Former IAS officer Shah Faesal, who quit the service recently, shared his future plans, saying he would not join any mainstream political parties “as of now”, or the separatist Hurriyat Conference, but would be happy to contest the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The 2010-batch officer said he was deeply inspired by the style of politics of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, but the “situation” in Jammu and Kashmir would not allow him to pursue politics in their style.
“As of now, I do not have any plans to join any existing mainstream political party. I plan to go to the field, listen to the ground, to the youngsters and important stakeholders and then take a decision,” he told reporters here.
“I am deeply inspired by Imran Khan and Arvind Kejriwal. But, we know we are operating in a conflict zone and it is not very easy for us to work in that space, a space which has lost legitimacy in the last few years.
“I wish if the youngsters of the state give me that kind of opportunity, I will be happy to do a retake of Imran Khan and Kejriwal,” Faesal added.
He said he would be holding consultations with all stakeholders, including political parties, before taking the next step. “In Kashmir, we need to come together. We are in a crisis situation. It is not the time to do politics on the graves of the people.”
Asked if he would be contesting the elections, Faesal said, “I will be happy to contest the upcoming elections. In fact, I believe parliament and legislature are an important space and we need well-meaning and right people there.”
He said in recent years, due to the “delegitimising” of electoral politics because of the way it has been conducted, youth are not attracted to it. “We need to change that. I wish to use Parliament for engagement, for bringing solutions to our problems.”
On a question about the possibility of him joining the Hurriyat, Faesal said he would not do so as he cannot put to use his expertise in that forum.
“I am a man from the system and I have experience and my specialisation is in governance… I will be happy to do something in the institutions where I can use my experience as an administrator. I wish I could do that elsewhere as well, but because the Hurriyat does not give me that kind of opportunity, very rightly because Hurriyat does not believe in electoral politics. So, I think at this moment I may not be able to do that,” he said.
However, he said it was wrong to assume the Hurriyat has no role in achieving resolution of the Kashmir problem. He also said phrases such as ‘azaadi’, right to self-determination and plebiscite should not be seen as taboo words in mainstream politics.
“We have this political discourse and there are certain taboo words … we should not talk about azaadi, we should not talk about plebiscite… all these, which are not actually taboo words.”
“Let mainstream politics actually open its eyes to that vocabulary and re-imagine,” he said.
“We have got politicians to deal with municipal problems and military to deal with political problem. I think that is a problem itself. We need to open the space for the politicians and leave other things to those who need to be doing it,” he added.
In response to a question about the timing of his resignation, Faesal said he did it at the right time. “Resignation is a weapon which can be used only once and I think I have used it at the right time.”
Faesal said his new initiative of peace-building should not be seen as an alternative to the existing parties, but an addition.
He said his resignation from the IAS has nothing to do with the factors within the service, but factors external to it and the environment in which he was working there.
“The service has given me an opportunity to understand the development problems of the state and serve the people at the grassroots level. I will always be a proud ex-member of the service,” he said.
He said that over the last few years, in the state and the rest of the country, there have been circumstances that made him realise that this is the time to speak up.
“By the resignation, I am putting across a small act of defiance to remind the Central Government of its responsibilities towards the people of JK. I am resigning to protest the lack of political initiative to assuage the hurt feelings of the people of Kashmir.”
Faesal said in recent years, there have been serious attacks on the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
“The constitutional arrangement which exists between the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the Union of India under Articles 370 and 35-A have been constantly invoked for electoral gains”.
He also accused the Centre of failure to facilitate the homecoming of Kashmiri Pandits, “an important element of our diverse culture”.
Faesal also spoke about “lack” of initiative for bringing peace to border residents, especially in Jammu, R S Pura, Poonch and Rajouri.
He said the rise of “lynch mob nationalism” in the last few years has led to the extreme marginalisation of minorities — both political and religious — in the country.
“The other thing that has led to me being disgruntled is the curbs placed on the free speech of individuals in the country and the culture of hate and intolerance used to win elections.”
Faesal said due to the service conduct rules, it would not have been possible for him to speak out. “Today I’m feeling extremely relieved. I’m free now.”