Shah Faesal Saga

…intolerance of intolerants

Dr. Javid Iqbal
Srinagar, Publish Date: Jul 17 2018 11:19PM | Updated Date: Jul 17 2018 11:19PM
Shah Faesal SagaFile Photo

Shah Faesal is in the eye of the storm for wrong reasons. An innocuous tweet on rapes in South Asia has demonstrated the intolerance of the intolerants. The intolerants have taken exception to a mixture of factors labelled by Faesal as shaping, ‘Rapistan’. The term ’Rapistan’ is not coined by Faesal as such, but one in vogue, ever since Nirbhiya hit the headlines. Nirbhiya concerned an awful, nauseating case of rape in the Indian capital of Jyoti Singh Pandey—a physiotherapy intern in 2012. Jyoti was acclaimed as Nirbhiya (fearless) as she symbolised women’s struggle to end the rape culture in India. Jyoti died in a Singapore hospital, where she was airlifted from Delhi for advanced treatment. The shameful incident shook the conscience of the nation.  

 Shah Faesal posted a couple of tweets in April, listing factors that fuel `Rapistan’. The factors were listed as, "patriarchy, population, illiteracy, alcohol, porn, technology and anarchy". Hardly anyone in right senses would argue with that. Faesal’s tweets way back in April could have been prompted by Asifa rape and murder in Kathua. Whatever the motivating factor, one would go with Faesal’s argument, as he refers to the "rape culture" in whole of "south Asia" and not just India. Faesal said so in a note of clarification. Faesal’s clarification could be augmented by the case of Zainab across the border. The minor from Kasur was brutally raped and murdered by strangulation earlier this year. The gruesome incident shook Pakistan, as much as the Nirbhiya case in Delhi. It may not be India specific, as Faesal makes out, however being a much larger country, holding over a billion people, many more cases are reported from India, almost on a daily basis, hence the clamour. 

GOI’s Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT) taking exception to Faesal’s tweet defies reason. The department has asked JK Government to initiate action against Shah Faesal. General Administration Department (GAD) has promptly obliged. It is alleged that Faesal "failed in maintaining absolute honesty and integrity in discharge of official duty and thus acted in a manner unbecoming of public servant.’’ In the letter, GAD has quoted the communication of DOPT, attributing references to Faesal that are related to stand in contravention of the extant provisions of All India Services (conduct Rules) 1968/ All India services (discipline and appeal Rules 1969). The GAD letter which Faesal casts as, ‘Love letter from my boss for my sarcastic tweet against rape-culture in South Asia’’ is not only in bad taste, but makes a laughing stock of so called ‘conduct rules’. Faesal shares it to ask for a rule change, making out markedly that the,’’ Irony here is that service rules with a colonial spirit are invoked in a democratic India to stifle the freedom of conscience.’’ 

Besides involving larger question of whether a civil servant loses the right to free speech once he gets employed, we may focus on the fact that we are talking of the same Shah Faesal, who was cast by the Indian media as a role model for Kashmiri youth, a role model they ought to follow instead of standing for resistance. And, make no mistake, in some of his newspaper columns, Faesal stood for status-quo, making light of the struggle people were engaged in. It implied futility of what people are up to. However, if on one hand, Faesal had a word against what the overwhelming majority believed in, on the other hand, he was cajoling the Indian media for making him part of its "sadistic propaganda" and drawing his comparison with killed Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. Faesal took exception to the some TV channels airing his pictures alongside bullet-riddled body of Burhan Wani. His comment on ‘Facebook’ was telling, "By juxtaposing my photos with the images of a slain militant commander, a section of national media has once again fallen back upon its conventional savagery that cashes on falsehoods, divides people and creates more hatred." Faesal was exasperated to the point of threatening resignation "sooner or later" if the "nonsense" continued. He was indeed becoming a part of what he called ‘’ a ridiculous debate’’ adding to his, "personal vulnerability.’’ 

The violence ensuing with the killing of Burhan Wani—mounting civilian casualties, multiplicity of dead eyes had Faesal comment in another of his ‘Facebook’ posts that while Kashmir was "mourning its dead, the propaganda and provocation being dished out from red and blue newsrooms is breeding more alienation and anger in Kashmir than what (the) Indian state can manage."   The intolerance of the intolerants multiplies when a note is taken of his talk of Kashmir’s relationship with India being music, and such a heavy weather made of his comment on factors constituting ‘Rapistan’.  On the larger question of a civil servant losing his right of free speech, it could be argued that while restrained is advisable in cases where a civil servant is handling a situation as per the policies of political executive, which may be contrary to his own views, the gag may not involve larger debates around social issues. One cannot but agree with Faesal, as he makes out that civil servants are not, ‘’mere pen-pushers here who have no business in participating in the larger debates around social issues just because our opinions can be misinterpreted as being critical of the government of the day." The ruling regimes may not thin skinned to the extent of making it an issue, as has been done in case of Shah Faesal.   


Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]









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