IAS officers' resignation is a matter of conscience

Sasikanth Senthil

The resignation of two IAS officers in the last one month has attracted national attention because they are young officers who had most of their careers ahead of them, and they quit for reasons that go beyond their personal situations or the usual problems in office. They were actions of protest against government policies, showing a crisis of conscience and unwillingness to work in a disagreeable system. Kannan Gopinathan, who worked in the UT cadre, resigned in protest against the denial of Kashmiris’ freedom to respond to the abolition of Article 370. He accepts the right of the elected government to take the decision but is unhappy that the democratic right of the people to protest against it has been denied. Sashikant Senthil, Deputy Commissioner of Dakshina Kannada, resigned because he thought it was unethical on his part to continue as a civil servant when the “fundamental building blocks of a diverse democracy are being compromised.” He thinks there is a Fascist onslaught on the country and basic constitutional values are being diluted. 

Both are known to be conscientious officers who have a good track record of work and service. Their resignations and the views they have expressed are a serious and adverse comment on the government’s policies and the system of governance. Similar comments have been made by others, too, about the growing authoritarian trends and threats to democracy in the country. But what adds to the value of the officers’ comment is that they decided to leave a life and career of power and privilege to follow their conscience and talk to the people about what they thought about the state of the nation. 

Earlier this year another young IAS officer, Shah Faesal, from Kashmir had also resigned protesting against the “unabated killings in Kashmir and the marginalisation of Indian Muslims.” He formed a political party later and is under detention now as many others in the state are. It is significant that protests against the government’s actions in Kashmir and concern over the deterioration of constitutional and human rights in the country are articulated even by persons who are bound by a strong code of conduct and discipline. They are ready to pay the price for sticking their neck out, and the language they have used is strong. It is also significant that Gopinathan and Senthil have lived and worked far away from Kashmir but are concerned about the government’s policies there. It is not surprising that they have been called names and told “go to Pakistan” by a ruling party MP. But democracy survives on dissent, and it is strengthened by those who are ready to pay the price for it.

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