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Mystery of school burnings in Kashmir

But then schools have hardly been open. So burning them seems inexplicable, even while the commission of this foul deed in spite of the schools having been open is reflective of a dystopic state of affairs.

Pix of a school in flames in Jammu and kashmir

Late last night, unidentified persons torched a state government school building at Tapper, Pattan area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district taking the number of schools burnt over the past six weeks, to 20. These include three higher secondary schools, eight high schools, seven middle and primary schools, and one Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya school. According to education officials, more than 5,000 students are enrolled in these schools.

Though police cases have been registered in each case, no one has been arrested so far.

Similarly, the past few weeks have also witnessed the burning of many passenger and private vehicles for allegedly violating the Hurriyat protest calendar. Again in all these cases FIRs have been registered but no arrests made.

This has only deepened the mystery around these incidents. Who is behind them? The burning spree has continued despite the government increasing security patrol around school buildings to ensure such incidents are not repeated.

Various conspiracy theories are floating around. Many people blame the government agencies for the damage, arguing that this is sought to give a bad name to the current uprising. But then separatist camp has also not condemned any of these attacks, which almost amounts to not only owning them but also sanctioning and encouraging them.

Though an odd statement has been issued by Hurriyat G, which calls the people responsible for such attacks as anti-social elements, it is far too tepid given the scale of the chaos that now threatens to spread.

Why? It is difficult to explain. Does Hurriyat silence mean countenancing these attacks? It may appear so. And one could ascribe a rationale to it, howsoever, short-sighted: And it is to discourage the defiance of the protest roster.

But then schools have hardly been open. So burning them seems inexplicable, even while the commission of this foul deed in spite of the schools having been open is reflective of a dystopic state of affairs.

In the process the message that is being sent out to the world is that we are punishing schools for the sin of daring to educate. Schools were burnt in the early nineties too. But then it was done to prevent the security forces from occupying them, a reason which while it offers no justification for the deed, it does to an extent attenuate the reprehensibility of the deed. But now the situation is entirely different. Schools are apparently being burnt to prevent them from teaching.

This has caused deep concern in Kashmir. And the widespread unease in the society is a proof that people don’t approve of the school burning, or the politics around it. But the silences all around are confusing. The absence of separatist condemnation is inexcusable even while government’s inability to make even a single arrest raises suspicions as to the identity of the perpetrators who act in the darkness of the night.

Who are they? This is something that people would be interested to know. If anything, these burnings don’t appear to be a result of the disparate attacks. Twenty blazes, one after another, are a result of an organized onslaught. Who stands to benefit from them? The burnings certainly cast the ongoing uprising in unflattering light, so they do go to government’s favour. But then Hurriyat’s reticence to condemn them points the finger of suspicion in another direction.

The confusion covers neither of the parties in glory. We need the government to identify the people responsible for the attacks and for the separatist camp to make their position clear on the issue.

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