HC directs J-K govt to protect schools as more buildings get burnt in unrest
Schools are going up in flames in strife-torn Kashmir one after the other, prompting the state high court to direct the authorities to take all necessary steps to protect them.
Twenty-five schools have been completely or partially burnt down in the last three months, the latest being in Anantnag on Sunday.
“The mysterious burning of centres of education has sent shock waves, awakening all to ponder,” said the high court division bench comprising Justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Justice Ali Mohammad Magray.
“Can a nation, community or state afford to shun the path of education or bear the loss of mysterious burning and destroying the school buildings? Continuously every day there is news item that the school building has been mysteriously burnt. Is it acceptable? Answer is no,” the judges said.
“The mysterious enemies of education shall be unmasked and dealt with iron hand,” the judges added.
But officials in Jammu and Kashmir where classes in schools and colleges have remained suspended since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in July said they were in the dark about who were behind the blazes.
“A lot is being said about the burning down of schools, but I cannot put the blame specifically on someone. We are cooperative with the police investigation,” said Aijaz Ahmad, the acting headmaster of the school in Goripara that was set on fire by miscreants last week.
The police themselves are clueless. “Twelve people have been arrested, but they are not revealing the identities of the organisation they are working for,” said SP Vaid, the director general of police (coordination, law and order).
“But whoever these people are, they are anti-national and anti-social elements who want to deprive the coming generation of facility of schools,” he added.
The state had witnessed a similar phenomenon in the early 1990s when several schools and colleges were torched by separatists with a view to deprive security forces of accommodation.
But no unanimity exists as to why educational institutions are being targeted again.
Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said separatists were not allowing schools in the valley to function because they wanted a generation of uneducated youths as stone-pelters. Top separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, however, differed: “Those involved in such acts can never be the well-wishers of society. These acts are purposely used to malign the movement.”
In absence of clear motives, speculation is rife. One student of a burnt-down school suggested his classmates not prepared for the examinations were behind the arson. A journalist not willing to be named blamed it on protesters targeting ‘signs of Indian establishment’.
But at least three of the schools torched were privately owned by Kashmiris.
Meanwhile, the police said it was almost impossible to protect 16,000 schools all over the state and all the time. “We need help of the community,” a police official said.