School Burning: Turning The Clock Back In Kashmir – OpEd


By Brig Anil Gupta (Retd)*

In the last 48 hours, more than three schools have been burnt in South Kashmir taking the tally to 25 so far since July 9 — a day after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was gunned down by security forces.

Why are schools being targeted and why are only government school buildings being burnt? Is it to destroy government property or is it part of a bigger sinister game plan?

The separatists and the fundamentalists in the Kashmir Valley are determined to turn back the clock and take the Valley once again to the medieval era where the Maulvis and Qazis ruled the roost and their writ ran unchallenged. They want the common Kashmiris to remain ignorant, poorly educated and under-developed so that they continue to hold sway over the masses as well as keep them deprived of the benefits of modern education that is mandatory to enjoy the benefits of development and economic growth.

“Great minds are always feared by lesser minds,” goes an old saying. It would answer the question as to why schools are being targeted. Schools are temples of learning. They impart knowledge. Through proper curriculum, schools imbibe the quality of reasoning in young minds, cultivate the spirit of nationalism and inculcate the habit of acquiring knowledge through the process of learning.

Knowledge is power. Knowledge allows one to decide what would be best for one to do. This is what the self-appointed leaders of radicalisation fear — and hence want to deprive young Kashmiris of knowledge. Their target is the future generations of Kashmiris so that they can have unbridled hold over them.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary of English, radicalisation is defined as a “Process to make someone become more extreme in their political or religious beliefs”.

Radicalisation is one of the components of the “Bleed India through Thousand Cuts” strategy unleashed by Pakistan to avenge the humiliation suffered by its Army in 1971.

Radicalisation in the Valley is planned, funded and backed by Pakistan. Separatists, soft-separatists and fundamentalists are employed by Pakistan in furthering its agenda of radicalisation. Gradual easing out of Sufi Islam and replacing it by radical Wahhabism is part of this strategy.

Unfortunately, rather than addressing the issue and attempting to catch the bull by the horns, a political blame game has begun in the Valley. Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has blamed the Hurriyat leadership and state administration. The irony is that the Hurriyat leaders who are reportedly responsible for these acts have also started issuing statements blaming the government.

The sad part is that it has taken the burning of 24 school buildings so far for these leaders to realise the great harm being done to the intellectual growth of the Kashmiri children. The intention of the current outburst is obvious and that is to criticise and defame the government. None of them have suggested a solution. Neither will they because all these statements are for politicking and befooling the common man.

In their heart of hearts they are happy with the ongoing situation and would like it to continue. It hardly makes any difference to them because their own kith and kin and their children are continuing with their studies uninterruptedly in various public schools in the Valley, other parts of the country and even in some foreign countries.

Only recently the granddaughter of Hurriyat Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a class 10 student of DPS Srinagar, took her exams in a highly guarded secure zone under security cover provided by the police. It is obvious that the forced closure of schools for the last more than three months does not affect the Hurriyat leaders and their families.

The victim is the common Kashmiri.

That is why the separatist leadership keeps issuing repeated bandh calls and ensures that schools do not reopen despite the government having announced opening of schools since the last two months. The intention of the Hurriyat leaders is to ensure that common Kashmiri children are deprived the opportunity of studying and gaining knowledge — thus furthering their agenda of radicalisation.

“To acquire knowledge, one must study; knowledge is the wing wherewith one flies to heaven.”

Burning of schools abets the process of radicalisation. The children will be forced to join madrassas being run by various radical outfits. These madrassas will radicalise the young impressionable minds and act as the nurseries for the universities of terror. One does not mind if the children study in madrassas which provide modern education and act as seminaries of faith. But the ground reality is different.

The Government of India under the “Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrassas” has spent more than Rs 1,000 crore in seven years for modernising madrassa education. Surprisingly, the madrassas in Jammu & Kashmir have refused to accept any grant under this centrally-sponsored scheme.

The scheme envisages, besides other things, providing financial grants for Science/Computer labs/workshops, purchasing of Science kits, Maths kits and other essential pedagogical equipment for teaching modern subjects and for appointment of teachers for modern subjects. The reason for refusal is not known and one only hopes that wisdom prevails over the management of these madrassas and they benefit from the central scheme for the benefit of the children, if the intention is noble.

It is established beyond doubt now that the separatists, fundamentalists and their sympathisers are not at all concerned about the well-being and future of the common Kashmiri. They are only exploiting them to further their own respective agenda and the Pak-sponsored agenda of radicalisation.

The Kashmiris have to realise that they are being systematically and gradually pushed back into the dark era of medieval years. The civil society of Kashmir has to rise to the occasion to save the future of Kashmir.

A wise man has said: “There are three ingredients in the good life — learning, earning and yearning.”

The civil society can easily understand the evil plan of the fundamentalists and their cohorts. The tender hands that should be holding pen and books are being forced into “Sang Baazi” (stone pelting). The civil society needs to come to the forefront and in collaboration with the government agencies fight the evil designs of the radicals and fundamentalists and ensure revival of school education in Kashmir, particularly the rural areas.

The burning of schools has been more prominent in South Kashmir, a stronghold of Jamat-e-Islami and the current hub of jihadi terror in Kashmir. It has to be fought and eradicated as a social evil.

*Brig Anil Gupta (Retd) is a Jammu-based political commentator, columnist, security and strategic analyst. He can be contacted at [email protected]

South Asia Monitor

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