Kashmiris take education to mosques as India closes schools

Alwaght- Families in Indian-controlled Kashmir bring education to mosques and wedding halls after India closes all schools and universities in a bid to stop the opposition to its rule in the region.

Two days after the start of the latest round of Kashmiri protests against Indian domination over the region, Indian authorities ordered all schools and universities in the region to close.

Protests began when Indian security forces raided a village and killed Burhan Muzzafar Wani, 22-year-old, whose videos posted on WhatsApp and Facebook attracted a vast following.

The Indian crackdown on recent protests, most violent since 2010, has claimed lives of 60 civilians and two security forces while thousands also were wounded. They also have closed all educational centers in a bid to stop further protest mostly orchestrated by young students.

After about 50 days of closure with no sign of re-opening them, now families in this Muslim majority region supported an initiative proposed by a Kashmiri teacher to take education to mosques, city halls and homes.

Rasool Kambay, a school teacher decided to do something to prevent students from becoming further deprived from education. He opened a tutorial center in a village on Aug. 3 and now has more than a dozen of them in villages in a district south of the region’s main city of Srinagar

Wedding halls and prayer rooms have been turned into classrooms and students find their way to the makeshift schools in small groups through back lanes, careful not to attract the attention of police.

“The response is good. We have about 800 students in these centers. Parents are eager to send their children as they have no option right now,” Kambay says.

“The response is good. We have about 800 students in these centers. Parents are eager to send their children as they have no option right now,” Kambay told Reuters.

Monir Wani, a middle school student who attends one of these classes says “”It’s more like a self-learning exercise, just a way to keep in touch with books”.

This temporary school is held inside a mosque where classes begin after morning prayers. Monir said it was the only place to meet friends and study. “We can’t even go outdoors” he says.

Education is not safe for Kashmiri students, even in secret classes in mosques. Zubair Ahmad, a local, says he was too worried about the safety of his two children to send them to classes at a nearby mosque.

His wife has been teaching them at home instead, but the children were getting restless, he said, adding “It is very difficult for children … they’ve become aggressive.”

At least 68 civilians and two security officials have been killed and more than 9,000 people injured, according to official tallies, in clashes between protesters chaffing at Indian rule and security forces.

Thousands of teenage boys defy a curfew every day and gather in groups to throw stones at police. Almost all of the deaths have been caused by security forces shooting at protesters.

After four decades of political struggles and fights was deemed ineffective, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front launched an armed struggle against India, which became the excuse for the Indian forces’ invasion of Kashmir. In 2008 when the state government decided to sell a plot of land to non-resident Hindus for building a shrine, the big and peaceful people’s defiance was met with bloody repression.

Also, in 2010 a year of turmoil ended with the death of 92 people in this region. According to Hindi sources the death toll from last two decade’s disputes in Kashmir has topped 65,000.

By Al Waght