School children worst hit as Pakistan shells villages along LoC

news
06 February 2018

The ongoing shelling of civilian areas along the international border and PoK areas in Jammu and Kashmir has forced closure of at least 450 schools in the Kathua, Samba, Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch districts with the children migrating to safer places along with their parents.

And, with the final examinations around the corner and no alternative arrangements to conduct classes, classes are now being conducted in the open.

A day after a young captain and three soldiers were killed in heavy shelling by Pakistani forces in Rajouri district, Army vice-chief Lt-General Sarath Chand on Monday warned of strong retaliatory action to avenge the losses. "That (retaliation) goes without saying. I think I don't have to say that. (Our) action will speak for itself," he said.

More than 200 students were taking their classes in the open in Nowshera in the Rajouri district that was worst hit last week when Pakistan troops targeted the area with missiles. Principal of the government school, Narendera Kumar Sharma, said that many students had returned to schools in their native villages but have come back after the fresh bout of firing.

He said that nearly 250 migrant families have occupied the class rooms for the past about 10 months as a result of which the students had no option but to take their classes under the open sky.

Deputy Commissioner of Rajouri, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, had on Saturday shut 84 schools within the radius of 5 km of the LOC as a precautionary measure.

Teaching came to a halt in nearly 300 schools of Jammu and Samba recently when Pakistan targeted these areas. In many cases, the Army and police had to rescue students and teachers in mobile bunkers and bullet-proof vehicles when Pakistan targeted primary schools and other education institutions.

Reports said Pakistan-backed separatists in the Kashmir valley are also resposible for the harm that was being caused to the students because of frequent shutdown calls.

Schools in J&K opened only for four months in 2016 in the wake of protests following the killing of a terrorist Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces. Several schools were burnt down by miscreants in a bid to bring the students on the streets.

As a result of unrest, the state government gave mass promotions in Kashmir to students from 1st to 9th class and the syllabus of 10th and 12th classes was curtailed. However, the government was least bothered about students of the Jammu division where schooling has been disturbed due to frequent shelling by Pakistan, parents and students allege.

Army chief General Rawat, meanwhile, said given the current mood, these bloody tit-for-tat fire assaults across the border are not going to ebb anytime soon.

In the absence of any diplomatic detente, the deadly war of attrition between India and Pakistan along the 778-km Line of Control (LoC) and 198-km International Boundary (IB) in Jammu & Kashmir has taken a sharp turn for the worse ever since the "surgical strikes" of September 2016.

There were as many as 860 ceasefire violations along the LoC and another 120 along the IB in 2017, the highest-ever such tally in over 15 years. The number of violations has already touched 241 across the LoC in the first 36 days of this year, claiming the lives of nine Indian soldiers, as per Army statistics.

Indian soldiers also had to pay a heavy price with 62 laying down their lives in J&K last year. Of this, 15 were killed in cease-fire violations, 17 in infiltration and other incidents along the LoC and 30 in counter-terrorism operations in the hinterland.

"I don't think the situation will get better in the short term. The atmosphere has been completely vitiated by the Pak Army strategy to send terrorists across to carry out IED blasts, mutilate our soldiers and attack garrisons.

It leaves no space for any confidence-building like a ceasefire agreement," said former Northern Army Command chief, Lt-Gen D S Hooda (retd), who oversaw the "surgical strikes" on 29 September 2016.





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