Kashmir school burnings: Questions that Govt, Hurriyat need to answer
In a major breakthrough, J&K Police has arrested 21 people for their alleged involvement in burning of schools in South Kashmir and claimed to have identified many more Deputy Inspector General of police South Kashmir Range Nitesh Kumar told media that they have arrested the alleged perpetrators from Kulgam, Anantnag and Shopian districts and the efforts were on to nab the rest. Kumar also talked of instituting a Special Investigating Team to carry out further investigations to ascertain all the facts. He also said that some people involved in arson have fled to Jammu and Chandigarh and that police had deputed a special team to arrest them.
People in Valley have generally welcomed the arrests but what most of them are interested in is the identity, motivations and connections of the arsonists. And police is now expected to reveal all this information so that it could also be independently cross-checked.
Some questions that police needs to answer:
How all the alleged culprits were nabbed all at once so quickly and in such large numbers. After all, the torching of the schools has been going on for the past six weeks now. Were police unable to stop the arsons? Did they lack capacity to stop it once it became a pattern? Or were they happy to sit back and watch? Why arrests have only been made in South Kashmir even while we grant that fourteen of the 25 schools have been burnt in four districts of South Kashmir.
However, questions are not only for the Government and police to answer. Separatist camp also have to account for their silence over many incidents of burning over the past two months including vehicles and shops. To be fair to them, they have condemned the torching of schools and gone to great lengths to distance themselves from the school burning. All three of them – Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik – have expressed shock and disgust at the school burning. But it is also true that Hurriyat was very slow to wake up to this troubling turn in the situation. It took the gutting of more than a dozen schools for Hurriyat to condemn the trend. But Hurriyat has yet to condemn the burning of vehicles and shops.
The separatist camp has accused the Government of being behind the school burnings which has responded in kind.
But the blame game has made people little wiser as to the identity of the perpetrators and their motivation. The burnings have taken place in all the districts of the Valley.
The only identifiable grievance that these attacks could be traced to is the student backlash against the government move to hold annual examination. The students have demanded the postponement of the examination to March in view of the loss of their academic calendar due to the continuing strife. Hurriyat has backed their demand but the Government has refused to budge, triggering the deadlock.
Did the consequent stalemate lead to torching of schools? Very unlikely. For this could hardly be expected to force the government to defer examination. Is some invisible agency fishing in the troubled waters? There is no answer to the question but this is one of the most favourite theories doing the rounds in Kashmir.
And with Government struggling to transparently identify the perpetrators, theories like these are gaining credence. This is why, it is important for the government to identify the culprits, some of them already arrested and reveal in an in depth detail the criminal network that presides over the burning of schools.