Kash­mir schools shut after deadly shelling

Nearly 300 schools had been or­dered to close

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Hun­dreds of schools were or­dered to close in­def­i­nitely in Kash­mir yes­ter­day after shelling by In­dian and Pak­istani troops in the dis­puted re­gion killed 14 civil­ians in two days. Au­thor­i­ties on the In­dian-ad­min­is­tered side of Kash­mir, which is split be­tween the two na­tions, said nearly 300 schools had been or­dered to close from yes­ter­day morn­ing, fol­low­ing the death of eight civil­ians on Tues­day in mor­tar shelling along the highly mil­i­ta­rized bor­der.

Of­fi­cials on the Pak­istani side said around 25 schools would be closed in the Nakyal sec­tor for the rest of the week due to shelling by In­dian forces which had killed six civil­ians since Mon­day. The clo­sures rep­re­sent an­other blow to a be­lea­guered ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem al­ready hit by wide­spread clo­sures in Sri­na­gar, the largest city in In­dian-ad­min­is­tered Kash­mir, and ar­son at­tacks on schools. Eight civil­ians in­clud­ing two chil­dren were killed on Tues­day when mor­tar bombs hit two lo­ca­tions in the Samba and Ra­jouri sec­tors, in the Jammu re­gion of the In­dian state of Jammu and Kash­mir.

“Nearly 300 schools, both pri­vate and gov­ern­ment-run, have been asked to close down in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts,” Pawan Kot­wal, a top of­fi­cial in Jammu, told AFP. He said the bor­der re­mained rel­a­tively calm overnight with only a few cases of cross-bor­der fir­ing in some ar­eas. On Mon­day Pak­istani au­thor­i­ties said an 18-month-old girl was among six civil­ians killed on its side of the bor­der in fir­ing by In­dian forces in the Jammu re­gion. Islamabad sum­moned a se­nior In­dian diplo­mat to protest over the killings. The clo­sure or­der in the Jammu re­gion comes at a time when teach­ing at many gov­ern­ment and pri­vate schools in Sri­na­gar and else­where in the Kash­mir Val­ley re­mains se­verely dis­rupted.

Schools torched

Al­though schools are of­fi­cially open, many pupils and teach­ers have been un­able to at­tend class for months be­cause of a 52-day-long cur­few and a con­tin­u­ing shut­down called by sep­a­ratist groups, that has se­verely hit nor­mal life. The re­gion has suf­fered its dead­li­est vi­o­lence in the last six years-with at least 90 peo­ple killed in street protests trig­gered by the killing of a pop­u­lar sep­a­ratist leader by In­dian forces in Kash­mir in July. Nearly 30 schools have been torched in the Kash­mir Val­ley since July but no-one has been ar­rested for the ar­son at­tacks.

In­dian and Pak­istani troops have reg­u­larly ex­changed fire across the Line of Con­trol-the de­facto bor­der in Kash­mir-as well as along their undis­puted part of the bor­der since a mil­i­tant at­tack on an In­dian army base on Septem­ber 18 left 19 sol­diers dead. Each coun­try ac­cuses the other of vi­o­lat­ing a 2003 cease­fire and en­gag­ing in “un­pro­voked fir­ing”. Eight In­dian troops have also died in the bor­der skir­mishes. In­dia’s bor­der se­cu­rity force (BSF) ac­cused Pak­istani troops of “de­lib­er­ately tar­get­ing” the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion after Tues­day’s killings, which also left 22 peo­ple in­jured. “Pak­istani forces are fir­ing heavy mor­tars de­lib­er­ately to­wards In­dian civil­ian ar­eas. BSF never fires to­wards any Pak­istani civil­ian area,” D K Upad­hyay, a top BSF com­man­der told re­porters yes­ter­day. Re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries have plum­meted in re­cent months since the at­tack on the army base, the dead­li­est in more than a decade.

In­dia has blamed Pak­istan-based mil­i­tants for the at­tack and its Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi re­cently char­ac­ter­ized the regime in Islamabad as the “moth­er­ship of ter­ror­ism”. Kash­mir has been di­vided be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan since the end of Bri­tish rule in 1947. Both claim the ter­ri­tory in full. Sev­eral rebel groups have fought for decades an es­ti­mated 500,000 In­dian sol­diers de­ployed in the Hi­malayan ter­ri­tory, de­mand­ing in­de­pen­dence for the re­gion or its merger with Pak­istan. — AFP

SRI­NA­GAR: Kash­miri stu­dents study out­side a house on the out­skirts of Sri­na­gar. — AFP

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