Will Kashmiri youth accept Faesal in his new avatar?

Will Kashmiri youth accept Faesal in his new avatar?


Shah Faesal. (Image courtesy Twitter)

When Shah Faesal, the 2010 IAS topper from Kashmir, resigned from the civil services on January 9 to protest “unabated killings, absence of credible political initiative from Delhi” and “rise of Hindutva forces”, the decision was neither unexpected nor abrupt.

His outspokenness on social media and criticism of the government had already led to several run-ins with the Centre. On April 22 last year, Faesal took to Twitter to share his thoughts on rape culture in India. “Patriarchy+Population+Illiteracy+Alcohol+Porn+Technology+Anarchy = Rapistan! (sic),” he tweeted.
After a show cause notice from the Centre, the outspoken bureaucrat wrote another post: "The irony here is that service rules with a colonial spirit are invoked in a democratic India to stifle the freedom of conscience.” 

'Slavery of mind'

Earlier in March 2017, Faesal, who comes from a remote village of frontier northern Kupwara district, made sarcastic remarks on government jobs and also on the political situation in the Valley. He called a government job “slavery of mind, eyes, tongue, hands and feet.”
With such frank statements, Faesal, who was already a role model and inspiration for Kashmiri youth, struck a chord with restless, angry and alienated youth in Kashmir. And as soon he returned from Harvard Kennedy School in US, where he had gone on study leave as an Edward S Mason Fellow, he announced his decision.
Though he has kept his cards close to his chest regarding his next move, it is being speculated that Faesal, whose father was gunned down by militants in 2001, resigned to join politics and most likely National Conference headed by Omar Abdullah.
His resignation created a sensation in political circles at national and state levels, cornering the central government for the managed social polarisation and marginalisation of minorities.
Just a day after his resignation, Faesal said that he has not made any decision yet about his future plans and said that depends upon what the people of Kashmir want him to do, ‘more so the youth.’ He said he will visit the “ground” and ask young people to tell him what his next move in politics should be.
However, he made it clear that he would not switch over to the separatists’ camp and his future will be in electoral politics. “Since the Hurriyat does not subscribe to electoral politics, there is little scope for me to put my administrative skill and experience into practice by joining the Hurriyat,” he said during a presser in Srinagar.
Prof Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a Kashmir-based political expert, believes Faesal’s politics might not be as new as people would like to believe. “Mainstream politicians from the regional National Conference, PDP and other parties who are in electoral processes have used words like ‘azaadi’ and ‘plebiscite’ to either strike a chord with the public or to undermine separatist politics,” he said. 

Will he bring change?

Writer Iqbal Fahim said, “To become parliamentarian/MLA is not a big problem, even Kukka Parry (renegade commander) was gifted with the post. The question is, can Faesal, if sent to Parliament, bring a perceptible change in the mindset of the people?”
“We have seen many people being sent to Parliament but what have they done? The proposal of autonomy passed by J&K Assembly (in 2000) could not save it from being thrown into dustbin (by the Centre) and Faesal is no exception in Central political scheme of things,” he commented.
Only time will tell whether youth, who considered Faesal an icon before his resignation, will accept him in his new avatar.