State board examinations for class 12 students commenced in strife-torn Kashmir on Monday morning amidst tight security, as 94.53% of those expected to take the exams on the first day turned up.
Following debates over holding exams in either November or March, the state government in an unprecedented decision decided to hold the Class 10 and 12 board exams twice — in November with 50% syllabus and in March with the full syllabus for students who fail to appear this time.
On the first day, the chemistry exam was held under the science stream, Arabic, Persian and economics under the arts stream while commerce conducted entrepreneurship and economics papers.
According to the data provided by the Jammu Kashmir State Board of School Education (JKBOSE), 32,044 students were expected to appear on Monday out of which 30,292 turned up. A senior board official said that those who had opted to appear for exams but could not turn up will have a chance to reappear in the March session of the exam.
Out of the 50,000-odd students registered under the state board for class 12, some 48,000 had opted to appear for the November session of the exam.
On Monday morning, as students revised for the last time, security forces stood guard around the exam centres. Some students said that they were worried about their safety because they heard rumours of stone-pelting but the presence of security forces relieved them.
“Most of my men were on the ground to ensure students or parents are not harassed, coerced or stopped from reaching the exams. All went well, except for a couple of incidences of miscreants trying to disturb the examination in south Kashmir and in these places the parents themselves chased away the trouble-makers,” said DGP (law and order, coordination) SP Vaid.
Anxious in the morning as to whether the paper would reflect a relaxed syllabus as announced by the government, the students came out of the halls in the evening “happy” and many said that the paper was easy.
Shahbaz Ahmed, a science student, said that he was happy with the question paper because of there were sufficient alternative questions and added that the government has adhered to what it had promised – “anyone who has studied 50% of the syllabus will be able to answer 100% questions”.
“I had opted for the November session of exams because firstly, we get a syllabus relaxation and secondly, we get enough time to prepare for competitive entrance exams,” said Ahmed, who is an engineering aspirant.
Even in the troubled south Kashmir region, exams were held without any major incidence of law and order problems.
“Instructions on how to go about the paper were not written but the examiners explained to us the same,” said Vijdan Ahmed, a class 12 student from south Kashmir’s Shopian district.
He also said: “We were very scared till now regarding how the question papers will be, but after today’s paper and because the instructions were explained, everyone is happy.”
Ahmed added that some students in the region have complained of harassment by miscreants while leaving their homes for exam centres. Shopian superintendent of police, Tahir Saleem Khan, however, said they had not received any such complaints and added that they had sanitized an area of radius 200 metres around every centre beyond which paramilitary and army troops patrolled the areas.
A class 12 student from north Kashmir’s Sopore area said that her exam was not “up to the mark” because during the ongoing unrest she could not complete even the half the syllabus required for the exam.
Parents, waiting outside exam centres, told HT that they will be anxious throughout the duration of the examination because they feel the situation in the Valley since July 8 have not been conducive for education.
“Students have undergone a traumatic experience in the last four months and perhaps they are not psychologically ready for the exams. But appearing in March would have meant that preparation for competitive exams could be paralysed,” said Mir Zahoor, the father of a Class 12 student.