Shah Faesal Quits Politics, Resigns as JKPM President

Faesal's decision, said JKPM functionaries, was triggered by the fact that the Centre had grown discreet in its decision making and did not involve political participants as much.

Srinagar: Bureaucrat-turned-politician, Shah Faesal has resigned from Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Movement (JKPM), a party he launched in March last year.

Confirming Faesal’s decision, senior JKPM leader Feroze Peerzada said the “worsening” political situation in Kashmir post-August 5 last year, when the Centre read down J&K’s special status was the reason behind Faesal’s decision to quit politics.

According to Peerzada, Faesal had made up his mind months ago. “We were trying to persuade him for the last one month to reconsider his decision, but he didn’t agree,” said Peerzada. “He has bid goodbye to politics.”

A statement issued by JKPM this afternoon said its state executive committee met and among other things discussed Faesal’s “request” that he be spared from carrying out organisational responsibilities. Faesal was the president of the JKPM.

Also read: Shah Faesal Is Not a Gunda, PSA Charges Were a Bad Surprise, Says His Family

According to the party, Faesal informed the committee that he was “not in a position to continue with political activities and wants to be freed from the responsibilities of the organisation.”

“Keeping in view this request, it was decided to accept his request so that he can better continue with his life and contribute [in]  whichever way he chooses,” said the statement.

Reports about Faesal, the 2010 IAS topper, quitting politics first surfaced on Sunday when he dropped from his Twitter as the founder of JKPM.

In January 2019 Faesal had quit civil services in protest against the “unabated killings” in Kashmir. Two months later, he kick-started his political career, amid promises to give an alternative political platform to the youth of J&K.

“I haven’t come here to engage in traditional politics,” Faesal had said at the launch of his party in the summer capital Srinagar. “This party doesn’t belong to any particular religion or group. It is the people’s party, and I invite all of you, particularly the youth, to join us. Our party will be youth-oriented.” His party operated under the slogan, ‘Hawa badlegi’ (‘winds will change’).

Also read: The Indian State Has No Plan for Jammu and Kashmir or Its People

One of the vocal critics of the Centre’s August move to scrap Article 370, Faesal had on August 13 last year said, “Kashmir will need a long, sustained, non-violent mass movement for restoration of the political rights.”

In an interview with BBC, Faesal later said: “I’m not going to be a stooge…This new phase of insult, this new phase of indignation has begun on August 5, 2019, and it is my generation that has now got the taste of the betrayal and I don’t know how this is going to play out.”

He was subsequently detained at the Delhi airport on August 15 as he tried to board a flight to Istanbul and was sent back to Srinagar and put under detention.

The young politician from Lolab Valley of Kupwara district was booked under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) on February 14 this year, on the day his six-month preventive detention ended. Though his PSA was revoked on June 4, he continues to be under the house arrest.

Peerzada, who is set to take over as an interim president of the JKPM, said the politics has “altogether changed” in J&K since August 5 last year.

“There is a vast difference between now and then. We don’t know how long this uncertainty will continue. We have no idea what they (the Centre) intend to do next in J&K. They are taking every decision very discreetly, without taking people into confidence,” he said. “All these factors contributed to his decision.”

What next for Faesal?

Media reports have suggested that 37-year-old Faesal, a doctor by profession, could rejoin the services as his resignation has not been accepted to date.

His name has also not been removed from the list of J&K cadre IAS officers on the official website of the government. “The officer has submitted his resignation which has been forwarded to the DOPT (Department of Personnel and Training) GoI for acceptance,” reads the information against his name on the official website.

Some reports have also suggested that he might travel to the US to pursue studies. In 2018, Faesal was enrolled in the Mid-Career MPA programme at Harvard Kennedy Schools in the US, as a Fulbright Scholar, before he set up the JKPM.

The Wire tried to contact Faesal but he remained inaccessible. “He has switched off his mobile phone and has been unavailable to the party members for the past few days,” said a senior JKPM leader.

Peerzada said Faesal may indeed choose to go for further studies. “We don’t know if he will be rejoining the civil services. He may decide to go for studies abroad, which has been his passion,” said Peerzada.

‘Big setback’ for JKPM

Faesal’s decision to quit politics is seen as a setback for the JKPM which is still in its infancy and is trying to establish itself on political landscape of J&K.

In his short political career, Faesal has received significant support, especially on social media, in and outside Kashmir and was able to attract new faces into the fold.

“His decision is a big setback for the party,” said a JKPM member. “Most of us are in shock as we had never thought he will quit politics,” said the party member.

Peerzada said there was no denying the fact that JKPM “reached the level” where it is today because of Faesal. “His contribution in party building has been immense,” he said.

Today, Peerzada claimed, J&K has 1.5 lakh members and the credit goes to Faesal. “People joined the party because they were emotionally attached to him,” said Peerzada.

He said the JKPM will now try to reassemble itself and keep going despite the prevailing circumstances. “It is a big challenge for all of us. We will try to reassure people and supporters,” said Peerzada.

But the road ahead will not be smooth for the party. On the day Faesal announced the decision, another senior party leader, Javaid Mustafa Mir also quit JKPM.

A three-time legislator and former cabinet minister, Mir had quit Peoples Democratic Party in March last year to join JKPM. A seasoned politician, Mir has been under house arrest since August 5 last year. The JKPM said it has accepted Mir’s resignation. “It was his personal decision,” said Peerzada.