IAS topper Tina Dabi Khan has bared her soul explaining the pain and disgust she went through in the immediate aftermath of securing the number one rank in the prestigious UPSC exams in 2016. Speaking at the TEDx event at Delhi’s Hansraj College, Tina revealed the emotional turmoil she was subjected to by online trolls for her Dalit background.
She said, “I can’t even begin to describe how it felt to have secured the first rank. How unbelievably it felt the feeling of victory and triumph. But, and that’s the sad part and the hard part. This success did not come to me with a bouquet in hand. This success did not welcome me with an open arm.
“I think I am probably the only topper of this prestigious examination, who was made to feel so bad about her success. And I think, that time, I realised for the first time how brutal, how non-forgiving, how non-understanding the Indian society can be. How one individual can be targeted and attacked for the entire system and structures that the Indian society lives in, survives in. And how easy it is for people to sit back comfortably in their homes and abuse somebody on the internet.”
She said that she could not explain in words the psychological trauma ‘that the 22-year-old, who had just cleared the exams’ had to go through in the face of the incessant trolling because of her Dalit background. Tina had to face allegations that her tremendous performance in the UPSC exam was due to the reservations she enjoyed because of her SC/ST background.
“I can’t tell you how I felt that suddenly the eyes and the ears of the nation were on me. But let me tell you, I never felt more responsible in my whole life..I decided then and there. I would never let any negativity wipe the smile off my face.”
She said that it was during her training in LBSNAA in Mussourie that she met the companion of her life in Athar Aamir Khan, the all India second rank holder in the same year. She said that deciding to marry someone who came from ‘different religion, culture’ was not easy. She said, “As you can imagine, I was again in the line of fire. But, then I realised that I was not a box of chocolates, waiting to please everyone. I would ultimately do what I feel is right for me.”
This was the first time Tina openly talked about her inter-faith marriage publicly. Tina and Athar had got married earlier this year during their training at LBSNAA continued. Their wedding had become quite an affair as top names from the world of politics including Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, several cabinet ministers and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan attended their reception in Delhi.
Tina also spoke about the role of civil servants, who she said were bigger activists than those actively pursuing social activism. She said, “According to me, somehow I feel that efficient civil service can be considered to be the highest form of social activism. Because social activism begins by activating the surrounding, the people to some social cause. The civil service does much more than that. It not just activates you, it brings tangible outcomes when a government programme or policy is executed perfectly.”
Tina, who’s currently posted as an Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises of Government of India, said that she will take her full-fledged posting as an IAS officer in October this year.
Tina had delivered her TEDx speech in September last month, but the video was shared by her only on Tuesday. While sharing the video, Tina wrote, “You have heard my critics, here is my side of the story. Watch the full video on YouTube: VICTORY BEYOND THE MOUNTAIN.”