Kashmir’s schools as military barracks
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It numbs one's conscience to see school girls being frisked by soldiers as they enter classrooms. In the district education office at Kupwara, one can see bundles of complaints forwarded by heads of institutions on the humiliation routinely suffered by Kashmiri girls at the hands of the security forces. In a few field studies, you will find data rebutting the tall claims of officials about the advancement of girls' education. Kashmiri society is conservative. When such incidents of humiliation are reported, parents end up refusing to send their daughters to school. Take the so-called 'army school' — the Boys Higher Secondary School, Zachaldara. Studies here are reportedly carried out in a building that is half-occupied by security forces and surrounded by land mines! From available documents, one gathers that in two districts of Kashmir, the Rashtriya Rifles occupy 20 schools, of which 14 are either primary or secondary schools.
In Kashmir, free speech has become an unpardonable crime. This, combined with the fact that most Kashmiris today have become fatalists, explains why there has hardly been any public outrage over this issue. Kids often see their loved ones getting humiliated during "crackdowns" on school premises. This is bound to have a far-reaching emotional impact on them. In a study involving 536 students from different parts of the Valley in the age group of 4-18, 40 per cent of the respondents were reportedly suffering from serious psychological disorders.
For the young to be silent in the face of rough treatment is quite traumatic. Therefore, the current fortification of schools amounts to being a tacit strategy of subjugating young minds by enforcing fear. In the long term, this denial of a good education could result in the smothering of the emerging generation's aspirations.
These school students also provide security forces with a human shield. In case of an ambush, the majority of the casualties will be these unarmed school kids, and their deaths will be used to justify the continuing presence of the army in civilian areas.
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