THE assault on a teacher at a school in Batote has brought forth the simmering tension in Ramban district along the Jammu-Srinagar highway since the abrogation of Article 370. The CISF is now deployed at the government higher secondary school, while authorities have assured that the Class 10 teacher, who was attacked on September 2 after he listed the “benefits” of the government’s move on Article 370, won’t be posted back to the school.
A schoolteacher who refused to be identified said they had to rescue the Class 10 teacher. “The students may have thrown him off the first floor, killed him,” said the teacher.
While the students accuse the teacher of making derogatory remarks against a community while speaking about Article 370, the 31-year-old has said he was only answering queries of some students. The school authorities claim they have no idea why the violence flared up.
Ramban Deputy Commissioner Nazim Zai Khan has ordered an inquiry by a three-member panel, including Additional District Development Commissioner, Ramban, Nawab Din; Tehsildar (Batote) Pardeep Kumar; and Chief Education Officer, Ramban, Abdul Hamid Fani. Pending the inquiry, the Education Department has attached the teacher with the office of the CEO Ramban and rusticated 14 students belonging to Classes 9, 11 and 12 for 15 days. Police are waiting for the inquiry report before filing an FIR.
Sources said the district administration had recommended to the Education Department that the teaching staff who had completed their tenure at the Batote school be shifted to some other place within the district. Others said both the students and the teacher concerned had submitted a written apology and an undertaking to avoid a repeat of their actions.
The Additional District Development Commissioner insisted that “the matter has been resolved”.
Principal S K Nanda said the decision to deploy the CISF on the premises was the administration’s. “Otherwise the situation is normal.” The school has 535 students.
Batote, with a population of nearly 5,000, has almost equal number of Hindus and Muslims, who have now lined up behind the teachers and students along religious lines. “Some people want to disturb the communal amity by trying to blow the tiff out of proportion,” said a local businessman, adding that even those backing the teacher know he was in the wrong.
A hotelier and a member of the school management committee said students had told him some teachers themselves stoked the tension. Regretting the deteriorating relations between the two communities, the hotelier talked about the time his father was kidnapped during peak militancy in the 1990s. “When he came home, the kind of welcome he got from members of the other community was not matched even by his relatives.”
A local Communist leader, Arshad Kazmi, said, “While the two communities appear normal in their daily dealings, they now look at each other with suspicion.”
The continuing blockade of mobile Internet services, and limited availability of broadband, is also contributing to raised tempers. Traffic along Jammu-Srinagar national highway is down by 25-30 per cent, according to traffic police officials, and long queues of trucks usually seen along the highway are missing.
Officials admit that with no mobile connectivity in the Valley, no one wants to cart supplies there, fearing a dead end there. Online payment facility is unavailable in the absence of mobile phone services.
“Eleven trucks loaded with livestock recently returned from the Valley. They could not get in touch with buyers,” a traffic police officer deployed along the highway said.
“Against last year when buyers picked up apples at Rs 550 per box at Batote, I am not getting the price even after taking these to Jammu,” said orchadist Shams ul Mir. The Deputy Commissioner said trucks carrying supplies, especially apples from Kashmir, only moved during night.