Thiruvananthapuram: Kannan Gopinathan quit the Indian Administrative Service last Wednesday, saying he could not remain a mute witness “when one of the world’s largest democracies announced a ban on the entire state (Jammu and Kashmir), and even violated the fundamental rights of the people... but I would not question the Centre’s legitimate right to take decisions”.
The official reasoned that the government cannot take away anyone’s right to dissent, protest and speak their mind. “While in service, I was bound by the rules against speaking my mind, especially when criticising government. Now that I have resign-ed, which itself is a statement, I have regai-ned my freedom of ex-pression. I want to live like me, even if it is for a day,” Mr Gopinathan told this newspaper.
He joined the civil service with the hope he could be the voice of the voiceless and the silenced. “But here, I lost my own voice,” he said. Was there no other option than resignation? The question, Mr Gopinathan said, was not why he resigned, “but how I cannot”. His resignation might not make an impact, but when the country is at its worst since the Emergency, he was not one to take leave and fly to the United States for higher education.
A 2012-batch IAS officer from Kerala, he put in his papers as the head of the Dadra and Nagar Haveli administration. He is a qualified electrical engineer from the Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra, and worked as a design engineer before joining the IAS.
Mr Gopinathan had not thought about the future because “doing what I wanted now was more important”. He might study further or take a job fitting his qualifications. “Earn-ing my bread will not be difficult,” he said.
But he would continue to work in sync with humanitarian concerns. Mr Gopinathan used to take classes for slum children while working with a private company in Noida. He sat in protest on the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy, and protested against scams before joining the service. “These are a part of me, wherever I am,” he said.
“If you ask me what you had done when this (turbulence in J&K) was happening, I should at least be able to reply that I resigned my job,” he said.
A batchmate of his told this newspaper: “Kannan Gopinathan is a very warm, friendly person. He was quite popular among batchmates at the Civil Services Academy in Mussoorie. He is very bright, talented, sincere and hard-working. Yes, he is kind and humanitarian... Kannan’s resignation has come as a surprise to us. Don’t think anyone else would contemplate doing anything similar.”
Mr Gopinathan rued that no one in the bureaucracy had been able to protest when former civil servant Shah Faesal was arrested. Mr Faesal, the 2010 topper, quit his job in January to protest against the “marginalisation and invisiblisation of around 200 million Indian Muslims at the hands of Hindutva”.
“I once thought that being in the civil services meant an opportunity to expand the rights and freedoms of fellow citizens!” Kannan had tweeted just days ago. On Friday, he tweeted: “But Hong Kong seems to understand their wealth is worth nothing if unaccompanied by freedom & democracy!”
Last year, as the district collector of the Dadra and Nagar Haveli, he took time off to . But the Ernakulam collector identified his batchmate. Later, he presented a cheque for Rs 1 crore as the head of the DNH administration to Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.