Hawa Badlegi

Shah Faesal, the 2009 IAS topper, having recently resigned from the service has formally launched a new political party, Jammu & Kashmir Peoples’ Movement, in Srinagar. Along with Faesal, the other notable figure who joined the party is a JNU scholar, Shehla Rashid.

Faesal had made headlines, first when he topped the civil services, next when he was compared with the then militant outfit, Hizbul Mujahedeen’s poster boy Burhan Wani and finally when he resigned from IAS, “protesting the unabated civilian killings and absence of a sincere outreach from the centre”. 

Shehla Rashid has been in the news ever since she ran for the vice-president post in the JNU student elections as a nominee of the left backed All India Students Association (AISA). Not only was she the first Kashmiri woman to have contested elections at the JNU but she was also the highest polled candidate of the year 2015.

Before jumping into student politics, she was quite vocal about human right situations in Kashmir. She believes that her activism stemmed from the Kashmir civil unrest of 2010 and that left her changed for ever. She raised issues pertaining to juvenile justice and acid attack victims in Kashmir but she couldn’t make much impact owing to ‘absence of democratic space’ according to her. Her stint in JNU was not sans controversies.

She became the household name after this fire band orator rallied in support of the then president of JNU students’ union, Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid et al who were charged with sedition. 

 Shehla’s entry into J&K politics might have some impact on the ground. She represents woman who smash patriarchy and are willing to take decisions without bothering much about the fallouts. She, in 2013, came in support of Pragash- an all-girls music band from Kashmir- who faced an online slash of local netizens. She has also bashed right wing politics ever since she came into limelight.

Her foray into electoral process represents a change that her party sums up in its motto “Hawa Badlegi” (winds of time will change). In a patriarchal society marred by patriarchal and old fashioned values, Rashid comes with her own legacy of change. Her party intends to personalise these changes for the public good.

The vision document of the party focuses on seeking peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue. Though Shah Faesal didn’t elaborate over the contours of the resolution but Rashid has specifically left it to the consensus reached over by the residents amicably. At the launch ceremony of the party, Faesal has picked some important issues like ensuring Kashmiri displaced Pandits are returned back to their native places. Reviving Dogra and Buddhist cultures features in their political manifesto. 

The duo is being seen as representing youth and they meant business from the right go. In his maiden speech post launch of the party, Rashid has described the party as the platform for the youth. Her left background stuck chord with the party vision document wherein they have pledged to work for the upliftment of minorities in the state.

Social emancipation, political empowerment, environmental consciousness and cultural enlightenment are few goals towards which the party seems determined to work according to the vision document. There is a space for leftists in the state, more so, when the politics comes via youth.

The parties that have dominated the political scene in J&K have largely been centrists, with a little swing to the right, lately. Ironically, these parties have survived on either pitting regions or religions against each other.

This party appears to be different from the outlook. The presence of people from Ladakh and Jammu divisions at the launching ceremony of the party testifies how the party seems to evoke response across the religious and regional divide. 

Even though, there was an overwhelming response to the formation of this party. Although, it remains to be seen whether the party can translate this response into the political capital. At this moment, Faesal and Rashid represent the new hope.

(The author is from Tral. Twitter Handle  @zameindar)