SRINAGAR: Risking their lives, as many as 22 students of an army Goodwill School, fed up with “harsh treatment” by their teachers, attempted to cross the Line of Control for arms training in the other Kashmir early this month, Kashmir Reader has learnt.
The students of standard 8 and 9 at the Army Goodwill School in Budkoot (Handwara), aged between 13 and 15, had left their homes for classes on the morning of July 6. However, en route to the school, they had taken their uniforms off and changed into their home clothing. The boys had stuffed their bags with snacks and biscuits in anticipation of a long trek.
They had first taken a bus to a remote village, Bonwan. Using Google maps, they had then embarked on a walk to the LoC. After navigating a few dense forests, the boys had been intercepted by a patrol of the 21st battalion of army’s feared counterinsurgency unit, Rashtriya Rifles, in Watsar area of Rajwar, about 5km from the LoC.
The boys had initially tried to run, but given up after “surrender, surrender” calls by the soldiers.
“The army handed over the school kids to police who called their parents for questioning,” said an official of the school, wishing anonymity.
The students had told the police that they were fed up with the “harsh attitude” of their teachers, especially the principal, Khalid Jalaal.
“We wanted to teach him (principal) a lesson,” one of the students told the police.
As part of its Operation Sadbhavna (Goodwill), the army has built several “goodwill” schools across the Valley to “win hearts and minds” of the people who rose in rebellion against India’s rule in 1990. While teachers are recruited from the local populace, some staff is assigned to these schools by the army.
Handwara superintendent of police Ghulam Jeelani, however, denied that the teens were attempting to cross the LoC.
“They just wanted to bunk classes and were wandering here and there,” he said.