Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Kashmiri Youth - II: How high can it get?

Shah Faesal became the first Kashmiri to top the IAS examination. His achievement led to soul searching in the Kashmiri Press. Here are three differing perspectives

(Dr. Shah Faesal, 27, was born in Sogam village of District Kupwara. He studied at his village schools until the 10th grade and then transferred to the Tyndale Biscoe School Srinagar. Through an open merit system, he was selected for a seat in the medical college and finished his medical degree (MBBS) from the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Soura, Srinagar. His hobbies are reading literature (English, Urdu, Persian and Kashmiri), writing articles and plays, peace activism, and is currently involved in grass-roots advocacy for implentation of the Right to Information (RTI) in J&K state. He accomplished a herculean feat by securing the first position in the 2009 UPSC examinations in which over 100,000 aspiring candidates participated.)

Faesal Made us Believe

Syed Rafiuddin Bukhari

It took 63 years for Kashmiris to see a young boy, Shah Faesal, toping India’s most coveted Civil Services Examination. In 1982 Khurshid Ahmad Ganai, then a youth from South Kashmir’s Mattan village missed the top slot by few points but secured second rank at All India level. This year north Kashmir’s Shah Faesal, shattered many a myth by filling that gap. Earlier the taboo about entering the top most service during the turmoil was broken by Imtiaz Ismail Parray, the boy from Kulgam who made it to Indian Police Service last year. He did it after 15 years, as Javed Mujtaba Gillani and Abdul Gani Mir were last two Kashmiris who made it to Civil Services in 1994.

All India Services commonly known as IAS and IPS, have been uncommon for Kashmir since 1947. Most of the IAS or IPS officers from Kashmir have achieved this distinction by getting inducted into them through the state service quota. In spite of being a Muslim majority state the representation of the community into this service has been negligible.

In over last 60 years only a few Kashmiris have made it to IAS and IPS cracking through the grueling examination process. We have splendid examples in IAS and IPS from Kashmir. One can count them fingers: M L Koul, H L Kadalbuju, Mohammad Shafi Pandit, followed by S L Bhat, Mohammad Iqbal Khandey, Khurshid Ahmad Ganai, Atal Dulloo, Dr Asghar Hussan Samoon in IAS and Rajinder Tickoo, Ashok Bhan, Kuldip Khuda, Javed Gillani and Abdul Gani Mir in IPS. There are few more like G R Sufi, Farhat Qureshi and Zubair Ahmad who made it to services like Indian Revenue Service (IRS) by competing in the same examination. But the presence of Kashmiris in these services has been very small. This year, however, four, the highest number ever, have qualified for these services. Apart from Faesal, Rayees Mohammad, Showkat Parray and Mir Umair Nabi are in the list.

Your browser may not support display of this image. Faesal’s achievement, however, has temporarily overshadowed all what we think have been deprived of during last over six decades. His resolve to reach to the top position amid the odds he faced in wake of the murder of his father has made us rethink that this can be achieved. Losing one of the parents and then mustering enough courage to appear for the Common Entrance Test is something, which throws up a lesson for our youth. Faesal’s determination apart, the way with which his teacher-mother stood by the family in the worst time also is something we can boast about. Kashmiri women have faced the brunt of violence in Kashmir in past 20 years and Mubeena is one among them; she did something extraordinary by giving the best to her three children in a rented room in Srinagar. After the killing of her husband Ghulam Rasool Shah, she left Sogam village in desperation and had no idea where she will land. But with meager resources she did not allow Faesal’s dream to shatter. “I never intervened in what he wanted to do but told him that I am with you,” she said.

Faesal’s achievement has also broken many myths surrounding the issue that why we lag behind in making it to such coveted positions. First and foremost is that even a young boy with trauma in his life can do this. Second that irrespective of a good or bad school such a feat was possible. Day in and day out Kashmir discusses the education system and the reforms we can make and we are more driven towards the private schools thus dismissing the fact that at ground level especially in rural areas it is the government school which shows the way of life. The fact that Faesal was a student of a government school in Sogam stands testimony to the fact that it is hard work which matters more than merely being in a “good” or “expensive” school”. Kashmir’s talent has been acknowledged worldwide and wherever a Kashmiri has gone he has excelled but it is only question of taking up a challenge and show that “we can do it”. The myth that the services like IAS or IPS were a far-fetched dream for a Kashmiri has also gone with this sweeping achievement. Your browser may not support display of this image.

But there are still a few factors, which keep us away from such things. Last 20 years of turmoil had thrown everything out of gear in Kashmir. It is a fact that the political instability had an important role to play in keeping the young Kashmiris away from such processes. May be many would think that whether such an entry had future given the confusing signals the political situation was sending. Our “love” for medical and engineering streams was unending and we could not think beyond that. But Faesal was also a medical graduate and he could achieve both the targets. Bigger problem the experts say is of awareness among the youth that there was something better in store in case you strive for that.

As acknowledged by Faesal’s mother as well, he was inspired by the awareness campaign launched by some KAS officers and supported vigorously by local media. This awareness has to go on to get best out of the lot. However, the avenues of coaching and guidance in Kashmir are limited. If they opt to go out the shadow of suspicion follows them in Delhi, Mumbai and other places. It is the atmosphere of confidence for Kashmiri youth in rest of India, which can motivate more and more people to go out and look towards such opportunities. Faesal, Rayees and Showkat’s entry into All India Services has also restored the confidence in the system which had been so far faulty” for us. But one thing is clear that merit does prevail once you make up your mind that you have to achieve this. Today we salute Faesal and all others who have made us real proud.

Iqbal has rightly said “Zara Nam Hou Tou Yeh Miti Bahut Zarkhez Hey Saqi”.

Back Home Faesal Utters his K Wish
‘Kashmir should be constituency of peace not enterprise of violence’

Muzafar Wani

The Kashmir doctor who topped the prestigious Indian civil service exams, Shah Faesal Rasool wishes to see Kashmir as a “constituency of peace” that he says is tagged as the “enterprise of violence”.

After receiving a rousing reception at his residence here at Hyderpora, Faesal, on his return from New Delhi, said: “We need to reconstruct ourselves. I wish to see reduction in the political rhetoric for the better present and future of Kashmiri people.”

Sharing experience of his success with Rising Kashmir, Faesal said Kashmiri youth are overtaken by the sense of failure that serves as an obstruction to succeed in such examinations.

“Stereotyping in Kashmir has created preconceived notions about the difficulty and discrimination with Kashmiri and Muslim aspirants in the examinations,” he said as his friends and relatives burst firecrackers, danced and sang songs.

Faesal said that if he was allotted the J&K cadre, he would honestly and with all his efforts try to meet the expectations of the Kashmiri people. “Doctors and engineers from Kashmir are already working at top positions in Europe and India. The need is to create manpower in the public service sector.”

He said upholding Kashmiri language, establishing a counseling centre for aspiring candidates and work for Right to Information (RTI) Act would be his preferences. “I wish to see Kashmir with quality study circles and counseling centres.”

Regarding RTI, he said there should be the balance between information seeker and information provider for successful exchanges.

Replacing the concept of hard work with ‘smart work’, Faesal said: “Although it is difficult to clear such examinations because of efficient competing lot from various IITS and IIMS, yet it is not unbelievably difficult. It is the time for our youth to diversify their interests. I hope we can do it.”

He said many positive inspirations including this years’ selection from Kashmir would help evade the sense of fear about the exam among the students. “Inferiority complex and the creation of myths are the worst enemies to excel for a promising future. I suggest Kashmir youth to aim and dream high and work honestly for their actualization.”

Stressing to adopt new perspectives, Faesal said: “The horizon of our goal setting has shrunk by sealing of dreams that need to be broadened by inculcation of the sense of public service.”

Attributing his success to his late father, Ghulam Rasool Shah, mother Mubeena and his friend Rafiq Ahmad Shah, Faesal said that they served as driving forces for him to go in the field.

For the civil services aspirants, he said: “Don’t programme the mind with information. All the exam needs is focus, ingenuity and creativity. Previous selection in IAS from Kashmir served as my inspiration. I concluded I too can do it.”

Dr Faisal would have no room in NC’s autonomy, PDP’s ‘self-rule’
Omar, Mehbooba should learn a lesson of silence from Geelani, Mirwaiz

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

Kashmiris, identifying themselves with a positive transformation in this piece of the world, have every reason to be ecstatic over Dr Shah Faisal’s historic achievement of becoming this state’s first topper in Indian Civil Services examination in the last over 60 years of Independent India. Everybody, from intelligentsia to an ordinary Kashmiri, seems to be justifiably thrilled. Valley’s separatist leadership has reasons to its silence: Faisal’s father, Ghulam Rasool Shah, who was gunned down by the armed Messiahs of our pro-Azadi leaders in July 2002, was buried without a word of condemnation from politicians. Secondly, praising Faisal’s accomplishment would obviously run the risk of romanticizing the infidelity of Kashmir’s integration with the ‘occupational India’.

After abusing the Indian Civil Services---particularly Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Police Service (IPS) --- in a competition of over 10 years, both the mainstream majors, namely National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have suddenly begun to outclass each other in showering praises on Dr Faisal for doing his home state proud by standing first in order of merit among hundreds of thousands of the candidates of this country, whose population is over 1,000 million. Since Thursday afternoon, greetings have been exuberantly pouring in from all men and women of consequence in Dr Farooq Abdullah’s NC and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s PDP.

Rulers and ex-rulers, who had not the courtesy of allotting a government accommodation to Shah’s destitute family in the wake of its migration from Sogam village of Kupwara to Srinagar, have been shamelessly shooting off greetings and statements of praise on the woman who has given the history’s most befitting reply to the killers of her husband. Shah, according to his neighbours in Lolab valley, was neither an “Indian agent” nor an informant of Police or security forces. Forgetting a fellow villager’s beheading on the premises of Jamia Masjid of Sogam few months back, he had done the mistake of resisting a foreign militant’s “hand shake” with a girl of his neighbourhood. He was eliminated within a day.

Then Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah’s Minister of State for Home and Law, Mushtaq Ahmed Lone, who lived at a stone’s throw from Shah’s house, chose to be a mute spectator to both of his neighbours’ slayings. He became famous for his trademark abusing of “renegades” (Kashmiri militants shifting their loyalties to Police and armed forces) but still failed to get militants’ support of silence to his election campaign. In two month’s of Shah’s killings, Lone was gunned down alongwith his armed guard in full view of his Police and CRPF protection and over a thousand of his audiences at an election rally at Tikkipora village. His brother, Mohiuddin, was not spared either. In the next three months, he met the NC leader’s fate outside his residence in Sogam.

Shah’s wife, Mubeena, who teaches Kashmiri at a high school, came over the tribulation in utter helplessness. She raised both of her sons--- Faisal and Shahnawaz--- as doctors. Her daughter got a job in Education Department. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s as well as Saif-ud-din Soz’s congratulations to Faisal and his mother are understandable in the sense that both believe in the state’s undiluted integration with the rest of the country. Governor N N Vohra’s appreciation of Faisal’s feat and a public invitation to him and his mother also deserves respect. But, one fails to understand what precisely has thrilled leaders of the ruling NC and opposition PDP who have been both avowed detractors of central Civil Services in Jammu & Kashmir.

Getting thrilled over Faisal’s historic achievement in a civil services competition has got to be patently different from the street excitement over Qazi Tauqeer’s distinction in a countrywide singing competition on television. Faisal is obviously going to join IAS---a central administrative service which has no room either in NC’s “greater autonomy” or in PDP’s “self-rule”. Unlike NC, PDP can celebrate Faisal’s success with one-odd firecracker after Muzaffar Hussain Baig’s recent statement in which the legal luminary suggested a marginal provision for IAS and IPS in Jammu & Kashmir.

To simplify, a couple of the sons of soil like Dr Faisal could be accommodated in the state government if PDP one day succeeded to get “self rule” from New Delhi. All 26 sons of soil, who are currently in IAS --- with the inclusion of three Kashmiri boys yesterday--- would have to be disowned and thrown out to the Centre if New Delhi ever granted “greater autonomy” to this state of special constitutional status. Fate of those in IPS and the separately managed Indian Forest Service would have to be no different. Yes, all the brilliant members of the IAS, IPS and IFS club, preserving laminated originals of their Permanent Resident Certificates (PRCs), would be entitled to owning immovable properties in their state of domicile.

1 comment:

Ranita said...

As and Indian, I laud the achievement of Faisal and wish that more Kashmiri youth become doctors and engineers to serve their people. It is difficult due to the sad situation prevailing in Kashmir but please understand where there is a will there is a way. My best wishes are with you guys.