Bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal, who stepped down from the post of president of Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement, on Tuesday said a perception had been created that he was “an anti-national” because of some of his “problematic utterances”. Faesal is currently under house arrest in Srinagar.
“Due to some of my statements, I let down a lot of people who had immense goodwill for me,” he told The Indian Express in an interview. “I want to undo that.”
On Monday, Faesal had said he wanted to be “freed from the responsibilities” of JKPM, a party he founded after quitting the civil services last year, as he was not in a position to continue with political activities. His resignation was formally accepted at an online meeting of the State Executive Committee of the JKPM.
The bureaucrat-turned-politician said he decided to quit because he realised that in politics, “it was really hard to tell the truth” to the people. “I did not want to lead Kashmiris down the garden path and raise unrealistic expectations,” he said. Faesal spoke of a “new political reality” of Kashmir, and said he did not want to show “quixotic dreams” to people when he had no power to change it.
Faesal said he wanted to begin with a clean slate and focus on doing something productive. However, he did not specify if that meant he would return to government services. “I don’t know what’s stored in future and where will I go,” he told the newspaper. “My fundamental interest is in education, health, poverty alleviation, employment generation and I wish to contribute in those sectors.”
He added that he had dreams for the erstwhile state. When asked if he saw scope for mainstream politics in J&K, Faesal said: “I have absolutely no idea.”
Faesal said his detention by the Jammu and Kashmir administration proved to be an immense learning phase, which eventually gave him the clarity that he “belonged somewhere else”. “It’s your family that suffers the most while ironically those for whom you seem to be standing up are drawing a sadistic pleasure out of your misery,” he added.
The former bureaucrat said he realised he could not ruin his life for people “who won’t even cry for me”, adding that he took his time to decide about leaving politics.
Faesal was among hundreds of political leaders of the Valley who were taken into custody last year after the Centre scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. In February, he was booked under the stringent Public Safety Act. He was charged for advocating “soft separatism” through his social media posts and articles, according to the government.
On May 14, the administration had extended Faesal’s detention by three months. Faesal was then about to complete three months of detention under the law and was due for a review. He was finally released in June. However, a day later, the Jammu and Kashmir administration put him under house arrest.
‘What made Faesal change mind so abruptly?’: Mehbooba Mufti
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday questioned Faesal’s resignation and asked what made him change his mind “so abruptly”.
“What made a man deeply passionate about bringing effective change to people of J&K through politics change his mind so abruptly?” she said in a tweet. Her Twitter handle is now operated by her daughter Iltija Mufti.
“A UPSC [Union Public Service Commission] topper and Harvard scholar who excelled as a civil officer and had no dearth of career options,” she added. “Shah Faesal post August 5, said in a BBC interview that a Kashmiri leader could only be a stooge or a separatist now. He was detained right after and slapped with PSA subsequently.”
Mufti said that unlike other mainstream parties, Faesal had “no political baggage and therefore, enjoyed considerable popularity and credibility amongst masses”. “JKPM’s vision document was well within realm of constitutional rights given to J&K,” she added.