10/26/2016, 14.57
INDIA
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Some 19 Kashmir schools torched in three months of protests

The authorities have blamed unknown criminals acting at night. Kulgam is the worst affected district. Some teachers have volunteered to guard schools. The state government has decided that high and secondary school exams will take place regularly, although more than half of the syllabus was not covered.

Srinagar (AsiaNews) – Some 19 schools have been torched since a new wave of protests broke out in the Kashmir Valley more than three months ago.

The authorities have blamed the mysterious overnight arson attacks on unknown persons acting under cover of darkness. So far no one has been identified. The situation in the Indian state has become increasingly difficult with a curfew in place for the past 109 days.

In all 17 government and 2 private schools were affected, School Directorate officials have reported. Some 5,000 students attend these facilities. Some of the buildings were completely destroyed, others were partially damaged.

Following the killing of Burhan Wani, one of Kashmir’s most famous and social media savvy militants, thousands of schools in the state’s ten districts went into high alert.

With five arson attacks, Kulgam is the most affected district. Here, in some schools, teachers have decided to guard the facilities at night.

“Teachers volunteered to stay in school premises during night hours to ensure safety of the buildings,” said Abdul Rouf Shahmari, Kulgam chief education officer.

“The burning of schools jeopardizes the careers of hundreds of students,” said K. Rajendra Kumar, the state’s director general of police.

“It is a matter of concern for us. We are in the process of identifying the miscreants,” he added. Meanwhile, locals have also taken responsibility for protecting the schools.

For Jammu and Kashmir Education Minister and government spokesman Naeem Akhtar, the damage to schools is not just material but represents a “colossal loss for the entire society”.

For this reason, state authorities decided that high and secondary school exams will still be held in November even though students have not completed 50 per cent of the syllabus.

Since July, only a very few "lucky" ones were able to pursue their studies, thanks to teachers who volunteered their services at home and in mosques to ensure continued teaching.

In addition to separatist demonstrations, students have taken to the streets to demand that exams be postponed to March.

So far, the numerous appeals for dialogue and peace in the region have fallen on deaf ears.

The latest came from the Catholic Church, which on 16 October promoted a day of joint prayer "for our beloved country, for justice and peace, prosperity and welfare, harmony and unity."

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