Examinations in the valley were close to being disrupted again
Examinations in Jammu and Kashmir were close to being disrupted once again just as two million children sat down to give their first round of exams on November 14. On that very day, the Hurriyat leader led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani had given a call to the Kashmiris under the banner of `Lal Chowk Chalo !’ asking the Kashmiri people to gather once again to protest against excesses by security forces which had left 90 people killed and over 10,000 injured in clashes between protestors and security forces in Kashmir in the last four months.
A section of the people in the valley was willing to respond to Geelani’s call which would have meant the shutting down of schools once again just as the students had begun the process of giving their exams. However, Sikh community leaders in the valley went personally to appeal to Geelani not to go ahead with his bandh.
` They did so in the name of Guru Nanak because it was his birthday and celebrations were being held on that day across the nation. Keeping their sentiments in mind, Geelani acceded to their request and the bandh was called off,’ said Wajahat Habibullah, a retired bureaucrat who has served in the valley for several years and who was a member of the five-member Track 2 team led by former foreign minister Yashwant Sinha to extend a healing hand to the people in the strife-ridden valley and also to start a dialogue with hardliners in the Hurriyat .
Students in the valley were fed up with this four-month long hartal and were resigned to losing one year of their studies. Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had, earlier in the year, reached out to the Hurriyat leadership to help normalize the situation so that schools could be restarted but they refused to respond to her overture.
The state Minister for Education Mir Akhter also wrote an emotional public letter to Geelani pleading with him to allow schools to function once again but Geelani did not relent.
`That was the role that we were able to fulfill when we visited the valley last month,’ Habibullah disclosed. `I pointed out to Geelani that even in the 2010 agitation when young boys had indulged in stone throwing, schools had not been shut down. Closure of schools would have a long term effect on the education prospects of young children,’ said Habibullah.
This Track 2 team is planning a second visit to the valley between Novembery 26-28. This time they will spend less time in Srinagar and focus more on the cities of Anant Nag and Baramullah. Anant Nag in south Kashmir has been the epicenter of recent agitations. The high turnout of students in J&K for their exams led the Minister of Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar to claim that the students of Class 10 and Class 12 had performed a “surgical strike” against terrorists.
“In Kashmir Valley, for the past several months, schools were shut, over 30 had been burnt. But students from Jammu and Kashmir, Leh and Ladakh have given a befitting reply to terrorists with the presence of 95 per cent in the board exam held yesterday,” he said.
“I’m proud of those children and their parents who are the strength of India. Education is the way to progress. They have understood and given this befitting reply. We have seen the surgical strike of the army, but this reply given by students is also a powerful surgical strike,” he said.
The government says conducting exams on time will help to save the students one year which would otherwise be wasted. Board authorities say students injured during the unrest will be given helpers to write their papers.