In a move that could give an entirely fresh dimension to mainstream politics in Jammu and Kashmir, the 2009-batch IAS officer Shah Faesal Wednesday resigned from the elite service with the apparent intent to join politics and vowed to "take on the divisive forces".
Citing "unabated killings in Kashmir and lack of any sincere outreach from New Delhi" for his decision to quit bureaucracy, Faesal is apparently the first young IAS officer in Kashmir to take the move that took many by surprise.
After months of speculation, Faesal announced that he has resigned from the service and would "soon decide" on his "future course of action".
Faesal returned to the state from the US on January 2 and applied for voluntary retirement from IAS on Monday.
In the past few months, he had dropped enough hints of joining the mainstream politics, even as the political grapevine says that he is likely to join National Conference and contest as its Lok Sabha candidate for the Baramulla-Kupwara parliamentary segment. The Lok Sabha polls are scheduled in April-May this year.
"To protest the unabated killings in Kashmir and absence of any credible political initiative from the union government, I have decided to resign from IAS. Kashmiri lives matter," Faesal wrote on his twitter handle, triggering a host of reactions from the netizens.
In a long post on Facebook, Faesal wrote that he is resigning to protest against the "marginalisation and invisiblisation (sic) of Indian Muslims, attacks on special identity of J&K and growing culture of intolerance and hate in the mainland India".
"I wish to remind the regime of the day that subversion of public institutions like the Reserve Bank of India, Central Bureau of Investigation and the National Investigation Agency has a potential to decimate the constitutional edifice of the country. I wish to reiterate that voices of reason in this country cannot be muzzled for long and the environment of siege will need to end if we wish to usher in true democracy," he wrote.
He announced that he would share his "future plans" on Friday.
"I will be addressing a press conference on Friday to share my future plans. I will look forward to your support and blessings in this new mission," he wrote.
Born in Sogam area of northern Lolab Valley in Kupwara district, Faesal, who completed his MBBS from SKIMS medical college in Srinagar, cracked the IAS in his first attempt in 2010. He became the first Kashmiri to top the prestigious civil service examination.
In the past eight years, he served at key positions including deputy commissioner Bandipora, director school education Kashmir and managing director, state power development corporation.
In 2018, he refused to join as secretary tourism and instead proceeded on study leave.
He would often echo his views on issues concerning Kashmir.
In 2016, he wrote that the "State killing its own citizens is the self-decimation of the worst sort".
In 2018, the government of India had asked the state government to take action against him for his "sarcastic comments" over rape cases taking place in the country.
After the Centre's directive, the state government served a notice to Faesal and asked him why action should not be taken against him "for violating the service rules".
'KILLINGS TAKE PLACE DUE TO POLITICAL VACCUM'
In a chat with Greater Kashmir Wednesday, Faesal said that killings are taking place "due to a political vacuum in Kashmir." He also said he would join a party that will provide a "stable government" in the state.
"This (killings) is what happens when politicians are asked to restrict themselves to municipal issues and military is asked to tackle the political issues. If there is a will to de-escalate things, then the situation can improve," he said.
Faesal said the state authorities "have to blink first and reach out to the people with a credible political initiative".
Making his intentions of joining politics clear, Faesal said he will join a political party that can help in "consolidating the mandate and provide a stable government to the people of Jammu and Kashmir".
"There is an immense need to bring together the three regions of the state—Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. That can only be done by a political party which can take on the divisive right-wing politics," he said.
Faesal said he wants to stand up against "dehumanisation" and "disenfranchisement" of Indian Muslims.
"I want to stand up against the treatment meted out to around 200 million Indian Muslims; against their complete dehumanisation and their disenfranchisement. I will prefer a party that shares my concern," he said.
To a question whether he felt suffocated in the IAS, Faesal said: "Not at all. IAS has given me an amazing opportunity to work for the people and stand up for them. It is not that I have felt disillusioned from the service."
He said he resigned to "respond to the extraordinary situation that has emerged in the state and rest of the country".
"I had no choice but to let go of the constraints placed on me as member of the service," he said.