After resigning 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 am putting across a small act of defiance to remind the central government of its responsibilities towards 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 to The Indian Express that he had been reinstated in the civil services.
Earlier in the day, the IAS officer dropped hints of his return to the bureaucracy, tweeting, “While chasing a chimera, I lost almost everything that I had built over the years. Job. Friends. Reputation. Public goodwill. But I never lost hope. My idealism had let me down.”
He added, “I had faith in myself. That I would undo the mistakes I had made. That life would give me another chance. A part of me is exhausted with the memory of those 8 months and wants to erase that legacy. Much of it is already gone. Time will mop off the rest, I believe … I am really excited to start all over again.”
The eight months he referred to were the ones 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 in its own space. Bureaucracy cannot dictate terms to the politicians. Politician represents the will of the people.” He also termed the Hurriyat “the custodians of the sentiments of the people of J&K”.
Faesal, who is from Sogam in North Kashmir, rose to prominence in 2010 after becoming the first Kashmiri to top the civil services exam. A trained doctor, he was allotted the J&K cadre and went on to serve the former state in various capacities, including in the education and power development departments.
In March 2019, as he launched his party dressed in a traditional shalwar-kameez and blazer, Faesal highlighted the example of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan and said, “History is witness to the fact that whenever a new idea or a new revolution materialises, it is first dismissed.” He claimed his party would provide “new politics” to a region that had witnessed “betrayals” for 70 years.
With J&K’s special status repealed by the Union government in August 2019 — and amid a crackdown on communications, movement, and the region’s political leadership — Faesal continued to voice concerns about the “unprecedented curbs” on the lives of the people of J&K. Within a few days, he was prevented from boarding a flight to Istanbul from Delhi and taken back to Srinagar.
He spent the next 10 months in detention, first at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) and then at Srinagar’s MLA hostel, alongside political leaders such as Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) Naeem Akhtar and Waheed Para, People’s Conference chairman Sajad Lone, and the National Conference’s (NC) Ali Mohammad Sagar.
After six months of preventive detention, Faesal was booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA). In a 90-page dossier, he was accused of advocating “soft separatism” through his articles, tweets, and social media posts that amounted to “a potential threat to public order”.
In June 2020, the PSA charges were dropped and Faesal was released. He spent more time in house detention before quitting politics and resigning from his party in August 2020.
Last year, Faesal deleted his tweets and started afresh, amplifying SOS requests in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic and congratulating the Centre on its vaccination efforts. After a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the political leadership of Jammu and Kashmir in June 2021, he tweeted, “Prime Minister’s initiative has raised lot of expectations across Jammu and Kashmir. Everyone I spoke to from Kashmir told me that something good is happening after a long time. May the duri end soon.”
— With inputs from Deeptiman Tiwary in New Delhi