We pay taxes; we have rights. Natural and inalienable rights, that is, they belonged to us by birth and could not be taken away. Isn’t it the duty of the state to protect our natural rights? We the Children of conflict have the right to education as any other child on earth. We too want to access e-learning, take advantage of online classes, be a part of global networking on education and research. However, all that is not for us, at least, at the moment. Though we were born free and equal in rights time and again we feel like in chains.
On August 4 evening, Kashmir was in a state of alarm. Rumours were spreading like wildfire. The King had certain plans and the subjects knew nothing. When the doctrine of nationalism is being propagated like the divine, who could question the virtual monarch. People were rushing from petrol pumps to ATMs, from food stores to grocery shops and back. Scenes were chaotic.
It was getting dark, the clouds of fear and uncertainty had covered the moonlight. The extraordinary security deployment, the geared up administrative machinery, arrests of political leaders, had kick-started what was to follow. We were at home, anxious, apprehensive and to add to our agony, my Mamu was on his way back from Delhi in the night. We were so concerned about him that we had not even taken water for dinner. I was praying that whole night:
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake”
Well, we all know what happened the next morning. I will not go in the political side of it. However, for me as a student, it brought a sea change. Pre-August 5, we were going fine with our studies. Our plans were taking the concrete shape. Inching close towards our goals, we were like in a beautiful dream. Alas, started the nightmare. Curfew was imposed. Internet and all means of communication were blocked. Everything came to a standstill.
I literally felt as if we were back to Stone Age. Being locked at home, our routine got completely disrupted. Without basic facilities of the modern age, particularly with regard to education, it felt like being trapped in a cave for ages. In the age of artificial intelligence and 5G, some in the administration were defending with “life before internet remarks”. Anyway, caged at home, ‘time’ started to pass slowly and it was then that I got an understanding of Einstein’s theory of relativity, ironically though.
So somehow we managed it, in the way “life before the internet”. We read textbooks, made notes and crammed that. With winter inching close, the formality of examinations started and was soon over. As if the closure of schools post-August 5 was not enough, winter vacation was announced. Again we were at the receiving end. Imagine about the students belonging to poor families. How could have they managed the expensive tuition? Was it rocket science for the state to understand that the schools should be kept open throughout this winter with all the necessary heating arrangements or at least high-speed internet should be restored for us to learn online? If nothing at least they could have arranged free video lectures for all of us.
Now came the Covid-19 and we are back to square one. Though it is a natural pandemic and probably we or state is not responsible for it, but continued restrictions on high-speed internet have again thrown us deep down the gorge. Again our education is in shambles. Though the world has geared-up for e-learning, homeschooling, online classes and the like, all that is only a dream for us.
Once we were studying normally, now we are left with almost nothing. The system claims to have provided us with sky but has chained our wings. Though children are the future of any society and education the torch of enlightenment but for us, the future seems dark and the dawn far away. Are we the children of lesser God?
(The author is a student of twelfth class at the Government Higher Secondary School Sherabad. The ideas are personal.)