In Kashmir, shutting down of educational institutions to prevent student protests has become the new norm for the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP coalition. The government has been struggling to restore normalcy in the Valley ever since the killing of militant commander Sabzar Ahmad Bhat last week.
Deputy magistrate of Srinagar, Farooq Ahmad Lone, on Wednesday issued an order stating that all higher secondary schools and colleges will remain closed on Thursday. It will be the third consecutive day when education institutions will be shut because of a fear of protests by the student community. But this move raises an important question: For how long can a jittery state government shutdown educational institutions to maintain the calm?
The state government on Wednesday said that classes in various institutions across the Valley shall remain suspended on Thursday "as a precautionary measure."
In central Kashmir's Budgam district, all higher secondary schools and colleges have been asked to suspend classes on Thursday, whereas in Anantnag and Shopian districts of South Kashmir, classwork has been suspended in all educational institutions. In North Kashmir’s Kupwara district, the district administration has issued a notice asking all degree colleges to suspend classes on Thursday.
"It is a weird logic to close down all higher education institutions if there is a problem in a few. You can’t shut down the entire education system and say it is a precautionary measure... which responsible government does that," asks Bashir Ahmad Dar, a noted academic and former secretary of the Jammu & Kashmir Board of School Education.
Last year, during the unrest following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in July, the state government had blamed the Hurriyat Conference and separatist leaders for denying education to students. Now, the same government itself is closing down schools and colleges amid fears of protests, highlighting their hypocrisy on the issue.
"Somehow, since students started protesting after an incident in Pulwama Degree College, the first area where the government wants to impose its writ was schools and colleges," Mushtaq Ahmad Lara, a retired lecturer at Amar Singh College, told Firstpost.
"If students are protesting, there should be a dialogue with them inside the classrooms and not in police stations. Go to the police station on residency road and check how many parents keep waiting for their children outside in the evening every day," he added.
Last year, educational institutes in the Valley had remained shut for at least 130 days after Wani's killing on 8 July, forcing parents to send their children to Jammu and other parts of the country for education.
This year, trouble began when around 60 students, including women, were injured by government forces, who fired smoke shells and small lead balls — which could potentially blind — at students inside the Government Degree College at Pulwama.
Since that April day, student protests have been reported from almost all the parts of Valley and have sustained for a longer time than expected.
State education minister Syed Altaf Bukhari had warned students that those falling short on attendance will not be allowed to take their exams and announced the dates for mid-term exams in schools while making the 'golden test' – a six monthly test for classes 10th and 12th students – mandatory.
"The problem is that the shutdown of schools is not done at my direction but by the security agencies," Bukhari said. "I can only assure the students that no one will be detained by the police... but they should be in their classrooms and not on the streets."
In over 27 years of conflict in the Valley, educational infrastructure and academic activities have been severely affected. That is why, in the early 1990s, a majority of the middle-class Kashmiris started to send their children outside the Valley for better education.
Updated Date: Jun 01, 2017 14:37 PM