SRINAGAR: Kashmir’s IAS 2009 topper, Dr Shah Feasal, who resigned from the coveted service early 2019, finally launched his own political party, the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples’ Movement. The party launch event was held at Rajbagh’s Public Park, the Gindun (let us play).
The prominent female face at the party launch was Shehla Rashid, the JNU research scholar, who came into prominence as a student leader. The dominant slogan was – “Ab Hawa Badlay Gi”.
A gathering of people from diverse fields and from across Jammu and Kashmir were in attendance. They were driven to the venue from various districts.
Faesal quit IAS on January 9, 2019, in reaction to the “unabated killings in Kashmir” and Delhi’s refusal to initiate a political process in the state and also cited “marginalisation of Indian Muslims” as a factor.
“Kashmir is a political issue and it should be resolved in a political way. Those at the helm of affairs enjoy while the people in Kashmir suffer. I saw this while in service,” Shah Feasal had said the day he resigned. “I was deeply disturbed by seeing these things. That is why I left the civil service.”
Speaking to the party launch crowd, the former babu started with the globally notorious Treaty of Amritsar under which the East India Company sold Kashmir in 1846 to Gulab Singh. Its anniversary fell on March 16.
“For more than 100 years, we were managed like herds of cattle,” Feasal said. “The indignation of that Treaty is still not forgotten.”
He said his desperation to do something for the people made him a doctor first and an IAS officer later and in 10 years of the service he could feel that no development would matter till the new generation continues to be handled with humiliation and indignity.
Kashmiri Blood On Hands
“In the past 70 years, our political class has been transacting a politics that pushed people to a sort of slavery,” he said. He said he talked to two parties for joining them and they treated him respectfully. “But when people heard that I would be joining them, they cautioning me saying the hands of these parties are drenched in the blood of Kashmir and if you join them, we will not see your face again.” This, he said, was the main factor for him to launch his own separate party.
“Now the same people who were after me (to join them) are saying that it is Delhi’s conspiracy and that I am BJP or an RSS agent,” Feasl said. This, he said follows the age-old rule. “People tend to reject the new ideas first and then they resort to conspiracies against it and finally they resort to war. I tell you, I am ready to face this criticism and I am ready to fight this war.”
To respond to this criticism, Feasal read a few lines from one of Habib Jalib’s famous poem that is revolutionary and political in nature:
Main bhi khaaif nahein takhta-e-daar se,
Main bhi Mansoor hoon, keh do aghyaar se,
Kyun daraatey ho zindaan ki deevar se,
Zulm ki baat ko,
Jehl ki raat ko,
Main nahein maanta,
Main nahein jaanta.
Tum nay loota hai sadyon hamaara sukoon,
Ab na hum per chalega tumhara fasoon,
Charaagar dardmandon ke bantey ho kyun?
Tum nahein charaagar,
Koi maane magar,
Main nahein maanta,
Main nahein jaanta.
Shah Feasal insisted that his party is neither region specific nor a religious one. It belongs to Muslims the same way it belongs to Dogras and Buddhists. He said he believes in actual Ghar Wapsi of Kashmiri Pandits because their return is crucial to Kashmir culture and politics.
Explaining the people who are him “the first team”, Feasal introduced a few names. He said they all have an element of sacrifice like him in joining the new party. “I had still 25 years to go in the government and move up to many big positions and nobody leave all this to just become an agent,” he said.
His team, according to him, includes Feroz Pirzada, whom he introduced a billionaire of the state; Baldev Singh, a major car dealer in Kashmir; Dr Musatafa Hafiz, a Hafiz-e-Quran and an Assistant Professor; Uzair Rounga, a London read lawyer; another lawyer Iqbal Tahir and raja Mehmood. They all are well established and have their own money. This was in addition to Shehla Rashid.
On Kashmir issue, Feasal said, his party believes in facilitation and shortening the distance between Delhi and Srinagar. “We want peaceful resolution strictly as per the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir but it has to be done by India and Pakistan,” Fesal said. “I cannot say that I will solve it but we will facilitate it.”
On the economic front, Dr Shah Feasal said his party believes in the revival of Silk Route that puts Jammu and Kashmir at the centre of it. On the political front, he said he will ensure adequate political representations of minorities.
Youth Are Victims
Feasal regretted that while efforts are on to divide the state on geographic and communal lines, his party believes in reverse and is against the ideas of the division. “Our party is basically humanitarian one and we do not believe in any kind of divisions,” he said. “Our party is youth oriented because youth are the principal victims of the crisis and they deserve the priority over all other sections of the society because they are being killed, pelleted, injured and jailed.”
Feasal said the idea of the party is to put a closure on the blood bathing because it devastates families of everybody, including the CRPF and other forces. He said the people living on the LoC and IB are caught between two armies and their lives are in grave danger because of the rivalry between the two countries.
On Karnah front, Shah Feasal demanded a Kartarpur style corridor involving Karnah-Muzaffarabad and Uri. He said the party will work on it and seek its establishment. He made special mention of Arvind Kejriwal and Imran Khan who, he said, exhibited the rare fighting spirit and, despite attacks, remained steadfast.
Earlier speaking to the gathering Shehla Rashid said the women in Kashmir are most vulnerable and they must join the party. They have suffered more than others. She also said the party is an ideal platform for the students who have been denied their basic rights to express their political dissent. “I am not a dynast, I have come from the student activism,” she said. “It is not a party, it is a movement.”
Pre Launch Release
The party also released a vision document minutes before its launch. The document said the new party will pursue a “peaceful resolution of the Kashmir problem as per the will and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir” and will attempt to bring about “sustainable peace” by “making the people politically empowered, economically prosperous, socially emancipated, ethically evolved, culturally enlightened and environmentally conscious”.
The party asserted protecting the special status to the state sought “adequate political representation for under-represented communities like Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians and Kashmiri Pandits”.
“The party shall promote a culture of tolerance and people to people contact between people of Jammu and Kashmir and rest of the country,” the manifesto said. “The party shall seek to build an environment of justice and reconciliation in the state of Jammu and Kashmir by addressing the aspirations of all regions and communities.”
The Vision Document
The Vision Document said the party would use democratic methods and legislative processes for resolution of all disputes, issues and problems. It listed its objectives in this order:
- The party shall pursue a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir problem as per the will and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir State.
- To engender sustainable peace in J&K by making the people politically empowered, economically prosperous, socially emancipated, ethically evolved, culturally enlightened and environmentally conscious.
- To leverage the geo-strategic position of J&K to make it the gateway to Central Asia. A “Look Up-North” centre for the Subcontinent.
- The party shall work towards reviving the centrality of Jammu and Kashmir State to the ancient Silk Route civilization so that Jammu and Kashmir can re-emerge as a corridor of peace between various South Asian neighbours.
- The party shall work for the upliftment of ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities in the State and work for the peaceful and dignified return of Kashmiri Pandits to their homeland.
- To seek adequate political representation for under-represented communities like Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians and Kashmiri Pandits.
- The party shall protect the special status of the State as per the existing Constitutional arrangement.
- The party shall strive to rebuild J&K as an inclusive pluralistic society with religious, ethnic, linguistic, and geographical diversity and to revive neglected cultural traditions and arts like Dogra art, Buddhist heritage and other folk traditions.
- The party shall promote sustainable development strategies and ensure protection and preservation of the environmental and cultural heritage of the state; building a peoples movement around the safeguarding of mountains, forests, meadows, water bodies, lakes, rivers, springs and other green spaces besides the diverse cultural traditions, art and craft, historical monuments and intangible heritage of the state.
- To build a progressive, gender-sensitive political institution with traditional values and modern sensibilities to give women equal rights and representation in all spheres, be it constitutional, legislative or administrative.
- To be a youth-centric organization in terms of the cadres, strategies, agenda, and aspirations.
- The party shall focus on job creation to end the unemployment of educated people, skill development of youth and ensure transparency in the recruitment process.
- To incorporate the vision of the Diaspora and their aspirations into the developmental journey of the State.
- To address the regional aspirations of the people of Jammu, Kashmir, Peer Panchal, Leh-Kargil, Chenab Valley and ensure equitable regional development through level playing field, access to and entitlement of national, state and regional and local resources.
- To build a governance structure that is in line with the needs and requirements of the state.
- To empower the elected representatives at all three levels for grassroots participatory governance in the state and give power back to the people.
- To evolve a transparent system of allocation, and distribution of all government’s commercial activity.
- The party shall promote a culture of tolerance and people to people contact between people of Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of the country.
- The party shall seek to build an environment of justice and reconciliation in the State of Jammu and Kashmir by addressing the aspirations of all regions and communities.
- The party shall work for securing equal rights and opportunities for women and their full participation in the collective social, cultural, economic and political life.
- The party shall work for the uplifting of the marginalized communities like Schedule Caste, Schedule Tribe, Gujjar, Bakerwal, Pahari, Dard-Shina, Balti, and various religious and ethnic minorities like
- The party shall seek justice for the disadvantaged sections of the society; people affected by violent conflict, people living close to LoC/ALC and International Border, persons with disabilities, senior citizens, single parents, trans-genders, Mahigeer, homeless displaced people and other depressed classes.
- The party shall seek to promote a culture of transparency and accountability and ensure that the dignity of the people of Jammu and Kashmir is of paramount importance while delivering economic development and good governance.
- The party is committed to the task of building a developed democratic Jammu and Kashmir State based on principles of equal opportunity to all citizens.
- The party will endeavour to campaign against the evil influence of money power and muscle power vitiating democratic politics.
- The party will pursue to provide, education, health facilities, accessible and quality infrastructure and security to all the people of Jammu and Kashmir state.
- The party will promote employment, ease of doing business and industrial development and will provide the facilities to the people of Jammu and Kashmir as per the eligibility basis without any discrimination and work for the welfare of farmers. Reorienting education and research towards the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the arrival of Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and nanotechnology.
- The party will achieve its objective through peaceful and democratic forms of campaigns like meetings, seminars, conferences and rallies. It will also raise the contemporary issues affecting common citizens during election campaigns.
- To put in place a framework for consultative policy making where all stakeholders including Non-governmental, voluntary and civil society organizations shall play a decisive role in policy formulation on political, economic and social issues.