Srinagar: On January 9, Dr Shah Faesal, who topped the 2010 civil service examinations and worked as an IAS officer in Jammu and Kashmir, resigned from the civil services to protest the “unabated killings in Kashmir” and the “rise of Hindutva forces”.
Before a press conference in Srinagar on January 11, Faesal gave an exclusive interview to The Wire, speaking about his reasons for quitting the services and the difference he hopes to make in the state nonetheless.
Was resigning a decision you made in the heat of the moment?
I have been thinking about it for the last two years.
So why now, when elections are around the corner – rather than in 2016 or 2018, for example, when hundreds were killed in Kashmir?
It was a strategic decision. In life, we need to wait for the right moment to make the right decision for the right impact. I don’t want a knee-jerk reaction. I wanted a well considered response.
Would you encourage others to go into the civil services, despite having quit yourself?
I am not leaving service because of disillusionment. I didn’t fail. I didn’t find myself suffocated. It was only that in Kashmir people have been making immense sacrifices to be heard. People gave up their lives, their jobs, their dreams – and I also sacrificed something very dear to me to put the spotlight on the Kashmir situation.
You said, “I will do what the youth of Kashmir want me to do.” What if they suggest that you join the separatists? Would you?
I am a man from the system. I believe in making change from within the system. I believe in electoral politics which is a no-go area for separatists.
In your announcement on Wednesday, you said you resigned to protest ‘unabated killings’ in Kashmir. Many people have pointed out that you’re joining a party that also has blood on its hands.
I have not joined any party yet. It is all speculation.
There have been rumours for several months that you are joining the National Conference. If that’s already planned, why have you asked the youth to decide? And why the NC?
I might not join any existing mainstream party at all.
In an interview with the Indian Express, you acknowledged that a pro-India band of politicians is not the true representative of the people of Kashmir. How will you fit yourself in with career politicians if you believe they have no moral compass?
I said we can re-imagine the politics and represent the people correctly.
At a press conference yesterday, Awami Ittehad Party chief Engineer Rashid invited you to join his party. What’s your response?
I am happy that Er. Rashid made that offer. It is very kind of him.
How do you plan to play a role in stopping the bloodshed in Kashmir?
Bloodshed is linked to the denial of justice to the Kashmiri people and the absence of any credible political outreach from the Centre. If we end the environment of siege in Kashmir, give people space for dissent, listen to the youth, then we can pacify the anger.
Has your decision anything to do with your controversial social media posts? Like the one about “rapistan” – after which many people in mainstream media and politics censured you?
Those posts were symptoms of the frustration that I was going through. This resignation is a culmination of that protest against the inability of the government to bring in effective enforcement measures to curb the rape culture.
Some say it was ambition that moved you to quit the civil services and toward politics. True?
Nothing wrong in being ambitious as long as it’s about using the power to change lives of the people. Life is about a constant search for meaning. The journey has to go on.