Shah Faesal, former IAS officer-turned-politician, who stepped down from the top post of Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement -- says that during his detention for the past one year, he has realised that he should not “sell false dreams” to the people of Kashmir.
Faesal had floated the J&K People’s Movement a year ago after he had quit the civil services. On Monday, however, he stepped from the top post amid speculations that he may rejoin the government services.
Faesal was arrested in August 2019 from Delhi airport and detained till June. He is currently placed under house arrest.
Speaking to Outlook, Faesal says that the period of detention has brought in him a transformation and offered him a “ringside view” of Kashmir politics.
“The period of detention transformed me. It was a ringside view of Kashmir politics. As I came to terms with the August 5 decisions, I realised I should not sell false dreams to people and instead stand up and tell the truth to them. There is no shame in accepting the reality and telling people that look I can't promise you something which I can't deliver,” Faesal tells Outlook.
In response to a question about what had changed in Jammu and Kashmir politics since August 5, 2019, Faesal says the decision to abrogate Article 370 eliminated the grey zone. “The 1949 National consensus was that Article 370 should stay. The 2019 National consensus is that it should go. In such an environment you are either with India or against India,” he says.
“Those of us who reject this consensus will find it very difficult to operate in a non-existent space,” he adds.
Amid a strict lockdown, extensive military build up, communication blockade and arrest of thousands of people including three former chief ministers, the Centre on August 5 last year revoked Article 370, nullified Article 35A and bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into Union Territories. Faesal had expressed his resentment against the move. He was arrested after his interview with the BBC in which he had said , “The abrogation of Article 370 has finished the mainstream. Constitutionalists are gone. So you can either be a stooge or a separatist now. No shades of grey.”
Now, Faesal says, mainstream politics in Kashmir will be about confronting the new political reality and working around the national discourse. “I don't think there are too many choices now,” he says.
Will he ever return to politics? “I have quit politics because I don’t want to give false hope. Rather than telling people two decades later ‘look, I can't do it’, I am doing it now. I don't think I can ever come back to this field,” Faesal says.
Faesal terms the Kashmir politics “complicated”. “People want you to fight for them but they won't stand behind you. You are alone between the devil and the deep sea.”
He argues that violent conflict has led to a lack of consensus on basic issues in Kashmir. “There are a million visions of the future and each one of them is mutually clashing. In such an environment, you can choose to be a leader at your own peril,” the former IAS topper says.
“In Kashmir, only a dead leader is a good leader. That is not how societies progress.”