After stepping down from the bureaucracy in January 2019, Kashmiri IAS Officer Shah Faesal claimed it was “a small act of defiance” and there were several “provocations” that led to the decision. “I issue a small act of defiance to remind the central government of its responsibilities to the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.
Faesal’s resignation was never accepted by the government and on Thursday, Union Home Ministry officials confirmed The Indian Express that he had been reinstated in the civil service.
Earlier in the day, the IAS officer hinted he would return to bureaucracytweeting, “Chasing a chimera I lost almost everything I had built over the years. Job. Friends. Reputation. Public benevolence. But I never gave up hope. My idealism had left me fall.
He added: “I had confidence in myself. That I would fix the mistakes I had made. This life would give me another chance. A part of me is exhausted by the memory of these 8 months and wants to erase this legacy. Much of it has already disappeared. Time will mop up the rest, I think… I’m really excited to start all over again.
The eight months he refers to are those after his resignation that he spent launching his party, the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement. In an interview with The Indian Express at the time, Faesal said, “Bureaucracy operated within its own space. Bureaucracy cannot dictate terms to politicians. The politician represents the will of the people. He also called the Hurriyat “guardians of the feelings of the people of J&K”.
Faesal who hails from Sogam in North Kashmir rose to prominence in 2010 after becoming the first Kashmiri to pass the civil service exam. A doctor by training, he was assigned the executive of J&K and later served the former state in various capacities, including in the departments of education and energy development.
In March 2019, as he launched his party dressed in a traditional shalwar-kameez and blazer, Faesal highlighted the example of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and said, “History bears witness to the fact that whenever a new idea or a new revolution materializes, he is fired first. He claimed his party would provide “new politics” to a region that had witnessed “betrayals” for 70 years.
With the repeal of J&K’s special status by the Union government in August 2019 – and amid a crackdown on communications, movements and political leaders in the region – Faesal has continued to voice concerns about ” unprecedented brakes” on the lives of the inhabitants of J&K. Within days, he was prevented from boarding a flight to Istanbul from Delhi and brought back to Srinagar.
He spent the next 10 months in detention, first at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Center (SKICC) and then at the MLA hostel in Srinagar, alongside political leaders such as Naeem Akhtar of the Peoples’ Democratic Party. (PDP) and Waheed Para, President of the People’s Conference. Sajad Lone and Ali Mohammad Sagar of the National Conference (NC).
After six months of preventive detention, Faesal has been booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA). In a 90-page file, he was accused of advocating “soft separatism” through his articles, tweets and social media posts which constituted “a potential threat to public order”.
In June 2020, PSA’s charges were dropped and Faesal was released. He spent more time under house arrest before quitting politics and resigning from his party in August 2020.
Last year, Faesal deleted his tweets and started again, amplifying SOS requests amid the Covid-19 pandemic and praising the Center for its vaccination efforts. After a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir in June 2021, he tweeted: “The Prime Minister’s initiative has raised a lot of expectations across Jammu and Kashmir. Everyone I spoke to from Kashmir told me that something good was happening after a long time. May the duri end soon.
— With contributions from Deeptiman Tiwary in New Delhi