By Sanjeev Srivastava
Dear Shah Faesal,
I begin with a disclaimer. I am an admirer of yours. I admire your clarity of thoughts and the ease and eloquence with which you express them. You had first hit the headlines when you became the first Kashmiri to top the civil services examinations. Of late I have read opinion pieces written by you and watched you on national television participating in debates and discussing the situation in Kashmir with the kind of frankness one usually does not associate with those in government service.
But your latest Facebook post accusing TV channels of propaganda and provocation and saying that they are breeding more alienation and anger in Kashmir than the Indian state has set me thinking; there are parts I agree with while some have surprised and anguished me. Please go through my observations on the points you have raised….not as comments from a media person but as someone who has high hopes from you and all young Kashmiris.
1. By juxtaposing my photos with the images of a slain militant commander, a section of national media has once again fallen back upon its conventional savagery that cashes on falsehoods, divides people and creates more hatred.
In principle I agree with you. Kashmir is too complex an issue for such black and white, simplistic juxtapositions. I also think any comparison between you and Burhan Wani is not just unnecessary and unjustified but also stupid. There was never any competition between the two of you. Such a juxtaposition in an atmosphere this surcharged needlessly makes you look like the Jaichand to Wani’s Prithviraj in the eyes of those who think of the slain militant as some kind of a martyr. So yes, media can be faulted for its lack of understanding, its failure to see the bigger picture, no sense of timing and yes, insensitivity. Even stupidity.
2. At a moment when Kashmir is mourning its dead, the propaganda and provocation being dished out from red and blue newsrooms is breeding more alienation and anger in Kashmir than what Indian state can manage.
Cannot agree with you more. Your angst here was against the media. You could have well stopped here.
3. In fact when I qualified this exam I never thought of spending my whole life scratching the desk and if this nonsense around me continues, I might prefer to resign sooner than later.
Now this one got me worried, Shah Faesal. Do you really mean it? Are you spending time scratching your desk? And ïf this nonsense around you continues will you resign sooner than later?
I sincerely hope you are not thinking along those lines. Maybe it’s a phase when your angst, frustration and a feeling of helplessness is getting the better of you. I can understand. We all go through such phases and there’s just so much death, tragedy and violence all around you. And yes, no easy way out. No quick fix solutions in sight. Just remember what you said in 2011 soon after you had topped the civil services examination. On February 14, 2011 you were quoted, referring to Gandhi, that the success of your actions “will be determined by the impact of that action on the poorest man in the country”. You had gone on to say that India needs Gandhigiri and more Argumentative Indians of the kind Amartya Sen refers to in his book.
You had also said that your selection vindicated your faith in the system which “has evidence of favouritism, but where merit is still respected”. You had also talked about how your selection was a “punch on the nose of those who believe in the stereotype that Kashmir produces only terrorists”.
Surely Mr. Faesal only 5 years in the system cannot take away all that fire in the belly. You yourself are one great example of the tribe you want more of; Argumentative Indians. And you certainly can argue well. But you need to have the right brief. And you have to hang in there. And keep punching with the confidence and hope that one day you will deliver a knockout blow and smash all those stereotypes and juxtapositions about Kashmir which you so objected to then. And still do.
Also Read: Army Veteran’s open letter to Burhan Wani is a scary warning to all terrorists
5. And then, when a state kills and maims its own citizens, its self-injury and self-decimation of the worst sort. No government can distance itself from the pain of its people and all out efforts are being made to contain this crisis and reach out to youth. Let’s pray for those who lost their lives and their eyesight in the ongoing turmoil in Kashmir and stand by one another in this moment of truth.
Now this one’s really sad coming from you. As an IAS officer, you represent the state and this reflects your agony, pain and disillusionment at best and insubordination, indiscipline even a hint of rebellion and a threat to “cross over” at worst.
I can understand your grief and hurt when you see innocent Kashmiris being killed and maimed in this conflict, but do you not grieve at all for our men in uniform, ambushed and killed by terrorists and militants. Even their families are not spared. Are they not martyrs even after laying down their lives in the line of duty. The same country you are serving as an IAS officer.
I understand it’s not easy to withstand the pressure; from within and without. But lesser men can buckle under such pressure. Not you. I want to remind you about how you replied to an anonymous post in The Kashmir Wala in March 2012.
“I often see US-based or Delhi-based friends romancing the Kashmir narrative in chatrooms but when it comes to doing something about it, they just change the room! I may be wrong but I have the distinction of being with my people, sharing their joys and suffering. My job gives me that privilege. For me its neither about surrender nor compromise. I have always spoken the truth and will continue to do so. Even if it costs me my job. In public life, criticism is like a fertilizer as long as one doesn’t sell out his roots. Don’t go by the hastily made impressions. It will take some more time to understand what do I finally stand for. Till then lets rest our tongues and stop blaming one another. I am not a Chaudhary of India not should you act as a Chaudhary of Kashmir. Let the story unfold. Time will decide, who betrayed and who didn’t.”
Dear Faesal, it’s this spirit I see waning in your Facebook post today. Don’t let this happen. We need you. Kashmir needs you. Speak out fearlessly. But not with the tinge of hopelessness and resignation you have begun to show of late.
We don’t want you as the Chaudhary of India but don’t let them become the Chaudharies of Kashmir.
(Sanjeev Srivastava is a former BBC India editor, and founder of the media curation portal editplatter.com)