Shah Faesal is a Kashmiri youth who hit headlines in 2009 as the topper in civil service examinations that year. It was indeed news that a Kashmiri Muslim candidate won the first rank in the most prestigious entrance exam of the country.
For many English periodicals Shah Faesal soon became their cover picture. The national media was focused on presenting him as a face of changing Kashmir, and highlighted him as a symbol of Kashmir's new generation. Analytical stories were abudant that put up the theory that the new gen Kashmiris were no more enamoured of azadi agitations but were interested in meshing with the national mainstream. In other words, Shah Faesal soon emerged as poster boy against secessionism. And now that same young man is again hitting headlines: for exactly the opposite reasons, by his declaration two days ago that he was resigning from civil service.
There are many who occupied top IAS positions and later resigned before completing their service. But Faesal's resignation makes big news thanks to the reasons he has put forward. Unending murders in Kashmir, the Centre's insincerity in getting down to the Kashjmirs, the attempts of Hindutva forces to alienate the 200 million plus Muslims of India and treating them as second class citizens, the constant threats to the special status of the state of Kashmir and the intolerance and hatred gaining strength under a frenzied nationalism – these are the reasons Faesal cited for his good bye to civil service. Shah has also mentioned in his resignation letter his protest at the Centre's bids to clip the wings of institutions like Reserve Bank of India, CBI and NIA and its steps to suppress voices other than its own. All the thoughts that Shah Faesal expressed in his letter, except for those concerning Kashmir, are the same as aired by the independent media and neutral observers of the country for quite some time. Only that as one living in Kashmir, he may have been experiencing the situation in that state a little more than others.
There are many simpletons who argue that once Kashmiris are provided education and jobs, the problems there will end. Now a Kashmiri who served in the most attractive cadre of the country has quit that calling. Shah Faesal's future plans are not clear to us, though there are some reports indicating his intention to enter politics with National Conference. Whatever that be, the resignation of Faesal should open the eyes of the powers that be in New Delhi and those dealing with Kashmiri affairs. If Faesal is going to be active in mainstream politics, as opposed to azadi movements, it is that much of solace. But at the same time the fact remains that dozens of Kashmiri youth with high education have taken to kalashnikovs and joined secessionist movements. That is to say, the issue is not money, job or education. The question is whether we as a nation we are prepared to treat them as equal citizens and to concede their self-respect. The resignation of Shah is an illustration to show we have not been able to do that so far.
This is not an issue applicable only to Kashmiris. A country remains stable when all citizens share the sentiment that the country is theirs too. If any one feels being isolated, suspected or being subjected to double standards, it will ultimately weaken the nation itself. Unfortunately, such a feeling has of late been strengthening among the country's weaker and minority sections. It was only two years ago that a senior IAS officer of Rajasthan and the chairman of the state transport corporation resigned from civil service and declared his embracing of Islam at a press conference. One belonging to the Dalit community, he took the decision pointing out the discrimination that he had to face.
India is turning into a country with an increasing percentage of people living in anguish and disgruntlement. It is no small matter that even among people occupying high positions, such anguish is foaming. Despite his adorning the chair of vice president, Hamid Ansari had bemoaned his plight with such grievances. Indeed the concern as to where the country is heading is one that should disturb every patriot.