Need to rise against the arsonists

Shujaat Bukhari

Past few weeks have seen horrendous activity going on in Kashmir valley reducing nearly 30 school buildings to ashes. There seems to be a pattern behind the torching of school buildings across the Valley and justifiably inviting strong reaction from the conscious citizens.

Politicians, true to their style of functioning, have issued condemnation statements and blamed each other for the disastrous turn that the turbulent situation in Kashmir has taken.

There is no denying the fact that more than 90 lives have been lost since July 8 (when Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed) at the hands of police and paramilitary forces. Over 12000 are injured and hundreds hit by pellets with scores of young boys and girls battling to regain their eyesight. There cannot be more a colossal loss than this spectrum tragedy and the families groaning in unending pain. Above all there is hardly any remorse on part of the state and even the demands of setting up a judicial commission to fix the responsibility have been ignored with contempt. There can be arguments and counter argument about how all the lives were lost but state cannot escape the responsibility and delivering justice to victims is the only way to move forward for a better phase of life.

While no compensation can heal the wounds inflicted since July 8, Kashmir has been waking up to a new, rather dark reality. Over a fortnight now, the schools in various parts of Kashmir are being torched mysteriously. In any conflict, mystery is the word that we easily use to cover up a reality. So is the case with Kashmir since 1989 when the armed rebellion broke out. Two words “mysterious” and “unidentified” have become the permanent part of the lexicon to carry forward the information related to any violent incident which cannot be easily owned by either side. Even if we know who the perpetrator is, for the fear of reprisal we easily put it in the account of “unidentified”. There are scores of examples where people have known those who indulged in violence that could invite public reaction but the silence is the only way to describe it. In many cases the organs of the state have been involved in killing and kidnapping people but again the tag “unidentified” has come to the rescue. Same applies to the other side.

Unfortunately the burning of schools comes under the “mysterious” circumstances. This has again opened up the space for those who have committed this heinous crime. This could be the last thing a society could long for. Constructing a building and making it a school to enlighten a young boy and the girl with knowledge is something that anybody could aspire for. It takes decades to make them centres of learning. But the way we have seen the school buildings go up in flames is a dangerous trend that has set in. And we are not in a position to arrest it. This abhorrent series of acts have put even the illiterates to shame not to talk about Kashmir that has evolved as a society that is conscious about how important these institutions are. The burning of schools is happening at a time when Kashmir is in a stand-off between the separatist leadership that spearheads the cause of “Azadi” and the state that flatly denies any political space even for a discussion. This has resulted in a protest calendar that shuts everything from business to educational institutions. For four months now students are home, forced by parents to study, but they are actually in trauma because of the happenings around them. At a time when there was talk of re-opening the schools (again politicised) the burning spree has eaten the debate. How can we stand mute to burning of schools ?