'New generation of Kashmiris have given up on India'

'Govt employees are not slaves'

Shah Faesal, a young IAS officer of the Jammu & Kashmir cadre, is now in the eye of a storm. He has been slapped with a disciplinary notice by the state government after the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) of the Union government found some of his tweets to be against the service conduct rules. Faesal, the first Civil Services topper from Kashmir, promptly made public the "love letter from my boss for my sarcastic tweet against rape culture in South Asia".

He feels government servants cannot remain unaffected by the larger moral questions of society and they must have the freedom to think and express. Faesal, who is currently on leave to pursue a master’s degree in the United States, spoke to Shemin Joy of DH on the disciplinary note, the freedom of expression of officers, his anguish about Kashmir and Nehru.
* Usually, bureaucrats do not tweet. But you have and were slapped with a disciplinary notice. Does your tweet criticise the government?

Old school bureaucrats don't tweet but new age ones do. Rules must follow the changing requirements of changing times. In an age where free speech is the most vital element of individual freedom, the old notions about bureaucracy are not going to last long, I can tell u that.
* One of the lines in the notice is puzzling. It says you have allegedly failed to maintain absolute honesty and integrity in the discharge of your official duty. What did you do to attract such a charge? How do you see such a charge?

This is a drafting error. At times, we have to fill the page to make the charge sheet longer and scary so we don't mind adding some trash to it.
* It seems you have escalated the fight by posting the 'love letter' (disciplinary notice) from your superior officer on Twitter. What was the reason that prompted you to make public this notice?

I wanted a debate on the right to freedom of speech of government employees. We don't usually talk about that. 
 * Now you face disciplinary action. You could lose your job too. Are you ready for such an eventuality?

Does it matter? In a world of great possibilities, it doesn't matter really. I was not an IAS officer always. I won't be an IAS officer always. Life is much more than what we do between 10 and five. 
* How do you define a government officer's right to express? 

We have to understand that government employees are not slaves. They are not machines either. They can't remain unaffected by the larger moral questions of society. So they must have the freedom to think and express. Governments shouldn't be scared of criticism as long as they are doing the right thing. 
* You tweeted in support of the lateral entry programme and the need for larger reforms in bureaucracy. Interestingly, the government did not find it wrong. What reforms would you like to usher in the bureaucracy if you are given the mandate?

I continue to support lateral entry subject to procedural fairness. But larger reform would require reducing political interference, more stable tenures and more capacity building. 
* Your tweets show a lot of anguish over the developments in Kashmir. Do you feel the rest of India sees Kashmir through a different prism? What went wrong? 

In the past 30 years, Kashmir has been a war zone. Close to a lakh got killed, an entire ethnic minority of Kashmiri Pandits got displaced, institutions of governance got destroyed. But instead of looking at Kashmir's problem as a colossal human tragedy, most of the people still see Kashmir as the place which doesn't deserve empathy. This is making things really bad and the communication between the communities is breaking down.  
* One perception is that the alienation of Kashmiris, especially youth, is increasing. Is that perception correct? What should be done?

Alienation was an earlier phase. We are in the phase of estrangement now. The new generation has given up on India completely. 
* You seem to be influenced by Jawaharlal Nehru. You wondered whether India will ever produce another scholar-statesman like him. How was your discovery of Nehru? What was your first glimpse of Nehru's worldview? How and why is Nehru still relevant?

I have been influenced by Nehruvian thought, yes. It was Nehru’s vision that empowered India to negotiate the tumult of six ambitious decades after independence. And outside India also if people respect India it's only because India is a great democracy where there is a place for everyone. Nehru must be blamed for creating an India that continues to inspire despite its imperfections.

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'Govt employees are not slaves'


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