Srinagar: Unidentified arsonists have set fire to 25 schools in the Kashmir Valley in the last two months, prompting the state's High Court to step in on Monday and ask the government to protect them.
On Sunday, the Higher Secondary Kabamarg School in Anantnag, south Kashmir, was set on fire. Three other schools were torched over the weekend. There have been no casualties as schools have been closed for almost four months in Kashmir amid unrest after the Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani was killed by security forces in July.
The government has blamed separatists. "This is very unfortunate and the responsibility is on the separatists, including Mr Geelani and other people who are giving this calendar and they are encouraging such elements to burn the schools. Ultimately, the future of the children of Kashmir is in dark," said Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Nirmal Singh.
In Delhi, Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said, "This is a combination of madness and perversion, otherwise how can anybody think of setting fire to educational institutions. People of the Valley should realise that these people have crossed all limits and they are acting at the behest of our enemy from across the border, who's aiding, abetting, funding and training terrorists regularly."
But separatists say they are as perplexed. Separatist leader Yasin Malik said yesterday that those attacking schools "must be unmasked and punished" accusing the state government of inaction.
Former Chief Minister and National Conference chief Omar Abdullah has said it was an "abhorrent ploy to destroy the future of the children" and blamed both the state government and separatists, calling the attackers "enemies of our children and the enemies of enlightenment."
"When the government has arrested stone-pelters and have lists of everybody, why is it silent when schools are being burnt," asked businessman Mohammad Yasin khan, president the Kashmir Economic Alliance.
The High Court has taken "suo moto cognisance" or acted of its own accord to order the state government to take preventive measures. "Stop the enemies of education," said the court, which will hear the matter next Monday.
The police, sources said, detained eight persons in Anantnag and Kulgam and their role in the school burning is being investigated. But so far there is no concrete breakthrough in establishing who is behind the school burning.
People are also exercised over the state government's plans to hold exams in November, despite not being able to reopen schools yet because of the unrest. More than 90 people have died and thousands have been injured in violent clashes between protesters and security forces since July. There was curfew for better part of 100 days.
"Our children have not been to school for last four months. They have not completed syllabus. Government should not make it political colour and should defer exams to March, said patent and trader Union Leader Ghulam Nabi Shah.