‘Kashmiris don’t relate to the idea of India’: Former IAS topper Shah Faesal
The resignation of Shah Faesal — the outspoken 2010 IAS topper whose success inspired many young Kashmiris to join the civil services — from bureaucracy recently, has kicked up a storm. Talking to Hindustan Times, Faesal, who quit over “unabated killings in Kashmir and absence of credible political initiative from the Centre”, speaks about his future plans and how he will be different from the Hurriyat when he wants to own the vocabulary of ‘azadi.’
You stated your reasons for resigning included killings in Kashmir and other things. Is there something more to it?
I think fundamentally it was about making a statement about Kashmir. I have been preparing my mind to resign for the last two years. I was waiting for the right moment which finally came after I went to Harvard. The reasons include what has been happening in Kashmir for so many years, more so in last four-five years when we witnessed an escalation in killings and a huge confrontation between the Indian state and the people of Kashmir, without any political initiative from the central government to cool down the tempers.
You talked about joining politics. What will it be all about?
I am somebody who has worked in administration for almost a decade. We operate in a political environment. I have seen how our electoral politics neither responds to the political issues around us nor does it do anything about the bloodshed. Fundamentally, I am trained in governance and would like to join electoral politics for developmental issue. At the same time I wish to bring a little bit of honesty into electoral politics. We will have to tell people that electoral politics in the current format is an obstacle to the resolution. Electoral politicians get vote and that vote is being presented to Delhi as an endorsement of status quo. We will be very honest with the mandate that we get, that look although we have got the vote which is fundamentally for governance and there is Hurriyat which is custodian of the sentiment and you will have to talk them.
Watch: Kashmir’s Shah Faesal reveals his future plans after quitting IAS
Where will the difference lie between you and Hurriyat, who you say talk about the sentiment?
The difference lies in what the electoral politics stands for. Elected people don’t tell truth to the rest of the people about who they are. We will tell the people that we are here for governance and the Hurriyat is the representative of that sentiment. We will be truthful in this representation.
What is the sentiment you are talking about?
The sentiment is that here people don’t relate to the idea of India.
You criticised central government for failing to bring back Kashmiri Pandits. Do you have a road map for their return?
What I have said is that amid the escalation of the situation here, nothing was done to bring back Kashmiri pandits. They have been an important aspect of composite Kashmiri culture. My kids have no idea of Kashmiri Pandits. I have a great desire that they come back and we need to work on that.
You want to own the vocabulary of Azadi, plebiscite and now even talk about ‘sentiment’. Separatists face jails and cases for the same. Will you be spared of sedition cases?
We need to add these words in the vocabulary of (mainstream) politics. Kashmir is a unique place and what qualifies sedition in other parts of India, we need to be tolerant here. We should be accommodative and listen to the youth. You can’t dictate the language to youth if you want the resolution of the issue.
You talked about killings. Many people say as deputy commissioner, Bandipora, you signed dossiers booking youth under PSA. Any regrets?
I think I have been very careful as the deputy commissioner and observed due diligence in PSA cases. There are many instances when I did not simply sign the order. However, as an officer I had to do my job and bring back order and peace. While doing my duty, my immediate concern was whether the person did it or not. Why he did it was not immediately my part of the job. But I think then I did not take any more assignments as DC of any other district to avoid such situations.
In your first press conference after resignation, an angry youth accused you of being a projection of deep state. How do you respond.
This apprehension is quite normal because the youth have no trust on the political setup here. I completely empathise with the youth.
As an IAS officer you know the system. The J&K governor also remarked that you could have helped the state more as an officer than a politician. Will politician Shah Faesal make any difference when there are already some senior and articulate politicians from J&K in the parliament and assembly?
I am not claiming for being the sole voice. I am saying that we need correct representation for Kashmir. We need to bridge the gap to represent the people truthfully.
You hailed Imran Khan and Arvind Kejriwal. Any plans to follow their path and start a new party?
These two people have been amazing. They have struggled a lot. They are certainly an inspiration but it will be a long term plan to reach what they have achieved.
Which politician here impresses you the most?
I won’t be naming him.
Watch : Shah Faesal reveals his future plans after quitting IAS