One month on, over 1100 CRPF men continue occupying seven Srinagar schools

The Kashmir Monitor, September 27, 2016

By Nisar Dharma 

Srinagar, Sept 26: More than a month after multiple companies of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) occupied various schools of Srinagar, the forces stay put and have even built watch towers and bunkers in the schools’ premises.

Due to the lack of space, the schools were used as a ‘temporary’ place to put up additional contingents of government forces brought in Kashmir during the last few months to provide “support” to the huge number of existing armed forces in curbing the current public agitation.

CRPF PRO, Rajesh Yadav told The Kashmir Monitor that 14 companies of the paramilitary force were currently occupying seven different schools in the city namely Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Nishat; Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Kothi Bagh; MP School, Baba Demb; DAV Institute, Jawahar Nagar; National School, Karan Nagar; Government Middle School Gupt Ganga, Harwan; and Police Public School Bemina.

A company, as per Yadav, comprises of 80 men which adds up the overall number of CRPF troopers occupying these schools to 1120.

When asked about evacuating these schools, Yadav said that putting up in them was a “temporary arrangement” and CRPF had asked the state’s police to arrange a suitable place of relocation.

“Whenever outside companies are called in, it is the responsibility of the state government to provide them accommodation to stay in, we have been regularly demanding the J&K police to relocate us and they are looking in to it,” said Yadav.

The situation remains so at a time when the state government has been very vocal about reopening of schools and requesting parents to “cooperate”. Last week the J&K Board of School Education also came out with exam datasheets of class 10 and 12 scheduled to be held in November.

“Our department, headed by Minister sahab and director sahib, is trying hard to resume functioning of schools, once that happens, the troops will automatically evacuate the schools,” said a senior official of the Education Department who did not want to quoted by name.

Apart from CRPF, the authorities during the last few months have also brought in to Kashmir additional deployments of Army, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) to curb the ongoing public uprising in the region. The forces were asked to occupy various schools, a move which had triggered strong resentment from general public as well as academicians.

Although successive governments had asked the forces to vacate all buildings and even made them remove many bunkers, the occupying of schools and setting up of bunkers in them is a reminiscent of 1990s when these bunkers were found on almost every street and in every government building in Kashmir.

A survey of the ‘Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack’, an inter-agency coalition formed in 2010 to address the problem of targeted attacks on education during armed conflict, has given ‘Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict’ asking the fighting forces not to use functioning schools and universities in any way in support of the military effort.

IGP Kashmir SJM Gillani and Divisional Commissioner Baseer Khan both did not respond to several calls made by this reporter.