Shah Faesal-An IAS Gone Rogue Or Just An Opportunist Taking Leap Of Faith
By Abhinav Pancholi
Shah Faesal is free of the Indian Administrative Service, and the service is free of Shah Faesal. Both sides must be quite relieved.No longer does he need to subscribe to the quaint ‘colonial era’ Conduct Rules. No longer does he need to work for what he once derided as ‘Rapistan’. His fellow officers need not defend or justify their locus standi vis-à-vis Shah Faesal. Bulbul-e-Kashmir has taken a flight of ambition. Whether the President of India is pleased to allow it to soar, and how soon, is a small matter for consideration of mere mortals and small minds, not for Fulbright scholars and Separatists’ sympathisers.
It was always a matter of when, not if, he rids himself of the stink of link with the Indian executive. His ‘rapistan’ tweet of April 2018 made it clear that he was an abusive partner in this relationship with the state.H ere was an officer bent on violating the terms of the hallowed covenant with the employer state. The 35-A tweet in August left nothing to imagination. By comparing the Article 35-A with a Nikahnama, he displayed his clear intent and inordinate hurry to utter the Triple Talaq to the IAS.
“You repeal it and the relationship is over. Nothing will remain to be discussed afterwards.” The meaning of cold threat was not lost on anybody. Now there was no going back. Omar Abdullah then tweeted in his support. It was obvious who was brewing Kahwa for whom.
Ironically, Shah Faesal, sans his hatred, is exactly the kind of model youths who are desired in a democratic political space. A doctor by profession, he was the first Kashmiri to top the UPSC examination in 2010. Over the years, he worked as District Magistrate, Director of School Education and Managing Director of the state-owned Power Development Corporation. Shah Faesal recently returned from the US after completing his Fulbright fellowship at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is sharp, articulate and is sensitive towards a lot of issues. I recall one of his Facebook post in which he questioned those husbands who find it hard to swallow that their wives might have more successful careers than them. Shah Faesal’s father was killed by militants. He has suffered personal tragedy at the hands of terrorism. Such a bright young man could have become a bridge between the Centre and Kashmiris by working towards removal of mistrust and misunderstandings. He could have helped to ameliorate the sufferings of the people of his state. But somewhere the script went wrong. Shah Faesal embraced separatism and went rogue.
Did it happen after Burhan Wani was killed in August 2016? Or when he shrilly protested against Delhi media for juxtaposing his image as a youth icon to contrast with the pictures of Burhan Wani as a misguided youth? Or did he get radicalised during his Havard stay when he must have realised there is a global market (eager audience) for fissiparous voices emerging from India, and especially Kashmir?
As he has been repeatedly parroting, of course, KASHMIRI LIVES MATTER, but so do the lives of Indian soldiers. Also does matter is the territorial integrity and unity of India. Separatism cannot be allowed to degenerate into terrorism. Howsoever badly it might lacerate the son of soil’s heart, common people are fair game once they start pelting stones and raising blockades at the sites of ongoing encounters. An IAS would have been expected to be less parochial, and a bit more nationalistic. Perhaps this is a lesson for the government as to why should home cadres not be allotted to government officers, else selfish interests and self-aggrandisements outshine every other consideration.
In his Facebook post announcing his resignation, Faesal has talked about unabated killings in Kashmir as if he is talking about Assad’s forces committing genocide in Syria. Such a narrative is deemed sexy and it sells. He mentions lack of any reaching out effort, but we have been at it since 1987 and what have we achieved thus far? What started off as a Pakistan blessed proxy war has degenerated into a full-fledged jihad. How do you reason with a jihadi who is bothered about his due rewards in the next world?
He also talks about the marginalisation and invisiblisation of 20 cr Muslims by Hindutva forces. This is where the pain just overflows and spills out. With this one comment, he becomes one with Umar Khalid, Shehla Rasheed, Naseeruddin Shah, and Imran Khan. This is where the hoax of all insaniyat –kashmiriyat-jamhooriyat gets exposed. The end, my dear friend, is jihad and it has already been successfully carried out in the late 1980s when Kashmiri Pandits were turned out or massacred. Kashmir was transmogrified from Darul Harab into Darul Islam, and since then all (Hindu) armed forced are considered as occupying forces. Which is why such rancour is exhibited in streets, and Kashmir problem is seen as a zero-sum game. Azadi was a decoy, Islamization was the real ploy.
Yet for all that Shah Faesal says, I thank him he has not compared Kashmir with Xinjiang or Baluchistan. There is still hope. We can still bring him back. He can still be coopted.
Rumours are afloat that Faesal might join National Conference and contest Lok Sabha elections from Baramulla. This would be a positive step from Delhi’s point of view. A young, articulate voice forming a new party or joining hands with Hurriyat would be quite a disasterous scenario as it would hand them a youth icon for pernicious propaganda . On the other hand, if he joins NC, Shah Faesal would be coopting with the system and would be exposed as just another opportunist power-seeker.In an article he wrote in the Indian Express some days back, he talked about “ the paradox in Kashmir that those who represent the sentiment do not participate in the electoral process and those who participate in the electoral process do not represent the sentiment. Elections have been held regularly since 1996, but there is a feeling that the elected representatives are either a disempowered lot, a group of helpless “daily-wagers” with the Government of India or that the elected representatives are misrepresenting their electorate by not speaking out about the basic Kashmir issue. This needs to change.” If he ends up fighting the elections on a NC ticket, he would himself be reduced to a ‘daily wager’.India would gain at his soul’s expense.
Bureaucrats everywhere are obviously quite interested in Shah Faesal’s moves. He has had an exemplary career so far. Now after his Havard stint, he has taken a leap of faith which many aspire to, but are able to summon courage for. It can be argued that Faesal is lucky in that he is a Kashmiri Muslim, who has some cause (howsoever flawed) to fight for. Being the IAS topper also turned him into an icon, and he doesn’t have too much competition from among his peers posted in JK. Many caustic, a lot of sarcastic and a few sympathetic reactions can be ascertained from the social media, especially from Group-A officers. One can also detect a tinge of jealousy, wistfulness and even awe in these responses. Whatever one might say, it doesn’t seem that Shah Faesal is too far gone as yet. One does hope this bright young man would indulge in constructive politics and help his country and his people to march ahead.
In a country of a 140 crores, I do care which way Shah Faesal swings because I care about Kashmir, and voices emanating from there. I am fed up of scions like Omar, Mehbooba, Lones and the Hurriyat hawks and welcome a new voice. Another reason is that Shah Faesal is a very good writer, and I hope he doesn’t dip his pen in blood and compose death verses.
Abhinav Pancholi, IRS, Kolkata. The author is an avid sports lover with a passion for literature.
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