India’s Kashmiri General Inspires Youth From State

3 April 2008

Srinagar: Mohammed Amin Naik, the second Kashmiri Muslim to reach the rank of major general of the Indian Army, has become a source of inspiration and pride for many youths here for his rewarding military career. “I feel inspired, proud that someone from our community has reached the coveted position in the Indian Army, which we could have never thought of,” said Mohammed Saleem Qadiri, 24, a computer sciences student here. Maj. Gen. Naik is the only serving Kashmiri Muslim general of the Indian Army after Lt. Gen. Mohammad Ahmed Zaki, who also has roots in the Kashmir valley, retired in 1993. Zaki was the first Kashmiri Muslim to have reached the rank of major general in August 1985. But his ancestors had migrated from the valley before Zaki’s birth. “Maj. Gen. Naik is the first officer born and brought up in Kashmir Valley to have attained the rank,” army spokesperson Lt. Col. V.K. Mathur told IANS. And Naik’s success has given many youngsters here a “sense of pride” as well. “It makes us to feel on top. It is a matter of pride for the Kashmiris, particularly Muslims - who feel a sense of deprivation,” said Hillal Ahmed Shah, 22, aspiring to be a civil servant. “As much as it swells our chests, it is also an affirmation that we are no longer the children of a lesser god,” Shah said. “I believe if you have in it you, you are going to make it out there.” The 55-year-old Major Gen. Naik began his defence career in December 1974 when he joined the Corps of Engineers. His services were recognised when in 1993 he was conferred with a Sena Medal. During his over 34 years in the Indian Army, he has served as a design civil engineer and a garrison engineer with the Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam, and remained in army headquarters as general staff officer-1 also. He has also commanded 14 Border Road Task Force in Tanga and 102 Engineer Regiment and 8th Mountain Division Engineering Regiment. On promotion as Brigadier, he was posted as Chief Engineer, Project Himank, Leh. A keen sports lover, Maj. Gen. Naik is an ace rower and has won a bronze in the 1982 Asian Games besides eight gold, one silver and one bronze in many national championships. “He has also won the Arjuna Award for the sport,” said the defence spokesperson. Maj. Gen. Naik has won India two gold medals, silver and a bronze in various international championships in rowing. He has represented the country in rowing during the ninth and 10th Asian Games, the World Rowing Championship in Germany and the National Rowing Championship in Britain, Egypt and Luxor. Currently, posted as assistant chief of the Integrated Defence Staff HQ, Delhi, Naik hails from Tral village in Pulwana district of south Kashmir. His father Ghulam Nabi Naik is a retired divisional commissioner of Jammu and Kashmir, his sister, Shamim Naik, is a doctor, and elder brother, Gul Mohammad Naik, is a retired forest officer. Some youths also believe that Naik’s success has disproved the “myth” that Kashmiri Muslims cannot realise their dreams of achieving top positions in India. “Kashmiris have always felt isolated from the Indian establishment, and genuinely so. But Naik’s triumph should disprove it and give much needed confidence to all of us to dream big,” said Mohammed Imran Kanth, 28, an engineer. Kanth says that he once had a dream of joining the army, which didn’t materialise because he was never sure of success. “Many Kashmiri Muslims crave for coveted jobs in the defence services but something has always hindered them,” said Kanth. “But now I believe that if one works hard he-she can have a hope of rising in shining India, as Naik did.”