Is Shah Faesal the last hope of JK

“I am here to disrupt the existing politics by reconciliation Theory”, says Shah Faesal

Kashmir Magazine

“I regret Imposing PSAs but was helpless”

Shah Faesal, ex-IAS officer after resigning from services and joining electoral politics has raised both aspirations and apprehensions in people especially youth in Jammu and Kashmir. The social media anger against his probable National conference joining has forced Shah Faesal to reconsider his decision before starting his political career. Later, Faesal decided to float an independent party to provide an ‘alternate’ to the bruised people. In his first public rally in Kupwara, sea of people encouraged Faesal and was seen walking down the lanes like real ‘sher-i-kashmir’. The ‘Pheran man”, the news maker, the last hope of people in Kashmir, Shah faesal, in an exclusive interview with Kashmir Magazine senior correspondent, Hamid Rather, talked about his nervousness, governance model, political ideological shifts and reconciliation theory that could pave a solution to the political crisis in the state. Here are the excerpts from the interview:

Q: Your first public address in Kupwara has attracted ocean of people. Such crowds were seen either in Hurriyat or late Sher-i-kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah rallies? Were you nervous before the address? How do you see the response, sir?

A: Breaks into laughter! I think there have been bigger crowds in earlier political rallies also. But, yes, for a new comer like me who did not have much time to prepare for the rally or mobilize people. It was a bit of surprise for me. I was nervous too as I had neither expected nor had spoken before such a large crowd earlier. But yes I am happy after interacting with the people.

Q: Why you leaped into politics and why you choose “electoral” path and not separatism?

A: For me, electoral path is fundamentally a very easier path for change. It is also about the way I have been looking into the things for last few years; I have been working with politicians and have seen things very closely. For me, it was like an opportunity to utilize my experience as an officer and then carry it forward to the next level.

Q: You said elected representatives do not represent the people but Hurriyat does represent the public sentiment? But they are elected through the same electoral process that you are entering? Do you think you are confusing the people?

A: I am not. I still stand by the same thing. I am saying that if you are going for any solution tomorrow it is not possible unless you take on board Hurriyat or other stakeholders. Mainstream Politics also has a responsibility of articulating some basic truths about Kashmir. I still maintain that there is a different class of people who actually represent the sentiment. It is their job fundamentally to talk about it and seek a solution.

Q: From slapping PSA to reaching out people’s mind and heart? Why this change of heart? Was this evolution sudden or gradual? What tools you may be employing to fade the negative impressions?

A: I think it has been a gradual evolution from last ten years. We all grow up with time; we come across with new realities and draw different conclusions in our lives. I think whatever I have done as an officer is part of my previous life. I do regret certain things in that life. But possibly you can’t do much about that. All I can do is not to repeat such mistakes in future and do something to change the situation so that other people don’t have to face what we are facing.

Q: Can you point out what sort of acts you regret?

A: You talked about imposing PSAs and sending people to jail. At a certain level I feel ok as it is bringing normalcy to the place and doing it in public order. But at the same time I also understand that just few of those youngsters who went to jail were involved in a large number of FIRs. Finally, the point is that they were their because of a certain situation and if they are doing something it is because of political crisis in Kashmir. So I feel that all these people are just victims of a political crisis and I regret that they were victimized by the system because the system can’t offer any solutions.

Q: So you believe that the genesis of the problem is ‘political crisis’. There has been a paradigm shift in your ideology towards dealing the political crisis in Kashmir. You talked about ‘false hope’ and ‘Integration theory’ when Kashmir was simmering in 2016. In 2018 you talked about “Paradox in the valley”. Is this growth or confusion in you? What is this, sir?

A: It is also an evolution. It is also about little bit of misunderstanding of the previous articles. I was actually raising certain questions in article titled “Kashmiris trapped in deadly politics of grief must abandon macabre heroism” published in Indian Express in December 2016. The idea was that I was asking what the fundamentals of certain things happening in Kashmir are. What basically we want? Are we clear on that? Are we clear on who is our leader? Are we clear on which side we want to go because we are the same people who participate in the elections and the same people who go to the funerals? We are the same people who boycott elections and the same people who go to the polling stations. So I wanted to ask some fundamental questions that we need to bring in certain clarity about what we want. Unless and until there is no clarity there can be no strategy to achieve that and I called that “false hope”.

Q: You called people to ‘find an anchor’ with India?

A: What I said is that if you are seeking larger integration with a larger ummah, muslim brotherhood across the world you are seeking integration with the rest of the countries and by that you are basically confusing the situation because on one side you are asking that this is the demand for right to self-determination and on the other side you want to get connected to some other country. So, I was saying why we need them? Are these questions valid? Aren’t we safer with someone else then? Isn’t the status quo better then? These were actually the questions I was asking and I was fundamentally not giving an answer

Q: So, is this your clarification to all those who believed your integration theory is another “false hope”. 

A: It is not. I think it is important for leaders to raise questions. I was not a leader that time but someone who has studied Kashmir situation and is a victim too. It does not matter that I should believe in all those things. I was not endorsing the ‘integration’ with India and just posing some questions, which is the fundamental responsibility of a leader and with time people can develop answer to those questions.

Q: Do you think that anti-India struggle in Kashmir is based on a false hope and that India is never going to respect the right to self-determination (RSD) demand of Kashmiris?

A: I think there are multiple demands and multiple solutions have been offered from past so many years. I think it will be finally decided by two neighbours who are nuclear-powers and will depend on the conversation happening between them and how kashmiris figure in that conversation. So I don’t know what is going to happen in future and it is very premature to talk about this as of now.

Q: NC and PDP agree to the finality of instrument of accession, Hurriyat rejects the same, what are your views on this instrument?

A: My take is that when there is a conversation on accession process we should be ready to acknowledge the ideas of those people who contest the very process by which the instrument of accession is signed. In democracy, it should be ok to engage in a dialogue with even those people who don’t agree with you. It is important that all the people with different views come together only then possibly we can reach a solution.

Q: As a new political front, how do you view “instrument of accession”?

A: As a political front I believe that all the stakeholders who have different views on the accession process should be listened to.

Q: So are you going to accumulate all those views?

A: Yeah. For us it is about facilitating a dialogue amongst the already existing views. We want to listen to both sides of the political spectrum in the state.

Q: You said “military solutions to political problems would lead to nothing but graveyards”. How will you reconcile New Delhi for this who believes only in ‘muscular policy’?

A: I think it is important for us to keep on pressurizing New Delhi that if you want to improve the situation in Jammu and Kashmir you have to climb down from this muscular policy and I am sure sooner or later that understanding is going to prevail.

Q: How do you view the solution of the Kashmir problem? Is it indispensable for peace in south Asia? What political solution you offer as an independent political ideologue?

A: If you look at this conflict it may look very complicated but at the same it could seem an easier one to solve because finally you know there are two countries, India and Pakistan, leaving china out at this juncture and people of India and Jammu and Kashmir have been willing to participate in this dialogue process. There have been certain movements between the two countries to solve the issue. There are so many solutions and it depends on the leadership of the two nations to take the lead and pick one solution which is acceptable to both. There have been conflicts in the world where there were no solutions but here we have so many possible solutions available.

Q: Dialogue is a way out? Why there is complacency from Government of India towards the ‘dialogue’ with all the stakeholders in Kashmir issue?

A: I agree that dialogue process need to be strengthened and if you look at the historical experiences of people across the world we see that there have been bigger conflicts than this and finally conflicts have been resolved. Recently, we have seen Taliban and America finally talking after fighting a war from so many years. So finally it is the dialogue to lead to peace.

Q: Rumours are rife that an independent political party is going to be set up under your leadership? What is the name of the party?

A: As of now the name of the party is a part of suspense. We have been crowd-sourcing ideas about the name of the party and name of the movement. As we get suggestions we will think over it.

Q: So are you going to take the people for a long ride?

A: Not at all. We are just trying to reach a consensus on something which is workable.

Q: Educated class in Kashmir view politicians as collaborators or resistants? Are you rising above this conventional regional political dichotomy? Do you have a “Reconcilation” theory, sir?

A: I have a reconciliation theory that either nobody should vote or if people vote they should vote for the right people. The problem here is that some of us don’t vote and some still vote and then you have a government which is by people who don’t understand the issues and don’t have sincerity of will to bring a change. So fundamentally I am very clear either abandon the space or don’t give it in the hands of those who don’t do any good to you.

Q: Do you think cent percent boycott or voting is possible? Isn’t it mere idealism?

A: It is and it should be cent percent boycott or voting. It is not ideal because two or three percent voting does not make any sense but still the government comes in and stays for six more years and then these people don’t take care of your health, education, environment, public goods and nothing is happening. We have a lot of corruption in the system and then we should be ready to live with the corruption in the system. Then who had not voted have to suffer and there should not be hue and cry when they are not voting to elect the right people who can make change. Both things can’t work together.

Q: You often talk about “Re-imaging politics” in Kashmir? Can you explain it to our readers?

A: By ‘Re-imaging politics’ I mean disrupting the existing politics in the state. People believe that mainstream politics is useless and as such they don’t need to vote and let rulers do whatever they want to do. We are saying no it is a very important space and we can constructively use it for providing good governance, acknowledging and voicing larger realities of the Kashmir conflict and helping and facilitating the peace process.

Q: Do you agree that there is institutional paralysis in Kashmir? Let me give you an example, JKPSC has failed to complete the KAS 2016 recruitment in three years? There has been public outcry against the institution? It is changing rules in the middle of the game? They are bringing reforms on whims and fancies? Nepotism, corruption and favoritism are at its peak in JKPSC and same is the case with other institutions? Do you have any new model for reforming this decaying governance model?

A: Yes, one of the things we want to do is to bring an institutional governance model. Suppose we have a group of thirty to fourty important institutions and they need to be reformed on urgent basis where as the larger governance framework will take time. If there are problems in particular institutions like L D Hospital, JKPSC, JKSSRB, or Kashmir University, why not fix them at the earliest. I have seen how miserably people are treated in civil secretariat and that crisis must be solved. I think we need to set targeted goals and make our institution more accountable, civil and people-oriented and I think it is achievable. We are confident to do it in a short span of time if voted to power.