With the IAS topper Shah Faesal calling it quits after his brief administrative stint lasting less than a decade and the rejig in mainstream parties, the reading on the political barometer of Kashmir has activated lot of people in Kashmir and outside the valley. Faesal’s admission on social media (Facebook) that he resigned to protest the unabated civilian killings in Kashmir and to protect the special status of J&K has invited both the brickbats and the bouquets with big guns like MoS PMO and senior BJP leader Jitendra Singh and senior Congress leader and former union minister P Chidambaram joining the fray. In the ruckus, it is very likely that real issues that have afflicted the state get sidelined.
Shah Faesal joined the elite Indian administrative class after leaving an equally sought-after career in the field of medicine. It was a personal choice, and in terms of career a giant leap forward. From simply cracking the public service commission exam to becoming a role model for the youth of Kashmir, his achievement even if it were personal became political.
As Shah Faesal hit the headlines with the feat, it was welcomed by New Delhi as it bolstered its policy of promoting education and diluting violence in conflict-ridden Kashmir. Since 2008 unrest, the policy of engagement particularly of youth received much of the attention of Delhi. Failing to bring down the popular sentiment and estrangement of the youth, many youth-centered activities were given push by the union government. As youth icon in Kashmir, Faesal was supposed to attracted larger audience and bring them to the mainstream. There was nothing wrong with the policy had the government not been covert about its intentions and told the people straight away what it expected from the people of Kashmir. Like always, everything was done in a way to raise more suspicion and thwart the plans.
In 2019, things have not changed in Kashmir. Quite opposed to what was anticipated by Delhi, the youth have gone an extra mile away from the mainstream. Year 2018 has been the most violent in Kashmir in the decade and the elections in the last few years do not hold any merit as majority boycotted them.
An administrative icon also does not seem to fit the scenario well. If the youth, a mass number of them, become fans and follow a bureaucrat it will not lead to anywhere as the same youth will not get inducted in bureaucracy. Compared to bureaucracy, politics offers many advantages. A political youth icon offers realistic solution as mass number of youth can join political parties and expand their cadres.
Shah Faesal as a political figure will be more suitable to Delhi than anyone else. The same can be said for the new faces, youth leaders, who are being groomed and promoted in the state. Again, there is nothing wrong in the plans of Delhi, except that it doesn’t want to reveal it and leave it to the people to find out. When such political antics are deciphered by people, they produce the opposite reaction.
People will ask uncomfortable questions and Faesal has to be prepared to answer them. It is the sincerity that would matter at last. As a good doctor, Faesal would have served Kashmir and its people well. It is a blessing to have a good doctor when the hospitals in Kashmir are struggling to save people, including those who directly suffer due to the conflict. But then Faesal made a career choice and entered the administrative services. As a good administrative officer, he could have also served the people by getting rid of the corruption and political intervention in public services that affect thousands and lakhs of people in J&K. But again he seems to have made a choice. How can he convince the people, especially the youth that all the choices he made were more influenced by his philanthropy than personal inclination and interests? That would be the hardest part. Instead of asking people what they want him to do, he must tell them what he thought of doing when he made his choices.
The talk of the town in Kashmir is that Faesal will join National Conference. Many senior politicians including those affiliated with other parties earlier have joined National Conference. These people have set their sails according to the political wind or NC wave. The timing is also being questioned – why not before. Had the year been 2014 ending and Faesal would have resigned with the rest remaining unchanged, would he have joined NC or PDP?
There is certainly a political change in Kashmir. New faces and young politicians are getting added to the mainstream. From Delhi’s viewpoint, it is good because the problem right now seems to be the youth. The stalwarts and senior politicians cannot reach out to the youth because age will be the impeding factor. The youth are least likely to identify themselves with this political class. The aspirations of the youth are entirely different than what the older political class can offer or even perceive. To reduce the gap, more young and dynamic politicians need to be inducted in the state.
But the real problem with Shah Faesal’s switchover which only policy makers would understand, and Faesal himself, the administrators or bureaucrats must not be encouraged to join politics. There are two reasons for such reservation. The first is that bureaucrats, officials and administrators can become corrupt and nepotism may be encouraged if they are allowed to. In service, the public servants with an eye on joining politics and getting mandate from political parties, may compromise on being fair and just to everyone. The second reason is that if a bureaucrat like Shah Faesal leaves and claims that policies are anti-people, what will happen to all those who are in service? It will make all of them villains for not making the choice like he did.
We are not against any ideology or set of beliefs and ideas that people supposedly own. However, people need to be sincere, upfront and clear in their views and dealings. So does the government. It is for people then to accept or refuse them as they think right. It is deceit that is unforgiving.