Empty classrooms as schools reopen in Kashmir - GulfToday

Empty classrooms as schools reopen in Kashmir


A general view of the empty playing area of a closed school in Srinagar on Monday. Agence France-Presse

After a gap of nearly a fortnight, around 200 schools in Srinagar reopened on Monday, but few students showed up. Though teachers were present in most schools, jittery parents avoided sending their children.

“I can’t send my children to school. The situation is not conducive and I can’t take a risk,” said Abdul Aziz, a resident of Maharajpora in Batamaloo.

Except in Kendriya Vidyalayas and the Police Public School in Bemina, there was minimal attendance in schools elsewhere in the city. The government said that restrictions on movement were being further eased for the convenience of the people.

The city administration had on Sunday announced reopening of schools, after the Centre on August 5 abrogated Article 370 that accorded a special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

A senior state official on Sunday said: “We have decided to open schools in Srinagar and other areas tomorrow. We are confident that return of children to classrooms is necessary, because their education has suffered heavily in the past 13 days. We will organise extra classes in schools so that the students are able to cover their course on time.” Despite the prevailing uncertainty in the state, most Kashmiris do not want the education of their children to suffer.

“We cannot afford to have generations of uneducated Kashmiris. We have suffered long enough to realise that whatever happens to us, the future of our children must be protected at all costs,” said Muzaffar Ahmed from Srinagar city.

India on August 5 ended the special constitutional status of Muslim-majority Kashmir, where a 30-year-old uprising against Indian rule has killed tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians.

Hours before its move, India severely curtailed movement and shut down phones and the internet, bringing in tens of thousands of troops to turn the main city of Srinagar into a fortress.

Some 120,000 extra soldiers have been deployed, a security source told AFP, joining around 500,000 already in the northern Himalayan region divided with Pakistan since 1947.

At least 4,000 people have also been detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows imprisonment for up to two years without charge or trial, government sources said.

Authorities have declined to comment on the numbers of people behind bars. Those picked up include local politicians, activists, business leaders and lawyers.

Around 20 per cent of landlines were working on Monday, an AFP reporter said. But mobile phones and the internet were still cut off.

Pakistan meanwhile said Indian fire across their de-facto border on Sunday killed two civilians and seriously injured a child, a day after New Delhi said Pakistani fire killed an Indian soldier.

On Sunday family members held a wake for timber trader Sidiq Khan, 62, who relatives said had died after suffocating from tear gas fired by security forces in Srinagar.

A senior government official told AFP that a man in his mid-60s had died, and that a post mortem “has not revealed any external or internal marks of injury”.

After some easing in previous days, authorities on Sunday reinforced heavy restrictions after eight people were injured during protests.

In a major breakthrough to identify rumour mongers bent upon creating trouble, Jammu and Kashmir and central intelligence agencies claim to have identified activists and sympathisers of mainstream political parties with separatist tendencies.

In a textbook case of politics making strange bedfellows, the intelligence agencies maintain that some mainstream political parties and separatists have found a common cause to work against the restoration of peace in the state.

“Rumours spread like wildfire in Jammu yesterday (Sunday) claiming that a communal flare-up had taken place in Surankote in Rajouri district,” a senior intelligence officer told IANS.

“The rumour was well orchestrated. It caused panic in Jammu where people mobbed petrol pumps and provision stores fearing an impending curfew.

“The administration had a tough time convincing people that the rumour was baseless.

“We have identified the activists and sympathisers of one mainstream political party in Jammu who were spreading these rumours,” the officer said.

The officer said those behind such rumours in the Kashmir Valley and the Jammu region belonged to three mainstream political parties whose top leadership had been taken into preventive custody since Article 370 of the Constitution was abrogated.

“These activists and sympathisers have acted rather foolishly. They believed that we will be focused on separatists and they could create trouble on the sly.

“These elements have been identified and they will soon be isolated,” the officer said.

What seems to have unnerved the sympathisers of these political parties is that their predictions of hell breaking loose once the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was revoked had proved grossly misplaced.

“Such forces have realised that instead of being able to derive political mileage from the feared uncertainty, they are likely to become the victims of peace and prosperity that would follow Jammu and Kashmir’s complete integration with India,” said a BJP leader.


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