“Shouldn’t Kashmir Affect You?”: Kannan Gopinathan On Why He Quit IAS
The former bureaucrat had quit the administrative service on August 21 to protest what he claimed was the denial of fundamental rights to lakhs of people in Jammu and Kashmir.
Former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Kannan Gopinathan on Tuesday rejected the centre’s claim that the ongoing clampdown on Kashmir is meant to prevent deaths due to violent reprisals, saying that life holds no meaning to a human being without the right to liberty.
“Life and liberty go together, and that’s the beauty of a constitutional democracy. If they say that they will put you in jail to save your life, would that be acceptable to you? You can argue something like that for a certain period, yes, but this has been going on for three weeks now,” he told NDTV in an exclusive interview.
The 33-year-old bureaucrat had quit the administrative service on August 21 to protest what he claimed was the denial of fundamental rights to lakhs of people in Jammu and Kashmir. “It’s not like my resignation will cause even a flutter, but one has one’s own conscience to answer to,” he had said then.
Jammu and Kashmir was placed under lockdown as a “precautionary measure” earlier this month, when the centre took the surprise step of scrapping the state’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcating it into two distinct union territories. It also placed many of its political leaders, including another former IAS officer Shah Faesal, under arrest.
Mr Gopinathan said he empathised with the people of Jammu and Kashmir even though he was not personally affected by the government’s clampdown. “Should something affect you personally for you to take a decision?” he asked. “My other question is: when freedom is being curtailed in your own country, when people aren’t being allowed to express themselves freely, shouldn’t it affect you?”
The former IAS officer said that while taking a decision like revoking Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood was the government’s legitimate right, people should also have the right to react in a democracy. “The government takes a decision and then shuts down the reaction to that decision, saying that it could be violent… it’s an argument that can be used anywhere,” he added.
Mr Gopinath said journalists should have played a more proactive role in denouncing the Kashmir shutdown. “The media, which is supposed to advocate liberty and freedom of speech, should have said that they must be allowed to speak freely. Whether the government listens to the media is a different matter altogether,” he added.
He, however, did not elaborate on whether he would follow Shah Faesal’s example and join politics. “Now that I have quit the service, I would like to earn a livelihood by connecting with the public in whichever small way. If I can do that by working at the grassroots level, it would be good. I have not thought beyond that,” Mr Gopinath said.