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Their success in the civil services is a small but notable sign of hope
Eleven Kashmiris have made it past the all-India civil services examination. Four among them figure in the top 100, a new high for candidates from the state, which has been outdoing itself in the exam in the last three years. In 2009, Shah Faesal from Kupwara district became the first Kashmiri to top it, seven years after his father was killed by terrorists. These numbers indicate that many, many more tried their hand at the fiercely competitive test. In fact, some J&K civil servants have themselves taken on the active responsibility of finding and training candidates, through their Initiative for Competition Promotion. These are individual stories of success. But they represent at least one of the tangled threads that constitute the reality of Kashmir today that all those with stakes in peace must build on.
While it may be hasty and unwise to draw larger conclusions from this, the fact remains that a growing and significant number of young people in the troubled state may be working towards a job that will make them a powerful part of the government. They will steer policy, make decisions that affect other citizens, whether they work in their own state or in other parts of India. This participation in national projects is what draws an estranged state into the mainstream, not merely packages of economic aid handed down from Delhi to Kashmir. This change is not just good for the young Kashmiri civil servants, it is also good for the civil services. The IAS, for instance, was once a clubby network of social elites, but has transitioned to a more inclusive force in recent decades. A stronger Kashmiri presence in the prestigious all-India services is also bound to affect the character of administration, make it more responsive and representative.