Turning the clock back in Kashmir
In the last 48 hours, more than three schools have been burnt in South Kashmir taking the tally to 27 so far since July 9 -- a day after Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani was gunned down by security forces.
Why are schools being targeted, and why are only government school buildings being burnt? Is it to destroy government property or is it part of a larger sinister game plan?
The separatists and the fundamentalists in Kashmir Valley are determined to turn back the clock and take the Valley once again to the medieval era where the Maulvis and Qazis ruled the roost and their writ ran unchallenged. They want the common Kashmiris to remain ignorant, poorly educated, and under-developed so that they continue to hold sway over the masses as well as keep them deprived of the benefits of modern education that are mandatory to enjoy the benefits of development and economic growth.
Schools are temples of learning. They impart knowledge. Schools imbibe the quality of reasoning in young minds, cultivate the spirit of nationalism, and inculcate the habit of acquiring knowledge through the process of learning.
Knowledge is power. It allows one to decide what would be best for one to do. This is what the self-appointed leaders of radicalisation fear -- and hence want to deprive young Kashmiris of knowledge. Their target is the future generations of Kashmiris so that they can have unbridled hold over them.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary of English, radicalisation is defined as a “Process to make someone become more extreme in their political or religious beliefs”.
Radicalisation is one of the components of the “Bleed India through Thousand Cuts” strategy unleashed by Pakistan to avenge the humiliation suffered by its Army in 1971.
Radicalisation in the Valley is planned, funded and backed by Pakistan. Separatists, soft-separatists, and fundamentalists are employed by Pakistan in furthering its agenda of radicalisation. Gradual easing out of Sufi Islam and replacing it by radical Wahhabism is part of this strategy.
Unfortunately, instead of addressing the issue and attempting to catch the bull by the horns, a political blame game has begun in the Valley. Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has accused the Hurriyat leadership and state administration. The irony is that the Hurriyat leaders who are reportedly responsible for these acts have also started issuing statements blaming the government.
The sad part is that it has taken the burning of 24 school buildings so far for these leaders to realise the great harm being done to the intellectual growth of the Kashmiri children. The intention of the current outbreak is evident, and that is to criticise and defame the government. None of them has suggested a solution. Neither will they because all these statements are for politicking and befooling the common man.
In their heart of hearts, they are happy with the ongoing situation and would like it to continue. It hardly makes any difference to them because their kith and kin and their children are continuing with their studies uninterruptedly in various public schools in the Valley, other parts of the country and even in some foreign countries.
Only recently the granddaughter of Hurriyat Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a class 10 student of DPS Srinagar, took her exams in a highly guarded secure zone under security cover provided by the police. It is evident that the forced closure of schools for over last three months does not affect the Hurriyat leaders and their families.
The victim is the ordinary Kashmiri
That is why the separatist leadership keeps issuing repeated bandh calls and ensures that schools do not reopen despite the government having announced the opening of schools two months back. The intention of the Hurriyat leaders is to ensure that the common Kashmiri children are deprived of the opportunity to study and gain knowledge -- thus furthering their agenda of radicalisation.
“To acquire knowledge, one must study; knowledge is the wing wherewith one flies to heaven.” Burning of schools abets the process of radicalisation. The children will be forced to join madrassas being run by various radical outfits. These madrassas will radicalise the impressionable young minds and will become nurseries of terror. One may not initially care if the children study in madrassas which provide modern education and serve as seminaries of faith. But the ground reality is different.
The Government of India under the “Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrassas” has spent more than Rs 1,000 crore in seven years for modernising madrassa education. Surprisingly, the madrassas in Jammu & Kashmir have refused to accept any grant under this centrally-sponsored scheme.
The scheme envisages, besides other things, providing financial grants for Science/Computer labs/workshops, purchasing of Science kits, Maths kits, and other essential pedagogical equipment for teaching modern subjects and for the appointment of teachers. The reason for refusal is not known, and one only hopes that wisdom prevails over the management of these madrassas and they benefit from the Central scheme for the interest of the children - if the intention is noble.
It is established beyond doubt now that the separatists, fundamentalists and their sympathisers are not at all concerned about the well-being and future of the ordinary Kashmiri. They are only exploiting them to further their respective agenda and the Pak-sponsored agenda of radicalisation.
The Kashmiris have to realise that they are systematically and gradually being pushed back into the dark era of medieval years. The civil society of Kashmir has to rise to the occasion to save the future of Kashmir.
A wise man has said: “There are three ingredients in the good life -- learning, earning, and yearning.”
The civil society can easily understand the evil plan of the fundamentalists and their cohorts. The tender hands that should be holding pen and books are being forced into “Sang Baazi” (stone pelting). The civil society needs to come to the forefront and in collaboration with the government agencies fight the evil designs of the radicals and fundamentalists and ensure revival of school education in Kashmir, particularly the rural areas.
The burning of schools has been more prominent in South Kashmir, a stronghold of Jamat-e-Islami and the current hub of jihadi terror in Kashmir. It has to be fought and eradicated as a social evil.
(Brig. Anil Gupta (Retd) is a Jammu-based political commentator, security and strategic analyst. The views expressed are personal. By special arrangement with South Asia Monitor/www.southasiamonitor.org)