Schools or Garrisons? Prioritizing narrowly perceived “national” interests

Vaibhav Karajgikar

The Kashmir region, a border state between India and Pakistan, has been disputed over by both countries for the last sixty nine years and is now entering a phase of unprecedented struggle to provide a safe environment for education. In an area embroiled in deep rooted religious divide, clash of political ideologies and controverted control over geographic resources, it would seem that education is foregone as a casualty of regional instability.

Outlined in an article in a popular national newspaper The Indian Express (Aug. 24,2016) is the general disbelief and public indignation at the military occupation of several schools in the region since August, 2016 as a strategic move by the Indian government to curb violent protests following the killing of a popular separatist leader by the Indian Army in July, 2016.  Enforced curfew in the region for over seventy days now has resulted in a collapse of educational services. With only a few makeshift schools operating irregularly and far apart (BBC News; Aug. 23,2016), the immediate future is uncertain for students. Furthermore, the exposure to a high pressure situation and the heavy presence of military has created an air of volatility that has a deeply scarring impact on children (Firstpost.India; Aug. 29,2016).

A comparative read of the articles show a common denominator that is shocking in the context of the largest democracy in the world, a complete disregard for the widespread opinion that education infrastructure must not be utilized to further military agendas. The article in The Indian Express captures the abrupt and forced takeover of educational institutions by paramilitary forces, downplayed by local law and order authorities. The callous attitude is reflected in the State Education Minister’s directive to continue preparations for board examinations in an environment that does not guarantee student safety, let alone the resources and stability for students to focus. Rising incidents of stress and mental trauma among children (Firstpost.India; Aug. 29,2016) is a cause of concern for parents and educationists. Those families that can afford it are looking for avenues to continue educating their children away from the region, which can result in psychological impact and social problems arising from displacement. For the vast majority, the last resort are the makeshift schools run by volunteers and people from the communities (BBC News; Aug. 23,2016). A critical analysis of these articles raises the following disturbing questions:

  •         Why must military use schools as bunkers given that there are other alternatives available and a strong budget at their disposal?
  •         For how long can makeshift schools operate in a region stretched thin on resources?
  •         In an environment where education is uncertain and fraught with dangers, is the system creating disillusionment and discontent that can result in youth partaking in activities that further destabilize the situation?

It would seem then that a unidimensional approach by those in authority would only serve to intensify problems in the long run.






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