Bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal, who left the party he himself founded, quit only after making contact with top officials in the Union government. Faesal had a talk with National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval before informing his party colleagues in the Jammu & Kashmir People’s Movement (JKPM) that he was leaving, HT has learnt.
Faesal, 37, who hits the headlines in 2009, when he became the first person from Kashmir to top the Indian Administrative Services exam, acknowledged that he has been in touch with officials in New Delhi, although he declined to specify details.
“There has been a lot of speculation about the conversations I’m having with people in the government. I have been a member of IAS, and it’s nothing strange if I’m meeting people in the government,” he said.
“I have to live and work here and this is perfectly normal,” he added.
The NSA was not available for comment.
Faesal suggested that he is not opposed to rejoining the service, and there is talk that he could be reinstated.
Faesal, who once promised to be the voice of Kashmir’s young people has come a long way. His views, too, have changed. “I think we need to understand that in 1949 national consensus was about incorporating Article 370 and the 2019 national consensus is about scrapping it. We have to understand the mood of the nation and come to terms with the reality.”
Early in 2019, Faesal announced his resignation from the IAS and became a vocal critic of the government. Jammu & Kashmir was stripped of its special status in August last year, and at the time, he tweeted: “Kashmir will need a long, sustained non-violent political mass movement for the restoration of political rights. Abolition of Art 370 has finished the mainstream. Constitutionalists are gone. So you can either be a stooge or a separatist now. No shades of grey.”
He has now deleted all his tweets. Asked to explain the stooge-and-separatist comment , he said: “I was talking about the political grey zone in which electoral politics operated. I said that once the grey zone is over now people will call you stooge or separatist. [And] I said I’m neither of the two.”
He added: “I’m a proud citizen of this country who wants to make a difference in the lives of people. I don’t recognise these labels at all.”
In a signed article for this paper in January last year, Faesal enunciated the reasons he quit the IAS. He said then that Kashmir was in a crisis and that as an insider, he had decided to ring the alarm bell.
After being in touch with top officials in the government, Faesal now says he accepts the new reality. “We are face to face with a new political reality in Kashmir. Since August 5, the facts on the ground have changed. I want to articulate my understanding of the situation without the need to be politically correct. Kashmir has suffered a lot in the past. I don’t want to bank on the old illusions, take Kashmiris down a garden path, and build my career on that. I’m quitting with all humility and telling people that I can’t promise something that I can’t deliver.”
He now seems hopeful that the legislative route will provide answers. “In a democracy, this consensus is dynamic and we should not lose hope. The same Parliament has provided answers in the past and I’m sure the same Parliament will provide answers in the future also,” he said.
Faesal’s resignation from the IAS is still pending and he may be reinstated, though the timeline for that is not clear. “The rules can be tweaked to accommodate him,” an official said.
Faesal is not averse to returning to the bureaucratic fold. “I am not averse to working with the government. Public administration is my domain of expertise. That’s where I belong,” he said.
Officials in Delhi and Srinagar who asked not to be named said he could be rejoining soon, and could also be reinstated in an advisory role.