Kashmir after Article 370: Schools reopened by authorities, but few takers amidst fear of growing tensions

  • The authorities had decided to open primary schools from this Monday onwards, while they announced that middle schools would reopen from Wednesday

  • However, all major schools in Srinagar city remained shut. While the staff turned up at some schools, the parents didn't send their children

  • School officials said that they have not been able to contact the parents by phone due to the suspension of mobile services

Forty-year-old Showkat Ahmad Mir has not been sending daughter, who studies in the first standard, to a private school in an upscale neighbourhood at Peerbagh in Srinagar since Monday when educational institutions were reopened in Kashmir. Fearing that clashes between locals and government forces could foment tensions, Mir is not sure whether he could even admit his son to Biscoe School — a top private school in Srinagar.

Outside the school as government force personnel patrolled the streets, stopped to find out whether admissions would begin any time soon for the nursery classes.

"The authorities of Biscoe School have accepted the admissions forms. They have however told us to come and check in the coming days whether they will go ahead with the admissions. I am not sure if admissions can actually begin," he said. Mir, who is a contractor and lives in the separatist haven of Hawal, said that people were enraged over the abrogation of special status for Jammu and Kashmir.

 Kashmir after Article 370: Schools reopened by authorities, but few takers amidst fear of growing tensions

File image of Kashmiri children on their way to attend private tuitions. AP

"We have lost our identity. We will be deprived of jobs and will have to compete with non residents for employment," he said. The Centre took the decision to revoke Article 370 on 5 August, and so, non-residents may now buy land and other property in Kashmir. Although the government announced the opening of schools and has also eased the restrictions on movement of people by removing coils of barbed wire and steel barricades, the markets in Kashmir have remained shut for the past 15 days.

People took out protests in large numbers across Kashmir and the police has admitted that at least eight people were injured in the clashes. The hospital authorities at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital, however, said that they have received more than 35 people who were injured by pellets and even hit in the eyes.

The authorities had decided to open primary schools from this Monday onwards, while they announced that middle schools would reopen from Wednesday. However, all major schools in Srinagar city remained shut. While the staff turned up at some schools, the parents didn't send their children. A notice plastered on the wall outside the Presentation Convent School in Srinagar announced that the admission process for lower kindergarten classes was being put on hold.

Faheem Ahmad Bhat, 35, who works in agricultural department, was told by a security official at the school’s gate that no decision has been taken on opening educational institutions. Teachers turned up for work at the New Era Public School in Rajbagh, but found that students were not in attendance. School officials said that they have not been able to contact the parents by phone due to the suspension of mobile services. The government had earlier restored landline numbers in some pockets, but snapped the services later on. Mobile internet services, broadband and lease line facilities have also been cut off since 5 August.

Chairman of Oasis Higher Secondary School in Gogjibagh, Ashiq Hussain, said that most of the school's teachers couldn't come to work since they live in the Old City area of Srinagar, where clashes were often reported between the forces and locals. "It is difficult for parents to send their children to schools when there is a lockdown. They can't even contact us due to the communication blackout," he said.

A security official at Burn Hall School, Dev Bahadur, said that they plied five vehicles in Srinagar, but the parents didn’t send their children to school. He said that the vehicles were operating in the areas of Nishat, Airport Road, Hyderpora, Peerbagh and Nowgam, but they didn’t find children outside their houses or on roadsides.

A government spokesperson said that the attendance of children at government schools was low. The spokesperson said that only two to three percent attendance was recorded in southern Kashmir, while in some pockets of Northern Kashmir, it was 50 percent.

Updated Date: Aug 22, 2019 10:47:49 IST