Did Shah Faesal leave his supporters in the lurch?

A section of youth had come along Faesal when he formed his political party, JKPM, in March 2019. His joining back IAS may be disenchanting for many

Shah Faesal
Shah Faesal

Gulzar Bhat

After dabbling in politics, Shah Faesal is back in the government service and reinstated in the IAS. The move, however, did not come as a surprise to many in the Valley as pieces of information about his re-joining had been trickling through grapevine over the past one year.

The 2010 IAS topper was reinstated on Thursday.

However, the youth of Kashmir who looked up to Shah Faesal as someone who could bring a change in the mainstream politics are disillusioned by his decisions--first distancing from active politics and now re-joining the government.

Faesal had resigned from the prestigious Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in January 2019 to protest against civilian killings in the Valley and formed his own political party-- Jammu and Kashmir Political Movement (JKPM)-- along with student activist Shehla Rashid and others on March 17, 2019.

Faesal had claimed that he sacrificed his elite service to serve the people of Kashmir and gave the slogan ‘Ab hawa badlegi’ (the political environment will change now). He praised Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for their unceasing efforts in the field of politics.

Faesal wanted to strike a chord with the youth of Kashmir by claiming that JKPM is a youth-oriented party and to some extent he pulled it off. It was for the first time since the militancy broke out in Kashmir that youth began openly talking about a ‘mainstream’ political leader.

In the Valley where people mostly do not wear their political identity on their sleeve, hundreds of young men extended their support to Faesal using different social media platforms. Even when he began raising funds for his party, many youth contributed generously.

For Faesal, who saw himself in the role of next Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, everything ran like clockwork until PM Narendra Modi-led BJP government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its constitutional autonomy on August 5, 2019 and split the region into two Union Territories—Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh.

A day before the Home Minister introduced the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill in Parliament, all the key political parties in the Valley formed an alliance—People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration ( PAGD)-- and signed a declaration to safeguard the special position of Jammu and Kashmir. Feasal was among the signatories.

A week after the central government's radical move, Faesal flew to New Delhi and upbraided the BJP government for incarcerating an entire population.

In an interview with BBC, he said that people would respond to the development in a sensible and calibrated manner. Faesal during his interviews with international media houses and slew of tweets made no bones about his dissatisfaction over New Delhi's unilateral decision.

Even he tweeted that "there would no Eid in Kashmir till the last bit of insult is avenged and undone".

On August 14, Faesal was detained at Delhi airport and sent back to Srinagar where he was booked under PSA. On June 4, 2020, he was released after nearly 10 months from the detention. After his release, he bid good bye to the political party he had founded over a year ago and almost faded into oblivion.

Last year, Faesal admired Modi's vaccination drive which led to the rumours that he may re-join the coveted IAS as his resignation had not been accepted till then.

The youth of Kashmir for whom Faesal was someone to look up to were disillusioned by his decisions--first giving up the politics and now re-joining the system. They see the development as a total surrender on his part.

It appears that his “sacrifice” narrative was a ploy to advance his career in politics and when he found it difficult he changed the narrative. Politics in region like Kashmir, which is stuck in a morass of conflict, is not a cakewalk. It is to dance on razor's edge.

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