Malik Zahra Khalid
Education is the first casualty of year 2017 protests as the government is caught in a fix. They are finding it hard to handle student protests across Kashmir. It all started on April 15 when the police and the security forces entered into the premises of Degree College Pulwama, thrashed students and teachers. The news of dozens of students with serious injuries in the police action spread like fire and a chain reaction followed in the colleges and schools across the valley.
Had the government fixed the responsibility in the Pulwama college incident immediately, student unrest would not have taken the shape of a monster staring at the face of the government. Instead of punishing the guilty cops, the government decided to give full authority to police on ground to deal with student protests. The results were as usual more protests, more injuries to students and arrest of students. Had the government sensed the pain and reaction of students it should have punished the guilty cops and allowed the students to peacefully register their protests in their respective educational institutions.
Choked space for the dissent in general and for the student community in particular in Kashmir valley has reached its climax. The government should understand the genesis and the gravity of the protests and not respond to these protests with more force and going for intermittent closure of educational institutions. The students are facing a pressure cooker situation and the authorities must understand that the best way out is to reach out to the students, listen to their grievances and try to understand their bruised egos by police thrashing.
The closure of the educational institutions since April 15 is happening at the hands of the authorities as they feel that this is the only way of stopping student protests with minimal violence. How long can the government respond to student unrest with the announcement of suspension of classwork. The lack of classwork in the educational institutions from April15 has proved a death blow for the
student community to prepare for exams and to have class room environment. It is really tragic to watch students not being able to go for classes because of repeated official announcements to shut these institutions. It is really unfortunate for the future of Kashmir to rot like this without getting an environment of education. I am talking in the context of 2016 unrest as in the previous year also, education was the main casualty and the students could not get the education for which they admit themselves in these educational institutions.
Although the state education minister tried though late to make an outreach to the students. He was instrumental in the release of scores of arrested students form the police lockups. But somehow the
government has decided to bank upon police force only to deal with students instead of making any outreach to them. Any big incident is itself a tragedy for the parents to fetch their wards from the schools in Kashmir. When recently Hizb commander Sabzar Bhat was killed hundreds of parents were seen on the streets trying to get their children out of the schools back to their homes. Such environment is already having an impact on the psyche of growing children and to use police force over their protests is suicidal.
The government should try to go to the genesis of student unrest and try to evolve a policy by virtue of which students in Kashmir should be allowed to register their protests at least within their premises of their educational institutes. They should be allowed to protest and the teaching fraternity should listen to them. The government so far has tried to bracket them with stone pelters and has not been able to break this cycle of student unrest. The parents, teachers and the civil society will have to step in and play an active role to bring students out of this present agony.
Police has no role to play in student protests and the government must set up the guidelines for the heads of the education institutions to deal with agitating students. The student unions should be allowed in all the educational institutions of Kashmir so that student community feels they have their own leadership and say in communicating their point of view. Already there is a washout of classwork and in the month of June we should expect the government to respond in a positive manner to the growing anger of students and not allow it to spill on the streets of Kashmir. The authorities decided to suspend classwork almost in all the colleges and Higher Secondary institutions on June 1st fearing student unrest to spill on the streets.
Malik Zahra Khalid