Pune: Defying all odds, including religious discrimination that forced him to adopt a Hindu identity, a 21-year old Muslim boy from Maharashtra has cracked the prestigious UPSC examinations, the results of which were announced on Tuesday.
Since the results came out, the candidate, Ansar Ahmad Shaikh, son of an autorickshaw driver and brother of a garage hand, has been besieged with calls and visits from well-wishers, friends, relatives, media-persons and even strangers.
He hails from the Shelgaon village in Jalna district in the heart of drought-hit Marathwada region and considers the UPSC results as his "advance present" for his upcoming 22nd birthday on June 1, a thrilled relative told journalists.
Completing his schooling from Jalna district school, Shaikh is a B.A. in political science scoring 73 percent in 2015 from Fergusson College, Pune. He opted for the same subject for UPSC to crack it at first go, securing 361st rank in the national list.
However, since he belongs to the OBC category, he is optimistic of an Indian Administrative Services (IAS) posting, which could catapult him as country's youngest IAS officer.
"My brother, a garage hand, supported me throughout, without which this would have been impossible to achieve. I am indebted to him," an emotional Shaikh said as his mother and other relatives hugged him.
Ironically, when Shaikh came to Pune three years ago to join Fergusson College, he was compelled to change his surname to a more acceptable "Shubham" to get accommodation and food without hassles.
But now he is determined to proudly flaunt his Muslim name and minority background and work for communal harmony as a government officer.
"I was marginalized by three different categories. I am from a backward undeveloped region, I hail from a poor economic background and I belong to a minority community. I will tackle all these issues as an administrator since I have witnessed these issues at close quarters," Shaikh added.
Belonging to a disturbed family, he said his father Ahmad drives an autorickshaw and has three wives. He used to beat his mother often and his two sisters were married off at age 14 and 15.
However, braving all challenges and with the support of his brother and mother, the perpetual topper during most of his academic career doggedly devoted 13 hours daily to study and crack the UPSC exams at first shot.
This year, 34 Muslim youths from India have been declared successful in the UPSC's 2015 Civil Services Main Exam followed by rigorous personal interviews, in which 1,078 passed.
While Delhi girl Tina Dabi crested the UPSC, 22-year old Athar Aamir-ul Shafi Khan of Jammu and Kashmir finished second nationally. He was also the only Muslim in the top 100 successful candidates.
Half the successful Muslim candidates (17) were trained by New Delhi-based NGO Zakat Foundation of India, which imparts free coaching for UPSC exams.