It is quite disheartening that the functioning of educational institutions suffered a great deal during the month of April due to a variety of reasons. First, a lot of educational institutions in Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal districts were closed due to parliamentary by-poll.
Not only were scores of schools closed on eve of the election, a number of teachers were deployed for the election duty despite the education minister Altaf Bukhari’s commitment that the teachers would not be deputed on non-academic engagements.
The situation turned ugly on April 15 when the government forces swooped on Government Degree College in Pulwama. Dozens of students were injured in the police action. The students were agitated on the presence of government forces outside the college premises allegedly with the intention to catch hold of some suspected students.
The incident did not remain confined to Pulwama town and soon spread to other educational institutions across the Valley. For quite some time, the authorities were not able to handle the situation despite declaring closer of schools and colleges for several days. On April 24, the students took the protests to much higher level when massive clashes erupted in Maulana Azad Road area in Srinagar.
The images of girls in school uniform pelting stones on police and kicking their vehicles in a fit of rage went viral across the world. This became yet another embarrassing movement for the state government and its forces. These were not less damning images than the ones of Beerwah’s Farooq Ahmad Dar who was captured by the army after casting his vote, strapped him to bonnet of an armoured vehicle and exhibited through villages to create scare for the alleged stone-pelters.
In the backdrop of these incidents, the educational activities are hampered in the Valley for around two weeks. There seems no immediate end to the protests. The only days when the students remain peaceful are the holidays, scheduled or otherwise. This does not augur well with the education sector that has suffered immensely during all these years, especially since July last year.
It is not only the duty of the government to ensure normality in the schools but an equal role has to be played by the students themselves and their parents. It is highly despicable that the government forces used brute and disproportionate force to quell the student protests. The responsibility must be fixed.
In a time-bound manner, the actual situation that led to the incident must be brought to the common people’s knowledge and some stringent measures must be taken so that the student anger is dissipated.
The students have lost a lot of time. Their anger and frustration is manifest of the derailed system, lack of accountability within the institutions and gradual depletion of interest of students as well as teachers with the activity. The government and the society have to study this challenge in a holistic manner and try to find out solutions.