By Sheikh Qayoom
Srinagar, March 1 (IANS) The opening of schools on Wednesday after eight long months proved to be an emotional moment in the Kashmir Valley.
The thrill and excitement was palpable in this summer capital and other places in the Valley as teachers and staff at both government-run and private schools waited eagerly for the arrival of students like they normally did in the past for VIP visits.
Children were seen jostling each other to get out of school buses, bubbling with excitement at the prospect of meeting friends, some of whom they had not spoken with for eight months.
“I feel as if I am attending the school after years. Nothing has changed inside except that some of our old teachers have been transferred to other places,” said Moshin, a class 8 student in a government school in the old city.
Parents are, naturally, relieved the schools have reopened.
“I hope the schools are allowed by everybody to work normally. My son has been awake since 5 a.m. asking his mother to ready his school uniform and tiffin.
“I also appeal to everybody to leave education out of their political agenda. Let schools function normally and let our children study properly so that they appear in exams,” said Mushtaq Ahmad, a resident of central Kashmir’s Badgam district.
Exams were last held here only for classes 10 and 12, while all others, from the primary stage to class 10, were promoted en masse.
All schools, colleges and universities were closed on July 8 last year, a day after Hizbul commander Burhan Wani was killed in a gunfight with security forces in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.
What followed was unprecedented even by the standards of the Valley, which has remained plagued by separatist violence since the early 1990s.
There was Valley-wide unrest in which 94 people were killed and thousands injured. Over 150 people are believed to have lost their vision because of the pellets fired by the security forces to control mobs.
The state government’s attempts to open schools were strongly resisted by parents concerned about the security of their children, as well as by the separatists who called it a roundabout attempt to bring normalcy to the Valley.
Though colleges and universities started functioning towards the end of last year, schools remained closed due to the unrest till they were officially closed for the winter vacations in December.
Abdul Majid Bhat, living in Rajbagh uptown area of Srinagar city, said the opening of his son’s school has marked by festivity in his family.
“I went out yesterday with my son to buy him books, notebooks and other things. It was as if the two of us were out for Eid shopping.
“Today he has gone to his school and I am praying to Allah that what happened last year was a nightmare never to revisit our family,” Bhat told IANS.
Ali Muhammad Bhat of Pampore town in Pulwama district said: “I did not go to work today because my daughter went to school after eight months.
“Looking at her sad face all these months had caused depression in my wife. Today, my wife was laughing when I escorted my daughter to school. Kindly leave our children out of politics.”
Traffic jams in Srinagar city have always raised tempers of commuters. But Wednesday’s snarls, created by school buses carrying children, became a sightseeing experience for many locals.
Happiness, alas, is an occasional episode in Kashmir’s general drama of pain and suffering. The re-opening of schools was one such episode.
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at [email protected])