He comes from a remote village in Kupwara district of strife-torn Kashmir and studied in a village school. Eight years ago, his father was gunned down by militants. But Dr Shah Faisal, a 26-year-old MBBS, has fought the odds and won. On Thursday, Faisal became the first Kashmiri ever to top the civil services exam. "I don't have words to express how I feel, I am not able to speak. I just wish I was with my family. I am just waiting to hug my mother," Faisal, who came to the capital before the results to "get away from the stress of waiting", told TOI. Even through the elation, Faisal gets emotional at the mention of Kashmir. Describing himself as a victim of conflict, he says, "I have watched the bloodshed in Kashmir very closely. I was devastated when my father Ghulam Rasool Shah was gunned down. It is him that I miss the most today. He used to dote on me and taught me English and maths when I studied in school," he says. In Srinagar, his mother Mubeena Begum, thrilled beyond words, says, "Faisal has made every Kashmiri proud with his hard work and dedication." Her husband, she says, was killed because he refused shelter to militants. Ironically, it was the tragedy that opened a window to the wider world for the family. "After the killing, I shifted from village Sheikh Nar in Lolab Sogam area of Kupwara to Srinagar with my children ^ two sons and a daughter. My elder son Shah Faisal had done his class X from Sogam high school while my two other children were in middle school there. I was a broken woman but never gave up and fought against all odds to bring up my children," says Mubeena, a teacher, like her husband. Faisal, who did his MBBS from Srinagar's Sher-i-Kashmir Medical College, says he was confident of qualifying but never imagined he would be right on top. His mission now is to serve his people in the strife torn area of Kashmir. "I wanted to serve my people and in the role of an IAS officer I would like to reduce the communication gap between the people and the administration. I will give audience to them to hear their problems, cares and worries. I want to bring a change, especially for women and the youth," he says, insisting that he never received any formal training for the UPSC exam. Among his inspirations, Faisal counts an IPS officer from his state. "I was inspired by one Abdul Gani Mir of my area in Kupwara, who passed his IPS in 1994. I have been in touch with him since 2007, when I thought of sitting for the civil services exams," he says. Gani is currently DIG, CID in Jammu and Kashmir Police. Faisal's younger brother Shah Nawaz is also a doctor while his younger sister Talat Shah is a library assistant.
Overcoming all ordeal and militancy atmosphere in the valley, Kupwara boy Shah Faesal has topped the list of three-phase Indian Administrative Service (IAS) 2009.
Dr Faesal also become the first Kashmiri to top the Civil Services examination.
His success will also set an example in the valley. Faesal belongs to Kupwara district of Kashmir, which is believed to be militancy gate.
The 26-year-old MBBS graduate, who topped the list of 875 successful candidates, said that he was not the first Kashmiri to achieve the milestone he was also second Muslim in the history to achieve the feet.
It was celebration at Faesal’s hometown and his family members were seen distributing sweets.
Faesal said that it was not only cracking Civil Services, the highest job in India, but it was battle against the all odds.
His family moved to Srinagar from Sogam village in Kupwara after brutal murder of his father in 2003. His father Ghulam Rasool was a schoolteacher and well-known personality in the village. He fell prey to militancy bullets without any reason.
After father’s death, Faesal’s family left their native place for never to return.
Faesal’s mother is also a schoolteacher and she said, “I am happy that he achieved his dream.”
Despite his science background, Faesal had chosen Urdu literature and public administration as his optional subjects for the civil service exam.
Faesal's success will also inspire talents in the valley and they will help Kashmir to join the mainstream of society.
Shah Faisal dreamed big. In a state where few go in for civil services, the 27-year-old put his medical career on hold to appear for the examination. Today, as the results came in, his name was at the top — a giant leap for a boy from a government school in a remote village, whose father was killed by militants, and a big, big step for Kashmir.
“There was nothing in my background that would make anybody think I can achieve this,” a jubilant Faisal, who had been hoping to be among the top 50, said today. “But I did it. So can thousands of other students with similar difficult backgrounds.”
“It is not only my own success,” he adds. “I feel I have broken the jinx that Kashmiri students cannot reach the top. I am the first from J&K to top this examination and I am sure my story will become a model for our students who fear to dream big. I am an orphan with a scarred childhood. There was a tragedy in my family, my father was killed. I was raised by my mother who is a schoolteacher. I belong to a far-flung village in Lolab and I studied in a government school.”
Faisal says he was motivated by the idea of “doing more than what forms success in Kashmir”. The civil services examination is not something Kashmiri students generally opt for. “So I thought to make an attempt...”
The first person he called up on learning about the results, at 3 am today, was his mother. Mubeena Begum hasn’t had an easy life. After her husband, Ghulam Rasool Shah, a schoolteacher, was killed by “unidentified gunmen” eight years ago in Sheikhnar village, located in frontier Kupwara district, she migrated to Srinagar with her three young children for a better life. She raised Faisal and his siblings on her schoolteacher salary.
For her, the news of Faisal’s success was “like a new birth”. While he had always been an achiever, Mubeena didn’t expect him to do this well. “I didn’t see him with books all the time. He did study but in a very normal way,” she says.
What the family had no doubts about was Faisal’s determination to become an IAS officer and to do something for the state. “He always wanted to do something big. Even after qualifying for MBBS, he didn’t seem satisfied. It was his passion to qualify for the civil services exam. He would store photographs of Kashmiri IAS officers in his cellphone,” Mubeena says.
Faisal’s one regret is that his father isn’t around to savour his success. “I’m missing him today... He taught me that I could take on any challenge, only if I work hard. He was my guide and my teacher and can you imagine, the basics that he taught me in Class XI came as a big help during the (Civil Services) preliminary (examination).”
Faisal didn’t take any formal coaching for the exam. “I took Public Administration as a subject and for sometime studied geography too. But then I decided to study Urdu literature. I an emotionally attached to the language.”
While he put his doctor’s training aside to prepare for the exam — unheard of in a state where medicine and engineering are among the most coveted professions — Faisal picked up another vocation in the meantime. He is also an active RTI activist.
Among those who inspired him to take the civil services exam were his late maternal grandfather Mohammad Maqbool Wani. He qualified for the Indian Forest Service 45 years ago, but disappeared while on his way for training. “We never heard of him again,” Faisal says. “But my mother always talked about him during my childhood and the family was proud that he had qualified. I think that pride with which my mother remembered my uncle became a reason for my interest.”
Abdul Gain Mir, who qualified for IPS in 1994 and belongs to Kupwara too, was also a big inspiration and kept motivating Faisal. A Deputy Inspector General now, Mir is a delighted man. “Faisal has made all of us proud... His success has sent a clear message that there is no dearth of talent in Kashmir,” he says.
Equally proud is Khursheed Ganai, who in 1981 stood second in the civil services exam — the highest rank for anybody from J&K till today’s results. Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah now, Ganai says he hopes more from the Valley take the exam inspired by Faisal, calling it “the need of the hour”. “I hope his success does what mine couldn’t.”
Transforming a hurdle into an opportunity, Dr. Shah Faesal coped with personal tragedy to become the first from Kashmir to top the Union Public Service Commission 2009 examinations.
The untimely death of his father in 2002 at the hands of “unidentified militants” days before his Pre-Medical Test did not deter Dr. Faesal from clearing the examination or becoming the first candidate from Kashmir in several years to be selected to the Indian Administrative Service through open merit.
Dr.Faisal, who turns 27 on May 17, was only 19 when his father, a teacher, was killed in Kupwara.
As friends, well-wishers and the media on Thursday thronged the Hamdard Study Circle premises here, where the doctor took coaching for the Civil Services examination, Dr. Faesal said: “I had only two choices — to be bogged down or to stand up and face the challenge.”
A festive atmosphere prevailed as Dr. Faesal, attired in brown formals, articulated himself in well thought-out and measured words, surrounded by people eager to shake hands with him and present him sweets.
Asked why he chose not to pursue medicine, he said: “I felt that I could not have made a change by being at a hospital and wanted to work with the government.”
For the Prelims, Dr. Faesal chose Public Administration. He chose Public Administration and Literature of Urdu Language for the Mains.
Appearing resolved about which service he wanted to get into, Dr. Faesal said: “I have chosen the Indian Administrative Service already.”
He would like to serve from Kashmir, as he was familiar with the environment and had a vision for it. However, he would not mind serving in any part of the country.