Ten candidates from Jammu and Kashmir have cracked this year’s Indian Civil Service examination, results of which were declared on Thursday.

Eleven candidates passed the exam in 2013 and an equal number in 2012 after Shah Faesal of Kupwara district's Sogam village became the first IAS topper in 2010. He was only the second Muslim to have achieved the distinction in the national level competitive examination in India. Dr Faesal became an inspiration for thousands of the young graduates in the conflict-riddled State for his perseverance as he pursued his studies in the most challenging conditions after his father was gunned down by militants at his home in the border district.

Dr Faesal is now Deputy Commissioner of Bandipora district in the valley.

None of the resident Kashmiris made it to the IAS or the IPS till 2008 after Asgar Samoon, who is now Commissioner-Secretary Agriculture in J&K Government, Abdul Gani Mir, now Inspector General of Kashmir Police, and Javaid Mujtaba Gilani (IGP Crime) were picked up in 1993-1995 period. A few of the candidates from Jammu region, like Simrandeep Singh (2007), as also the migrant Kashmiri Pandits like Priyanka Dhar (2008), passed the prestigious exam in the worst years of the armed conflict that broke out in 1989.

Finally the ice broke when a Veterinary Science graduate and an Indian Forest Service officer Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary from Jammu's Rajouri district was selected for IAS and Imtiyaz Ismail Parray from the Valley for IPS in 2008.

The women, alongside the men, demonstrated remarkable interest in IAS in the recent years. In 2010, Ovessa Iqbal of Leh, Ladakh, was the first Muslim women to be picked up from Jammu and Kashmir. Sehrish Asgar, a Muslim woman from Kishwar (IPS) and Puja Hali, a migrant Kashmiri Pandit woman, were selected in 2012. Ms Sehrish, who also topped the Kashmir Administrative Service exam, got the IAS in her second attempt in 2013 when three female candidates were among the eleven in the list.

However none of the female candidates has passed the exam this year.

Most of the 10 candidates selected this year are from engineering stream. Three of them are Gujjars from the border district of Poonch. All the three -- Owais Rana, Mehtab Ahmad Jagal and Qamar-uz-Zaman---are already in Kashmir Administrative Service as they passed the state level competitive exam (KAS) in 2011.

Abhishek Mahajan of Jammu and Abid Hussain Sadiq from Srinagar have made it to IAS after they were selected for Indian Police Service and Indian Regenue Service last year. Vikrant Bhushan of Reasi, Afaq Ahmad Giri of Banihal besides Bashir Ahmad Bhat, Raja Yaqoob Farooq and Shakeel Maqbool Yatoo from the valley also fugure in the candidates selected this year.

Most of them said that hard work and focussed studies, particularly the news, current affairs and the editorials in The Hindu, were the key to their success. “I read The Hindu religiously, first the e-paper on Internet in the morning and later the print edition in the evening or next day”, Mr Yayoo (24), hailing from Hushru Chadoura village in Budgam district, said. A Bachelor of Technology from National Institute of Technology Srinagar, Mr Yatoo passed in his first attempt. His father is a dentist and mother a housewife. “I will appear in the test again this year to get a better rank so as to enter the IAS stream”, he said.

Abid Hussain Sadiq of Hyderpora Srinagar, who got Indian Revenue Service last year and is likely to get IAS this year, is also an engineering graduate from NIT Srinagar. His father Mohammad Sadiq Bhat is an advocate practicing at J&K High Court and his mother a retired lecturer. Both of his brothers are engineers, the elder one a project manager in Saudi Arabia.

“The new generation of the Kashmiris is a hard contender in the decision making processes of the government. Most of the young boys and girls come from medicine or engineering streams and they want to serve the people at the higher administrative positions”, Mr Sadiq told The Hindu.