WITH STUDENT protests continuing across the Valley for over a month now, the Jammu and Kashmir government has decided not to allow students to sit for their exams if they fall short of the required attendance.
Speaking to The Indian Express, J&K Education Minister Syed Altaf Bukhari said he has instructed the authorities not to provide any relaxation in the rules. “Exams are starting in schools and colleges soon. If their attendance is low, they (students) will not be allowed to sit for the exams,” he said.
When contacted, Ghulam Nabi Itoo, Director, School Education (Kashmir), said the minimum attendance required is 90 per cent. “The issue was discussed at a meeting today… If a student does not meet the attendance criteria, he will not be allowed to sit for the exams,” he said.
“We will strictly adhere to the academic schedule, the session will be completed on time and exams will be held on time. I am not a votary of curtailing the syllabus to 50 per cent and then conducting the exams,” said Bukhari.
“The protests started from Pulwama (in April), where security personnel entered the college. But action was taken against the police officer. I am unable to understand why the students are continuing their protests,” said Bukhari.
He said the government has instructed security forces not to enter any educational institute. “You must have seen… there isn’t a single report about (security forces) trespassing into a school anywhere in Kashmir after the Pulwama incident. We have issued clear directions on this,” he said.
The minister said that if the students confined their protests to the campus grounds, it would not be a problem. “But when they come out of their campus, it becomes a law and order problem. I have been appealing to the students that they have a right to demonstrate, but that right is confined to within the four walls of the campus. The moment you leave the campus and protest on the roads, you are not students and it will be dealt with as a law and order issue,” he said.
Asked about the reported use of pellet guns against students in North Kashmir on Tuesday, Bukhari said there was heavy stone-pelting and students also targeted private vehicles. “For the first time, pellets were used yesterday. But the more this issue becomes a law and order problem, the more frequent will be the use of pellets. The use of pellets is wrong and I condemn it. But what can the police do when 4,000-5,000 students are protesting,” said Bukhari.
Stating that there were about 17 such incidents across Kashmir in the last one month, Bukhari said the students have faced “mild” action so far. “Even if they are arrested, students are released immediately, either on the same day, next day or within a few days. So far, only two FIRs have been registered. The number of students arrested and released must be in hundreds. We feel that they don’t have criminal intent, but the protests are getting too much now,” he said.
Bukhari said the students were being “misled” and the government knew who was inciting them. “We know why these protests are happening. I don’t want to name them… do you think it so easy… one day, it happens in Magam, then in Handwara, and then in another area. They are being misled and they (students) have to understand this,” he said.
Asked about the preventive measures being taken by the government, Bukhari said counselling was being done through parents, teachers and principals. “Our major focus is on counselling… we will also ensure that all students who have less attendance won’t be allow to sit for their exams,” he said.
“We have to close some institutes due to this problem… Because of some students, all of them are being punished. If there is a protest in any school, other students should identify those responsible,” said Bukhari.
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