Faesal’ Success: A Hope for Kashmir

June, 2010
By Shivangi Muttoo

Faesal Shah, from Kashmir, secured the first rank in the country’s prestigious and competitive Civil Service exam. The present generation of youth in Kashmir has grown up in an atmosphere of conflict and turmoil. This article seeks to highlight the plight of Kashmiri youth and analyze the future implications of Faesal’success for the state. 

Due to the full-fledged conflict in the 1990s, an entire generation of Kashmiri youth underwent a troubled childhood marred by experiences of harassment by army personnel and militants, repeated incidents of gunfire, enforced disappearances, loss of family members and a poor and intermittent education. Even today normalcy has not returned to the valley. Many private and public organizations are unable to hold recruitment exams due to security reasons and the current rate of unemployment is more than 6%. A recent survey conducted by UK based think-tank Chatham House revealed that 87% of the people in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) believe that unemployment is a greater concern than independence. 

The dismal conditions that prevail in the region and severe neglect have pushed the youth towards militancy. Many take part in “street resistance” and many have taken up stone pelting as a job. Stone pelting is a popular form of protest in Kashmir. Separatists and political parties often hire stone pelters during demonstrations against the government. Further, a report indicated that 29% of the unemployed youth are indulging in intoxicants that are destroying their health. According to researchers at Cornell University studying the ‘emerging scenario in Kashmir,’ there are around 60,000 youth addicted to drugs in Srinagar. In Anantnag and Baramulla, 40% of the youth consume illicit drugs.  

Against this backdrop, the success of a Kashmiri youth is remarkable. Faesal Shah, the first Kashmiri, to top the Civil Service Exam, grew up in a village of Kashmir. His father was killed by militants in 2002. The personal tragedy did not deter him but fired zeal in him to excel. Last year, one Kashmiri had cleared the exam. This year three Kashmiris have made it to the elite bureaucratic list and this seems to be a positive trend emerging amongst the youth in Kashmir. 

Faesal Shah and others have set an example for the Kashmiri youth. Many students of Kashmir University are planning to appear for the Civil Service and other competitive exams next year. Faesal has emerged as a source of inspiration for the youth of Kashmir who require motivation to emerge from conflict and focus on their future. 

If more Kashmiri youth join the Civil Service in the coming years, it could bring positive implications for the state. Kashmiri youth leading the bureaucracy in the state will introduce a ‘healing touch’ as a new dimension to the governance of the state. Since the new generation of Kashmiri civil servants grew amidst the turmoil, they are likely to be more sensitive towards serving the people of the state. They have a better understanding and appreciation of Kashmir’s ground realities. Thus, their role is significant in running the administration in Kashmir. At present, J&K lags behind the other Indian states in terms of Human Development Index (HDI). J&K’s HDI rank is 27, whereas its neighboring states have a much higher rank: Himachal is ranked 15th, Punjab is 14th and Haryana is 21st.  For Faesal Shah and others, bureaucracy is a means to bring socio-economic change and governance based on a healing touch which would improve development in Kashmir. 

In addition, if the number of Kashmiri youth joining the bureaucracy rises, it is likely to change the Kashmiri perception of the Indian state. A majority of Kashmiri youth perceive India as a symbol of political and military occupation. The situation in the 1990s transformed their attitude from anti-government to anti-India. However, the news of Faesal’s success in the Civil Service exam has evoked positive response in Kashmir. The sense of joy among the common people and their support for a Kashmiri, who is now a part of the Indian establishment, indicates that if more Kashmiris join the bureaucracy, it could soften the anti-India sentiments of the people. 

Further, the success of Faesal and others has the potential of transforming the image of Kashmiris outside Kashmir. There is currently a stigma of militancy or at least an heir of suspicion that surrounds Kashmiri youth. Such perceptions make them vulnerable to unfavorable and unfair treatment outside Kashmir. The militant stereotype could be broken if more Kashmiris emerge as bureaucrats. 

In the coming years, the success of Faesal and others could prove to be a turning point for Kashmir. It stimulates the youth towards transforming their dreams into reality and in this way it could help in resolving the Kashmir conundrum.

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