24 schools burned down in 53 days of Burhan turmoil in Kashmir
Kulgam tops with 6 of the 13 schools torched in PDP’s stronghold of South Kashmir
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR: With hundreds of thousands of the students losing one full academic year due to the street turbulence, triggered off by the Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s death in an encounter with security forces on July 8, as many as 24 educational institutions have been burned down in Kashmir valley in the last 53 days. The separatists-sponsored shutdown without a single day of relaxation completed 112 days on Friday.
Officials claim – and many of the people seem to be its takers – that all the 24schools have been set on fire and destroyed by the people who have not allowed the educational institutions operate this summer. Even the BJP leader Yashwant Sinha and his ‘track-3 team’ returned to New Delhi disappointed on Friday as they failed to convince the turmoil’s prime driver Syed Ali Shah Geelani to relent and let the schools function.
“Geelani told the delegation that if the authorities are really concerned and bothered about the education, they should release all people including students, withdraw the cases against them, stop police vigil, put an end to the barbarism, night raids and allow peaceful demonstrations which will help in creating a conducive and peaceful atmosphere. Exams can be deferred so that students can get time to prepare and prove their worth on their own. It should be followed by concrete measures to address the root…”, said a statement issued by the Hurriyat.
In his statement the other day, Geelani had claimed that the people burning down schools, damaging private vehicles and looting banks were “culprits, hand-in-glove with Police and forces”. Their motive, according to him, was to malign the Kashmiris’ separatist movement with anti-social acts.
On the other hand, Mehbooba Mufti’s government has been, of late, desperately trying to conduct the annual examinations of Class 10 and 12 as also to protect the school buildings. Kulgam Deputy Commissio-ner’s controversial circular has directed the hapless teachers to keep 24/7 vigil so as to ensure that nobody sets a school on fire.
Maximum number of the schools, precisely 6, have been torched in Kulgam district that falls in the PDP’s stronghold of South Kashmir where 13 schools have been reduced to rubble. Even the first incident on September 6 took place in the same district when unidentified persons torched the building of JNU Public High School at Mirhama. Population-wise, Kulgam is almost equally split among the old ideological rivals, Jamaat-e-Islami and CPI (Marxist), besides the PDP.
After JNU, three more private schools were set on fire in Anantnag (Hanfia Higher Secondary School Anantnag on September 19 and Iqra Public School on October 28) and Srinagar (Noorul Huda Educational Institute Zewan: October 12). All the remaining 20 are government schools. In all, one Primary school, 13Middle schools, 6 High schools and 4 Higher Secondary schools have been fully destroyed.
In addition to the fully devastated 24 schools, four government schools have suffered partial damage at Batagund Mawar Kupwara (September 28), Katrusa Kulgam (October 12), Kawoosa Khalsa Budgam (October 23) and Daderhama Ganderbal (October 28).
Official statistics accessed by STATE TIMES mention that 9 schools were torched in September but the trend is picking up at an alarming speed as 15 schools have been destroyed fully and 3 more partially in October till 28th.
Of the 24 schools, 6 have been torched in Kulgam district, 5 in Anantnag, 3 in Baramulla, 2 each in Srinagar, Budgam and Shopian and one each in Ganderbal and Kupwara. Interestingly, the school dropout Burhan Wani’s own district of Pulwama is the only district in Kashmir where no educational institute has perished in fire during the turbulence.
Director School Education Kashmir Aijaz Ahmad Bhat said that the turmoil has affected all the 7,28,903 students upto Class 12 level in the Valley. “Four thousand students have suffered due to devastation of 23 schools until yesterday. We have activated the watch and ward staff and asked them to keep a vigil under the supervision of concerned headmasters and principals. We have suffered loss of Rs 5 crore and immediately we have no plans in hand for reconstruction of the gutted school buildings and accommodation of the students in private buildings”, Bhat told STATE TIMES.