Despite a strike call by hardline separatist across the Kashmir Valley by leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and his advice to parents not to send their children to school, most educational reopened as scheduled on Monday after a three and a half month closure following the unrest in the state.
More than 80 per cent students in rural areas and 35 per cent in towns other than Srinagar decided to go back to their classrooms. Srinagar, the separatists’ stronghold, witnessed the lowest attendance at 28 per cent according to state Education Minister Peerzada Mohammed Sayed.
The separatists, however, tried hard to scuttle the bid to re-open the schools.
Youths threw stones at some buses ferrying students, damaging eight of the 28 state roadways transport corporation buses that the authorities pressed into service.
Some parents like businessman Basher Ahmad were determined not to let their children’s studies suffer any more. Ahmad took his eight-year-old son in his uniform to drop his 15-year-old daughter at school to enable her to take an exam at one of the Valley’s elite institutions.
“My son was my curfew pass. I dropped my daughter, came back with my son in uniform to pass through roads manned by security forces and then took my son along again to bring my daughter back home,” he said.
Most, however, seemed to be wary of sending their children to school on the first day.
“The forces are ensuring the safe movement of students but what about stone-throwing youths. What if they attack schools with stones? I don’t want my children to become fodder for politics between the government and separatists,” said Atiqa Bano, a mother of three school-going children.
In Jammu, CM Omar Abdullah urged separatists to leave children out of the current conflict in the Valley.
“I hope Geelani will cooperate and not target schools,” he told mediapersons on the sidelines of a function in Jammu.
In New Delhi, Home Minister P. Chidambaram welcomed the return of students to their schools and denounced isolated instances of stone-throwers attacking school buses in Srinagar. “How can any right-thinking person pelt school buses with stones? I hope such mischief will stop immediately,” he said. (With HTC, Delhi)