The First Flock

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Defying the restrictions that were imposed by the situation post-August 2019, a number of boys and girls moved out and appeared for the coveted civil service examination. Pirzada Shakir met some of the successful to tell their story of struggle and determination

In his remote south Kashmir village, Sabzar Ahmad Gania with his parents after passing the UPSC 2019

Their distinct identity would be the first batch of civil servants of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. On the flip side, it also means, these boys and girls managed to crack the examination in a situation when they were denied even the internet at home and, at one point of time, a phone call as well.

What was interesting was that in 2019 (when the UPSC announced the results of 2018), there was nobody from Kashmir who cracked the examination. It was the same year when Shah Feasal, the IAS topper of 2009, put in his papers and spent almost a year in jail. Days after his release from the jail, the results and were out and half a dozen had qualified. Interestingly, this was followed by reports that the Government of India is not accepting his resignation and he may eventually be a babu again.

Interestingly, the latest results got a young woman and a boy to the coveted service from Kupwara, the district to which Shah Feasal belongs.

One of them is Nadia Beig who tops the Kashmir lot at rank 350. A resident of Punzwa, almost 20 km from Kupwara, Beig has graduated from Jamia Millia Islamia Delhi.

“I went to Jamia in the 1990s and found it very safe and its students very intelligent, and that very day I decided to enrol my children there,” Ghulam Mohammad Beig, Nadia’s father, a teacher, said. “I succeeded in sending my eldest son and Nadia to Jamia for higher studies.”

Nadia, who is now being termed to be the youngest qualifier’s at 23 years of age, had her schooling locally in a private school. A non-medical student at the secondary level, she switched to Honours in Economics but eventually qualified as a sociology student the UPSC examination. “Sociology interested me more than economics so I decided to appear in CSE (UPSC) with Sociology as a subject,” she said.

In her first attempt, Nadia did not succeed in 2018. A year later, she made it. She did her preparations for the examination at Jamia’s Residential Coaching Academy.

“I wouldn’t have dreamt of competing for CSE if I had been in Kashmir as one cannot imagine it when you are not provided with atmosphere and facilities at par with other competitors,” Beig said. “Internet blockade and the situation in Kashmir ultimately takes a heavy toll on the studies of aspirants.”

Her father remains the family’s main planner. “I would bring books, magazines, newspapers for my children. I would motivate them to do something big so that they would be of some help to Jammu and Kashmir,” he said. It paid the family well – his two youngest daughters are pursuing MBBS in a Government Medical College, Srinagar.

In Trehgam Kupwara Aftab Rasool with his parents after being declared successful in UPSC 2019

Not far away from Beig’s lives Aftab Rasool Bhat in Trehgam. Son of a retired police officer, he managed the rank of 420 in his third attempt. After his initial studies in Jawahar Navodya Vidyala (JNV), Kupwara, Aftab joined Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Delhi University for higher studies and subsequently started preparing for CSE with history as his main subject. A Junior Research Fellow (JRF), he is pursuing his PhD from Delhi University. He is sceptical about improving his rank by going for another examination but is keen to complete his PhD.

Most of the others belong to South Kashmir. Sabzar Ahmad Ganie who falls at the rank 628 comes from a modest background. A resident of Geebooma (Kokernag), Ganie, 25, is the second CSE qualifier from his area. It was in 1978 that Mohammad Iqbal Khanday became the first IAS. He rose to become the Chief Secretary and died in 2018 by cancer.

“I did my primary education in a local government primary school and joined a local private high school to complete my secondary education,” Sabzar said. “I qualified Jammu and Kashmir Common Entrance Test (JKCET) at 36 rank and got a seat in BE in Jammu college.”

His only regret is that teachers play truant. “Teachers in Government schools are well qualified, infrastructure is good but the sense of responsibility is missing,” he said. “I had to join a private school for two years (9th and 10th) to compensate for the loss incurred in 2008 when the whole Kashmir was under civil curfew.”

In 2018, Sabzar joined Jamia Millia’s Residential Coaching Academy to prepare for CSE. “Our village lacks basic facilities like proper electricity, mobile connectivity, and the internet to access material for preparation. No newspaper comes to his villages,” he said. “It was Residential Coaching Academy that made me qualify CSE.”

The day result of CSE was declared, pictures of one-storey mud house of Sabzar went viral on social media that evoked sympathy from different quarters and appreciation for his hard work. Sabzar’s father is a farmer, and his mother is a housewife.

Sabzar’s brother joined the government job in 2015 to support his family and his education after giving up his higher education.

“My elder brother got selected for an MBA Course at the University of Kashmir after qualifying entrance exam but he had to give up and join low-key government job to support my studies and family as there was no other source of income for the family.”

Sabzar said he has seen poverty and hardships very closely and that was the key motivation to go for CSE. “I would like to tell aspirants and students that nothing can be achieved in a comfort zone as one must leave his/her comfort zone to achieve something in life,” he said. Sabzar will join the service and will simultaneously prepare to improve his rank in the next examination.

In a remote Kupwara village Nadia Beig with her parents, two medico sisters and brother. She tops the Kashmiri students at rank 350.

There are others from the same area. Majid Iqbal Khan of Shangus (Anantnag) passed the examination with 618 rank. Schooled at an Army school, he did his B Tech from Telangana.

Asif Yousef Tantry with rank 328 hails from Hablish Devsar in Kulgam. Also a B Tech, he went for coaching to Delhi in 2016. “Since then, I worked hard and finally I achieved what I had desired for many years,” Tantray told Kashmir Life.

From Jammu and Kashmir, the actual number is more. Abhishek Augustsya is at rank 38, followed by Sunny Gupta at 148, Dev Ahuti at 177, and Parth Gupta at 240. They are all from Jammu. Then, there are three from the UT of Ladakh including Namgyal Angmo and Stanzin Wangyal from Leh, and Mohammed Nawas Sharaf Uddin Sharafuddin from Kargil’s Drass belt.

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