‘We are systematically disempowering ourselves, educationally, intellectually, economically and physically’
Srinagar: Education Minister Altaf Bukhari on Saturday said that students protesting on streets will be treated as “rowdies” and if they damage public property, they will be dealt with according to “rule of law”.
Bukhari, however, termed the use of pellets against students as “unjustified”.
He also said that it is equally the responsibility of parents and society to ensure that students study, not just of the government.
Bukhari today met with university vice-chancellors and college principals to know the ground reports of the massive student protests over the Kathua rape and murder that have often turned violent in recent days. Bukhari said that students damaging public property in educational institutes would be dealt with sternly
“Once they (students) come on the streets, they will be treated as rowdies. If they do any damage to properties in educational institutes, they will be dealt with as per rule of law,” he said.
The student protests have prompted the government to shut down educational institutes including universities. Several students have been injured after pellets were fired on them during clashes with government forces.
In response to a question, Bukhari said that the opening of schools, colleges and universities is not just in the interest of the government but of the society as well.
“It is as important for society to have schools open as it is for the government. It is not a one-sided responsibility. The responsibility lies with both parents and the government. The government provides schools for education and they are the responsibility of parents as well.”
He added, “I look at education as a measure of what is going to be our tomorrow. Should we be an educated society or an uneducated one?”
Bukhari lamented that education had become the biggest casualty in Kashmir. He said, “It is our collective responsibility to think over the terrible consequences of the loss of education of our children. Ironically, we have come to a time where we are systematically disempowering ourselves, educationally, intellectually, economically and physically.”
Bukhari said that every right-thinking person in Kashmir including those with differing political ideologies will have to seriously think over this grave issue, before it is too late to recoup the loss.
He insisted on keeping education out of politics and said that people subscribing to any school of political thought are in favour of continuation of education. “It seems some mysterious elements are hell-bent upon blocking the smooth functioning of the schools to render our children educationally disempowered,” he said.
The education minister pointed out that Kashmir’s affluent class has already started shifting their children outside Jammu and Kashmir for education. “It is the middle class and the poor whose children are losing out on education because of the recurrent disruptions,” he said, requesting parents to convince their wards to refrain from street protests and not waste their precious time.
During the meeting with the heads of educational institutions, the minister asked them to treat students as their own children and to counsel them for their better future.
He said it is the moral duty of heads of educational institutions to ensure that they treat students in their institutions as their own children.
He said that teachers need to incorporate new ideas to produce a society that is vibrant, creative and rich in intellect.
The college principals told the minister that educational institutions should not be established in the vicinity of army camps and police stations, and that government forces should not “provoke” students and staff.