Never has Kashmir been a witness to terrorism against educational institutes it is facing today. More than 35 schools have been burnt in the Valley in the past four months. This has generated wide-spread criticism across the country, especially in the background of the fact that the Valley, despite facing worst violence in 2010 and 2012, never found its schools in the thick of fire.
What concerns many is that education, a recognized bulwark to a civilized society, is made a victim to the whims of those who hate modernism, science and democracy. This is exactly what the Taliban did in Afghanistan in the 1990s. They are still bombarding schools in areas they control in Afghanistan. But worse is the situation in Pakistan, where, according to a statistics, 360 schools were destroyed by the Taliban in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in 2015.
Why terrorists target schools?
Jehadi groups or terrorists view schools as institutions where un-Islamic teachings are imparted to the children. Dreaded terror outfits like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Afghan Taliban, Al Shahab and Boko Haram have never brooked functioning of schools and colleges. To them, schools and colleges are the centres where mathematics and science are taught, which to them are anti-Islamic.
It can be seen in the statement of Umar Mansoor, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief who, Islamabad claims, was killed in the US-led drone attack in July this year. Mastermind of the 2014 attack on a school in Peshawar in which more than 150 people were killed, most of them children, Mansoor said: “We will continue to attack schools, colleges and universities across Pakistan as these are the foundations that produce apostates.” They consider these institutions as those producing engineers, doctors, scientists, journalists, teachers and lawyers and as such, in their eyes, are apostate.
There are also other reasons of the attack on schools. Terrorists consider educational institutes as those representing the legitimacy and authority of a state. By attacking them, they fulfill their objective of undermining the legitimacy and authority of a state. Secondly, unlike embassies, hotels, airports, railway stations and bus stations, schools and colleges in general remain unprotected and hence, become easy target of attacks by terrorists.
Is India witnessing attack on schools for the first time?
India has seen terrorist attack on its schools previously too. In 2004, banned insurgency outfit, the United Liberation Front of Assam attacked a school in Assam, killing 24 people, including 19 children on the spot. But no other states of the country have seen organized kind of attacks on schools like Jammu and Kashmir. Particularly in Kashmir where terrorism is on since 1990; usual targets of Islamic militants have been police post, military camps, security vans and others. It is for the first time, schools have been targeted on such a large scale in the Valley.
Going by some observers’ opinion, attack or burning of academic institutions accelerated after the Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition government tried to reopen schools and announced conducting examinations despite their prolonged shutdown. Police have arrested some people on the suspicion of their involvement in the burning of schools, but they have not been able to identify group or groups involved in the attack.
Is Pakistan’s support a factor behind attack on schools?
Obviously, Pakistan is a factor in the rise of terrorism in Kashmir. Most of those who perpetrate crime against humanities in the Valley get shelter, training and money in Pakistan. As per sources from security agencies, some of Kashmiri militants are trained in camps organized by Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan occupied Kashmir and some by the Taliban in their camps in areas closed to Durund Line that separates Pakistan from Afghanistan.
Observers say that since Pakistan is a known hub of different groups of terrorist organizations, terrorists find it easy to mix with another group or outfits. With this, not only they are able to learn terrorism related skills, they are also able to exchange views or ideas between them. As such, whatever new development that the country is seeing in terms of burning of schools in Kashmir, it could be due to Pakistan-based terrorists’ influence on militants from Jammu and Kashmir.
Worst terrorist attacks on schools
1) Attack on a school in Syria: As many as 35 school children were killed and dozen others were wounded after rebels opposed to the Bashar al-Assad regime fired rockets on a school in Syria’s Idlib province on October 27.
2) Attack on army-run school in Pakistan: More than 130 children and 20 teachers were killed and numerous others got injured when heavily armed Taliban suicide bombers attacked the army public school in Peshawar on December 16, 2014.
3) Attack on educational institute in Nigeria: As many as fifty nine students were killed when terrorists belonging to dreaded Boko Haram outfit stormed a government college in Yobe state in Nigeria on February 25, 2014. Twenty four buildings of the schools were also burnt down in this attack.
4) Abduction of school going girls in Nigeria: As many as 276 girls were abducted by the Boko Haram outfit from a secondary school in Chibok town in Nigeria on the night of 14-15 April in 2014.
5) Beslan school attack in Russia: More than 300 people including 186 children were killed when around 32 terrorists attacked a school in Beslan in Russia on September 1, 2004.
Worst affected countries of world
As per the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), an international NGO which was established in 2010, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colombia, Somalia, Sudan and Syria are worst affected places in the world. If its report is to be believed, between 2009 and 2013, these countries experienced 1000 or more attacks on schools, colleges and universities.
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