In May 2010, when results of Civil Service Exam (CSE) were announced, Shah Faesal, a 27-year-old doctor from Kashmir received unprecedented adulation. The reason was simple. When a narrative of hardship and struggle mixed with personal tragedy culminates in success, it makes for a great story.
Faesal, whose father was killed in a terrorist attack just days before a pre-medical test, fought all the odds and became the first person from Kashmir to top the civil service exam.
Eight years later, Faesal is a Mason Fellow at Harvard University. Once again, he is receiving a lot of media attention. But not for the right reasons. With a verified Twitter handle that has more than 17,000 followers, Faesal regularly expresses his views — often conventional — on important issues.
In the aftermath of a huge outcry that followed the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kashmir, Faesal tweeted on 22 April:
Patriarchy+Population+Illiteracy+Alcohol+Porn+Technology+Anarchy = Rapistan!
— Shah Faesal (@shahfaesal) April 22, 2018
The Centre then directed the state government to take action against Faesal. On 10 July, Faesal took to Twitter again, posting what he called a ‘love letter’ with subject line “Initiation of departmental action against Mr. Shah Faesal, IAS, (JK2010)”:
Love letter from my boss for my sarcastic tweet against rape-culture in South Asia. The Irony here is that service rules with a colonial spirit are invoked in a democratic India to stifle the freedom of conscience. I'm sharing this to underscore the need for a rule change. pic.twitter.com/ssT8HIKhIK — Shah Faesal (@shahfaesal) July 10, 2018
Responding to a comment that favoured the government's decision to initiate action against him, Faesal wrote:
If rape is part of government policy then I pleas guilty for criticism of the government policy. — Shah Faesal (@shahfaesal) July 10, 2018
An important question to be answered: How do you define criticism as ‘criticism of government’?
What All India Service (Conduct Rules) say
“No member of the service shall, in any radio broadcast 16or communication over any public media or in any document published anonymously, pseudonymously or in his own name or in the name of any other person or in any communication to the press or in any public utterance, make any statement of fact or opinion...
i. Which has the effect of an adverse criticism of any current or recent policy or action of the central government or a state government; or
ii. Which is capable of embarrassing the relations between the central government and any state government; or
iii. Which is capable of embarrassing the relations between the central government and the government of any foreign State: Provided that nothing in this rule shall apply to any statement made or views expressed by a member of the service in his official capacity and in the due performance of the duties assigned to him.
While the fact remains that criticising a culture, social norm and a mindset that leads to incidents like Kathua cannot be taken as criticism of government, in this case there is more to the story than what is being told.
Consider this: In May, the Centre proposed making service allocations and cadre allocations of officers qualifying for the Civil Services Examination and adding the marks obtained for Foundation Course to the marks obtained in three-stage civil service examination conducted by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)
Responding to the government's proposal on Twitter, Faesal wrote:
— Shah Faesal (@shahfaesal) May 20, 2018
Faesal not only shared his reservations against the government’s idea of changing the method of service and cadre allocation but also went ahead and wrote about it for a website. However, Faesal has been vocal and supportive—in much the same fashion—regarding some government decisions. Will the government consider this while taking action against Faesal? On the government’s decision to allow lateral entry at joint secretary level, Faesal wrote:
I totally support GoI decision to allow lateral entry of professionals at Joint Secretary level. It'll make the services more competitive and force IAS to specialise. New ideas will come in. And the fun part, that those who couldn't enter IAS when young, find a crack in the wall! — Shah Faesal (@shahfaesal) June 10, 2018
An IAS officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, “I strongly feel that his open criticism to the government proposed policy on new method of service and cadre allotment pushed the top bosses to initiate action against him. His 'Rapistan' tweet is just a pretext; the real reason is his criticism of government policy in some cases and his social media presence.”
While the service rules can be invoked to initiate action against the likes of Faesal, one thing is clear: The last vestiges of the civil service set up by Macaulay are crumbling.
Updated Date: Jul 11, 2018 17:13 PM