TThe need of the hour is to declare the education sector, especially school education in Kashmir, an essential service thus guaranteeing that education at this level by no means gets adversely affected even during extremely turbulent conditions.
The current academic session and the consummated sessions over the last three decades have faced a lot of break-downs, interruptions and gaps. The fissures are wide to an extent that seems difficult to get filled by any means making the whole generation suffer the most. Schools generally are treated as places of safety for children and nowhere the places of politics or launch pads of adult narratives. But, Kashmir is exceptionally a place, on earth, where schools are used as battle grounds, electoral bases manned during elections by combatant forces armored with sophisticated weapons not for the protection of children but for countering the violence which in no way is linked to students or education.
When resistance leadership take the government head-on by shutting down everything including schools, it is a school which is propagated and used by the government to defeat the popular narrative. Schools are thrown open during turbulent times with an intention to defeat the separatist narrative, thus jeopardizing the life of children. Announcement of exams are made amid shutdowns to claim the space occupied by separatists.
In this entire scheme of things, children suffer the most. The matter or even issue is so politicized that when an educated young man joins a militant group, his education becomes the point of concern, for state apparatuses, rather than his other association. Why? Because, the realization and importance of education and the educated manifests by itself. When the very education is at risk, no one bothers to ponder or take a step in this regard.
This issue, in fact, is everyone’s concern but no one is willing to take a lead in this regard. During 2016, schools remained shut for months; community schools, at many places, were opened which became places of ventilation more than the places of education. Education in schools is not about getting to know the arithmetic’s of the text but it is about the life skills as imparted to children in a structured manner thus helping them understand vital skills necessary for and in life.
The shutdown call by Joint Resistance Leadership as and when there is a need to submit protest is part of the political fabric here but this call has to have some structure. It can’t be just a call in an unstructured and random form. Leadership entails responsibility of guiding people to ensure that resistance does not result in self-harm. The idea of shutdown is to agitate the opponent by bringing its system to a standstill, but, in case of Kashmir, the situation is vice versa. People are asked to take recourse to shutdowns under the assumption that work at the government level will stop. In fact, the employees during the shutdown have to crawl not just walk to reach to their offices unburdening the government with fuel charges which otherwise is inevitable for some ranks. An ITS officer during shutdown rides a bicycle to reach office (there are numerous such cases where employees make sure they attend office)
The idea of resistance this-way stands flopped. The tepidity of shutdowns is no more a secret but leadership still make use of this method as they don’t appear to want to go beyond conventional methods for fear of incurring of government’s wrath on them same way Masrat Alam faced for using creative methods during Amarnath land dispute. Alam, as per police doziers has been a successful mobilizer of young men. Masrat was slapped with dozens of PSAs so that he is dealt with severity for using alternate methods and doing away with conventional ones to make it a lesson for others in the fray.
Whatever the merits or demerits of shutdown calls, the larger issue is that the education of our young must not suffer; creative but prudent means must be adopted and perhaps integrated with the dominant politics of Kashmir. A creative integration and adoption of other means like technology might constitute the antidotes to the problem of our school going young.
Unlike universities and colleges, schools must not be places of resistance nor must they be used to counter the resistance, as school children are the fragile part of society which need to be nurtured and not politicized. . They are future of every nation. The onus of ensuring the children get uninterrupted education goes to resistance leaders more than government as first rung mainstream leadership does not come from local schools but resistance leadership derives their ranks from them.
Resistance leaders does not come from outside but, yes, the adversarial leadership mostly come from outside as they belong to socio-economically well to do families. Most of the mainstream politicians or people in the bureaucracy have already shifted their children to outside schools thus making them less vulnerable to evolving fluid conditions in Kashmir.
It is the “ordinary” class(es) and their children that bear the brunt of the crisis. It is the responsibility of the entire leadership to keep politics away from school children and use a creative method to safeguard the interests of children or else they will have no one in future to carry forward legacies that are natural to the political ethos of Kashmir.
—The author is Consulting Editor of Kashmir Reader. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org