Srinagar: “Outsiders”, “no fencing”, and “stationing of forces’ vehicles” in the vicinity of educational institutions were among the reasons pointed out by education officials and school principals for the massive student protests in Kashmir.
On Sunday, when Education Minister Altaf Bukhari chaired a meeting in Srinagar with chief education officers, zonal education officers, and school principals, he was told that “outside elements” were forcibly entering the schools to clash with government forces. The representatives of government-run schools said that presence of vehicles of government forces near their institutions were provoking the students to protest. The minister directed in the meeting that such vehicles should not be stationed near educational institutions.
Before chairing Sunday’s meeting, the education minister had met with heads of universities and colleges to devise a strategy for re-opening of educational institutions and to curb the student protests which have rocked the Valley in recent weeks. One move that came out of Sunday’s meeting was the government’s decision to shut down all tuition centres for school students for three months, in a bid to force students back to attending school. The order has drawn outrage from the coaching centres association, opposition parties, and civil society.
During their meeting with the education minister, school and college principals said that use of indiscriminate force on student protesters had worsened the situation. One of the representatives said, “Some students have less interest in studies and therefore get involved in such activities. They need to be counselled as early as possible.”
Bukhari told the principals that the student protests were also their problem and they would have to find a solution to the issue.
“Our meeting is related to our future, which is why we have all assembled here. The solution won’t come from New Delhi or from police or administration but from us,” Bukhari said in the meeting. “I have been conveyed that there are police stations and forces’ camps near schools and colleges. This is a challenge for us and we do not want to underestimate it,” he added.
Director School Education Kashmir, Dr GN Itoo, told the gathering that student attendance is compulsory and would carry marks in the evaluation of a student’s performance.