Shah Faesal, who in 2009 became the first Kashmiri to top the Union Public Services Commission examination, announced his resignation from the Indian Administrative Service on January 9.

He had taken the decision to protest against the “unabated killings in Kashmir”, he wrote in a Facebook post, and against “the “marginalisation and invisiblization of around 200 million Indian Muslims at the hands of Hindutva forces reducing them to second-class citizens”.

Putting an end to speculation that he might join the National Conference, Faesal said in a press conference on Friday that he had no plans to join any mainstream party “as of now”, but expressed his wish to contest the upcoming elections and work with people at the grassroots and “reimagine politics in Kashmir”.

Excerpts from his press conference:

It’s a very important day in my life today. After serving for around nine years in the Indian Administrative Service, I have decided to resign from the service. This resignation has nothing to do with the factors within the service but has everything to do with factors external to the service and the environment in which I have been working here.

I will always be a proud ex-member of the service. Having said that, in last few years, there have been circumstances both within the state and the rest of the country, which have made me realise that there’s time to speak up. By today’s resignation, I am putting across a small act of defiance to remind the central government of its responsibilities towards the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

I am resigning in protest against the lack of a political initiative to assuage the hurt feelings of the people of Kashmir. Lack of a credible political initiative from central government and denial of justice to the people of Kashmir has resulted in a massive escalation of violence in the valley due to which lot of lives have been lost in the recent years. 

I wish to remind the central government that it is important that the right to life of Kashmiri youth is respected. At the same time, if we look at the recent years, we have seen insidious attacks on the special identity of Jammu and Kashmir state. The constitutional arrangement which exists between the state of Jammu and Kashmir and Union of India – such as Article 35A – have been constantly invoked for electoral gains in the rest of mainland India.

One more important source of my rejection with the central government has been the failure of the government to facilitate the homecoming of Kashmiri pandits to the Kashmir valley. Kashmiri Pandits are an important element of our diverse culture. And unless you create situation and circumstances favourable to their return to the valley, they will not be able to come back. 

I was also appalled by the lack of initiative towards bringing peace to the lives of border residents of the state. More so in Jammu RS Pura and Rajouri. 

Outside the state, we have seen that there have been constant attacks to undermine the regional integrity of the state. And an attempt is being made to play one region against another. 

Lynch-mob nationalism

When it comes to the factors outside the state, the rise of lynch-mob nationalism, in last few years, which has led to extreme marginalisation of the minorities, both ideological as well as religious minorities in the country. That has become a source of extreme dejection for me. 

I would also like to wish to express my disgruntlement about the curbs placed on the freedom of speech and expression of the country and the culture of hate being used to win elections in India. Lastly, I would say, it’s the undermining of the very important institutions like Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency and Reserve Bank of India, which have the potential of hurting the constitutional edifice of this country. 

These things or these provocations were something which I couldn’t have spoken about as a member of service. Due to the conduct rules, it was impossible for me to speak up. And today, as I choose to speak out, I am feeling extremely relieved.

Appeal to the people of India

I wish to make an appeal to the people of India that they need to come to the rescue of people of Jammu and Kashmir. It is time we work together for peace in the country. It is time that we counter the communal and hateful elements of the country and ensure a message of tolerance and peace. 

I will be expecting support from people across the country. More so, the youngsters of Kashmir valley, Jammu, Kargil Ladakh, Pir Panchal and Chenab valley and other areas in this initiative. As I plan to embark on a new mission and a new journey in my life. 

I wish to go back to the grassroots and I will be trying to work for the people and their empowerment. At the same time, I wish that there is time now to reimagine the politics in Jammu and Kashmir. It’s time that we disrupt the politics the way it has been happening. I will be trying my best to do that. 

Imran Khan and Arvind Kejriwal

I am deeply inspired by Imran Khan and Arvind Kejriwal. But we know that we are operating in a conflict zone and it’s not very easy for us to work in that space. The space which has lost legitimacy in last few years . I wish, if the youngsters of the state give me that kind of opportunity, I would be very happy to do a retake of Imran Khan and Arvind Kejriwal in the state. 

My plan is to hold consultation with the stakeholders, talk to youngsters, talk to other political parties as well and try to build a consensus that in Kashmir we need to come together. We are in a crisis and it’s not time to do politics on the graves of people and the graves of youngsters.

Mainstream politics will have to be reimagined and we need to tell the truth. As of now, I don’t have any plans to join any existing mainstream political party. I plan to go to the field, listen to the ground whispers, listen to youngsters, listen to important stakeholders of the state and then take a decision. 

I would be very happy to contest the upcoming elections. In fact, I believe that Parliament and legislative space is an important space and we need well-meaning and right people there. Recent years have led to the delegitimisation of electoral politics. I wish to use the parliament as an important source of connection and engagement for bringing solutions. 

I am a man from the system and I have the experience. My specialisation is in governance, I am not essentially trained to be in politics. So, I will be happy to do something in an institution where I can use my skills as an administrator. I wish I could do that elsewhere as well. 

Hurriyat Conference doesn’t give me that opportunity, because they don’t believe in electoral politics. We have to accept that difference of opinion.