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And now Shah Faesal

After Omar Abdullah and Mahbooba Mufti, it is now Shah Faesal. The former civil servant has been booked under infamous Pubic Safety Act which allows detention without trial from six months to two years. He is the seventh pro India politician booked under the PSA. Since 1990, the PSA has been used an instrument to silence the voices and activities of separatists. But with the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional position under Article 370 of the Indian constitution in August last year, pro India voices opposed to the abrogation of 370 too were brought under the scale of the PSA. Dr Farooq Abdullah, former chief minister and National Conference patriarch was the first high profile pro India politician to have been booked under the law. Ironically, the law (PSA) was promulgated in the state by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah (Farooq Abdullah’s father) to deal with his political opponents. Over 25,000 people are reported to have been booked under PSA by different government at different stages. But it was for the first time that government of India booked its own people under this law. Shah Faesal is the latest politician to have been booked under PSA. Shah Faesal was an IAS officer. He gave away his lucrative bureaucratic position to join politics in 2018, and formed his own political outfit—Jammu and Kashmir Peoples’ Movement.

Politics in Kashmir is a tightly controlled market in which entry is free but the rise and sustenance requires resources and patronage. He was projected as future hope in Kashmir, who had the capacity to influence the young minds. He, indeed, acquired an iconic image when he qualified prestigious IAS examination in 2009 with first rank. Many young educated youth were inspired by him and in the process got to the All India Civil Services. In 2016 when Kashmiri youth overwhelmingly hit streets in protest against the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, many media outlets in India tried to project Shah as the real icon of Kashmiri youth. Right from University scholars to school drop-outs, a rage of sorts was igniting the young minds into defiance. Burhan Wani, by use of social media, had indeed become an inspiration. Though militancy in Jammu and Kashmir is around 32-year old but since 2002, it had started a gradual decline. And many areas in the valley, south Kashmir in particular, were declared as militant free. It was against this backdrop that 2008 assembly elections, despite Amarnath Land row, witnessed huge participation of people. The rise of Burhan Wani, gave a new direction to the entire political spectrum. Many people viewed Shah Faesal’s political move as a counter to it. He was a part of political project aimed at influencing a change in the thoughts and minds of young Kashmir by prompting and promoting new icons in Kashmir politics. But the scrapping of Article 370 changed the entire scenario. Many well established politicians and their parties like National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) within no time became irrelevant. The novice rather naive Shah Faesal was no exception.  As a part of the lockdown in the aftermath of abrogation of 370, Shah Faesal was detained at Delhi airport on August 14, 2019 as he was about to fly abroad. He was brought back to Srinagar, and detained since. Minutes before his arrest in Delhi, Shah Faesal, in Hard Talk with BBC, criticized government of India over abrogation of Article 370. He said that in the new scenario one could either be a stooge or a rebel, and “I can’t be a stooge”. He remained in detention without trial over six months before PSA was slapped on him last week.