IAS topper Shah Faesal quits civil service in protest of ?killings in Kashmir?

IAS officer Shah Faesal on Wednesday submitted his resignation from the Indian Administrative Service to protest the unabated killings in Kashmir and the marginalisation of 200 million Indian Muslims.

The 2010 batch topper announced his decision on Facebook, a week after returning to Kashmir. Faesal’s decision to quit the civil services has drawn both high praise and ire, but he is mostly unfazed by the criticism. In an interview with NDTV, the 35-year old said he “totally expected this.”

Here’s what he said

In the first post announcing his resignation, he wrote, “To protest against the unabated killings in Kashmir, and lack of any sincere reach-out from the Union government; the marginalisation and invisiblisation of around 200 million Indian Muslims at the hands of Hindutva forces reducing them to second-class citizens; insidious attacks on the special identity of the J&K state and growing culture of intolerance and hate in the mainland India in the name of hypernationalism, I have decided to resign from Indian Administrative Service.” 

On Thursday, he put up another post indicating his entry in Indian politics, saying what he does next depends on what the people of Kashmir want. “As of now I have quit the service. What I am going to do hereafter also depends on what people of Kashmir want me to do. More so the youth,” he wrote, seeking ideas from people before he took a final decision on his future.

He further said, “If you are ready to come out of Fb/Twitter and show up in Srinagar tomorrow (Friday), we could think this through together,” adding, “My choice of politics will be decided by real people not FB likes and comments.”

Faesal, who holds an MBBS degree and was the first Kashmiri to top the Indian Civil Services Examination in 2009, decided to resign from his prestigious position a week after returning to Kashmir.

This is not the first time he spoke out against bad governance, and made statements contrary to the central and state governments’ directives. In July 2018, he had called India “Rapistan,” triggering a huge controversy.

Centre responds

In the centre’s first response to his resignation, Minister of State (PMO) Jitendra Singh alleged that Shah had “failed to condemn terror” which showed his “lack of conviction.”  

Speaking to reporters, Singh said, “This in itself is an indication of lack of conviction. If you have the conviction then you should be ready to condemn the act of terrorism.” Singh added that it was not right to make the Indian state “a soft target” which is “tolerant.”  

“You can’t enjoy the protection of security forces against a potential attack and at the same time not be courageous enough to point out at a terrorist as a terrorist but find a soft target in an Indian state which is tolerant and gives leverage to your expression,” he is reported to have said as per a Times Now report.

Next course of action

Although Faesal hasn’t officially announced his future plans yet, he is expected to make a foray into Indian politics. Sources have suggested that he is likely to join Omar Abdullah’s National Conference. Among those who support his resignation-in-protest is Abdullah himself and Congress leader P Chidambaram.

The bureaucracy’s loss is politics’ gain. Welcome to the fold @shahfaesal. https://t.co/955C4m5T6V— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) January 9, 2019

In a second tweet, Omar clarified he did not indicate that Faesal would be joining his party.

Actually I welcomed him to the fold of politicians. His future political plans are his to announce. https://t.co/y5FkD8ZTWE— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) January 9, 2019

A debilitating blow to bureaucracy

Chidambaram did not waste an opportunity to take a jab at the ruling BJP party, which recently quit an alliance with the Kashmir government. “Though sad, I salute Mr Shah Faesal IAS (now resigned). Every word of his statement is true and is an indictment of the BJP government,” the former Union Minister wrote on Twitter, adding, “Such statements from our fellow citizens must make us hang our heads in regret and shame. He also warned that the “world will take note of Faesal’s “cry of anguish and defiance” soon.

Though sad, I salute Mr @shahfaesal IAS (now resigned). Every word of his statement is true and is an indictment of the BJP government. The world will take note of his cry of anguish and defiance.— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) January 10, 2019

Chidambaram further cited the example of Julio Ribeiro, a former DGP of Punjab and a former commissioner of Mumbai Police, who had said the “same thing” as Faesal. In 2015, the official had said that as a Christian, he “felt threatened, not wanted, reduced to a stranger in his own country.”

 “In times like these, when there is an attack on the basic values of the Constitution and the country, it is not surprising that smart and passionate people have a hard time staying within the service and want to serve the nation through other avenues,” said retired IAS officer Amar Singh, to ThePrint.

Another retired bureaucrat Padmavir Singh acknowledged the hurt and helplessness Faesal’s decision originates from. His viral account not only paints the ugly picture of the status quo in Kashmir but also conveys the insecurity most Muslims feels in the country, Singh said.

“Shah is a young, promising, articulate individual, and made for an excellent IAS officer. The kind of potential and calibre he brings to the table is immense and the system only stands to benefit from it,” he told the publication.

But in the current political climate, “bureaucrats feel silenced,” he said. “Perhaps they think the environment is not conducive enough to affect much change. His resignation is a big loss for the bureaucracy, even if it may be a big gain to politics.”

“He is sacrificing a secure profession for what is a big gamble,” Singh said.

Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius

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