The first day of the Class 12 board examination in Jammu & Kashmir will go down as a significant moment of this year’s four-month long unrest. Nearly 95 per cent of eligible students took the exam. Class 10 examinations on Tuesday registered an attendance of 99.2 per cent, possibly the highest ever. It is the first time since July 8 that the Jammu & Kashmir government has been able to have its way. Three weeks ago, the Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Geelani, had thundered that children could not be expected to attend schools as normal while their classmates were being blinded by pellet guns. There can be no contesting the violence visited on children and young adults over the last few months by the pellet-gun armed security forces. But the other truth is that there was increasing public anxiety that the protests, now in their fifth month, had disrupted schooling. The school burning incidents were adding to the concern. Initial opposition to the state government’s announcement of on-schedule examinations gave way to growing resentment against the Hurriyat’s refusal to relax the “protest calendar” for schools, especially after it emerged that elite private schools had made arrangements to continue teaching and assessing their students, among whom are Geelani’s own grandchildren. Not surprisingly, the Hurriyat fell silent on the government’s examination schedule. Parents and students were also encouraged by the government’s 50 per cent “relaxation” in the syllabus.
The holding of examinations hopefully presages a full return to normalcy in the Valley. Over the last 10 days or so, people had been pushing the boundaries of the protest calendar, returning to work and trying to revive their businesses, forcing the Hurriyat to look for ways to call off the agitation. Last week, the Hurriyat leaders held a meeting of over a hundred “stakeholders” who swore support for the protests but underlined that businesses were suffering. There will be no surprise if the coming week’s schedule for protests contains changes towards normalising the situation.
In this delicate moment, the NDA-led government at the Centre, the BJP and PDP, the two partners in the state government, and the security forces, must guard against triumphalism. Too often has the yearning for a normal life or education or even government employment been mistaken for “proof” that, but for a few Pakistan-trained spoilers, the vast majority in Kashmir are accepting of the status quo. As the nation saw, first in 2008, then in 2010, and again this year, the passage of time without a resolution of the issues that keep Kashmir alienated only worsens the problem.