Has 'Project Shah Faesal' of Government of India Failed In Kashmir?
Shah Faesal may rejoin his duties, would prefer staying away from the crowd but the questions will keep haunting him. Was Faesal and his IAS one of the many GOI’s long-planned CBMs? Has Project Shah Faesal failed? Has the Robot been called back to the factory for reloading?
Peerzada Ummer | India Tomorrow
SRINAGAR, AUGUST 16—The snow accumulated for three months of harsh winter chill had subtly begun to melt. Spring had arrived in Kashmir and it was the time for rose bosoms to open, for birds to sing, turn every leaf into a nest, and every tree into an orchestra.
It was the spring of political surprises too. Newspapers in March 2019 remained ruthlessly occupied with speculations of Shah Feasal, a 2010 batch IAS topper quitting his otherwise prestigious job and entering politics. On March 17, finally, he appeared in front of a crowd donning a blazer over Shalwar Kameez- imitating the style of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and announced the formation of his own political outfit that would contest polls, roll out a road map for youth empowerment and raise pitch for the resolution of Kashmir.
As Faesal appeared on the podium amid the rousing applause from his supporters, he began his lecture with the recitation of a Quranic chapter- Surah Al Asar, telling the audience that it alone is the guiding principle of his life and his struggle. Since Sheikh Abdullah’s demise in 1982, Kashmir has seldom seen any pro-India politician reciting Quranic verses in public rallies. Faesal presented himself as a maverick.
However, more than a year later, on August 12, 2020, in an interview, Faesal ridiculed his own self for becoming the part of Kashmir’s political landscape and hinted at joining his old duties back. The same newspapers who till last year were abuzz with his quitting the IAS and joining politics are these days infested with reports and op-eds of Faesal quitting politics and joining the IAS back. Some welcoming, some slamming the move.
Post-2010 when Faesal topped the IAS exams, he was presented by the news channels as a promising new face of conflict and violence-torn Kashmir valley. The region that had been witnessing mayhem, pillage, and bloodshed for two decades till then was meticulously given a new mascot, a new messiah. Faesal’s meteoric rise to the higher post was shown to the youth as the only alternative that could provide them a bulwark against the swirling tides. The following year (2011), parents begin sending their kids to Delhi to get trained for UPSC exams. A mushrooming of coaching centers imparting training for UPSC happened in Kashmir too. Till 2015, Faesal continued to remain the “youth icon”. And then the unthinkable happened. Burhan Wani, a newly recruited militant in his teens who one day left home and got arms training in the dense woods of Kashmir emerged on social media. His videos of playing cricket, sending out messages and singing Kashmiri songs became hugely popular among the youngsters. Burhan became successful in humanizing the militancy in Kashmir and instantly became a poster boy of Kashmir’s new-age militancy that till then was craving for a face to lure youth towards the violent path. His popularity was gauged by the security agencies soon after he was gunned down in a brief gun-battle in south Kashmir’s Kokernag on July 8, 2016. The next day 32 people were killed in protests. Kashmir witnessed its longest-ever strife of six long months leaving more than 90 people dead and an estimated 11 thousand injured. That was after years after intense anti-militancy operations and Government of India’s pacificatory measures that recruitment of local youth into the militancy outnumbered the foreign militants. That was the time when news channels again resurrected Faesal and his images began glaring in the news montages. The tagline for the debates used to be like this: “Shah Feasal Kashmir ki asal Umeed” (Shah Faseal the real hope of Kashmiris). Annoyed to the core, Faesal vented his anger through a tweet: “'I might prefer to resign sooner than later.” The civil servant made the remarks after finding himself being compared by the news channels to Burhan Wani. (Link)
What Faesal prophesized in the year 2016 happened in the year 2019. He actually resigned from IAS and announced the formation of his own political party “Jammu and Kashmir’s peoples' movement”. In his public lectures, while he was eulogizing Arvind Kejriwal, he was in the same breath hailing Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, calling him his inspiration and hope. He even sought donations from people, promising clean and transparent politics. He openly advocated for mass participation of youth into electoral politics. He went on to say that his purpose is to lure youth towards not boycotting the elections but actively participating in them.
Four months later, Kashmir plunged into despair with speculations rife that Delhi was about to strip the region of its special status. The government on August 2 began distributing satellite phones to its bureaucrats and police offices as Kashmiris were making serpentine queues outside petrol pumps and ATMs. The regional political parties-National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-began confabulating the modus operandi to tackle the situation. Faesal instantly jumped into the chorus, ensuring his presence in all such meets. Finally, he became a signatory of the Gupkar declaration which was unanimously passed by Kashmir’s mainstream parties at NC patriarch Dr. Farooq Abdullah’s fortified bungalow in Srinagar. Post August 5, when Article 370 was abrogated, Faesal became part of the herd of politicians who were detained by the government and bundled in local hotels and guest houses.
On June 5, this year, he was set free. However, after coming out of 10 months of captivity, Faesal preferred a stoic silence, choosing not to speak anything on 370, 35-A, his detention and his future course of action. On August 8, however, news began circulating that government hasn’t accepted Shah Faseal’s resignation that he had rendered more than one and a half year ago. The government, as per the reports, asked Faesal to join back the services. A day later, Faesal first removed politician tag from his twitter bio and then deleted all his tweets, turning his account into a blank page. On August 12, he gave an interview to a local daily in Srinagar, hinting that he was ready to join his job again.
“By going through Faesal’s ambivalent journey, one thinks of Patras Bukhari’s Tetwaal ka Kutta. The scenes prevalent about Faesal have given rise to so many questions- how could the government keep somebody’s resignation in limbo for more than 18 long months? How come the government asks a person to join back who has ridiculed and slammed it and its policies on public podiums? How his non- acceptance of resignation and his decision to leave politics happened on the same day?,” a political commentator wishing to remain anonymous told India Tomorrow.
The show, he said, has ended at a very sour note and the audience will leave the theatre without appreciating the performance of the lead actor.
Faesal may rejoin his duties, would prefer staying away from the crowd but the questions will keep haunting him. Was Faesal and his IAS one of the many GOI’s long-planned CBMs? Has Project Shah Faesal failed? Has the Robot been called back to the factory for reloading?