Of Conflict,Curfews and Curbed education
When the music of rhymes is replaced by the sound of gunfire
Come late toddlerhood and schooling begins. It’s a bitter truth of those tender years when a child needs a mother more than anything else. Sometimes it feels to be unfair to those little souls whose smiles are suddenly replaced by the fear of school.
This happened in my case as well. Being a pampered child, I really wasn’t excited about joining the school. It was quite difficult for me to stay away from my Mom, though initially she would accompany me to school and stay outside my classroom for few hours. My early school days passed in shedding tears, mostly staring at the window of my elder sister’s classroom.
The uneasiness continued for sometime till I accepted the fact that this is how it is going to be for many years now. Soon I gained interest in studies. I enjoyed my classes. I began to love my school. I thought there I would spend the best years of my life. But soon I was proved wrong as things changed in a heartbeat.
It was 1989-90 and political unrest broke out in Kashmir. I was in kindergarten, when suddenly life in the Valley was thrown out of gear. No doubt my studies did continue. No doubt I managed to pass classes. But it did not happen the way it usually happens in the other parts of the world.
Kashmir conflict, or turmoil as it has come to be known as, turned out to be the harshest reality of every Kashmiri’s life. Like any other thing in the Valley, my childhood too began to lose its charm. Its innocence was diluted with violence. The music of rhymes was replaced by the sound of gunfire. Grenade attack, cross-firing, crack-down, hide-outs, militants, Army, CRPF and even Kalashnikov rifles were among the terms that I got familiar with even before I was eight. Amidst all this, my education was bound to hamper, just like that of thousands of other kids.
I remember how rarely I used to go to school. Curfews, shutdowns and curbs marred my early education. Following attacks on school and other government buses by anonymous gunmen, our school transport facility was cancelled. Owing to this, I and my two elder siblings could not attend the school for one whole year. The school authorities had advised the parents, who were not able to take their wards on their own to school, to arrange private tuitions for them at home, while term exams were conducted at school.
It may not sound a big deal to study at home under someone who holds a Masters degree in Science. But is that all a child needs? A routine exposure to an academic atmosphere is all the more important. I missed many things of a typical school life. Discussing subject with other students in teacher’s presence or reading out an essay that you just wrote in class being among the various necessary things that are required for the personality development of a child. Debates, symposiums, quiz competitions and other such activities had already gone off my school. In fact, completing an academic year was the biggest challenge.
Next year came another jolt to my school education—the school shift. Since school bus service didn’t resume, I and my siblings were shifted to a private school in the vicinity of my home. The school did not hold a sound reputation as far as quality education and discipline were concerned. I soon realised how big a penalty I was paying for the cancellation of my school bus facility. But I was actually paying the cost of being a Kashmiri.
I was badly missing my school. Thankfully I did not have to stay in the new school for long. By next class only my Dad got my admission cancelled. But then, another blow to my school life was waiting. Yes, yet another school shift, though this time the shift was to my old school. But while doing so, my studies and my academic performance suffered a great deal. I was not able to cope with back-to-back shifts in my education. I found it hard to deal with the mounting pressure of competitive world.
Even after I joined my old school, all was not well. Curfews, shutdowns and curbs continued to play a spoilsport. Towards the later years of my schooling, I could finally witness some extra-curricular activities in my school. Bus service too was resumed. Computers were introduced in the school. I was consistently performing well. Now I again loved my school. However, the sporadic nature of working days continued throughout 1990s till I finished my schooling.
Now when I am done with my school, college and even a major chunk of my university education, things haven’t changed. In fact the situation is only getting worse. The terms that I learnt in childhood have again come to haunt me. It’s again about killings, curfews, shutdowns, protests and restrictions.
For past one month or so, we have been witnessing bloodshed on roads following the execution of Muhammad Afzal Guru, convicted in December 2001 Parliament attack, on February 9, 2013. We have lost some more precious lives. Unarmed protestors are being met with bullets and tear gas shelling from the military and paramilitary forces. Restrictions are again in place. Traffic is again off the roads. Information blackout is being enforced again. And schools and colleges are again closed, which means our education is suffering again.
Like many others, I too am struggling at work for the past one month. Usually an academic writer’s block is faced by every scholar soon or later, but what I am going through doesn’t seem to be merely a scholar’s block. With a disturbed state of mind, it is natural for anyone not to be able to concentrate. How can I focus when I know my brothers are being killed? How can I stay normal when there is no normalcy at all?
It is impossible to lead a stable life amid a disturbed atmosphere. My heart bleeds for the people who lost their lives. The feeling is too overwhelming to have a peace of mind. After all, I too am a human being. After all, I too am a Kashmiri.
The 24-year-old conflict has not only robbed the Valley of numerous precious lives, but has produced a depressed generation. The frustration of past over two decades has gripped each one of us. Caught in the crossfire between conflict and politics, we have always been at the receiving end. The restrictions on the roads have actually restricted our life, our growth. I am clueless as to what our generation is heading towards. May Allah save the next generation from these perils!
(Rabia Noor is Research Scholar at Media Education Research Centre, University of Kashmir. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lastupdate on : Tue, 12 Mar 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 12 Mar 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 13 Mar 2013 00:00:00 IST
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When the music of rhymes is replaced by the sound of gunfire
Come late toddlerhood and schooling begins. It’s a bitter truth of those tender years when a child needs a mother more than anything else. Sometimes it feels to be unfair to those little souls whose smiles More