New Delhi: JNU student leader Shehla Rashid Shora, a vocal critic of the Narendra Modi government, is set to join active politics as a member of fellow Kashmiri and former IAS officer Shah Faesal’s soon-to-be-launched party, a source has told ThePrint.
“Shora is going to join Shah Faesal, who is launching a new political party,” said the source.
“She is getting a central position in the core team. She has been working closely with Faesal over the past few months and was involved in the decision-making process for the inception of the party,” the source added.
Rashid, 31, a former vice-president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union, is currently pursuing a PhD in Technology and Citizen-State Relations at the premier institution.
She emerged as a prominent face after fellow JNU students Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya were arrested for a February 2016 protest against the execution of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
The trio had been accused of participating in “anti-national” chants, and Rashid was at the forefront of the student protests that followed their arrest.
“She decided to join politics after closely watching the repression under the Modi regime,” said another source who is close to Rashid. “She will be doing the same things, organising protests to raise the same issues she currently pursues, but her message will get amplified now.”
Rashid had told ThePrint last year that was not looking to contest elections “as of now”, saying she wanted to focus on academics and activism.
A new platform for Kashmiri youth
Faesal, the first Kashmiri to top the IAS exam, resigned from the service earlier this year to enter politics.
It was during an interview on news channel NDTV last month that he announced his decision to float a political party, which will be formally launched this Sunday.
Faesal gained prominence with his biting and incisive social-media takes on the burning issues of the day, and his party is expected to prove a big draw for the youth of Kashmir, where the two main political players are led by dynasties.
The “resolution of the Kashmir dispute, inclusive growth of all the state’s three regions (Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh), gender equality and environmental concerns” in the state are expected to be its main focus areas, according to the first of the two aforementioned sources.
Rashid, a Srinagar native, has been tasked with building the party’s base in Habba Kadal, the source added.
“Shora hails from Habba Kadal, and will be working closely with people to build support for the new party,” the source said, “One thing is clear, that she is joining to contest — either the Lok Sabha or an assembly seat.”
Asked if she may be fielded from the prestigious Srinagar Lok Sabha seat, the source said Faesal’s party was “still looking for a face to represent the constituency”.
Rashid and Faesal had earlier been in touch with the National Conference of Omar and Farooq Abdullah for their political outing, but she backed out when the former IAS officer did.
The source close to Rashid told ThePrint that the main reason she chose Faesal’s party “is that there is no baggage, none of them are dynastic and youth can relate to them”.
“Till now, she raised her voice at an individual level, and now she wants to become part of a political movement,” the source added.
A prominent influencer
Rashid, who has 4.65 lakh Twitter followers, has emerged as a major social media influencer, even though her views have often landed her in controversies.
When she welcomed Irish singer Sinead O’Connor’s conversion to Islam last year, she was widely panned on social media for promoting “another kind of ghar wapsi” despite being a proclaimed Marxist, an ideology that shuns religion.
She had told ThePrint at the time that she had become aware of her Muslim identity on 16 May 2014, when Narendra Modi led the BJP to a stupendous victory in the Lok Sabha election.
“I remember it very clearly. As Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister, it hit me – I’m a Muslim,” she had said.
However, social media users across all divides hailed Rashid last year when she went public with her struggle with suicidal thoughts and explained how it had led her to Google results about a less-known disorder associated with menstruation.
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