As he entered the football field behind Jogger’s Park in Srinagar, Shah Faesal did not step on to the stage. Instead, he took a seat among the rows of people supporting his newly founded political party — Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement, amid chants of “ab hawa badlegi”.
The former bureaucrat took to the stage only after being prompted, looking at the crowd of roughly a thousand. “The indignation experienced by us more than 150 years ago still weighs heavy on us,” Faesal said, referring to the Treaty of Amritsar signed between the East India Company and Raja Gulab Singh.
He told the people that he had other choices, and considered joining other parties, but was thankful to the young people of the state for pushing him in the right direction. “I was at a point where I had to decide which political party I should join. While I was mulling that decision, people — especially the young people — displayed a lot of anger and outrage. I am thankful for that because they helped me take a very important decision. We decided to float our own party, and I was forced by the people to do so,” he said.
Faesal, who resigned from the Indian Administrative Service in January, said “the same people who invited me to join their parties now claim this is a conspiracy hatched by the BJP, RSS and the central government”.
At the launch of his party, he said, “I repeatedly give examples of Imran Khan and Arvind Kejriwal because they struggled for years but did not let their faith waver. Imran Khan won the election after 22 years and he was called a military man. History is witness to the fact that whenever a new idea or new revolution materialises, it is first dismissed. Then conspiracies are invented and war is declared against them.
“We have started this party with the intention of providing new politics to a state that has witnessed betrayals for the last 70 years. This is not the party of one particular region or religion. For me Dogras from Jammu, Buddhists from Jammu and Muslims from Rajouri or Poonch are all brothers.” He emphasised that Kashmiri Pandits remain an integral part of the state and its culture and without their “dignified return to the state, our politics remains incomplete”.
A vision document published online by Faesal before the launch highlighted the party’s objectives. It said the party will “pursue peaceful resolution of the Kashmir problem as per the will and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir State”. It will also strive to engender “sustainable peace” in J&K by making the people politically empowered, economically prosperous, socially emancipated, ethically evolved, culturally enlightened and environmentally conscious. It will seek to leverage the geo-strategic position of J&K to make it the gateway to Central Asia, “A “Look Up-North” center for the Subcontinent.”
Faesal was flanked on stage by his four-year-old son, former JNUSU students’ union vice-president Shehla Rashid and businessman Feroze Peerzada, who is likely to be the party’s candidate from North Kashmir for Lok Sabha polls.