JEHANGIR ALI | 7 AUGUST, 2017

Are Schools the New Target for the Army in Kashmir?

JEHANGIR ALI


SRINAGAR: Army soliders today barged into a government-run school near the Pahalgam tourist resort in south Kashmir and allegedly manhandled the staff and students there, 'ordering' them to recite the national anthem at the morning assembly.

The staff of a government-run middle school in Yanner area near Pahalgam said the soldiers of the Army's Rashtriya Rifles barged into the school on Monday morning, irked by pro-freedom graffiti on the walls of the school.

“The graffiti has been painted by locals. How are we responsible for it? But the soldiers didn’t listen to us, pushed us around and also manhandled the teachers who tried to resist,” Ghulam Nabi Mir, in-charge principal of the school told The Citizen over the phone. The principal of the school is on leave, he added.

Witnesses said the Army had organised a medical camp near the school which didn't record much attendence. The pro-freedom graffiti eulogizing Hizb Commander Burhan Wani near the camp miffed the Army soldiers who sought an explanation from the school staff.

A school teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, said the soldiers accused them of “radicalizing” the students and “polluting” their minds by allowing the graffiti on the school property. The soldiers then manhandled the staff as well as some students.

“They ordered us to remove the graffiti immediately and start the practice of reciting the national anthem during the morning assembly or else be prepared to face the consequences. We are all worried about our safety,” the teacher said.

The army spokesperson in Srinagar feigned ignorance about the matter. He said he will get back with details but has not till this report was filed.

The incident comes barely days after the soldiers of another army unit allegedly harassed students and manhandled the staff of a school in Srinagar, accusing them of participating in stone pelting.

On July 31, Army personnel barged into Hussaini Public Higher Secondary School situated in HMT area on the outskirts of the capital Srinagar and manhandled the students, sparking tensions in the army against the alleged high-handedness.

The Army has faced increasing allegations of highhandedness in Kashmir recently, especially over the last two to three months during which the security forces intensified the counter-insurgency operations.

Earlier, on April 9, the Army's RR unit in central Kashmir's Beerwah, led by Major Leetul Gogoi, captured a shawl weaver, who was on way to a funeral, and used him as a "human shield".

The shawl weaver, Farooq Ahmad Dar, was strapped to a jeep and paraded through at least a dozen villages, sparking worldwide condemnation with the New York Times describing the incident as a "new low",

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