Harvard University students, alumni write to Indian govt seeking release of Shah Faesal, other Jammu and Kashmir leaders

  • Appealing the government to take 'credible action' keeping democratic rights of people in place, the Harvard University alumni requested the release of the former IAS officer

  • Faesal was detained at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport while leaving for abroad and sent back to Kashmir on the same day

  • Other than Faesal, former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah were also put under house arrest

Expressing concern over the detention of former civil servant-turned-politician Shah Faesal, as many as 124 students, faculty, alumni and affiliates of the Harvard University on Thursday urged the Indian government to release the Kashmir-based Harvard alumnus and other local leaders.

"We are concerned about the latest restrictions and arrests of many local leaders, including a Harvard student and politician, Shah Faesal," read the statement.

Appealing the government to take "credible action" keeping democratic rights of people in place, the Harvard University alumni requested the release of the former IAS officer and other local leaders who are under arrest.

"We urge the Government to release Shah Faesal and other local leaders. We request the government to take credible action keeping in mind the democratic rights of people during the process of bringing peace to the Valley," the statement further read. The statement also appealed for "democratic and peaceful means to ensure stability in the state of Jammu and Kashmir”

 Harvard University students, alumni write to Indian govt seeking release of Shah Faesal, other Jammu and Kashmir leaders

File Image of Shah Faesal, leader of Jammu and Kashmir People's Movement. News18

Faesal was detained at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport on 14 August and sent back to Kashmir on the same day. The next day, he was reportedly taken to a makeshift detention centre at the Centaur Hotel in Srinagar.

According to officials, Faesal was detained under the Public Safety Act. Apart from Faesal, former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah were also put under house arrest, a day prior to the Centre's announcement to abrogate Article 370, which provided autonomy and certain special rights to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Faesal had made headlines with his controversial remarks on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir since the abolition of Article 370 and the security clampdown.

Sharply critical of the abrogation of state's special status, Faesal had called the government's move "daylight robbery" and "greatest betrayal" for the people of Kashmir. He took to Twitter to vent out his anger and said, "Kashmir will need a long, sustained, non-violent political mass movement for restoration of the political rights. Abolition of Article 370 has finished the mainstream. Constitutionalists are gone. So you can either be a stooge or a separatist now. No shades of grey."

He also gave several media interviews in which he strongly condemned the 'undemocratic' manner in which the new setup was imposed on a state, which is already restive and conflict-ridden with secessionist sentiment competing for space in mainstream politics. "Agar hampar ahsan kar rahe ho, to humse pooch to lete pehle (If you are doing us a favour, then at least you could have asked us whether we want it or not)," Faesal told journalist Barkha Dutt in an interview when asked about the much-touted 'benefits' of abrogating the 'obstructive' piece of legislation, which apparently promoted a sense of 'otherness' in Kashmiris, as per the government's arguments.

The repercussions of Faesal's dissent were predictable, with the former IAS officer garnering widespread criticism on social media, including the 'anti-national' tag. Those a little more reasonable and less scathing in their criticism accused faisal of sympathising with separatists and militants and spreading 'hopelessness' in Valley.

Faesal, given his academic credentials and a tragic past, has always been a subject of public attention. But his journey from being a media darling — at least the mainstream Indian media —to a so-called 'anti-national' has been remarkable.

Faesal, whose father was killed by militants in Kashmir, was a bright student. He first caught the attention when he sat for the medical entrance exam a day after his father's demise and managed to secure a seat by clearing the highly competitive exam in 2002. Nine years later, as a qualified doctor and an additional master's degree in Urdu under his belt, Faesal hit headlines after he topped the IAS examination, becoming perhaps the first from Kashmir Valley to do so.

"His success motivated hundreds of local aspirants to compete in the Union Public Service Commission examinations, an effort that resulted in a quantum jump in the number of students appearing from the Valley. With his speeches and interviews, widely televised on Doordarshan, he emerged as a poster boy from the troubled Valley. His story of success became a counter-narrative to the discourse of alienation that was driving youth to militancy and street protests," a profile of him published in The Hindu reads.

He remained on and off front pages with his controversial decisions while in service, which included ordering a magisterial probe into the killing of a civilian, Farhat Ahmad Dar, in firing by security forces on protesters within his jurisdiction in 2014. Subsequently, his tweets and write-ups on the Kashmir problem drew criticism from Indian politicians. Faesal ultimately resigned from the Indian Administrative Service and floated the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement (JKPM) party in March, 2019, to "influence policy decisions" in a larger way.

Many supported Faesal, who had topped IAS examination in 2010 and quit the service in January, 2019, to join politics. Hundreds of his supporters thronged the launch venue in Srinagar’s Rajbagh chanting the party slogan: "Ab Hawah Badlegi" (Now winds will change directions).

Faesal, who was bound for Istanbul, was detained at the airport during the intervening night of Tuesday and Wednesday, reports said. Later, there were claims that Faesal was enroute Harvard and merely had a transition flight in Turkey.

Updated Date: Aug 17, 2019 11:04:36 IST