In complete contradiction of the stance of Jammu and Kashmir government that education shouldn’t suffer because of protests, the additional deployment of paramilitary forces in Valley has occupied several key schools.
The move that has raised questions on the government’s sincerity to education has drawn criticism on social media, terming it a reminiscence of 1990s when a large number of schools were occupied by Border Security Force (BSF).
While BSF personnel, deployed for the security of Amarnath yatra, have been assisting police and paramilitary forces in Srinagar, an additional 26 companies were rushed to Valley from outside, who straightaway barged into schools and occupied them.
The BSF men have occupied more than half a dozen schools in Srinagar including the prestigious S P Higher Secondary in Lal Chowk, DAV School in Jawahar Nagar and Higher Secondary Schools at Kothibagh, Rajbagh, Sonwar and Nawakadal..
On Tuesday afternoon, a number of private buses – with no number plates – and defence vehicles dropped the forces at the schools. This is the first time since 2004 that BSF has been asked to assist the police and paramilitary forces. Senior police officials refused to comment on reports that schools were being occupied by paramilitary forces. “This is not something you should ask me. Ask the Divisional Commissioner,” Inspector General of Police, Javed Mujtaba Geelani told The Indian Express.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Khan confirmed that the armed forces had been stationed in the schools. “BSF has not occupied anything. They are just in four to five schools,” Khan said.
State Education Minister Naeem Akhtar, who on Tuesday had directed the state board of school education to prepare for the grade X and XII examinations, was trolled on the internet for his order after the troops were put up in schools. “Now no place for military (other than) schools, meant for Kashmiris to learn. All further exams will be conducted at the residence of Education Minister,” Bilal Ahmad Mir wrote on Facebook.
A Facebook user related it to Prime Minister Modi’s remark that Kashmiri children should have laptops in their hands instead of stones. “Action taken by New Delhi, now we know who #Modi wanted to see with laptops #Kashmir,” wrote the Facebook user.
“The schools today had been transformed into a part of battlefield despite the broad international law requiring parties to armed conflicts to spare educational institutions from use in support of military conflict,” another social media user Imran Majid posted.
With the Valley under continued curfew and restrictions for the past 46 days, the Centre has now, not only called the BSF to control the protests, but last month the union home ministry had rushed 54 additional “training/reserve” companies for curbing the continuous protests that have been going on in Kashmir since the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani.
Sixty companies of CRPF that had been on yatra duty since June 18 are also expected to be deployed in Valley to curb the protests. The government decision to impose night curfew in Valley has forced it rush more paramilitary companies to the valley. Sixty eight civilians have been killed by the police, paramilitary forces and the Army during protests.