by Saifullah Bashir.

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On one or the other pretext Kashmir witnesses’ disturbances, almost every year. Caught in the conflict since1947, the subsequent developments in the last three decades, both by the government and separatists have put Kashmir to halt on regular intervals. Killings, encounters or any decision taken by the government against the wishes of people leads to disturbance.

Khalsa Aid groups volunteering for the help of Kashmiri students in February 2019.

A strike called by separatists is followed by restrictions from the administration. The connectivity is snapped. The duration is always unknown. Normalcy can take a day, week or even months.

On August 5, 2019, when the government of India scrapped special status of Kashmir, massive restrictions were imposed. Nearly for six months, Kashmir was put to halt. High-speed internet is still banned.

As the winter was over, Kashmir was on the path of reviving their day to day activities. Businesses were hoping to start again, students were joyful to go to school again. But soon after, the virus hit the world.

Like other countries, India also got engulfed by this deadly disease, known as Covid-19. A worldwide disease and no cure available, around 2.65 lac people have already died due to this disease.

For Kashmir, the pandemic is an extension of lockdown imposed since August 5. Every sector has been being hit. Trade, tourism, horticulture, education and other related sectors witness a major blow.

However, the loss in the educational field is colossal.

Students in Kashmir receive formal education for not more than 100 days a year. Rest of the days goes in the disturbance. The major part is long winter break, holidays, weekend off and Kashmir situation.

First time I realised the crisis was in 2014. When deluge did the destruction, I was in eighth. Enthusiastic to appear in the board examination, the government announced the mass promotion. Promoted to the next class, we got a nick-name, Sehlaab Pass.

KL Image
File image of student protests in Kashmir (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)

The ninth class remained peaceful. Next year was 2016, I was in tenth class – my first board exam; a crucial year. Understanding the expectations, I started working hard from the first day of the year. Everything was smooth till July. With few days break from studies for Eid, I was relaxing. Suddenly the news flashed about an encounter in south Kashmir. Regular news in Kashmir. But as things out to be, a commander of HM, Burhan Wani was killed in the encounter.

The moment was a flashpoint. Everything changed. The following days were full of stories about killings, injuries, arrests. Bullets and pellets scattered all around. More than 100 youth lost lives and more than 10000 had pellet injuries.

Exam dates approached, but the situation was not conducive. The preparations fell flat. Finally, on-demand of parents and students, the syllabus was reduced. We qualified the exam but got another nickname Burhan Pass, as almost every student was qualified in this examination.

With whatever score, it was a joy to see the higher secondary school in 2017. I joined a govt higher secondary. Initially, the year was peaceful but soon after unprecedented student protests started almost in every college and higher secondary school. Hundreds of students were injured in clashes with security forces. Resultantly, the government closed down the educational institutions.

The year 2018, was my twelfth class. Thankfully, the year by and large passed peacefully. Finally, I qualified with 90 per cent of marks. My happiness was beyond imagination.

After celebrating the moment, a decision has to be made about the future course of action. Taking a suggestion from teachers and one of my mentors, I finally decided to study journalism. I qualified entrance and joined the college in April 2019.

Just after 3 months of joining, a big announcement came from the government about article 370 which brought life to a standstill. All colleges, educational institutions, tuition centres etc remain closed for eight months.

By any standard, eight months is a long period. We were supposed to finish our second semester but unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Officially we are in the third semester but the exams of the second semester are yet to be written. In fact, the result of the first semester is yet to be declared. Our degree was supposed to get completed in three years but as far as the situation is going on, it may take five years.

Saifullah Bashir

It is a great loss. No student can bear it. Though Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education and other authorities may give some relaxation that is not the permanent solution. For a brilliant student, mass promotion is nothing but an unfortunate decision as it smashes his/her hard-work/intelligence.

The government should take some extraordinary steps so that the time of students can be saved as it can never be recovered. Schools are charging their tuition and transport fee. Tuition centres, money-minting machines have received a full fee in advance but a huge loss is being faced by students. This is taking a huge toll on the mental health of students. A joint strategy should be designed so that students can come out of stress and anxiety.

  (Author is an intern with the Kashmir Life.)


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