Srinagar is the land of Shah Faesal. Everyone here knows who he is — topper of the Indian civil services, a new brand ambassador of Kashmir in 2010
“Yes, I know him, he is the top IAS officer,” Ejaz Ahmad, 39, a shopkeeper here, seeks oneness with the son of the soil that Shah Faesal is.
The life outside the airport here is like that outside any other airport in the country — big hoardings promoting cell phones and university courses.
Way back in 1990, when this reporter landed at Srinagar airport and asked a taxi driver whether there was a taxi bearing the number plate JKF, the answer was: there is no JKF, here it is only JKLF — the abbreviation of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front and the outfit which stands for the complete independence of the state both from India and Pakistan.
The azadi (freedom) sentiment was at its peak even though fiercely pro-Pakistan group Hizb-ul-Mujahadeen had started showing its military might — the group used to boast of largest number of militants, approximately 4,000 to 5,000. Hizb supporters would say “here everyone is a Mujahadeen (holy warrior).”
A series of widespread protests over the ‘fake encounter’ and marches to Shopian and invocation of the relevance of the United Nations’ resolutions notwithstanding, Shah Faesal — the bespectacled doctor has given a new ownership to this land, where IAS is no longer a hated service, it is meant for Kashmiris in a big way.
Faesal, too represents a sentiment — aspire, work hard and achieve.“He is our inspiration,” says Bashir Dar, an unemployed youth in his early twenties. He had a habit of cursing the National Hydro-electric Projects Corporation for power failures in the Valley.
He was among those who had bought the theory propounded by the leaders, particularly PDP president Mehbooba Mufti and her father and former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed that “NHPC had stolen the waters of Kashmir”. NHPC has constructed three major power projects in the state and is also operating a fourth one.
It’s been almost a month since Shah Faesal appeared on the scene — a success story scripted by his hard work and ambition to make it big despite having lost his father to the bullets of militants eight years ago.
With him three others from this land have made it to the IAS. They are: Mir Umair, Showkat Ahmad Parrey and Rayees Mohammad Bhat. Four Kashmiris in IAS in a single year is in itself an achievement that has infused a new life among Kashmiri youth. that fact has opened a window of opportunity beyond the high Pir Panchaal range of Himalayas.
The IAS topper represents something “achievable” within the system that is cursed by many in the Valley. His accomplishment has presented the country as a land of opportunity where there is no discrimination in the name of religion, ethnicity or any other factor.
Next year, Bashir thinks there will be many more appearing for the civil services, and there is a hope that yet another Shah Faesal would shaking hands with Indian Prime Minister. He is now embedded in the collective thought of Kashmir as a bright mind of this land of immense beauty.