By Toufiq Rashid
Other stars of the ‘galaxy’ called Kashmir
Shah Faesal is the first Kashmiri Muslim to top the IAS exam. But there are others in his community who, rather than imbibing anti- India sentiments and treading the beaten track, went on to make the nation proud, says Naseer Ganai
FOR MANY Kashmiri Muslims, the army is the ultimate symbol of “India’s occupation of Kashmir”. The men in olive green are perceived alternately as occupiers and protectors.
And never have the Kashmiri Muslims had one of their own in the higher ranks of the army they love to vilify.
But that was until Major- General Mohammed Amin Naik breached the dividing wall in 2008. In April that year, he became the first Kashmiri Muslim to become a General in the Indian Army.
When Major- General Naik, then a Brigadier with the Corps of Engineers, was promoted, some Kashmiris had exclaimed: “No longer are we the children of the lesser god.” Major- General Naik is a known name in the once- militancy- affected Dadsar area of Tral. Ask anyone about him and he would take you to the General’s ancestral house.
In an area where there is universal apathy against men in uniform, affection and admiration for Major- General Naik looks strange.
“ He is the son of the soil and we are proud of him,” says Muhammad Wasim, a B. Sc. second- year student, who identifies himself as the officer’s cousin.
Major- General Naik was born in Pulwama’s Batpora village on September 25, 1953. The General studied at the Biscoe School and later joined S. P. College in Srinagar.
On December 22, 1974, he was commissioned into the Corps of Engineers from the Indian Military Academy ( IMA), Dehradun. He was the first person to join the army from the district.
Major- General Naik’s course mate at the IMA, retired Brigadier S. K. Chatterjee, remembers him as one of the finest fellow cadets.
“And he has grown to be one of the finest officers of the Indian Army that I have had the privilege to know. A thoroughly secular nationalist, Naik is also a sportsman of high repute. He has got the country many medals in rowing from international competitions,” Brigadier Chatterjee says.
Major- General Naik was awarded a Sena Medal in 1993 for meritorious service. That included a long stint as civil design engineer and Garrison engineer with the Eastern Naval Command in Vizag. He also commanded 14 Border Roads Task Force in Tanga, 102 Engineering Regiment and 8 Mountain Division Engineering Regiment.
As Brigadier, he was also posted as the chief engineer, Project Himank in Leh, Ladakh. He had a stint at the army headquarters in New Delhi as a general staff officer 1 and was the assistant chief at the Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff, raised in the wake of the Kargil conflict.
Major- General Naik belongs to a family that had long- standing relations with the government. His father, Ghulam Nabi Naik, was a divisional commissioner of Jammu and Kashmir. His two siblings were also in government service — his elder brother, Gul Mohammed Naik, was a forest officer while his sister, Shamim Naik, was a doctor.
Ducked bullets to reach school
BASHARAT Peer’s writings belie his simple beginnings at the local village school, where attending classes was an “exercise in luck”, as he puts it.
The noted author was born in the strife- ridden Seer village of Pahalgam in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.
He studied in the local village school — which was later turned into an army camp — till 1993, when he was 16.
That was the time when the anti- India insurgency was at its peak.
“Going to school each day at that time was an exercise in luck, you never knew when a bomb would explode or an encounter would start,” Peer says.
Every other day, his classmates and he would jump from buses to hide in streets, behind walls, as impromptu encounters broke out and bullets were sprayed around with abandon, he says.
Worried about Peer’s safety in the state, his father G. A Peer — a civil servant — sent him to Aligarh Muslim University ( AMU), with the hopes that his son, too, would qualify for the Indian Administrative Services ( IAS) after graduation.
At AMU, Peer studied political science and English literature.
At the university, he met many other Kashmiris, driven out of their homes because of the incessant fighting. They told him stories of deaths, curfews, arrests, and all the trappings that one has come to expect with the strife.
Peer completed his graduation but the thoughts of his state never left him, and it formed the basis of many of his subsequent writings.
After completing graduation, Peer never gave his father the impression that he was not interested in the IAS and enrolled himself for the LLB course in Delhi University.
But one day, his parents saw a story authored by him on Rediff. com and they realised their son had chosen to be a journalist.
After Rediff, Peer joined Tehelka and later went to the Columbia School of Journalism.
While in Columbia, he wrote Curfewed Night, a first- hand account of the turbulent times in Kashmir. It is part of his literature which “looks at resistance from within”. The book was published by HarperCollins and was simultaneously released in England and the US. Currently, Peer is a fellow at the Open Society Institute.
He has also been an assistant editor at the Foreign Affairs magazine.
Besides, he also writes for other publications such as The Guardian, Financial Times, The National and New Statesman.
Obama’s Muslim representative
SHE IS no longer an Indian citizen but is a Kashmiri to the hilt nevertheless.
Farah Pandith is currently part of the Barack Obama administration in the US. She is the special representative to Muslim communities at the US state department, a position she was appointed to on June 23 last year.
She was sworn in by secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
Prior to this, she was senior advisor to the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, a position created for the first time in US history.
Pandith was born in Kashmir but immigrated with her mother to Massachusetts in 1969.
She completed her Master’s in law and diplomacy in 1995 from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and she based her Master’s thesis on the insurgency in Kashmir.
Her work on the “ War of Ideas” was featured in the inaugural edition of the Washingtonian magazine in January last.
Pandith is currently on the Board of Overseers for the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. She was also a Trustee of Smith College and Milton Academy.
From hub of militancy to India colours in football
MEHRAJUDDIN Wadoo can’t help but feel a little pleased when children in his home state look up to him as someone to be admired. The ace midfielder has only one message for football hopefuls when he visits Kashmir: “Come out of the Valley and play for clubs.” Mehraj says Kashmiris have talent but it is the lack of exposure that comes in their way to success. Hailing from downtown Srinagar, Mehraj is currently playing for East Bengal but humbly says he had never dreamed of reaching where he is today. “Hard work and passion pay at the end of the day,” he says. Mehraj was part of the Indian squad that brought home the ONGC Nehru Cup in 2007 and 2009. He was also part of the national team that played in the South Asian Football Federation Cup in 2008, where they finished runners up. Born in the Rainawari area of downtown Srinagar — the hub of militancy and separatism — on September 13, 1984, he started playing football at the age of eight and, as he proudly says, football is in his genes. His father, Muhammad Sultan Wadoo, was a football player as well. Sultan was the left back of the Food and Supplies Department team. His father would take Mehraj to his practice sessions every day. Football was Sultan’s passion and he was determined Mehraj would follow in his footsteps. And his son didn’t disappoint him. Mehraj’s journey started from S. P. School in Srinagar, where he played for the school team. With Mehraj on its side, the SP School team won all competitions easily. As a teenager, he was part of the Jammu and Kashmir Police team and played a crucial role when the team created history by winning the Bikaner Trophy for the first time. In 2002- 03, he amazed everyone with his performance when he played for the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited ( HAL) in the National Football League. In 2004, he joined the club ITI but it shut down because of financial constraints. Mehraj, however, was not worried. He had many offers and was picked up by Sporting Club de Goa. He later joined Mohun Bagan but left the club in 2007 to join its arch rival, East Bengal. He instantly changed the club's fortunes by steering them to their first Federation Cup triumph in 11 years. Mehraj started his career as a striker, then played as a defender and now is a midfielder. Despite all his success, however, he still has one regret: “ I couldn’t complete my graduation because of the frequent tournaments. I was good at studies, which is why I regret it all the more.”
He was unsung in his own nation
AGHA Shahid Ali was arguably one of best known Indian poets internationally but “largely remained unsung in his own country”, rue his friends.
But Shahid, who died in December 2002 at the age of 52, needs no introduction in Kashmir. Born in Delhi and brought up in Srinagar, Shahid later became an American citizen and taught at the University of Utah, Hamilton College and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His poetry collection includes The Half- Inch Himalayas, The Country Without a Post Office & Rooms Are Never Finished.
‘Sky is the limit if you work hard’
MERIT, dedication and hard work are the three steps to success, according to Justice Nisar Ahmad Kakru.
And all his life, he stuck to this mantra, with the result that he became the first judge in Jammu and Kashmir to be transferred out of the state on his elevation as the chief justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court.
His son Tariq, an officer on special duty in the CM’s office, says: “My father always says sky is limit in India if you work hard.” And he is determined to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Source: Mail Today