Srinagar: No coaching and no interent facilities available, yet a Gujjar student from a remote village of South Kashmir’s Anantnag is set to wear an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) badge after cracking all-India level JEE Advanced exam.
Tufail Ahmad of Pannad village of Bijbehara teshil in district Anantnag has set an example for the tribal community by achieving an extraordinary feat after cracking IIT exams.
Pannad is among the many remote areas of Kashmir where internet, access to roads and modern facilities are yet to be made available. Given their remote location and topography, government is planning to reach out to these areas through rural development and tribal affairs departments.
Tufail’s family and the whole villagers are feeling up above the sky by their son’s feat.
Cracking IIT exam may sound usual for others in metro cities where flourishing coaching centres and online education have made writing such exams easy. But for Tufail, it is an extraordinary feat given the lack of resources and money for these tribal youth to study.
Jammu and Kashmir’s Gujjar population is mostly nomadic and migrates from Jammu to Kashmir with their sheep. This population is still far behind than others in the Union Territory given the remoteness of their localities and their neglect.
Tufail’s family is among the few non-migrant Gujjars who don’t shepherd sheep but their father does manual labour to educate his children and run the family chores.
“I did self study from books. My father bought me a smartphone on which I would download videos and PDF by walking 10 kilometers to an Khirram village to avail interent,” Tufail said.
Tufail is set to study engineering in IIT Mandi (in Himachal Pradesh) for four years. This young boy got his primary education from a government school in his locality and now his next goal is Indian Administrative Service by preparing for UPSC exams while completing his engineering at IIT Mandi.
Tufail’s father Muhammad Yaqoob said that he laboured hard to educate his children.
“My hardwork and Tufail’s focus have enabled him to crack this exam. I feel very proud of my son,” Yaqoob said.
Youths like Tufail are becoming inspiration for tribal youth who live in remote areas where basic life facilities are yet not available for the inhabitants.
“Tufail has proved that in adversity, we can achieve life goals by focusing and commitment to success. Tufail will prove an icon for our youth who have not many heroes to follow,” Zahid Parwaz Choudhary, a Gujjar youth leader and PhD scholar at University of Kashmir said.
Tribal activist and author Javaid Rahi said youths like Tufail are role models for tribal population whose literacy rate is extremely low as compared to the national and state average.
As per Census 2011, literacy rate in India is 73 per cent and for Scheduled Tribes at national level it is 59 per cent only.
“In J&K, only 50 per cent tribals are shown literate as per 2011 Census which has not yet shown much upward improvement. The main reasons of the low literacy among tribes are poverty, conflict, topography and superstitions. The female literacy rates are extremely lower as compared to the national average,” Rahi said.
Zahid Parwaz Choudhary said that the government and Tribal Affairs department have to work together with tribal youth and students to hammer out a solution for increasing literacy rate and access to education.
“If government schemes and plans are implemented sincerely, every Gujjar home will produce Tufail-like IITains,” he said.