Home > 2018 > Kashmir: Old Political Chimera is Social Again

Mainstream, VOL LVI No 22 New Delhi May 19, 2018

Kashmir: Old Political Chimera is Social Again

Sunday 20 May 2018

by Navneet Sharma and Showkat Ahmad Mir

Don’t see J&K as a conflict state and a political issue, it is a society which has social issues right now. — Haseeb Drabu

(the) deep sense of victimhood prevalent in the Kashmir Valley. It surely deserves to be addressed with great sensitivity. — Three Interlocutors

Political settlement will happen only when peace prevails. — Dineshwar Sharma

Kashmir is no more a place or the word. We have been ‘trained’ to read it as the Kashmir issue. Moreover writing on or about Kashmir is no more an academic pursuit but a political activism which is evaluated in academic discourse from the vantage point from where it has been written or evaluated. Moreover writing on Kashmir entails a deep sense of ‘correctness’ and ‘uniqueness’ in the writer which hampers and obstructs the appreciation of others’ views or the Buberian dialogue.

In this commentary we will not be going into the annals of history to pin what went wrong or betrayal theory or Mountbatten/Nehru/Jinnah/Hari Singh/Sheikh Abdullah pentads’ (mis)understanding about the Kashmir issue of secession to India or Pakistan or to be independent. Neither will we engage into the debate about pre-or post-1953 status of Kashmir nor about the Articles 370 or 35A. These questions are important and may be of the utmost importance in understanding the conflict and resolution but in this commentary we will restrain ourselves to see Kashmir as a social quagmire and to appreciate whether the school/educational system can contribute to the way to wriggle out of it.

Schooling/education gets its validity and social legitimacy from the understanding that it is inherently designed to alter/modify people’s behaviour. Moreover if the state of India believes that the Kashmiri young generation is indoctrinated or sways by the rhetoric of separatist leaders, to counter or gainsay the India must respond with a spirited school system and by ‘educating’ the Kashmiris about Kashmir. In this commentary we attempt to underline how depletion of schooling/education system creates a space for radical militia and insurgency.

Schools as Military Camps

Kashmir is the most militarised area in the world. Violence pro- or anti-Indian state is a routine. A peaceful day in Kashmir is breaking news. It requires immense courage for parents to let their children out from the confines of even unsafe homes and for children to go to school and ‘study’ in such turbulent times. Schools/school buildings being representative of the state are targeted by both militants and the military. Militants target a school to attack at an institution to harm the vital profundity of the state-people bond and the military targets a school not to save it but to erect a ‘bunker’ in the state-owned building. A large number of educational buildings are still either under direct military occupation or surrounded by their camps and bunkers, distracting students and causing a disruption in their daily activities at school.

It is highlighted by one of the studies carried out by Samir Ahmed of Kashmir University that out of thirty schools randomly selected for the survey across the Kashmir Valley 79 per cent were at a distance of less than one kilometre from the nearest military camp/bunker. In fact some of the schools share a common border with the camps. While 20 per cent of them were just two-to-three kilometres away from the nearest military camp and one per cent was partially occupied by the military or para-military troops. It was also highlighted that the students are being asked to buy cigarettes or to run for errands from the markets, by the military camp in front of school and one of the students also narrated that “due to the presence of a military camp next to my school which still exists there, we always feel threatened and scared. We are not allowed to play in the school ground as they (military personal) could see us from the building that they occupy and pass abusive comments or make obscene gestures.”

Maria Montessori, an educationist observed that “those who want war prepare young people for war; but those, who want peace, have neglected young children and adolescents so that they are unable to organise them for peace”. India, if it wishes to evolve peace in Kashmir then it should stop neglecting the Kashmiri children and adolescents or at least must not brand them as terrorist but beforehand as Maoists or JNU-itesas it does with the rest of the young people who raise their voice in this country.

Education is the (only) vital tool for transformation of the culture of violence into the culture of peace. So the efforts should be directed towards children and youth to acquaint them with the new perception of the life which would help them not to relapse into conflict. Kashmir has been scarred by nearly two-and-a-half decades of conflict; almost an entire generation has grown up amidst violence punctuated by guns, armed men, regular frisking and curfew. Violence has a detrimental impact on the child and her psyche. Because it becomes the part of the socialisation the children grow up with in conflict regions. ‘Insha-Allah’, a documentary by Ashwin Kumar, which has been widely applauded for presenting various facets of insurgency in Kashmir, describes this particular instance about Kashmir, where a few Kashmiri children from a village were ‘playing’ curfew, which they often witness in their social setting. When probed, they had no idea why this curfew was being executed.

Various political groups have vested interests in disrupting peace in Kashmir, thereby causing delay in state board examinations or suspending classes in schools which unconsciously stifle the confidence among students. Several schools have been destroyed in the 28-year-long uprising. As highlighted by Aljazeera news channel, in 2016 nearly 26 schools were burnt affecting nearly 4000 children. The news was also captured by The Times of India saying: 26 schools burned in valley, un-mask enemies of education. As one of the school teachers, Tasleem Arif, narrated the incident, “even the school pupil, boys aged between eight and fourteen, had tried to put out the flames...they tried to save the school but couldn’t...some were injured, others had their hands burnt... (I) could see the gloom in their eyes”. The question as to who is burning schools in Kashmir is impertinent to both anti- and pro-India agencies in Kashmir but a more pertinent question is: why are schools burnt? Probably schools are very powerful institutions for crafting the future and in the conflict we not only attempt to destroy the present of the other but the future as well.

District Bifurcation Of Schools In Kashmir

District School Primary School Middle School Secondary School Senior School College Univ. Campuses
Baramullah 1012 567 107 43 4 1
Anantnag 631 267 69 29 6 1
Bandipora 500 200 29 18 1
Budgam 659 408 61 32 2
Ganderbal 309 140 23 13 1 1
Kulgam 327 265 35 19 2
Kupwara 913 625 61 40 4
Pulwama 505 268 52 30 3 1
Shopian 251 77 17 10 1
Srinagar 242 136 49 24 6 2
Total 5349 2953 503 258 28 6
8302 503 258 28 6

Source: http://www.jkeducation.gov.in/index.php

Abysmal Infrastructure 

The number of primary schools in Kashmir is five thousand three hundred and forty approximately. The number of middle schools declines by sharp 55 per cent. The number of high schools further diminishes up to 9.40 per cent. It further shows decline in number of higher secondary schools up to 4.82 per cent. The lower decline is shown in the number of colleges which reaches to 0.52 per cent and the decline reaches its lowest point in the number of university campuses which is 0.11 per cent. So the numbers of institutions nose-dive as we move from primary education to higher education and the decline is quite sharp. This concern has to be highlighted because more schools are needed in Kashmir to accommodate more students at higher levels.

Prescribed curriculum determines the learning outcomes and the experiences for development of peaceful mind. According to the ASER Report 2012, only 51.4 per cent students in the age-group of 6-14 years study in government schools while as 43.7 per cent are studying in private schools, so the privatisation/madarsaisation of education in the state is increasing. The Hindu newspaper published the report in March2017 which highlighted the decline in government school enrollment in the State. Private school enrolment ranks highest as 61 per cent in Jammu and Kashmir throughout India. (NCAER Report) It is evident that the State needs to focus on government enrollment for proper education/indoctrination of the young minds in the State for the development of peace. And need to supervise private institutions about the experience they provide to the students.

In another report of the State, which highlighted the plight of the inside classroom experiences, says that in class 3, 2.7 per cent children cannot even read letters; 23.3 per cent can read letters but not more; 24.6 per cent can read words but not 1st class text or higher; 23.1 per cent cannot read the class 2 textbook.

In another shocking report only 28 per cent students in government schools of 5th class can read 2nd standard textbooks. It illustrates the condition of education system in the State. Could such a system of education bring peace? Are students provided with any pedagogical experience? Is violence responsible for the plight of classroom situations? According to another report on school education, the State has 59 per cent trained teachers at higher secondary level, 54 per cent trained teachers at secondary level and 48 per cent trained teachers at upper primary level and 40 per cent trained teachers at primary level. The education/indoctrination (?!) of Akhand Bharat value-based knowledge need to have well-trained teachers. Teachers are considered as the agents of change in the society and If professional commitments are not there, how could one expect to create peace-minds or pro-India minds?

To School or Not To School 

Education is the main factor for intellectual excellence and prosperity. Education is the only way to ‘modify’ the behaviour of individuals. So, it seems that the government either does not want to provide education to the masses or wants to restrict its access to a few. In Kashmir education has taken a backseat and the education sector is prone to frequent uprising. The children in Kashmir have lived/survived mostly under the dismal shadow of guns, their life has been fashioned through the noise of bullets and explosions, they have grown up running for their lives and have been witness to funerals, killings, curfews and shutdowns on a regular basis. A five-year-child in Kashmir can probably negotiate the curfew as a Syrian child learns to survive the air-strike. The Minister of Education (HRD) may discard Darwins’ theory but his Ministry works hard to substantiate the ‘survival of the fittest’ theory.

India needs to re-systematise/prioritise the policies in Kashmir for peace-making particu-larly focusing on the education system and curriculum, and the students need to be provided with different educational experiences to counter the separatist argument that it is India which is forcing Kashmiris to pick up guns. The devastated shape of education in the State is quite contradictory to its egalitarian and secular features in the past. Today a child has no celebration of a shared history and harmony which prevailed in the Kashmiri community. If the children neither find harmony in their textbooks, nor in outside school experiences, it is naturally going to be a dogmatic experience of education provided to the conflict-victim students. Brock Utne rightly says: “It is of no help if the subject matter taught is of critical nature selected to further democratic values and the character formation of individual, if the methods used to convey the subject matter are authoritarian, do not engage students, and do not appeal to their emotions.” Efforts need to be made in the Valley for the peace inculcation. India needs to change the way it looks at Kashmir. Not from the standpoint of Pakistan, Not from the point of a ‘territory’... but from the pedestal of the world’s largest democracy. The Ministry for Human Resources had promised to fund summer field-study programmes for 15,000 Jammu and Kashmir students but the offer got stuck somewhere in the State bureaucracy.

Kashmiri students outside Kashmir are viewed as suspects. The day-to-day violence signals the crammed frustration amongst the disillusioned and restive youth who have never seen a peaceful Valley before. Lack of employment opportunities, prospects of an unwelcoming future as well as a sense of lost belongingness and cultural values has had a dreadful impact on them. So, a peaceful atmosphere is needed in Kashmir for the proper functioning of the Kashmiri education system. And this brings us to the chicken-egg question whether the political chimera will bring peaceful resolution to the Kashmiri conflict or the resolution will bring the political and social stability in the region. As Nikhil Chakravartty observed, “there are still possibilities of pulling Kashmir back from the brink of an abyss, back to a stable situation and towards a democratic solution”. Neither the 56 inch robustness nor the Akhand Bharat narrative can evolve peace but the genteel hand-holding through a sound schooling can revive and evolve kashmiriyat and hindostaniyat in the Valley.

References

Agnihotri, K.C., (2013), Jammu Kashmir Ki Ankahi Kahani. New Delhi, Prabhat Prakashan.

Ahmad, Samir, (2013), Impact of Militarisation on Kashmir. Retrieved from: http://blogs.cuit.columbia.edu/peace/2013/11/12/impact-of-militarisation-on-education-in-kashmir/

Anand, Chandan, (2018), Comparative Study of Thoughts of Pt. Deen Dayal and Dr B.R. Ambedkar with reference to Jammu Kashmir (Unpublished)

Fareed, R, and Essa, A., (2016), Who Is Burning Down Kashmir’s Schools? Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/11/burning-kashmir-schools-161102102009566.html

Latief, Farhana, (2014), Children in Kashmir and Access to Justice. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/10452395/Children_in_Kashmir_and_Access_To_Justice

Mattoo, Neerja, (2010), A Kashmiri Education. Retrieved from: http://www.peacekashmir.org/views-articles/2010/1009-kashmiri-education.htm

NAS, (2017), National Achievement Survey: J&K State Learning Report. Retrieved from http://mhrd.gov.in/NAS/uploads/states/Jammu%20and%20Kashmir.pdf

Padgaonkar, D. Kumar, R. and Ansari, M, M. (2010): J&K interlocutors Report: A New Compact with The People of Jammu and Kashmir.

Rukmini, S., (2016), More children going to private schools, NCAER. Retrieved from: http://www.thehindu.com/features/education/school/more-children-going-to-private-schools-ncaer/article5852182.ece#

Singh, Pratibha, (2013), Education and Peace building in Kashmir. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/290393828_Education_and_Peace_ building_in_Kashmir

Statistics of School Education, (2014),Government of India Ministry of Human Resource Development Bureau of Planning, Monitoring and Statistics New Delhi, 2014.

Urmilesh, (2013), Kashmir: Virasat se Siyasat. New Delhi, Anamika Prakashan.

Navneet Sharma, Ph.D, is an Assistant Professor, Department of Teacher Education, School of Education, Central University of Himachal Pradesh, Dharamshala. He can be contacted at navneet sharma29[at]gmail.com

Showkat Ahmad Mir is a Research scholar at Department of Teacher Education, School of Education, Central University of Himachal Pradesh, Dharamshala.

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