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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

After UJC’s statement, all and sundry in Kashmir condemn burning of schools

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Oct 31: On Sunday a group of 28 Kashmiri intellectuals, most serving and retired academics, signed and issued a statement calling for deferment of the annual examinations for Class 10th and Class 12th besides all classes as, they argued, the students had failed to complete syllabus due to the 114-day-long street turbulence.

The statement cautioned senior PDP leader and Minister of Education Naeem Akhtar for building prestige and proceeding with his rigidity. It also asked Mehbooba Muti’s government to stop conducting raids by night for arresting the people allegedly involved in arranging protests or indulging in stone pelting. The statement, however, did not carry a word of condemnation or concern over the unidentified miscreants’ attacks on education in the Valley.

In all 26 government and private schools have been torched and destroyed fully while as attempted have been made to burn down five more schools. With an unsuccessful attempt on the Government Middle School at Nagbal, Ganderbal, on Monday evening, as many as 31 educational institutes have been targeted in the last 56 days.

Until Monday, few of the State’s representative political and social organisation and leaders had come forward with an unqualified condemnation of the burning spree. When the most secure and the best protected ruling parties, PDP and BJP, choose to remain silent, why should anyone expect the opposition parties to stick their neck out in support of the government?

Let alone contesting the separatists’ claims and narratives politically, Kashmir’s mainstream politicians — who have been rotating in opposition and power — have outclassed one another in appeasing the Hurriyat and other separatist groups and leaders. Most of the times, particularly when they are in opposition, the Valley’s mainstream politicians have echoed what the separatists have asserted day in and day out.

Deferment of the exams was initiated as a demand by the Hurriyat. One can reproduce it without any fear from the higher authorities. Hurriyat and other separatist groups have been daily issuing statement critical of the ‘nocturnal raids’ to arrest the youths. During the same period, when the attacks began mounting on schools and Education Minister was caught in the eye of a storm, a national daily exposed how a prominent leader’s granddaughter had continued her studies with DPS Srinagar without disturbance and how her internal exams had been conducted at Indoor Stadium, a CRPF company headquarters for over 25 years now.

The statement from intelligentsia steered clear of it all and did selectively project what the Hurriyat has been demanding. Some people across Pir Panjal mountain have dismissed it as ‘hypocrisy and intellectual bankruptcy’, though it is effortlessly understandable that nobody in the Valley’s hostile atmosphere can sail against the storm.

Like on many occasions in the past, it was none other than the guerrilla camp itself that pioneered condemning the burning of schools. United Jehad Council’s and Hizbul Mujahideen’s Pakistan-based supremo Syed Salahuddin called the miscreants as “stooges of the government” who, according to him, were torching the educational institutes for the purpose of “defaming the freedom struggle”.

On Monday, Salahuddin’s statement was followed by almost all the mainstream and separatist outfits, each of them invariably condemning burning of the schools. This speaks volumes about the originality and straightforwardness of the Valley’s political, social, religious and intellectual leaders. Had they come forward and said what the UJC chief today said, they would have run a risk but definitely lived as hallowed leaders in the State’s political history.



Sunday, October 30, 2016

Pellet shellet na bhai na…..

Day after Yashwant Sinha’s meeting with Geelani, Centre asks forces in Kashmir to stop using pump action guns

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Oct 28: Within a day of the senior BJP leader and former union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha’s ‘ice-breaking meeting’ with the Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani and other separatist leaders in Srinagar, Narendra Modi government in the Centre is understood to have directed Police and security forces to immediately stop using of the pump action gun, commonly known as pellet gun, in riot control regime in Kashmir valley.

On Friday, STATE TIMES learned from highly placed authoritative sources that the field officers of J&K Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have been directed to communicate verbally to all the units that they should no more use pellet guns to combat the crowds of stone pelters. The direction, sources, said, flew in to Srinagar, in the afternoon on Friday.

The ‘verbal order’ to the forces has raised speculations that the Kashmiri separatist leaders have put up a host of demands to the Centre through Sinha-led “Trach-3 team” and stopping use of pellet guns is seen to be the first concession. Activist Sushoba Bhave, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and journalist Bharat Bhushan were among Sinha’s team that managed to meet with the prominent separatist leaders, including Geelani but excluding JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik in Srinagar in the two-day visit earlier this year.

An eminent educationist and a journalist, both viewed to be intimately close to the ruling coalition, are said to have facilitated a series of meetings between Sinha’s team and the Kashmiri separatists. Publicly, both Sinha as well as BJP have claimed that the group’s visit was in no way promoted by the BJP Government or party at the Centre. In his statement, Geelani has said that the meeting happened “in cordial atmosphere”.

Previously, under Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s direction, Government of India and Government of Jammu and Kashmir officers had formed a committee and recommended PAVA shells as an alternative to pellet gun. However, it came under severe public criticism when a number of civilians and protesters suffered grave medical complications and at least one civilian, Junaid Ahmad Mir of Nasrullahpora Budgam, died due to excessive gas inhalation. CRPF too complained against its introduction as alternative to pellet gun, claiming that the unruly crowds would pick up the shells and throw them back on the Police and paramilitary force.

Finally, the authorities counselled the Police and CRPF that they should use pump action guns “only in extremely hostile conditions”.

Sources believed to be knowledgeable claimed that the separatist leaders had agreed to entertain Sinha and his team on the condition that they would force the Centre to concede some of their demands like freezing the pellet guns, revoking cases and releases a sizable number of the detainees before expecting next meeting with the Hurriyat in Srinagar.

On Friday evening CRPF officers were heard communicating to the field units on VHF radio sets to immediately stop using pump action guns in the riot control. The ‘verbal orders from the top’ were broadcast even as a constable of 117 battalion’s ‘D’ Company, Sobin S, was critically hit in his eye when a crowd of 200 to 250 people attacked the CRPF deployment at Arizal in Budgam district.

Around 8,000 civilians and protesters are claimed to have sustained injuries in the 112-day riots in Kashmir. Of them, around 2,000 are said to have sustained minor or major pellet injuries. At least seven of the 90 persons killed in the same riots have reportedly died due to pellet injuries. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is on record to have committed that the forces’ men responsible for killing ATM guard Riyaz Ahmad Shah would be got punished by her government.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

24 schools burned down in 53 days of Burhan turmoil in Kashmir

Kulgam tops with 6 of the 13 schools torched in PDP’s stronghold of South Kashmir

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Oct 28: With hundreds of thousands of the students losing one full academic year due to the street turbulence, triggered off by the Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s death in an encounter with security forces on July 8, as many as 24 educational institutions have been burned down in Kashmir valley in the last 53 days. The separatists-sponsored shutdown without a single day of relaxation completed 112 days on Friday.

Officials claim — and many of the people seem to be its takers — that all the 24 schools have been set on fire and destroyed by the people who have not allowed the educational institutions operate this summer. Even the BJP leader Yashwant Sinha and his ‘track-3 team’ returned to New Delhi disappointed on Friday as they failed to convince the turmoil’s prime driver Syed Ali Shah Geelani to relent and let the schools function.

“Geelani sahab told the delegation that if the authorities are really concerned and bothered about the education, they should release all people including students, withdraw the cases against them, stop police vigil, put an end to the barbarism, night raids and allow peaceful demonstrations which will help in creating a conducive and peaceful atmosphere. Exams can be deferred so that students can get time to prepare and prove their worth on their own. It should be followed by concrete measures to address the root…”, said a statement issued by the Hurriyat.

In his statement the other day, Geelani had claimed that the people burning down schools, damaging private vehicles and looting banks were “culprits, hand-in-glove with Police and forces”. Their motive, according to him, was to malign the Kashmiris’ separatist movement with anti-social acts.

On the other hand, Mehbooba Mufti’s government has been, of late, desperately trying to conduct the annual examinations of the Class 10 and 12 as also to protect the school buildings. Kulgam Deputy Commissioner’s controversial circular has directed the hapless teachers to keep 24/7 vigil so as to ensure that nobody sets a school on fire.

Maximum number of the schools, precisely 6, have been torched in Kulgam district that falls in the PDP’s stronghold of South Kashmir where 13 schools have been reduced to rubble. Even the first incident on September 6 took place in the same district when unidentified persons torched the building of JNU Public High School at Mirhama. Population-wise, Kulgam is almost equally split among the old ideological rivals, Jamaat-e-Islami and CPI (Marxist), besides the PDP.

After JNU, three more private schools were set on fire in Anantnag (Hanfia Higher Secondary School Anantnag on September 19 and Iqra Public School on October 28) and Srinagar (Noorul Huda Educational Institute Zewan: October 12). All the remaining 20 are government schools. In all, one Primary school, 13 Middle schools, 6 High schools and 4 Higher Secondary schools have been fully destroyed.

In addition to the fully devastated 24 schools, four government schools have suffered partial damage at Batagund Mawar Kupwara (September 28), Katrusa Kulgam (October 12), Kawoosa Khalsa Budgam (October 23) and Daderhama Ganderbal (October 28).

Official statistics accessed by STATE TIMES mention that 9 schools were torched in September but the trend is picking up at an alarming speed as 15 schools have been destroyed fully and 3 more partially in October till 28th.

Of the 24 schools, 6 have been torched in Kulgam district, 5 in Anantnag, 3 in Baramulla, 2 each in Srinagar, Budgam and Shopian and one each in Ganderbal and Kupwara. Interestingly, the school dropout Burhan Wani’s own district of Pulwama is the only district in Kashmir where no educational institute has perished in fire during the turbulence.

Director School Education Kashmir Aijaz Ahmad Bhat said that the turmoil has affected all the 7,28,903 students upto Class 12 level in the Valley. “Four thousand students have suffered due to devastation of 22 students until yesterday. We have activated the watch and ward staff and asked them to keep a vigil under the supervision of concerned headmasters and Principals. We have suffered loss of Rs 5 crore and immediately we have no plans in hand for reconstruction of the gutted school buildings and accommodation of the students in private buildings”, Mr Bhat told STATE TIMES.


Schools torched in Kashmir during Burhan turmoil

Sep 06            JNU Public High School    Mirhama                               Kulgam

Sep 09            Govt Middle School             Chak-Sari, Pattan                Baramulla

Sep 10             Govt High School                 Botengo                                Anantnag

Sep 14             Govt Middle School              Kanjikullah                          Kulgam

Sep 19             Hanfia Higher Sec School  Anantnag                              Anantnag

Sep 19             Govt Middle School              Chattawattan, Vehil           Shopian

Sep 20            Govt Middle School               Rakh-e-Momin                    Anantnag

Sep 24             Govt Primary School            Theeru                                   Ganderbal

Sep 26             Govt High School                 Lilam, Vilgam                      Kupwara

Oct 09             Govt Middle School              Palpora, Pattan                    Baramulla

Oct 09             Govt Higher Sec School       Sumbal                                  Bandipore

Oct 12             Noorul Huda Edu Inst.         Zewan                                    Srinagar

Oct 15             Govt Middle School               Kachhdora                            Shopian

Oct 16             Govt High School                    Kanipora                              Kulgam

Oct 20             Govt Middle School               Watoo, DH Pora                 Kulgam

Oct 21              Govt Higher Sec School        Bogam                                   Kulgam

Oct 23             Govt High School                  Aripanthan, Beerwah         Budgam

Oct 24              Govt Middle School (Girls) Bonpora, Sadrkoot            Bandipore

Oct 24              Govt High School (Girls)     Goripora, Noorbagh          Srinagar

Oct 24               Govt Middle School              Samnoo, DH Pora             Kulgam

Oct 25               Govt Higher Sec School       Aeshmuqam                      Anantnag

Oct 27               Govt Middle School               Tappar, Pattan                   Baramulla

Oct 27               Govt Middle School               Habbar, Khag                     Budgam

Oct 28               Iqra Public School ((Mid.)   Batgung, Verinag               Anantnag
Oct 30              Govt Higher Sec School         Kabamarg, Dyalgam         Anantnag

Schools partially damaged in fire

Sep 28                        Govt Middle School          Batgund, Mawar              Kupwara

Oct 02                        Govt Higher Sec School   Katrusa                               Kulgam

Oct 23                        Govt High School              Kawoosa Khalsa               Budgam

Oct 28                        Govt Middle School          Daderhama                       Ganderbal

Oct 29                         Jawahar N Vidhalaya     Aeshmuqam                       Anantnag


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]