Kashmir Crisis Education Takes A Severe Beating
After over 100 days, schools reopened in Kashmir and though initially the attendance has been thin since many parents are adopting wait and watch strategy since the situation is still tense and many school buses and schools are targets of protesters, who are opposing the functioning of schools. The opposition comes at the behest of the hardliner hawk, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who in a statement specifically asked parents not to send their children to schools as he claimed the Indian government was now trying to use children against the ongoing Quit Kashmir campaign started by his group.
Not ready to say anything publicly, in private, parents say that they are extremely worried about the academics of their children since nearly three-and-a-half months have been wasted to protests and demonstrations calls given by the separatist leaders. Many parents however question the political gambles of the separatists at behest of the careers of children, who have been instigated to stone-pelting, while they should be busy pursuing studies at schools, colleges and universities.
One Riyaz Maqbool (name changed), told this correspondent, these frequent shutdowns and strikes called by the separatist leaders have almost wasted one precious year of his son, while they have themselves kept their own kiths and kins away from this turmoil in different parts of India or abroad.
The firebrand assistant of Geelani, Dukhtaran-e-Millat chief Asiya Andrabi, popularly known as woman militant face of Kashmir recently said that parents should not make much issue about their children losing out to academics since they have to sacrifice something to achieve “Azadi”. Islamist leader lashed out at parents worried about the consequences the violent street-protests might have for their children. “Losses of life, material and the education of children are inevitable in our freedom struggle. But these cannot be reasons to make compromises. The material sacrifices made by students, cart-pushers or daily-wage labourers have no value when compared to those who are ready to make the supreme sacrifice for the cause of freedom.”
But, her hollow rhetoric was exposed when it came to light that her own teenage son Muhammad Bin Qasim had applied for a passport to study in Malaysia. Andrabi has her own sister settled in Malaysia. The 82-year ailing Syed Ali Shah Geelani who comes out with those political rhetorics against India setting protest calendars, knows, he has nothing personal at stake. His own son Dr Nayeem, married to a Pakistani, is settled in Rawalpindi in Pakistan. Geelani’s second son, Zahoor Geelani, along with his family lives, in New Delhi. Izhaar Geelani, grandson of Syed Ali Geelani, is a crew member of a private airliner in India, while his daughter Farhat Geelani is a teacher in Jeddah and her husband is an engineer there.
Not only the leaders but their secretaries have also ensured secure careers and lifestyles for their children. Geelani’s one general secretary Mohd Ashraf Sehrai has settled in dubai as a computer engineer. The son of another secretary of Ghulam Mohammed Sumzi is a management student in New Delhi.
The son of a spokesman for the Geelani faction, Ayaz Akbar, is a management student in Pune, while two sons of another leader of the Geelani faction, Abdul Aziz Dar— Umer Dar and Adil Dar— are studying in Pakistan.
And not lagging behind is Hurriyat’s moderate faction leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Though his child is still a toddler, he has managed to keep his sister away in the United States, where she serves as doctor. An intelligence officer, who shared with this correspondent the details about the families of these so-called champions of Kashmir cause said, majority of children and relatives of Hurriyat leaders, who are spearheading the protests in the Kashmir, are either busy pursuing their studies or employed outside the state or country. All of them are well-settled, leading peaceful existence and prospering outside Kashmir. Initially when some private schools briefly reopened, Andrabi had warned that she would not be responsible for the consequences, resulting in their closure.
Kashmir’s elite, including anti-India secessionists, have long insulated their children’s education from the troubled region’s politics. The sons Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Liberation Party chief Hashim Qureshi, infamous for hijacking an Indian Airlines flight to Pakistan, live in London. The list does not end here. These revelations clearly expose the hypocrisy of separatists, who regularly issue diktats to others children to not to go to school or college and join protests. Interestingly, a Kashmiri boy created history when he became topper in IAS exams this year.
Many parents are agitated but due to fear, they are unable to do something. “I don’t have money to send my child outside the Kashmir for studies. While the separatists want the children of the common man to come out on the roads to protest and leave their studies for a ‘bigger cause’, their own children and family members are getting the best education in other parts of the country and even abroad. At his age, when my child should grow academically, he is getting scared with negativity here and none but separatists are responsible. They should not play politics at cost of children”, said obviously angry Mahmood Hassan, whose name has been changed for obvious reasons.
While for the past three months the education of over 1.5 million students in Kashmir has suffered a severe blow due to the ongoing unrest, many separatist leaders in Kashmir have made it sure that their children get quality education outside Kashmir. Incarcerated Islamist leader and the president of the Kashmir Bar Association Mian Abdul Qayoom, for example, sent one of his three daughters to study medicine in Darbhanga in Bihar. His nephew is a ninth-semester student at the Dogra Law College in Jammu. Qyoom had been questioning the right of India over Kashmir.
“The élite of our society,” journalist Manzoor Anjum wrote in an editorial commentary in the Urdu-language newspaper Uqab last month, “had already sent their children outside Kashmir for the pursuit of education, and those who had not done so earlier are doing so now. But the people who cannot afford to do so, who are in the majority, are caught between the devil and the deep [blue] sea. The bleak future of their children stares them in the face”.
Though he is keeping low profile during current Kashmir turmoil, another separatist leader, Sajjad Lone has his two sons away from the streets of Kashmir studying in Delhi. So much is the anger against shutting of schools that a group of primary school students other day protested, saying that current turmoil was denying them the right to education.
Dressed in their school uniforms, nearly 20 students from a school in Ganderbal staged the demonstration, demanding an end to the ongoing agitation, on the ground that it had marred their learning process.The students held placards, which read, “We want freedom from poverty, we want freedom from illiteracy, we want freedom from backwardness”. Lashing out at the separatists and mainstream leaders, a parent, Abdul Majeed, said, “kith and kin of separatist leaders are enjoying outside state. They made sure that their children get admissions in best colleges and universities there and our children have been left at the mercy of strikes. What can common people like us do.”
The aggrieved parents said there was a brewing resentment against these uncalled for strikes, which will soon explode and manifest on the streets of Srinagar and other districts. Mehbooba, the mother of one of the protesting students said, “We have full details about the separatists and mainstream leaders who have sent their children outside the state for studies in recent months. We aren’t demanding sky but education for our children. In the frenzy and madness of some people, not only innocent blood is being shed on the streets but an environment of blindness and darkness is being perpetuated throughout Kashmir. This will lead us to a disaster,” she said.
By Prakriiti Gupta from Kashmir