SRINAGAR: At least 47 schools came under arson attacks in Kashmir during last four months and of these 32 schools were gutted while 15 attempts to torch the educational institutions were foiled.
“32 schools have been burnt by unknown persons in the Valley in last four months of unrest in Kashmir,” Director School Education Kashmir, Aijaz Ahmad Bhat, told Express.
He said most of the gutted schools were government schools. “Some private schools were also torched by the miscreants”.
Kashmir has been witnessing unrest and shutdown since July 9, a day after killing of 21-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces in South Kashmir. The schools had remained closed after Burhan’s killing and some are now opening during the relaxation in shutdown announced by the separatist leaders, who are spearheading the over four month long agitation.
In south Kashmir, which comprises four districts of Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam and Shopan and has been the epicenter of the ongoing unrest, 15 schools have been gutted, Aijaz said.
He said 9 schools were torched by the arsonists in Central Kashmir comprising three districts of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal.
“Eight schools were also set on fire in North Kashmir comprising three districts Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora,” Aijaz said.
After the torching of schools, authorities directed the teachers and non-teaching staff of the schools to ensure safety of the schools following court orders.
“We have involved 8000 Contingent Paid Workers (CPWs), 4000 class IV workers and 13000 cooks and helpers in securing the schools,” Aijaz said.
The Director School Education said due to the security measures taken by them, at least 15 schools were saved.
“The miscreants attempt to burn 15 more schools were foiled by the watch staff deployed by government after the school burning incidents,” he said.
Police have arrested at least 33 persons for their involvement in burning of schools and at least 14 of them are likely to be booked under stringent Public Safety Act (PSA).
According to Aijaz, the burning of schools has affected more than 5000 students and caused loss of over 8 crores.
Asked what measures have been taken to provide education to the students of the gutted schools, he said, “The students will be accommodated in nearest schools. Besides, the officials have been directed to rationalize the teachers”.
On the security measures in the schools, Aijaz said fire safety points have been set up in every school to deal with any contingency.
“The safety point comprises water tank, buckets, 50 cft sand deposits and iron buckets,” he said adding every school has been directed to have the safety point and ensure availability of water.