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By becoming the first Kashmiri and second Muslim in entire India to top the civil services examination, Shah Faesal has broken many myths and created new benchmarks. Shazia Khan reports.

Shah Faesal

Just 11 days short of his 27th birthday, Dr Shah Faesal got the biggest gift of his life when the results of civil services exams declared him as a topper.

Faesal created history by becoming the first Kashmiri to secure the first position in this premier examination of India.

Faisal says he was motivated by the idea of “doing more than what defines success in Kashmir”. Kashmiri students do not generally opt for civil services, “So I thought to make an attempt to conquer this literally virgin field”.

As he waited for the results, Faesal never expected to top the results. “There was nothing in my background that would make anybody think I can achieve this,” said a jubilant Faisal. “But I did it and I feel thousands of other students here with similar difficult backgrounds can also achieve it.”

“It is not only my success,” he adds. “I feel I have broken the jinx that Kashmiri students cannot reach the top.” Faesal hoped that his story will become a model for other students.

“I am an orphan with a scarred childhood. There was a tragedy in my family, my father was killed,” said Faesal. “But nothing could break my determination to succeed.”

Born on May 17, 1983, Shah Faesal hails from Sogam-Lolab in Kupwara district. The family had to shift to Srinagar after Faesal’s father was killed by unidentified gunmen.

“Faesal was a born genius; always passing his exams with flying colours’, says his Mother Mubeena Banu. “Right from his childhood I had an intuition he will achieve something big someday.”

A doctor by profession Faesal did his MBBS from the SKIMS Medical College, Bemina, topping the examination in 2008. His initial schooling was from Government higher secondary school, Sogam and he was the first student in Sogam to secure 85% in class 10th. After they shifted to Srinagar, he enrolled at Tyndale Biscoe School, from where he passed class 12th with distinction.

“Faesal’s father wished to see him as a doctor,” says Mubeena, who works in the education department. His father Ghulam Rasool Shah was a government teacher at Lolab. On July 03, 2002, when Faesal was preparing for Common Entrance Test (CET), tragedy visited the family when Rasool was killed by some unidentified gunmen in his village.

“That is an unfortunate incident of our life. I don’t know why he was killed,” says Mubeena. Even eight years after that incident his death still remains a mystery.

Determined to traverse the adverse time, Mubeena after her husband’s death ensured the studies of all her children that include two sons and a daughter. “On the fourth day when my father was killed it was my mother who motivated me to appear for CET,” remembers Faesal. “It was my mother who convinced me to fulfil my father’s dream.”

After qualifying the entrance, he was determined to pursue his career in medicine but two years down the line he developed the interest in Civil Services.

In the second year of his MBBS degree, he decided to appear for civil services examinations. However, his interest turned into a passion when he met Abdul Gani Mir, the first IAS officer from Kupwara district, a Bihar (presently Jharkhand) cadre IPS officer, (presently on deputation in J&K as DIG CID). “He has even stored his photographs in his cell phone,” says Mubeena.

“He always wanted to do something big in his life”, adds Mubeena. “Even MBBS could not satisfy him.”

Last year when Faesal topped MBBS exams conducted in March, he became a part of Right to Information (RTI) campaign in Kashmir where he learnt, “If you want to change the system, you must join civil services.”

This boosted his confidence. He appeared in a coaching test for civil services conducted by the University of Kashmir where too he topped.

Seeing a brilliant doctor in the making, the professors at the coaching classes strongly advised Faesal to pursue post graduation in Medical Sciences instead of Civil Services. But nothing could change his firm resolve to achieve his goal.

Faesal qualified the civil service prelims and left for Delhi to prepare for Mains examination. Selecting Public Administration and Urdu as his two optional subjects, Faesal’s effort brought result with flying colours.

Even if the festivity at his Hyderpora and Sogam residence will subside in coming days but Faesal would always be an inspiration to students of Kashmir.


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