The education minister Naeem Akhtar’s latest statement calling for keeping academia outside of politics should be welcomed as a sign of some change and perhaps an open realization on part of the current ruling dispensation that its inconsiderate actions are yielding nothing but harm on the ground.
During the raging mass uprising, many have pointed out that the minister in question was the first to position education as a tactical tool to blunt the uprising. Even while dozens of people were being injured on a daily basis, the minister had been insisting on opening schools without waiting for things to settle down.
That education was politicized despite the fact most of the Kashmir remained under curfew with school going children remaining a salient target of the pellets, bullets and tear gas shells of the state machinery showed nothing but official disdain and contempt for the very children it claimed to protect and care for. It is also worth a polite reminder that a large number of victims of the state actions have been school going children, many of whom have lost their eye sight or are nursing their wounds in hospitals or homes with life changing injuries.
The government on the one hand justifies the massive use of force and the use of pellets, curfews and arrests to point to the gravity of the situation but on the other hand rushes into announcing a date sheet for examinations to impose a sense of normalcy.
In its attempts to display authority, the government virtually forced children to attend competitive examinations leaving them exposed to danger.
The same government and its predecessors see nothing political in providing a steady supply of students to army’s Sadbhavna tours, which are brazenly political in intent.
It is hoped that in light of his own latest statement, the education minister shall revisit his current policy of using education as a tool and students and teachers as mere props in seeking to divert public attention from the long-term and burning issue of Kashmir’s political unsettlement. Students and teachers must not engage in politics for the greater good of our society and milieu around us, but for this our kids and teachers must have a safer environment to thrive in. When they are killed on a daily basis, when teachers are ruthlessly beaten to death, who will ensure that education will remain immune to politics?