SRINAGAR: After the outbreak of the unrest following killing of 21-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8, the education system has almost “collapsed” in the Valley owing to continued shutdown and restrictions and at least 25 schools have been set on fire by miscreants in last three months.
A private school, Iqra Public School, was set on fire by unknown persons at Batgund, Dooru in South Anantnag district last evening. The school building suffered extensive damage in the fire.
According to officials of State Education department, Iqra Public School was the 25th school set on fire by unknown persons during the over three month long unrest in the Valley.
All educational institutions in Valley have remained closed since July 9, when the unrest broke out in the Valley a day after killing of Burhan.
Kashmir has been observing shutdown since July 9 on the call of separatists while the curfew also remained in force for consecutive 52 days.
Officials said of the 25 schools torched, seven were set on fire in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district, four in Budgam, three in Baramulla, two each in Bandipora, Shopian, Ganderbal and Anantnag and one each in Pulwama, Kupwara and Srinagar districts.
They said of the 25 schools gutted, 11 were fully damaged while 14 suffer partial damage.
According to officials, the arson has affected more than 4500 students studying in these 25 schools.
J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had yesterday blamed separatists for using children as cannon fodder by not allowing schools to function in the Valley.
“Since last three months, schools are closed in Valley. The government tried to open schools and even a delegation from civil society led by Yashwant Sinha went to meet them (separatists) and requested them that the future of children was getting spoiled and for God's sake help to let the schools open and the reply came in the form of burning of two schools," she said.
A senior police official said police has taken up investigations to identity and arrest the people involved in torching the schools.
“We have identified miscreants involved in torching of schools. We have launched a massive manhunt to arrest them,” he said.
The burning of schools has evoked strong reaction from mainstream, traders, separatist groups and civil society members.
A spokesman of Hurriyat Conference led by Geelani strongly condemned torching of the schools.
“We express our concern over the continuous incidents of torching of school buildings. Those involved in such acts can never be the well wishers of the society not to talk of the “movement”. These acts are purposely used to malign the “movement” as authorities have miserably failed after using every tool in their armory to curb this movement,” he said.
Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA) chairman, Haji Muhammad Yasin Khan, said not only schools but even shrines and shops are going up in flames.
“The pattern of these mysterious incidents is suggestive of a conspiracy to deprive Kashmir of its educational and economic resources and to equally hurt religious sentiments,” he said.
A civil society group Kashmir Centre for Social and Developmental Studies (KCSDS) also expressed anguish and concern over the rising incidents of torching of school buildings in Kashmir and warned elements involved to desist from such “shameful criminal acts”.