BY DR. FAYAZ AHMAD BHAT
A few days back media especially national media was abuzz with the news that a poor Kashmiri made it to Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). The NDTV flashed a news headline, “With Help, This 19- year-old Could Be the First IITian from Kashmir’s Shahgund”. The news was really cracking especially for the people of Sonawari, given the fact the Sonawari is one of the educationally poor performing area of the country. Sonawari was badly affected by more than two decades long conflict. It was during nineties that most of the schools were burnt by militants and those left were occupied by “security forces”. The worst was followed in Ikhwan regime when whole Sonawari was virtually turned into hell; no one was secure everyone was concerned of his/her life and education was hardly any priority. Moreover, Sonawari is economically and educationally backward and researches across the globe have time and again affirmed that poor educational and economic background of parents has inverse relation with the education of children. This also was found by this author in the same areas in 2014 in his PhD work.
The Shakeel’s “selection” was not only a good news for me but has special interest for me for being my area of specialization and area of research. Initially, I was very suspicious and doubtful of the news even the source of information was NDTV. However, once I found the news on the face wall of Director of Scholl Education, Kashmir Dr. Shah Faesal, not my all doubts and suspicion disappeared I developed an interest to meet the boy. When I read on the facebook wall of Dr. Faesal that Shakeel, is from “downtrodden family, living in one room tin shed at Shahgund-one of the most backward villages of Kashmir, he has made it happen. Very few of us have that distinction”, I could not resist myself and dialed the number of Shakeel, (the Cell Number was displayed by NDTV with an appeal for financial support) after a long wait I could convey my greeting to the “poor” boy for making it to IIT.
As I mentioned earlier that, sociology of education is my area of interest and study, this did not let me to stop here. I explored my contacts and resources to get more and more information about the boy and his “success”. I also planned to pay visit to his home to convey my greetings to his mother and get first hand information. However, on the one hand I was shocked to learn that Shakeel, does not belong to a poor family rather is a grandson of a landlord who has high political affiliations and connections. He is presently having government security at his home. The shock was deep because the source of news and information was one of the highest “learned” and “respected” person of the state. It was really hard for me to believe that Shakeel, has just secured 115 points and there are students who have secured 190 points and he is even not eligible for Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) advanced, which meant that he will not get IIT. His place in NIT’s is doubtful to many. I understand why NDTV gave hype and sensation to the news – simply to present Army as heroes and well wishers of hapless Kashmiris, however, I am still unable to understand why a highly “learned” and “talented” officer promoted it? How a topper of Indian Administrative ((IAS) topper could not understand difference between JEE mains and Advanced? Why he took decision in haste.
Though on the one hand I was shocked by learning the reality but on the other I have found another case study which affirmed that ‘social’ and ‘cultural capital’ has direct correlation with academic success and promotion. It is worth mentioning that Shakeel, has not only social and cultural capital from paternal line but from maternal line too.
The whole episode is not only media hype and drama but hypocrisy. The campaign for financial assistance was not morally and legally wrong but has many social implications also. There may be many people who might had invested their energy and time to mobilize support- a support to a non deserving person! Well! How fine would have been it had the support went to right direction to right person – the people who are dying of starvation and shelter!
— Dr. Fayaz Ahmad Bhat, is a student of Sociology, social activist and currently teach Sociology at Government Degree College, Sumbal Sonawari. He is an alumnus of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.
2015 Kashmir Despatch