'August 5 eliminated all future deals and dealers in Kashmir'

A day after quitting politics, Shah Faesal shared his thoughts with Greater Kashmir about his decision, saying his exit from the politics was not a U-turn but a “moving on”. Excerpts:

Why a U-turn to exit from politics?

It’s not a U-turn. It’s called moving on. It’s an ethical realisation that while I can do my politics by promising sun and moon to people, I must do that, keeping in view the changed political realities in Kashmir. I can still talk about plebiscite, UN resolution, return of article 370 and appeal to crowds. But I don’t want to deceive Kashmiris at a time when facts on the ground have changed.

Does your decision give credibility to rumours that JKPM was a planted project and not your brainchild?

In a conflict zone it’s very easy to label people. JKPM is there as a party. I have taken a decision to move on in life and do something else. Those who are spreading canards about me were enjoying barbecue on the Boulevard when I was in jail. I have nothing more to prove to anyone.

Since your resignation has not reportedly been accepted by DOPT even after two years, will you join back the bureaucracy?

As of now my decision is only to quit politics. And I repeat I’m doing (it) so that I can articulate my ideas without sounding politically correct. There is no shame in telling people that look I cannot promise you something that I can’t deliver in view of the August 5 decisions. I think this honesty needs to be respected.  Where I will go from here only time will tell.

Last year you said that after August 5 decision one is either a stooge or a separatist in Kashmir. Where do you find yourself now?

This ideological binary was first introduced to me by famous Kashmiri economist. It’s his patented term and I think it means the elimination of grey zone is so complete that one side will see you as stooge and another as a separatist and there is no middle way. I have said in the same interview that I am neither. I have a dream to see peace returning to Jammu and Kashmir and the people here getting access to best education, health and employment opportunities.  What does that make me, I leave it to people to decide.

What will happen to the money that you collected through fund raising for JKPM?

Good that you asked that. We raised around six lakh and one hundred rupees. It’s a public account and anyone can go and check the statement. The party has not closed.  Anyone can go and ask for details. Every rupee has been spent on cash relief to pellet victims, critically ill patients and other needy people.  I have requested my colleagues to make the details public. Some people said we have collected crores (of rupees). It was just six lakh and one hundred rupees. Mind you in 18 months of my activism, I lost 20 lakh rupees as salary. It is shameful that such questions are being raised by those who even didn’t contribute a penny.

Do you regret your decisions of joining politics?

It was a great learning experience for me. My elders would often advise me that I should not jump into the unknown waters because I was dealing with a difficult society. A society in conflict that doesn’t trust anyone. A society that has become so cynical that while I was in jail, away from my family, people were celebrating and abusing me. For what, for having stood up for them? We make mistakes but at the end of the day what matters is that do we take lessons from them or not. I am happy that I got to know so many people during this time. My understanding of Kashmir politics improved. The jail term has particularly changed my worldview and given me new insights into life. I am not regretting.

What’s the thinking behind deleting your tweets?

I have decided to move on in life and make a new beginning. Initially I felt like Camus’ Stranger as I came out of detention after ten months. It seemed as if I was reborn into completely unfamiliar world. That feeling is getting stronger by the day. I don’t relate much to what I was before going to jail. Maybe I have become more practical now. And I want to focus on small changes rather than wasting my life over the big thing.  It’s a journey of life and I want to live and start afresh. It’s my life and I am to live it. I hope these decisions would be respected.

Now that you have quit politics, do you still feel you have moral authority to comment on society that is suffering from decades now?

Moral authority comes out of sacrifice. I am a victim of this conflict, I have lost my father to it, I have been to jail and I think I have every reason to think of the welfare of this society of which I am a part. I don’t want what happened to me should happen to anyone else.

You have made frequent trips to New Delhi after your release. Can you elaborate or reveal something on it?

Delhi is not Dalal Street of Kashmiri politics. And there is nothing left to be sold. Sooner we realise better it is. There could be non-political reasons of going to Delhi. It’s unfortunate that every time some public person is seen at Srinagar airport there is some speculation that a deal is being done. We should realise that August 5 has eliminated all future deals and dealers in Kashmir.