NEW DELHI: A lauded Indian bureaucrat who resigned over mounting civilian killings in Kashmir, said the region’s people “don’t relate to India.”
Shah Faesal, who in 2009 became the first Kashmiri to top the prestigious Indian Administration Service (IAS) exams, told Arab News: “The present situation in the valley is that the Kashmiris do not relate to the status quo as it is now. They don’t see their future in this status quo.”
Once hailed by Delhi as the new hope for Kashmir, 36-year-old Faesal said young people there should be given the freedom to discuss their hopes of “self-rule, autonomy and self-determination.”
He added that the Indian and Pakistani governments should reopen talks over resolving the long-running dispute over Kashmir.
Faesal said that there was now a “siege environment” in Kashmir which was only leading to more violence, and he blamed political intransigence for allowing the crisis there to continue.
“The escalation of violence, the killing of Kashmiris and the complete absence of conversation between New Delhi and the people in the valley, forced me to speak out,” said Faesal following his resignation. “If we engage people in conversation, we might stop them from picking up guns.”
The Indian government, he said, was inflaming the situation in Kashmir by failing to understand the aspirations of its people. “This only leads to more deaths and more youths taking up arms.”
Faesal added that India had “lost its moral compass” with the dominance of Hindu majoritarian politics in the country, and that had impacted on Kashmir.
He said the present-day lynch mobs were a far cry from the “certain morality” of Gandhi’s India of old. “This is not the kind of state Kashmiris would like to relate to. This leads to alienation and more disenchantment among people.”
“India and Pakistan need to get back to the negotiating table. Look at the border and the loss of lives in Jammu region. It’s important that both nations find a way forward for Kashmir.” He added that the Kashmiri separatist group, Hurriyat Conference, should be included in any future negotiations.
Faesal said the political climate in Kashmir was stifling democracy and alienating many young people.
Those elected to office, he said, were not representing the people and this had caused a political “deadlock.” “It would be very easy for me to join any political party and win an election,” he said. “But the younger generation don’t relate to the existing electoral politics of Kashmir. I am trying to understand their aspirations and demands, and trying to engage with them.”
“I see myself as a bridge or facilitator of conversation between Kashmir and the rest of India.”