Kashmir schools reopen, but kids are kept at home

A deserted classroom in a school in Srinagar in Indian Kashmir. Parents kept their children at home, fearing unrest over a government decision to revoke the region's autonomy. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
A deserted classroom in a school in Srinagar in Indian Kashmir. Parents kept their children at home, fearing unrest over a government decision to revoke the region's autonomy. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

SRINAGAR • Schools reopened in Indian Kashmir's main city yesterday but most classrooms were empty as parents kept their children at home, fearing unrest over the government's decision two weeks ago to revoke the region's autonomy.

Some 190 primary schools were set to open in Srinagar in a sign of normalcy returning to Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir, where the authorities had begun easing restrictions on movement last week.

Parents said their children would stay home until cellular networks were restored and they could be in contact with them.

"How can we risk the lives of our children?" said Mr Gulzar Ahmad, who has two children enrolled in a school in Batamaloo district, where protests have occurred.

"Troops have arrested children in the last two weeks and several children were injured in clashes," he said. "Our children are safe inside their homes. If they go to school, who can guarantee their safety?"

The authorities have previously denied reports of mass arrests.

Srinagar's top administrative officer, Mr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, said on Sunday that adequate security would be provided for schools. "I will take responsibility for any untoward incident," he said.

Protests began after the Aug 5 decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to withdraw Kashmir's special status and integrate it fully into India, with equal rights for all Indians to buy property there and compete for government jobs.

Critics said the decision alienated many Kashmiris and would add fuel to a 30-year armed revolt in the Himalayan territory which Pakistan also lays claim to.

 
 
 
 

New Delhi's decision on Kashmir has heightened tensions with Pakistan and triggered cross-border exchanges of fire.

In the latest incident, two civilians were killed in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir by Indian soldiers firing across the border, said Pakistan's Foreign Ministry.

"The ceasefire violations by India are a threat to regional peace and security and may lead to a strategic miscalculation," said the Foreign Ministry added.

REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2019, with the headline 'Kashmir schools reopen, but kids are kept at home'. Print Edition | Subscribe