Let exams happen

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This is the time of the year when hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri children studying in schools and colleges and even in the universities write their annual exams. This is, therefore, the most important period in their academic calendars. But unfortunately for some reasons this is not being acknowledged and appreciated by the society in general and those sitting in the leadership roles in particular.

There are many reasons for this conclusion — one sited here is regular calls for strikes and shutdowns, and in fact with increased frequency since the time annual examinations started in the Valley. Though provocations are there, and so are triggers for angry public responses. But then someone has to take the initiative of doing some tactical and creative thinking so as to minimize troubles and increase benefits for the recipient population so that they do not feel exhausted in the face of persistent mayhem.

This argument may turn off some people, but let’s make it clear that the without condemning or condoning anybody’s or group’s politics, the simple point that is being made is that when societies are caught in long-drawn battles, they have to have a clear roadmap and strategic calculations, long-term plans and short-term tactics in place for everything. Education like healthcare, for instance, is one such area which can’t afford being undermined by or made subservient to the larger politics. An ailing patient needs medical help and this has to be made available to him or her at any cost, or else the patient may not survive. Similarly children need education and this has to and must be made available to them without hassles. There has to be a consensus about it – in fact this must be a given!

But Kashmir does not seem to prioritize education. This is not to say that other spheres of human activity have got their due, but education certainly has been like a neglected backwater as is evidenced by the perpetual disenfranchisement of its people over the years without a whimper of resentment anywhere. Making matters worse is the general unconcern and apathy of the people themselves – who have not bothered to evaluate its adverse impact on the general health and well-being of the society including in terms of their political capital.

The minimum the society could and should have done is that the education should have been made conflict-neutral. This is not to say that the students have no right to be part of the larger politics of this place. Like everyone else, they also being stakeholders have every right to partake in politics, but it is also true that they could do it more effectively once they are armed with the maturity of thought and mastery of analytical tools that the education brings. Any evolving society caught up in the throes of conflict needs informed and emancipated people who can articulate and even fight for its rights, aims and aspirations in a language which not only ‘the adversary’ but the world in general knows, understands and appreciates. Battles are not won on the backs of the people who despite their vast ‘sincerity quotient’ simply turn off others and potential supporters to ‘the cause’ by wild display of raw emotions on the roads and streets in the city and the countryside!

What is tragic is that in Kashmir nobody conducts politics in terms of strategic calculations of costs and benefits. Instead the ‘here and now reactionary behavior’ is the general culture, which is seen and celebrated as unwavering ‘conviction to the cause’. Equally unfortunate is that the Government of India looks at and deals Kashmir through a security or militaristic paradigm. Use of force or coercion is always there. Kashmir’s history of past 30 years is replete with countless instances pointing to state’s insistence and reliance on dealing with the trouble through military means only. So the violence or the killings have remained endemic; so has been the population’s response to it. Every killing of militant(s) or a civilian(s) is followed up with a call for shutdown and strike. If it has to be like this, it will radically limit the scope for the people to resume normal life processes!

Killings are unfortunate and cannot be condoned. Every single killing, whosoever the victim, is unfortunate as human life, irrespective of one’s political beliefs or other profiles – is precious. Those who really value life will try and find means of ending its wastage through perpetual bloodshed.

Having said it, it is requested that the politics may kindly be sensitized towards other necessities of life as well. As a society can we mull a situation wherein we can make at least the education of children, and right now their exams, uninterruptible by not calling for shutdowns every second day?

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