Kashmir unrest: Nearly 20 schools burnt down as education becomes biggest casualty of protests
During the past three-and-half months of raging protests, at least one school has been torched in each of ten districts in Kashmir. In last five days alone, five schools have been set ablaze,
The 110-day-long Kashmir unrest, following the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, has crippled Kashmir and normal life in the valley. As many as 85 people, including two cops, have been killed and several thousand others injured in the ongoing unrest; around 5,000 security forces personnel have also been injured in the clashes with protesters. However, the biggest casualty thus far has been education and academia and it has suffered sabotage in ways more than one.
According to a report in Hindustan Times, during the past three-and-half months of raging protests, at least one school has been torched in each of ten districts in Kashmir. In the last five days alone, five schools have been torched, taking the total to 19. Out of these, 17 were government-run schools while two were privately owned properties. The report further states that of the 19 school buildings, at least seven were completely burnt to the ground. The most recent incident took place over Monday and Tuesday when three schools were gutted to fire in 24 hours across Kashmir: the Government Middle School in Sadrukote Bala of Bandipora district, the government school in the Noorbagh area of Srinagar and the Government Higher Secondary School at Aishmuqam in Anantnag district.
However, surprisingly, no arrests have been made in connection with these incidents so far. The crime, according to a report in Kashmir Life, are attributed to "unknown miscreants," a label that Hurriyat Conference has decried. According to the Kashmiri news website, the separatist leaders have asked the people to stay vigilant about such incidents and alleged that the incidents were carried out to discredit the "freedom movement" as "violence and anarchy". The Hurriyat Conference in its statement also alleged that the incidents were carried out under the watch of police and were a part of a conspiracy.
The security forces, on the other hand, have said that the incident is suspected to be the handiwork of miscreants, adding that the security patrol around school buildings has been increased to ensure that such incidents are not repeated.
Meanwhile, the education of over 5000 students in the Valley has been seriously jeopardised as schools remain shut for close to four months now. Whether it is the raging violence, following Wani's death, or the curfew imposed by Indian forces, or the separatist-sponsored strike, children are forced to suspend their studies and stay indoors. Education in the valley is at an absolute standstill. According to a report in Patrika, the Director of Eductaion in Jammu and Kashmir said that the security around schools has been beefed up and the Directorate of Education has already sought a report. Some Education inspectors also told Patrika that mostly students from the underprivileged section of the society studied in the government schools, which are targeted in a surprisingly high ratio. The reconstruction and renovation may take many years, the Education department officials added.
This shows that unrest and violence in the Valley has affected young minds the most, as thousand of young protesters took part in the protests while hundreds of them have either been arrested or have sustained injuries in clashes with security forces.
Meanwhile, the state government has announced that annual board examinations will be held next month, even though the schools have remained closed since July. According to Kashmir Monitor, students have protested against the decision and are insisting that the exams are postponed. The students say that more than 50% of their syllabus remains uncovered as their studies suffered due to the situation in the Valley. Although the government has promised to reduce the syllabus in exams and offer more choices in the paper, the students remain distressed as some of the schools were yet to formally begin classes for some of the subjects when the unrest broke out.
With inputs from PTI
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