The struggle in Kashmir has always been for “self determination”, two words in the public narrative that the Indian state “must be convinced to be tolerant of”, former IAS topper Shah Faesal told Kashmir Reader on Tuesday. He would do the “convincing” if elected to Parliament, Faesal, who quit the Indian Administrative Service on Wednesday to join politics, said.

“I see the Kashmir dispute as an inheritance from the past,” Faesal said, adding that the only way to come to a resolution was for India to engage with Kashmiris. “The Indian state needs to immediately start the process part of the resolution,” he said. The Centre must “repeal draconian laws, reduce the presence of security forces in civilian areas and release political prisoners” as “these confidence building measures can be a starting point for a discussion over the dispute.”

“People resort to violence when other forms of dissent are suppressed,” he added.

Speaking about his decision to resign from the civil services, Faesal said he had done so to draw the attention of the Indian government to the urgency with which the Kashmir issue needs to be resolved. “Nobody in India is going to resolve the dispute unless the people of India [the electorate] want to resolve it,” Faesal said, adding that Kashmiris had not done enough to change public opinion in the rest of the country about the dispute.

Faesal said the narrative in the rest of the country was that the Kashmir issue was one of counter terrorism. “When a coffin goes from here, it creates a lot of hatred,” he said. “We have martyrs this side, we have martyrs that side. So what happens? During elections this issue becomes a highly politicised and highly explosive issue.”

As a politician, he would try to garner public support for resolution of the Kashmir dispute, he said. “Imagine a situation where the people of the rest of country have a consensus. We already have support from left wing liberals in New Delhi and many metropolitan cities. So, public opinion doesn’t go waste. No war can solve it [the Kashmir dispute]!”

In another interview with the Hindustan Times, Faesal said electoral politics in Kashmir in its current format is “an obstacle to the resolution” of the dispute. “Electoral politicians get the vote and that vote is being presented to Delhi as an endorsement of status quo,” Faesal said.

“We [if he is elected] will be very honest with the mandate that we get, [and tell the Centre] that ‘look, although we have got the vote, which is fundamentally for governance, but there is the Hurriyat which is the custodian of the sentiment [that Kashmiris don’t see themselves as part of the idea of India] and you will have to talk them,” he said.

Asked what the difference between him and the Hurriyat was, Faesal said, “The difference lies in what the electoral politics stands for.” Elaborating, he said: “Elected people don’t tell the truth to the rest of the people about who they are. We will tell the people that we are here for governance [whereas] the Hurriyat is the representative of that sentiment. We will be truthful in this representation.”

Faesal said he had entered the political arena to focus on development in the region. “I have seen how our electoral politics neither responds to the political issues around us nor does it do anything about the bloodshed [in Kashmir],” he said. “I would like to join electoral politics for developmental issue (sic). At the same time I wish to bring a little bit of honesty into electoral politics.”