Contrary to expectations, the first day of the annual examination for Class 12 passed off well, except for a minor incident of stone pelting at the exam centre at Soibugh and Haran. Now the government has relocated the centres from these areas to safer places. Also, contrary to the perception created by protests against examination over the past two months, almost all the students participated in the examination. Government's offer of two examinations for class 10 and 12 – one in November and another in March – turned out to be a smart move. The bait of a 50 percent cut in the syllabus proved too much for students to resist.
The exams went underway following a contentious tug of war between the state government and the pro-freedom camp who backed the students' demand for postponement of the annual examination to March, citing the loss of more than half of their academic calendar to the mass upsurge following the killing of the popular Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8. But the government didn't budge, a decision that triggered a widespread student backlash. Weirdly enough, many protests witnessed students carrying placards which read "No exams till Azadi".
The confrontation politicised the examination with Government being suspected to use them as tools to normalize the situation and the separatists for the same reason perceived to counter the move with the students caught haplessly in between. In actual fact, both perceptions carried a grain of truth.
The past four months saw thousands of people protesting on the streets and the students formed a significant percentage of the youth expressing their rage over the state oppression which led to 95 killings and several hundred blindings. Few of them, thus, studied through summer and so didn’t want to face the examination. For the Government, a part of the reason to announce examination was to force these youth indoors, something they resisted for long backed by Hurriyat.
Along the way, the things became more messy. The mysterious burning of schools followed soon after. Initially, people dismissed these as rare occurrences which only went well with the chaotic state of present day Kashmir. But soon, one after another school went up in flames. And not only in a specific area which would have been easier to explain and investigate but across the Valley, in unrelated places set apart by large distances. For example, district Kulgam in South and Kupwara in North which both witnessed torching of schools are separated by 150 kilometres. Seven buildings were burnt or damaged in Kulgam. Three in Budgam, two in Bandipore, three in Baramulla, two in Shopian and one each in Kupwara, Anantnag, Ganderbal and Pulwama districts.
Though police arrested more than 30 people allegedly responsible for burnings, it inexplicably stayed short of identifying them and reveal their links and motivations. This is something that has sown suspicions among people in a place where conspiracy theories thrive. However the conduct of the exams should now be expected to move the Valley beyond the politics of education, something that should not have happened at all in the first place.