By Wasim Dar
The selection of a few more Kashmiris in the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) for the consecutive eighth year has triggered a debate in Kashmir. It is about whether Kashmiris, who are stuck in an interminable conflict since the past 60 years, should join or celebrate the Indian “civil services” or not?
The side that supports the celebration puts forward the point that it will strengthen Kashmiris in the bureaucracy which would dramatically turn the equation of power on their side. By having greater say, they would influence policies and plans. The opposite view is that by entering the Indian bureaucracy, Kashmiris would end up as “mini-screwdrivers” who would only perpetuate violence against their own people. By acting as tools of the Indian power structure, these “civil servants” would strengthen India in Kashmir.
The debate whether to join the IAS or not was triggered largely after an article titled “IAS in Kashmir: Glorifying the occupation” was published in the daily newspaper Kashmir Reader. The article took the social media by storm where people expressed their views about the “civil services”.
As the debate was on, another write-up appeared in The Indian Express titled “Till Azadi comes”. The essay was written by the IAS poster boy in Kashmir, Dr Shah Faesal, who had topped civil services exam in 2009. It came as a shock to me. The article was primarily arguing that Kashmiris should go for a political compromise as Azadi was a far-fetched dream. It suggested that there is hopelessness as far as Azadi is concerned and hence it will be better for Kashmiris to surrender and join the Indian mainstream.
How can people join the state which has been shedding their blood and heaping on them indignity? The state that led an all-out war against Kashmiris by blasting their houses, killing men and women, subjecting thousands of people to enforced disappearances, and inflicting countless miseries upon Kashmirs. How can one describe the crimes of genocidal nature on part of the Indian state as just “disturbance”? By doing so, you are not only trivialising the struggle, but also taking sides with the occupier.
Doctors and Engineers have rendered countless sacrifices for the Kashmir cause. Their resolve to gain freedom has led them to resist oppression at every step. At times it has cost them their lives. Turn back the pages of history and see how many “civil servants” have raised their voice against the oppression by the state. If being an IAS officer means resistance, Dr Shah Faesal, why didn’t you write against the oppression of the Handwara girl? What was her crime? Wasn’t it your moral obligation to speak up for her when she was going through trauma? We have enough of resources and talent to deal with unemployment, if we are allowed to utilise them. A few IAS seats are not a solution to unemployment. Even if India gives us 100% of the civil services seats, it will fall short of 1% of our educated youth.
Between 1990 and 2008, ten times more youth were employed by the Gulf countries then by the Government of India. When it comes to choice of one’s career, compromises should not be made, and ethics, principles and bonds with one’s fellow people should never be cast away. The choice of a civil services career is a personal one and should not be played up as an alternative to the political aspirations of the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir.
The upward mobility of a few families of civil servants hardly helps the poor on the streets or the half-widows longing for their husbands. No one in Kashmir opposes students getting admissions in IITs, IIMs, and excelling in cricket, but the civil services, the armed forces, and the police are state machinery that supervises in Kashmir mass murders, rapes, abductions, torture, and much else. Let us learn to call a spade a spade. No cause is more critical than the Kashmiri struggle for dignity. Every family in Kashmir has suffered, whether rich or poor. IAS aspirants can never be called Kashmiri heroes as they are bound by the Indian state and India and Kashmir are like parallel lines that will never meet. There is no confusion in history as to where India ends and Kashmir begins. So does everyone in Kashmir and in India.
Everyone has his own battles to fight but no battle is bigger than the collective one. The Kashmiri struggle is definitely about politics, war, traditions and culture. It is about a dignified life in which your children are not killed, mothers and sisters are not molested, heritage and demography are not changed. It is about eradicating corruption and inequality. It is about telling the truth in whole and not in parts. It is about allowing people to nurture their apple orchards, to be upright and active for their rights and against oppression. The IAS gives us none of these, and so it is nothing to celebrate in Kashmir.
Rebellion or militancy is not a career; it is a passion, an ultimate sacrifice, which is far above a worldly career. It is the ultimate commitment to the nation when a human opts for death so that his fellows can live. These martyrs never die, they live in our hearts till eternity. We don’t need memorials to them because they live in our breath. No one has ever stopped living in Kashmir, not the mother who lost her four sons in the fight against Indian occupation, nor the people in the village where every woman was raped in a single night. The only difference is that what they call life is not what you and I call life.
The dawn of Azadi is bound to come. I leave you with just one question: Will you be left with enough spirit to dance on the day?