• Govt says no comments; BSF says can’t occupy schools without Govt permission
The paramilitary forces have occupied 20 government and semi-government schools besides 50 vital government installations across Kashmir as BSF is replacing CRPF for maintaining law and order after a gap of 12 years.
According to sources, the paramilitary BSF occupied Government Middle School Guptganga, Nishat, Government High School, Nishat, Government High School Kralkhud, Government Girls Higher Secondary Kothi Bagh, Government Higher Secondary School Panthachowk, Government Higher Secondary School Rainawari, M P School, Maharaj Gunj, Government High School Safa Kadal, National School Karan Nagar, Government High School, Lal Bazaar, DAV School, Jawahar Nagar, Government Higher Secondary School Shutra Shahi, Government High Secondary School Channapora, Government Higher Scondary School, B K Pora Nowgam while Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) also occupied a number of schools buildings across Kashmir.
Besides the schools, the paramilitary forces also occupied 50 vital installations of the government for setting up their camps.
The schools today had been transformed into a part of battlefield despite the broad international law requiring parties to armed conflicts to spare educational institutions from use in support of military effort.
The playing fields in these schools have already been encircled with barbed wires, classrooms filled with sleeping cots of troopers, fortifications established atop buildings, snipers positioned in classroom windows, rifles stacked in hallways, grenades hidden under desks and armoured vehicles parked in compounds.
Talking to Rising Kashmir, Inspector General (IG) BSF, Kashmir Frontier, Vikas Chandra said, “We couldn’t have taken over schools until the government approved of it.”
He said they were setting up camps at different places as the government had asked it to replace CRPF.
“We have taken over four schools in Srinagar – S P Higher Secondary School, DAV School and two more schools in Nishat and Bemina,” the IG BSF said.
However, Director Education, Shah Faesal said he would offer no comments on the issue of schools being occupied by the paramilitary forces.
The decision of handing schools to paramilitary forces has evoked widespread criticism and strong resentment across Kashmir.
Criticizing the government’s decision of allowing paramilitary forces to occupy schools, the twitter handle of Hurriyat Conference (G) Chairman, Syed Ali Geelani highlighted the issue.
“BSF and paramilitary CRPF troopers have occupied various key government and semi-government schools in #Kashmir (sic),” Geelani tweeted.
Two years after the incumbent Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s father took over as the CM in 2002, the paramilitary forces were asked to vacate school buildings but in Mehbooba’s tenure, they have now started re-occupying schools.
The decision of the paramilitary forces to occupy schools comes just a day after Education Minister Naeem Akhtar announced reopening of government schools in Kashmir.
A survey of the ‘Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack’, an inter-agency coalition formed in 2010 to address the problem of targeted attacks on education during armed conflict, has given ‘Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict’ asking the fighting forces not to use functioning schools and universities in any way in support of the military effort.
The paramilitary forces in Kashmir have also occupied another 50 vital installations of the government in a bid to quell protests witnessed during the past 46 days, ending in 67 civilian killings.
Government of India has also rushed 26 more companies of BSF men to Kashmir from Gujarat, West Bengal and Rajasthan.
The BSF conducted anti-militancy operations in Kashmir from 1991 to 2004 when they were replaced in Srinagar by CRPF and moved to their primary duty of guarding the borders.
Now the BSF men are in schools.