India-Pakistan hostility on borders and separatists' agitation is taking a heavy toll on civilians and students in Jammu and Kashmir, respectively. In Jammu, the recent heightened tension along the working International Border has left seven people dead and scores injured on Tuesday, while Kashmiris are licking their wounds after 94 civilians have been killed and more than 12,000 injured in the span of four months of separatist agitation in the valley.
The civilians in both the regions of the state bore the brunt of the recent violence that is continuing unabated and is refusing to slow down, with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti calling for an immediate end to the hostilities between the two neighbours and praying for the restoration of peace in the valley.
Sandeep Kumar was studying for his annual exams this month when he, along with his family, had to migrate from the Arnia village in Samba sector of Jammu, as the situation escalated at the border escalation on Tuesday. This was the fifth time Kumar had to flee his village after the firing from across the border intensified forcing villagers to take shelter in Radha Soami Satsang Beas trust, in Samba.
“How can I study for the exams when we couldn’t get our books along? We left our village in the middle of the night and this disturbance is going to reflect on marks sheets,” Kumar, 16, told Firstpost on phone from Radha Soami Satsang Beas shelter home in Jammu. “This holds true for children of thousands of village across the borders as well,” he added.
The state government of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday order the closure of 174 schools on the IB and LoC, while 45 schools were closed in Samba district, 84 in Poonch, 30 in Rajouri and 62 in Kathua.
“Our school has been closed by the government the fourth time in two months,” Preeti Singh, a resident of Ramgarh sector of Samba, who is presently camping along with his parents in a temple in Samba town, said.
While the increasing hostilities in Jammu are becoming the reason for the denial of educational opportunity to children, in Kashmir the same is being done to children owing to a separatist-sponsored shutdown for the last 117 days. As the situation had started to limp back to a fragile normalcy, the valley witnessed the burning of 27 schools in last few weeks.
Most of these educational institutes are government-run schools and have been attacked in the middle of the night by ‘miscreants.’ The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has called upon the authorities to “stop the enemies of education.”
A statement issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday called for the immediate opening of the schools and to ensure students can learn in peace. The global watchdog said the burning of school buildings in Kashmir is the “attacks on education” and need to stop immediately.
“It is a tough time to be a student in Kashmir these days,” the HRW noted. “The burning of schools, assaults on teachers and students, the occupation of schools by the police and military, and the recruitment of children to become fighters violate the rights of children or thwart their chances to get an education,” the statement said.
“Both India and Pakistan should show their commitment to ensuring all students can learn in peace by endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration, an international political commitment that outlines common-sense steps that governments can take to better protect students and schools in such tense situations. Kashmir should be putting out school graduates, not school fires,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director of Human Rights Watch.
With no end in sight to the spate of protests, curfews and shutdowns that have kept the Valley on the boil since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani on 8 July, the situation in Kashmir is not returning to normal.
But there is some hope. Few government run schools have started opening up in peripheries and villages of Kashmir.
“Finally after a long period of time. The heart touching sound from the schools can be listen. "Lab pe aati hai dua ban ke tamanna meri Zindagi shamma ki surat ho khudaya meri. Small children moving their heads while prayer look like a tulip glowing in garden. I today pay visit to many schools in order to encourage students. They were so happy to back school again. Once again conflict neutral # Education (sic)” Suhail Mehraj, a resident wrote on Facebook and also uploaded few pictures on his account.
The Kashmir police have claimed that it has identified people involved in the torching of schools and arrested twelve of them.
“At least 35 persons have been identified involved in burning down the school buildings in South Kashmir. Out of 35, we have arrested 12 persons while 23 persons are absconding. The twelve persons were arrested from South Kashmir’s Kulgam district,” Deputy Inspector General (DIG), South Kashmir Range, Nitish Kumar said, told local news agency.