By Sushil Kutty
The world has changed for the man with the emperor-esque name, Shah Faesal, the first Kashmiri to top the Indian Civil Services Exam; the man who broke into the ranks of the IAS with the proverbial bang, and was felicitated and lauded for being the role model, an apt example, to the youth of the terror-traumatized border state.
And for a spell, Faesal did play the role of the able administrator. Then, he broke ranks and “quit” the IAS, ostensibly mad at the Centre for its decision to scrap Article 370 and do away with Article 35, both articles of faith for the Kashmiri Muslim, the ones that tenuously bound him to India and the Constitution of India. Shah Faesal refused to be a “stooge” of the powers that be and he was placed under “arrest” for the harsh words he spoke to spell the state of his mind at that point in time.
Today, well over a year after the ‘August 5, 2019 Abrogation’, Shah Faesal is once more a new man! With a new set of ideals, he’s ripe for “Ghar Wapsi”, one which could see him reinstated in the Indian Administrative Service! The bureaucrat-turned-politician is ready to become “politician-turned-bureaucrat.” Don’t be surprised, there are stranger things happening! But before he made his comeback, Faesal did some “cleaning of the slate,” so to speak. He dumped the political party he had founded, the Jammu & Kashmir People’s Movement (JKPM), and he bid adieu to party-men.
Now comes news that Shah Faesal did this only after clearing a well-demarked path forward for himself in the larger world that he had quit well over a year ago. It emerges that Shah informed the JKPM of his change of mind only after he had a nice cozy talk with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. Of course, his erstwhile JKPM colleagues haven’t taken umbrage at Shah’s volte face. Shah’s flip-flops are not something new. They had been established well before and henceforth they will follow him to the here-in-after, and beyond.
Shah Faesal’s JKPM colleagues might be the forgiving sort, but that doesn’t mean everybody in the Kashmir Valley, and the “masters” across the LoC, would look at him indulgently as the prodigal who chose to return home! The separatists and the militants, not to speak of the terrorists, homegrown or Pak-spawned, will not take kindly to Shah Faesal’s “apostate.” Our man will have to from now on keep his travel plans close to his chest, never take the same path twice, on successive days!
The big fact is Shah Faesal has made “contact” with the Union government. And there’s talk that he’s convinced the Modi Government that he was ready to return to the IAS, and that the government is “game” to his “homecoming.” The 37-year-old who topped the IAS exams in 2009 is said to have negotiated a return to “service,” and may even land an “advisory” post.
The obvious question is: What’s the Modi Government up to; how can Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah trust and agree to take on a man who had just a little over a year ago thrown all “allegiance to India” vows in the dustbin and walked out?
Is Shah Faesal such a big catch, and will his return IAS change the minds of Kashmiri youth who had lauded and cheered his decision to dump the IAS and India? Without doubt, as far as the Kashmiri youth of the Valley are concerned, the majority of them, Shah Faesal will from now on be a traitor to the cause. And because the government at the Centre is the “Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party,” he will be hated all the more. Shah Faesal will no more walk the tightrope, if that was what he was doing to date.
No matter what happens, for the hardline separatist, Shah Faesal has rejoined the ranks of the “enemy” and there he will remain! Faesal says it’s “nothing strange” if he’s “meeting and conversing” with people in the government. Oh, this man is either the trusting sort or naïve. He can’t be both, or can he? Shah says that no matter what, he will have to “live and work here,” and that it is “perfectly normal.”
Again, miscalculation. Chances are that more than half of the Kashmir Valley will not agree with him, forget the denizens living in lands across the border, those who were banking on him to land Kashmir in their laps. And looking back, the fact that his resignation was kept in “hold” will make his “resignation” and “reinstatement” look and sound like a “drama” enacted by the Centre and him in cahoots. If Shah Faesal gets reinstated with full back pay and dearness allowance paid, his seniority intact, it will be a new hara-kiri practiced in the higher echelons of policy, at the core of which will be “you live to fight another day even with all the fight in you gone.”
Shah Faesal skirts all such talk. His worldview has changed. The days locked up “inhouse” have transformed him. He thinks different now, and understands that the “mood of the nation” has also changed. Finally, Shah Faesal understands the saying “When in Rome…”