The government’s decision to open primary schools in some parts of Kashmir on Monday is likely to be a litmus test for the security establishment and local administration in the restive region that has remained under lockdown since it was stripped of special status roughly two weeks ago.
On Friday, J&K chief secretary, BVR Subrahmanyam, had said that schools will be opened after weekend as the government did not want the study of children to suffer. The government has asked its employees to report to duty and arranged for transport.
Restrictions on movement and assembly of people have been gradually eased but police and paramilitary forces are still placed at all sensitive areas.
There have no incidents of large-scale violence in the Valley but a number protests have rocked Srinagar, leaving at least seven people injured. Phone lines and internet services were also suspended, though around 50,000 landline phone connections have now been restored.
“Monday is going to be a big test. So far, everything has been under control and no big incident happened. As the restrictions has been eased in large parts of the Valley, so we are hoping the situation will remain peaceful,’’ a police officer said not wanting to be identified.
Top government officials said that if the opening of primary schools was successful, it will be followed by middle and higher secondary schools. A list of schools to be opened had been drawn up, they said.
But many parents said they were apprehensive of sending their children to school on Monday because of the continuing shutdown, though traffic movement has increased.
“Though restrictions have been removed from our area but still situation is not so peaceful. The shops and business establishment are still closed. The business nerve centre Lal Chowk is still blocked with barbed wire and in these circumstances how can I send my children to school,’’ said Ishfaq Ahmad who lives in uptown Srinagar. “We have no idea whether the school buses will come tomorrow or not. I will wait for some days and then send my children to school.’’
Another parent, Waseem Ahmad, who lives in the old city of Srinagar said he has no idea whether schools in the city will also open on Monday.
“Since the communication lines are still down and even landline telephones have not been restored in the old city, we have no information about the school where my three children are enrolled,’’ he said, adding that the family would be worried about the safety of the children, in the absence of many operational phone lines in the old city.
Government spokesman and principal secretary (planning) Rohit Kansal said the government was planning to reopen over 190 primary schools in Srinagar. “We hope to restore full functionality to government offices and as the days progress we will move forward for the other areas such as developmental works,” Kansal said. “You have to give us an opportunity to start the schools. We promise we will do step by step and slowly but surely,” he added.