat-e-Islami and among the first few students of Ali Shah Geelani and protagonists of his pro-Pak ideology. Fai’s skill lies in roping in not only the European and American intellectuals only but some Indian and Kashmiri Pandits also. Even one of the three-member team of interlocutors, too, has been once the beneficiary of Fai’s largesse.  Their names are now fully known and the Times of India of 21 July has posted video clips of the speeches of one Jammu journalist and a Kashmiri Pandit in Fai’s latest seminar in Washington. They have been regular participants in his sponsored seminars and thus frontline beneficiaries of his largesse.

Fai invariably would send me a notification regarding a seminar going to be organized by him (KAC) giving the theme, the persons invited, the venue and all information. But he never sent me an invitation letter and I never attended any of his seminars. In response to his notification, I always wished him great success in deceiving himself and the deceivable Kashmiris.

Ali Shah Geelani has given a call for general strike on 22 July and the “separatists”. Forgetting that Fai stands for merger of Kashmir with Pakistan, Kashmiris will give him a thundering response. This buries their fake azaadi slogan deeper in its grave.

The Jammu-based pro-Fai media outlet has started the propaganda of calling Fai’s arrest as shift in America’s Kashmir policy. It is a shift, of course, and it is a facet of the intelligence sharing understanding between India and the US. But wait, many more skeletons will tumble out from the cupboard when the Home Ministry begins a through investigation into this anti-national perfidy. In the first place, and without delay, our foreign office should immediately impound the passports of all those Indians who have been receiving ISI’s largesse through its Fai outlet and whose names have been mentioned by Fai in his website as having attended his seminars in foreign countries. But it has to be seen if New Delhi is content with making the US its cat’s-paw.

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