The question we are not asking about Fai, Tramboo and Shawl

GN Fai

(Please see two updates at the end of this post.)

‘Gotcha!’ That is the sound I hear in the Indian media and amongst patriotic fellow-Indians in response to the arrest of Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, an American citizen of Indian origin, by the Unites States Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Most analyses of the Fai arrest say it’s part of the ongojng tussle between the American CIA and the Pakistani ISI but some in India think it’s part of the American reward to India for opening up its nuclear energy and other markets to American corporations, thus creating jobs for Americans. This may have some truth in it, considering that the Americans asked their ambassador to take a flight to Srinagar four months ago to pat Omar Abdullah on the back for successfully presiding over the killing of 120 Kashmiris the previous summer, and for halting the killings when President Obama was in Delhi, so that the media attention on the President’s visit is not diluted. (And then Americans wonder why ‘Muslims hate us’).

In the Indian Express, Shekhar Gupta wrote yesterday:

The central message of the FBI move against Fai is, essentially, this: that Pakistan’s own stalwart allies and moneybags will no longer accept this utterly cynical double-nuancing of the war against terror. [Link]

In the volatile scenario of the American exit of Afghanistan and the general elections in the US, this may or may not be true for the long run. It is possible, however, that the American were killing two birds with one stone: giving the ISI a reply and appeasing India.

A lot of attention in the Indian media has been paid to Indians who went to Dr Fai’s conferences on Kashmir in the US. The media has speculated that these Indians may be ‘under the scanner’. The charge is that by accepting a flight ticket to these conferences and eating a meal in the lunch break, on what we now know was ISI money, these Indians are somehow complicit in Pakistan’s “proxy war” against India in the disputed territory of Kashmir. These Indians have been described by the press as “liberals” without asking them if they would want to be politically labelled as such. (Perhaps some of them are anarchists?!) Many of them have given statements that had they known these credentials of Dr Fai, they wouldn’t have gone to attend these conferences.

The Prime Minister’s media advisor, Harish Khare, has sent a legal notice the The New Indian Express for publishing a column by S. Gurumurthy, which Khare says falsely alleges he was one such person who enjoyed Fai’s hospitality.

Considering that amongst the names who attended Fai’s “hospitality” is the Home Ministry’s principal “interlocutor” with the Kashmiri people, the journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, it seems ridiculous to doubt the patriotism of the “liberals”. Well, you could still do so if you are Panun Kashmir or Ram Jethmalani.

On this subject, Shekhar Gupta writes:

Till reports last came in, none of these worthies, the leading lights of the liberal establishment, had shown that much honesty and courage which, indeed, would have put a quick end to the controversy. It is much better to simply say that this is a free country, and as a free citizen you are fully within your rights to speak at any forum, even if Pakistan-sponsored, and put forward your views, even if at variance with your country’s official position. That nobody — except Gautam Navlakha, activist of the radical left — has had the honesty to say this underlines to us the fact of how shallow the intellectual establishment is in our country. And how quickly it loses nerve.

I don’t see why one should justify one’s going to an all-expenses-paid conference indirectly funded by India’s proclaimed enemies only if one disagrees with the government of India. Government and non-government officials from India and Pakistan visit each others’ countries all the time for conferencing. Mostly, the host foots the bill. This is a rather silly politics, one that seems to be about point-scoring over the “liberals”, and it is no wonder that the charge has been led by the charlatan-in-chief of so-called television news, Aur-Na-Ab Goswami. If Nawaz Sharif can give Atal Bihari Vajpayee a meal without making him a Pakistani agent, why should Dileep Padgaonkar’s or Harinder Baweja’s or Ved Bhasin’s integrity be doubted? Why are we not interested in finding out what they said at these conferences?

A few days ago I wrote a rant-post on the rape, “allegedly” by the Indian army, of a Gujjar woman in Kulgam in Kashmir. I ranted against the Indian tendency to disbelieve all such allegations emanating from Kashmir, and about how it is likely that protests and stone-pelting may follow, for which Indians will blame Pakistan rather than themselves, for ignoring continuing human rights violations by Indian security forces, aided by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Many of the comments, some too abusive to have been published, proved me right. One Harsha wrote:

I was expecting this ‘outburst’ on Ghulam Nabi Fai affair, but you got a better stick…

The insinuation is that I would be saddened by Fai’s arrest, and/or that I’m ignoring it because while I am happy to point to India’s faults in Kashmir I’d rather look over Pakistan’s.

Writing on her own blog, a Delhi-based lawyer says:

The most amusing part of the entire post was the dismissive wave to reports that several instances of violence in Kashmir may have been planned and paid for by Pakistan. In light of recent revelations that involve, among others, several personalities associated with the very same platform Mr. Vij has chosen, this was unfortunate to say the least.

This insinuates that in my rant-post I was suggesting Pakistan does not have any agency on the events as they unfold in Indian-administered Kashmir because “several personalities” accused of having enjoyed Dr Fai’s ISI-funded hospitality are “associated” with this blog! In other words, the not-so-subtle suggestion is that somehow Kafila and I are linked to the notorious Pakistani intelligence agency, perhaps even acting under their behalf. When repeatedly asked to name these personalities, she said it was “an amusing aside”. The inability to substantiate her own allegations must indeed make her a sough-after lawyer. Her post reminds me of the Hindi saying, khisiyayi billi khamba nochay.

While Pakistan’s role in organising, funding, training and even controlling the armed movement in Kashmir since 1989 is well known, I was in my post referring to the new phase of the Kashmiri movement since 2008, in which India has accused that stone-pelters are paid by the Lashkar-e-Toiba, but has not produced even an iota of evidence to prove the charge. (Perhaps the Home Ministry and the J&K police also like “amusing asides”.) While Indian actions in Kashmir, and the inaction of not wanting to resolve the Kashmir conflict politically, produces “unrest” in Kashmir, produces popular uprisings that India crushes by killing 13 year olds, Indians want to shift the blame on Pakistan so they don’t have to confront the truth that it is their government which is responsible for the “unrest”. It is the calling of this bluff that amuses the lawyer-who-can-not-substantiate-her-charges.

Coming back to Dr Fai, I see no reason why Fai should not have been arrested if he was violating American law, though like many others I must point out that the Americans chose to arrest him now for political expediency even though they obviously knew what he was up to all these years.

Here’s why the FBI has arrested him:

conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign principal without registering with the Attorney General and to falsify, conceal and covr up material by tricks, schemes and devices, in matter within the jurisdiction of agencies of the executive branch of the Government of the United States. [emphasis mine] [Full FBI affidavit here]

Correct me if I am wrong, but Fai has not been arrested for aiding ‘terrorism’ in Kashmir, but for lobbying for a foreign government in the US, which is illegal in that country without registering oneself as a lobbyist. In India, for instance, there is no such requirement for lobbyists to register. The charges of financial irregularities made against him are also to show that he would not receive money directly from the ISI, to prevent being easily intercepted as a lobbyist. To prove that he was a lobbyist for Pakistan, they have shown how 80% of his statements were what the ISI asked him to make. (I wonder about the rest 20%!) Fai’s main concern, from what I can gauge, was shared by India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru: granting Kashmiris the right to self-determination.

Given that Pakistan is a party to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, holding substantial territory claimed by India and for which seats in the J&K assembly in Srinagar and Jammu remain vacant, and given that Pakistan has been pressurising the international community to help resolve the Kashmir dispute, I do not find it surprising that Pakistan would spend on lobbying on Kashmir against India across the world, in the US, Europe, the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Countries and so on.

I had only heard of Fai and seen the website of the Kashmir American Council, and only heard from people that it was a front for Pakistani diplomacy on Kashmir. I have heard similar accusations about an organisation in Brussels. The Indian Express today has more on this:

The FBI’s arrest of Ghulam Nabi Fai in the United States for allegedly using ISI funds to lobby for Kashmir has turned the spotlight on two other individuals from the Valley who run similar influential “centres” in Brussels and the United Kingdom: Abdul Majeed Tramboo and Nazir Shawl.

Both are from the Kashmir Valley, one a lawyer and the other a scientific researcher, and both worked in close coordination with Fai, Islamabad, and with each other.


A successful immigration lawyer in the UK, Tramboo comes from an affluent Kashmiri family that was traditionally close to the National Conference and, especially, its founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah… After graduating from the University of Kashmir, Tramboo got an LLB from the University of Bombay. In the early ‘80s, he began practising as a lawyer in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court and later moved to the UK where he took the London Council of Legal Education exams.


Born on October 10, 1946, in Mollah Jadeed in Baramulla, Shawl went to Baramulla Degree College. His family was close to the Jamat-e-Islami and he, too, was groomed in the Jamat culture. He migrated to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) soon after militancy started in the Valley in 1990… After the death of Ayoub Thakur in 2004, a nuclear scientist who left Kashmir with Fai in 1980 to avoid arrest and set up the World Kashmir Freedom Movement and Justice Foundation in United Kingdom, Shawl was sent to take over the operations of these two organisations. Fai moved from Saudi Arabia to the United States and set up the Kashmir American Centre and the Kashmir Centre. [Amitabh Sinha]

So Fai, Tramboo and Shawl, they all once held Indian passports. My question to those Indians elated over Fai’s arrest and the revelations of his ISI links is this: Do you not feel embarrassed that people who were once Indians went abroad, gave up Indian citizenship and became agents against your country, on the payrolls of what is your enemy country? Do you wonder why they did so? Do you wonder how it could have been prevented? As you hail the cover-up of the rape “allegedly” by the Indian Army in Kashmir, as you justify the denial of justice and rights in Kashmir by pointing fingers at Pakistan, do you think we will produce more Fais or less in the future? Do you think it will help produce less ‘traitors’ of your nation by making your soldiers put their guns on the heads of Kashmiris in Kashmir’s towns, villages, cities, gullies, roundabouts, riversides, lakes, hearts and minds? Do you think the arrest of one Fai will prevent another Kashmiri in the US from becoming an ISI lobbyist by your government’s undemocratic actions in Kashmir? How successful is the idea of India, Indian democracy and its Constitution, if your enemies have no dearth of Indians whom they can make their agents against you? That is a question too many, but is really only one question.


Update 1: As a comment points out, Indians may also want the US to repatriate a man wanted for heinous crimes in Kashmir, but whom the government of India is not ready to welcome, despite an Interpol notice against him. You may want to read this chilling account of why Major Avtar Singh will never come to India.


Update 2: The lawyer I mentioned above, the one who said se was ‘amusing’ an ‘aside’ when asked to substantiate her charge that many of those who committed the heinous crime of attending conferences organised by Dr GN Fai were “associated” with Kafila, she has finally completed her long and arduous investigation and found evidence against us. My heartiest congratulations to her.

As evidence of my “hero worship of GN Fai’s cocktail circuit,” she points to these pages in the Kafila archives:

“Madam we know you are leaving, think wisely before coming back” (12 July 2008)
This is a post by me about the harassment and intimidation by the state of members of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir (IPTK). Two of IPTK’s four convenors have been to Fai’s conferences, as reported by Indian newspapers – Angana Chatterji and Gautam Navlakha. The title of this post alludes to a threat made to Ms Chaterji on phone.

IPTK Statement on Military Governance in Indian-administered Kashmir (29 June 2010)
This is the text of a press release by the IPTK.

India Bans US Professor from Kashmir, threatens Indian writer with sedition charges: JKCCS (2 November 2010)
This is another press release by the IPTK, against charging Arundhati Roy with sedition, and against disallowing entry into India upon arrival at the Delhi airport despite a valid visa, to Richard Shapiro, life-partner of Angana Chaterji.

The Ice-Cream Flavour Mint’s Editor’s Don’t Like (20 June 2011)
This is an article by me against an editorial in Mint which applauded the J&K government for disallowing entry into Kashmir to Gautam Navlakha.

Now, two of these are press releases by the IPTK which I merely posted on Kafila (they were widely reported elsewhere, too) and two are articles by me which happen to mention two names who have committed the grave crime of attending conferences organised by Dr Fai in the US, a crime of which they are as guilty as the Indian government’s principal “interlocutor” for the Kashmiri people, Dileep Padgaonkar, a task for which he is paid a handsome salary, which is drawn as much from the taxes paid by this lawyer as by me. Does that mean we are both complicit with the ISI? It’s a bit like arguing that.

Let us again consider her charge:

The most amusing part of the entire post was the dismissive wave to reports that several instances of violence in Kashmir may have been planned and paid for by Pakistan. In light of recent revelations that involve, among others, several personalities associated with the very same platform Mr. Vij has chosen, this was unfortunate to say the least.

What does that mean except alleging personal motivation in my allegedly dismissing “reports that several instances of violence in Kashmir may have been planned and paid for by Pakistan”? And by “several personalities” she meant only two, Angana Chaterji and Gautam Navlakha? And how are they “associated” with Kafila just because a tribunal they are part of, its press releases I posted here? Or just because I wrote condemning the J&K government for disallowing him into Kashmir and Mint for applauding that decision? Has she heard of the logical fallacy of guilt by association?

Okay, let’s see step by step:

Step 1: Angana Chaterji and Gautam Navlakha went to a conference organised by Dr Fai. We don’t know whether or not they were aware his organisation is funded by the ISI.
Step 2: Angana and Chaterji are part of a tribunal working on human rights in Kashmir. The bring out press statements, some of which I post in Kafila. I also write condemning their harassment and intimidation, and the undemocratic disallowing of Navlakha in Kashmir.
Step 3: The US arrests Dr Fai for being an unregistered lobbyist in the US of the government of Pakistan.
Step 4: Since I have posted some of the IPTK releases and written about issues involving their members, a lawyer says these IPTK members are “associated” with Kafila and that I “hero worship” them.
Step 5: Since the association between the ISI and me has been proved, is it any wonder that I think that Pakistan may not be involved in the current troubles in Kashmir?

How very logical!

I also posted on Kafila recently a letter to the DNA editor against his decision of publishing an inflammatory article by Subramian Swamy. As it happens, Swamy is also one of the beneficiaries of the Kashmir American Council’s per diem. I wonder why I am not being associated similarly with Swamy?

It seems today’s right-wing lawyers don’t need common sense. Just being a pathetic, slanderous slime-ball is enough.

18 thoughts on “The question we are not asking about Fai, Tramboo and Shawl”

  1. Wonderfully written, though Shivam you would care to correct the typos in this otherwise Kudos :)

    P.S: Why isn’t anyone talking about the in-action of FBI against the “wanted” Major Avtar Singh while celebrating this pseudo”triumph” .


  2. Do you not feel embarrassed that people who were once Indians went abroad, gave up Indian citizenship and became agents against your country, on the payrolls of what is your enemy country?

    No, I am far more embarrassed by Indians who remained in India, didn’t give up Indian citizenship and became agents against the country , on the payrolls of what is our enemy country? You can’t at least accuse those who gave up the citizenship and became foreign agents of hypocrisy.


  3. Good questions. But don’t hold your breath waiting for answers. Shekhar Gupta and others are practised exponents of hit-and-run journalism. And it is rather rich that this guy, as much of a Beltway insider as any, should now feign surprise at discovering that Ghulam Nabi Fai was that unspeakable thing: an ISI agent!! But having said that, I think he is right in having acknowledged Gautam Navlakha’s candour and honesty in having said what he did on the Fai matter.


  4. Sir,
    Good post. I agree with some of what you say. The witch hunt of people “associated” with Fai seems really random and your analogy that just accepting the hospitality of a foreign country doesn’t make one a traitor.
    However it is wrong to suggest that it is no surprise that Pakistan lobbies on Kashmir to the rest of the world. If it was actually Pakistan doing it Fai wouldn’t have been arrested. Fai was holding the Kashmir American Council out to be an independent voice on Kashmir which was not a mouthpiece for India or Pakistan but in reality he was acting on behalf of Pakistan.
    I don’t deny that there is great injustice being done in Kashmir with the Kulgam rape being only the latest in a very long list. I don’t however agree that a well governed country or even a country where people have the right to self determination will not have traitors. Ideological traitors aren’t many and ideology doesn’t play a significant role in an average case of treason. Most people work against the country because they are offered some personal benefits. Democracy succeeding in India would be no guarantee against treason. It would probably greatly bring down civil unrest but not treason.
    To eliminate treason you would have to have some sort of ultra-patriotic indoctrination where people would give up any sort of potential benefit in the interest of the motherland. I would rather have a few traitors than that.


  5. fy case is one more such double crossing US keeps practicing..double agent of FBI/CIA etc..this is not the first time our scholors were unknowingly in payroll of such US agencies..even JP in those days had to acknowledge this..US is not necesarily holding our view on Kashmir and would play its cards as it Fy is organising his activities with the approval of Pakistan and US as well..


  6. I am presently in d valley .. and am not an armchair expert.. I would like you(or anyone) to spend some time wih me … it would perhaps remove some of the biases you have against indian army!!! as for your latest tirade regarding alleged rape by army men in kulgam, d facts have now been proved , the army isnt guilt and you may like to reconsider your accusation…..
    and as i write this , i am sitting in with my kashmiri friend..( and they are not indian agents!!!)


    1. Sushil calm down brother.There isn’t any bias against Indian army in Kashmir and everything against itis based on facts and realities that we Kashmiris have been living through. The bias is towards the goodness of the Indian army and security forces among the jingoistic Indians who don’t want to see the other side.And btw where did you read the facts about Kulgam.Till the last news was out the things are same as have been on first day.Nothing has been solved yet.This is not to say that something wrong has to be definitely there but let us wait truthfully for the truth to come out.


  7. Voice of sanity amid all the ill-advised gloating by the Indian media and officials – thank you! oddly enough, B. Raman is saying similar (sensible) things, that attending a conference does not make one a Pakistani agent, a sign of his closeness to the military establishment (see below)- when the media rabble come off their post-arrest high, they may also want to consider that what they are calling “the Pakistani-ISI line” is actually the same as the UN’s stand on Kashmir, and that what they call “anti-India” propaganda is simply the truth about the situation in Kashmir – so it seems both international law and the truth are anti-India – what does that make India?
    also to think about: these arrests and the gamesmanship between Pakistan and the US are part of the US endgame in South Asia and Afghanistan – no matter how charmingly the likes of Sashi Tharoor beg the US to stay on in Afghanistan, the empire is bankrupt and sooner rather than later its influence in South Asia will be replaced by China and at least our military establishment if not our jingoistic press can see the writing on the wall – they have no wish to tangle militarily with China and certainly lack the capacity – the world has turned and the dinosaurs will shortly be stranded in the swamps – consider the media frenzy their early bellows


  8. On the Major Avtar Singh case who is accused of killing the human rights lawyer Jaleel Andrabi, it is to be noted that Major Singh’s name has been removed from the CBI’s list of wanted persons. However his name still appears in Interpol’s list. This act of the CBI seems to have been first reported here. The Interpol page on Major Avtar Singh is here and the CBI list of persons against whom there is an Interpol Red Notice is here.

    Those professing that Kashmir is a part of India should ask this: Why is the Ministry of External Affairs delaying the extradition proceedings against Major Avtar Singh despite the Jammu and Kashmir police and judicial authorities having done all they possibly can in this regard? What are the Kashmiris to conclude from this inaction?


  9. Rambling article misses a major point: All those conferences with Fai passed anti-India resolutions. They did not support India’s democracy, integrity, secularism or pluralism. Nor did they condemn Pakistan’s history of supporting terror in Kashmir. Navlakha, Chaterji et al were invited to the meeting, because it was known they were anti-India, on the Kashmir issue. You are missing the critical issue of the nature of the resolutions that were made.


  10. Also, there’s too much verbiage by Vij, about American motives and behaviour. That should take a distance second place to what the significance of Fai’s arrest and the revelations of ISI funding constitute for India, and the Indans who attended those conferences.


  11. we are full of such bastards..why so cynically you wasted off such an important entire space?


  12. Yaar Shivam, what will you do when BJP comes back in power ? If not in central, at least in the state of Delhi ? Tere tho encounter kara denge :) Have fun with your anti-India work till then.


    1. Given that there’s already a BJP government in Karnataka, a government so patriotic that it has made Karnataka number one in looting the country’s mineral wealth, shall I come over to Bangalore to say hello to you?


      1. You are welcome to Bangalore. Here we will do to you what we did to your jihadi friend Shahina/Shakina something. (Is she out on bail ?) I can hardly wait for the wailing and chest beating on kafila when that happens. Should be fun !!


  13. You make me feel important, thanks! You also do away with the need to convince the world that this country is full of people like you who are essentially against the Constitution of India. You call me a traitor, my friend, only to escape people’s notice that you are the real traitor.


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