With one more school going up in flames at Dayalgam in Anantnag on Sunday afternoon, the figure of schools burnt in Kashmir has gone up to twenty five leading many people to suspect that something sinister was in works.
The fire appeared on the second floot of Dayalgam Higher Secondary School and spread fast. Though fire extinguishers reached the site soon, the extensive damage had been done. The school had been closed since the mass eruption that followed the Hizbul militant commander Burhan Wani.
The disturbing trend has caused widespread shock and resentment. On Monday, J&K High Court directed the state government to take all preventive measures to save school buildings from torching by “mysterious enemies of education.”
Court has taken suo moto cognisance of the burning of 25 schools. A Special Division Bench of Justice Muhammad Yaqoob Mir and Justice Ali Muhammad Magrey who heard the Public Interest Litigation expressed their displeasure at the government’s failure to protect schools.
“Setting the schools on fire is in effect destroying the knowledge centers of future generations. It is the duty of the state administration to ensure safety of the schools which are treated as temples of learning,” thr bench observed.
On political front, the school burning has touched off a war of words between separatist groups and the government. At a press conference on Sunday, soon after his release from jail, JKLF supremo Yasin Malik directly accused the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and the Education Minister Naeem Akhtar of burning the schools.
““Late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed conspired against the then Chief Minister late Ghulam Mohammad Shah and got scores of temples burnt in Bijbehara and other parts of South Kashmir in 1986 just to create an atmosphere for withdrawal of support to his government,” Malik said.
“If he could manage to burn temples in 1986 just to withdraw support to the then government why can’t his daughter Mehbooba Mufti now Chief Minister and her Education Minister hatch a conspiracy to get schools burnt”.
In a withering response, Akhtar blamed Malik and the other separatists for creating conditions for the attacks on schools. He charged them of presiding over the “economic and educational disempowerment” of Kashmiris.
However, in a major development, Police on Tuesday claimed to have identified thirty-five persons involved in the torching of schools.
Deputy Inspector General (DIG), South Kashmir Range, Nitish Kumar said that at least 35 persons involved in burning down of the school buildings in South Kashmir have been identified.
“Out of 35, we have arrested 12 persons while 23 persons are absconding. The twelve persons were arrested from South Kashmir’s Kulgam district,” he said. “The absconding persons would be arrested within next few days”.
Police hasn’t, however, revealed more. What most people in Kashmir want to know is the motivation of the alleged perpetrators and whether they acted independently or somebody else was pulling the strings.