2 months on, forces continue to occupy schools
With J&K government gearing up to hold Class 10 and 12 examinations in Kashmir from mid-November despite stiff resistance by students, a number of government-run schools in the Valley continue to be occupied by forces for the past two months, with authorities making little or no effort to get these evacuated.
The schools were handed over to paramilitary forces on August 23 this year, days after state's Education Minister Naeem Akther asked parents to send their wards to schools amid curfew. However, the educational institutions continue to remain shut for the past more than three months in the wake of massive protests and clashes triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8.
According to officials, five government schools continue to remain occupied by paramilitary forces, apart from one semi-government school DAV in Raj Bagh Srinagar, District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) Ganderbal and Government Central Higher Secondary School in Pulwama, for the past two months.
Even though authorities concerned claim to have taken up the matter of "relocation of troops from schools" with police authorities, there has been no change on ground.
"Given the fact that examinations of Class 10th and 12th are scheduled from mid-November, our schools must be set free now. I have taken up the matter with police authorities," said Director of School Education Kashmir (DSEK), Ajaz Ahmad Bhat.
He said he has written to Additional Director General of Police (Security) and sought evacuation of troops from the government schools.
"We are hopeful that schools will be set free before the board exams start," he said.
The continued lodging of forces in schools has turned the institutions "messy."
"Our school is a model school but its entire furniture is lying haphazardly in the campus. Earlier CRPF personnel had shifted the classroom furniture to ground, but we requested them to keep it in corridors at least," said Principal of MP Model HSS, Rifat Bashir.
"The infrastructure is very costly and we are yet to make payment for some of these assets."
She said the situation in "model school" was suffocating.
"They (troops) have occupied the whole building, except the principal's office and laboratories," she said.
However Public Relation Officer (PRO) of CRPF, Bravesh Chaudhary, said there has been no communication from J&K Police regarding shifting of its companies stationed in schools to alternate places.
"As and when government or JK police provide us the alternate accommodations, we will shift our companies," he said.
"It is job of the state government to arrange accommodation for us. We have not occupied these schools out of our own," Chaudhary said.
Interestingly, the School Education department—in the past one year—has invested crores of rupees on refurbishing several of these 'occupied' schools by introducing smart classes there. It has also declared two higher secondary schools as 'model' institutions which are presently being used for accommodation of forces.