The changing perception

In 2010, when UPSC declared CSE results, all of a sudden Kashmir was swept with joy and jubilation. A young boy from Kashmir’s Kupwara district became the first Kashmiri to top the prestigious IAS examination. It was not an ordinary happening for Kashmir and Kashmiris. Only a minuscule percentage of Kashmiri aspirants used to prepare for IAS examination. A plethora of reasons like political situation in Kashmir, lack of facilities, especially quality coaching institutes etc., and more importantly there was no role model for young people they could follow. Shah Faisal’s success led to a significant shift in young and aspiring minds of valley. Many thronged the coaching centres in Delhi, Jammu and Srinagar with dreams in their eyes to crack UPSC and other prestigious examinations.

The decades long conflict and turmoil in Kashmir had hurt the prestige, confidence and self esteem of Kashmiris. All they wanted was a change, a new strategy and a new life. In UPSC and civil service exams they saw a new world for themselves, where they can prove their mettle. They wanted the stereotypes around their identity to be erased and more importantly they wanted to be agents of change. In the subsequent years many Kashmiris qualified IAS examination, in increasing numbers with some getting top ranks. Once an apparently forbidden fruit, IAS turned out to be a favourite destination of Kashmiri youth.

Not only, this the percentage of Kashmiris qualifying Kashmir Administrative Services examination improved, as mostly candidates from Jammu province used to qualify KAS examinations. Relatively a  significant increase of Kashmiris in civil services was seen in later  years. Many thought that an increased representation in civil services was important, it could play a pivotal role in empowerment of the community. Kashmiri youth had not been keen in taking civil services as seriously as other medical and engineering examinations. Over the years they appeared in, and qualified these examinations in numbers. A sense of disillusionment about the system had prevented them from being as enthusiastic for civil services as other medical and engineering examinations.

Post 2010 or post Faesal’s success a change appeared in the mindset. The doubts if any regarding any kind of prejudice in these examinations against Kashmiri’s disappeared. The myth that UPSC is a difficult path for Kashmir youth to traverse vanished and suddenly there was a morale boosting for youth. The success in civil services appeared much empowering, lucrative and attractive. There was a sort of way forward for Kashmir’s next generation.

Common people held high expectations that those qualifying civil services examinations could bring a significant structural change in administration and governing. Kashmiris who had lot of apprehensions, and were mostly suspicious towards any incumbent government started developing expectations. The new faces in bureaucracy could change the things. These local officers could better understand the problems common people are facing. They can even act as a bridge between top echelons of govt. and common people.

To Kashmir’s dismay nothing changed. The structure and attitude of governance isn’t going to change any time soon. Civil services may continue to be an alluring career option for youth but the zeal and zest that was associated with it in Kashmir after Shah Faesal’s success could no longer stay. Kashmiris now don’t look at those qualifying these examinations as agents of change and saviors for the community. They are now viewed as someone who have achieved a dignified career for themselves and their achievement as something only personal to them. They are no longer seen as an asset for community and their success is no longer celebrated as a collective success of community.