SRINAGAR: Notwithstanding Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s censure against torching of schools, another primary school was Thursday torched by unidentified arsonists taking the toll of the schools set ablaze during the on-going strife in Kashmir to 21.
According to the reports, unidentified persons torched Government Primary School Tapper in Pattan area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district late last night. The school was gutted in the blaze.
Geelani, the senior separatist leader who spearheads the current ‘uprising’ by issuing calendars containing various protest programs, has asked people to be vigilant about such mysterious incidents.
“Recently in different areas, schools and private vehicles have been burnt and we have reports that culprits do so in the vicinity of police and under their watchful eyes,” Hurriyat (G) said in a press communiqué.
The 113-day-long Kashmir unrest, following the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Burhan Wani, has crippled life in Kashmir. Over 90 people have so far lost their lives with several thousand others injured, majority of whom are young boys including the school-going children. However, the biggest casualty thus far has been education and academia and it has suffered sabotage in ways more than one.
Students have not attended schools for nearly four months now. 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 burnt.
While most of the schools burnt were government-run schools, two were privately owned properties. Of the 21 schools, at least eight have been razed to the ground.
Excluding today’s school, 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. Often the arson is attributed to “unknown miscreants” or “unidentified masked youth”, however, the phraseology used irks the separatist leadership. “The ‘unknown’ label is a misnomer and these anti-people and anti-social actions are carried out in broad-daylight with a well-planned strategy to malign the on-going movement and paint it as the violence and anarchy,” a Hurriyat (G) statement clarifies.
Separatists allege that the incidents are carried out under the “watch of police” and were a “part of a conspiracy”.
A top police officer, however, lambasted Hurriyat saying ‘they’re playing smart’. “While no one has been arrested so far, we are investigating the case,” he said. “But teachers were threatened last week by some unknown persons for keeping the school open against Huriyat call.”
The stone pelters whom he called “foot soldiers of Geelani” were burning these schools. “They want to create an Army of Jahils (ignorant) by disallowing formal education so that a Talbanized madarassa educated army of illiterates is created.”
He said the security patrol around school buildings has been increased to ensure that such incidents are not repeated.
Meanwhile, the education of hundreds of thousands of 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 government forces, or the separatist-sponsored strike, children are forced to suspend their studies and stay indoors.
This shows that unrest and violence in the Valley has affected young minds the most, as thousands 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.
Noted scientist and vice-chancellor Islamic University of Science and Technology, Prof (Dr) Mushtaq Ahmad Siddiqui opines Kashmir is disastrously slipping down the inclined plane. “Burning of schools or any educational infrastructure is disastrous for our future generation academics,” he said. “In knowledge driven world, education is as important as food. In third world countries including our state it takes decades to built up school or college buildings primarily because of lack of funding, corruption and redtapism.”
He said wherever these school buildings stand, it means lot of time, money and effort has gone into it. “Therefore, It would be appropriate that we save our educational infrastructure for our present and future.”
“With education in the valley at an absolute standstill, there’s every likelihood that it would lead to an automatic de-schooling of the children especially in the nursery, primary and elementary level students,” said Prof Iqbal Matto of the Department of Education, University of Kashmir. “However hard one might try to teach a child at home, there’s absolutely no substitute to formal education.”
While students of the affluent background can find ways to make good the loss, it’s the poor who’re bearing the most brunt. “Students from the poorer background of the society studied in the government schools, which are targeted in a surprisingly high ratio,” said an Education Department official. “The reconstruction and renovation may take many years.”
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