IAS Topper's Success Mantras
Shah Faesal, a Kashmiri whose father was murdered by terrorists, made
history recently when he topped the UPSC civil services exam. He shared
his insights with Rediff.com At 27, Dr Shah Faesal is the first
Kashmiri native to have topped the Union Public Service Commission's
civil services examination. Faesal acknowledges that he has become
an icon for Kashmiri youth, but says he is not entirely comfortable with
this sudden adulation. Having lost his father to terrorists, the success
has brought happier moments for Faesal and his family. Between
travelling across the country and preparing for his year-long training
before he is inducted into the Indian Administrative Service, Faesal
tells what his success means to the people of Kashmir and why the rest
of India must face up to the issues there.
Are you getting used to the limelight?
(Smiles) Yes! Initially it was a catastrophe trying to cope with the rush of
people. But now I am getting used to it!
Does your being from Kashmir help because now people acknowledge the fact
that it is a state that has potential?
These are popular perceptions. Whenever popular perceptions break it becomes
news. Never has there been a topper from Kashmir so yes, it does significantly
lend weight to my selection.
How have the people in your neighbourhood reacted?
Oh, the response has been unprecedented! The youth have found a new role
model and an icon.
Are you comfortable with that status?
No, I don't like being cast into being a demi-god because if people put you
on a pedestal today they may also nail you if you fail to meet their
How are you coping with these expectations and working towards meeting
Now that I have got a platform, I am speaking out not just about my
achievements and myself but also spelling out the concerns of the youth in the
What are the concerns of youth in Kashmir?
The youth there has a lot of potential and talent and the willingness to
work hard. They seek opportunities and a safe space to realise their potential
and someone to trust them. The curtain of suspicion that lies between you
(the rest of India) and us needs to be removed.
The general perception is that many Kashmiri youth do not consider
themselves part of the national mainstream. Is that the case?
It is all about perception. Since you do not have a sense of belonging and
relation with and no information about the people in Kashmir the image you carry
is that it is a tourist spot. You need to see that there is human tragedy
and pain in the region. Identify with that. Own the pain.
Despite having a strong background in science, why did you choose Urdu as
one of your optional subjects?
The intention was to dispel the myth about Urdu being a downtrodden and a
neglected language. I wanted to prove that Urdu too can fetch you laurels.
Was that your idea in appearing for the UPSC too? To break certain myths?
Yes. The fact that there haven't been many people from the Kashmir province
to appear for the UPSC in the last 15 years was a motivating factor. I wanted to
dispel the myth that we are incompetent people and the profiling that goes on...
How do you plan to reach out to the people of Kashmir if you get the Jammu
First, I'd like to ensure safe space to the youth. Besides this, my
endeavour would be to bring about more connect and communication between the
young people in Kashmir and the government so their grievances can be addressed.