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Shah Faesal returns to IAS, but the damage his resignation caused to Kashmir society has been done

Bashir Assad

In 2010, Shah Faesal became a house hold name in Kashmir after topping the elite Indian Administrative Services (IAS). And made national headlines as the first Kashmiri to do so.

The man who etched his name in the mind of every Kashmiri after this stupendous feat of 2010 has returned to the services after a gap of four years.  Faesal resigned from IAS in January 2019 to float his own political party, The Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement (JKPM).

In August 2019, New Delhi annulled the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by scrapping Article 35 A and Article 370 of the Constitution of India. Shah Faesal, along with many other political leaders and activists, was taken into what the administration termed as ‘preventive custody’. He was released from custody after four or five months. After his release, a disenchanted Faesal gave up on politics, and publicly expressed his willingness to return to the elite IAS services.

The union government was yet to decide on his resignation from the IAS. Faesal moved an application formally seeking withdrawal of his resignation to return to the services. The process was set into motion, and earlier this month, the government reinstated Faisal.

In any other state, this may have been simple. A star bureaucrat quits the services. Joins politics. Leaves politics, demands reinstatement in services, is back.

In Kashmir, it didn’t pan out so simply.


How His Resignation Impacted Kashmir

Faesal was idolized by every youngster of Kashmir who sought a great, happy career. He was Kashmir’s top youth icon. After joining politics in 2019, Faesal became the most controversial person of the times in Kashmir. It was a fall from his earlier iconic image.

Now, Faesal was now abused by his friends and foes alike. It was not just about the personal damage to his career. Perhaps Faesal is aware of the intense social damage his decision caused. On April 27, he tweeted:

“8 months of my life (Jan 2019-Aug 2019) created so much baggage that I was almost finished. 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… I would undo the mistakes I had made… A part of me is exhausted with the memory of those 8 months and wants to erase that legacy…As I look back, many words I said, things I did, people I met, causes I stood for and means I adopted were wrong. I suffered for the choices I made…”

This is about the personal damage Faesal’s decision to quit IAS and join politics caused. Tragically, the damage went much further. When a huge tree falls, the earth beneath it shakes.


Faesal Quitting IAS Shook The Faith Of The Youth, Alienated Them From State

Faesal’s resignation shook the faith and trust of thousands of budding youth of Kashmir for whom he was once the biggest source of inspiration. His personal losses on account of quitting the services can be quantified. How damaging this single move by Shah Faesal was for Kashmir society, the Kashmiris watched with horror.

Shah Faesal’s quitting the IAS had a phenomenal impact on the thought processes of millions of young aspirants in Kashmir. I do not know how far Faesal himself realized this. When Faesal quit politics, it was not seen as his political ambition. The youngsters read it as the message that the Indian state had failed Kashmiris. It was widely assumed that Faesal was quitting IAS because he was disillusioned with the Indian state.

After he was released from preventive custody, Faesal had said, “I cannot lead my people down the garden path”. The truth, however, is that Faesal’s resignation snuffed out the dreams and aspirations of so many Kashmiri youth. His resignation had a deeply detrimental impact upon the emotional fragility of Kashmir society.

Though aspirational, Kashmiri youth are emotionally vulnerable. Pakistan is always ready to exploit the emotional vulnerability of the youth of Kashmir. Faesal’s resignation and the discourse he wanted to set further aggravated the alienation and sense of insecurity among the youth in Kashmir. His joining back is a great relief for him and his family. It may also be good for Kashmir society. But the damage caused to the emotional integration of Kashmiri youth with mainland India has been done. How much of it Faesal can now reverse remains to be seen.


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