Schools turn into security camps in Jammu and Kashmir districts

December 3rd, 2008 - 5:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Ramnagar (Jammu and Kashmir), Dec 3 (IANS) School children in two districts of Jammu and Kashmir are paying a price for free and fair elections in the state. For the past three weeks these schools have been turned into virtual camps of security forces even as the children have been asked to take an “off”.The paramilitary forces arrived here over two weeks ago for the polling scheduled Dec 7 in the fourth of the seven phased polls.

The question of finding lodging for the troops became a big problem for the administration, entrusted with ensuring a free and fair elections.

So, the only option that the officials could think of was to lodge the security forces in schools and the students and teachers were asked to take an “off” during the period.

“We were caught in a dilemma, there was no place to lodge the security forces,” said an official.

“Schools were the only option,” he said and added that they knew that this would result in loss of studies for students.

Paramilitary forces have displaced students in most places in Udhampur and Reasi districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

“It was important to have paramilitary forces for security. The fear of strikes by militants is there and that threat cannot be ignored. There is no guarantee that the elections that have been peaceful so far would be free of militants’ violence,” a police officer said.

The school premises in both districts have been turned into virtual camps of the security forces.

Previously, students had suffered when their studies were interrupted for two months when an agitation for restoration of land for the Amarnath shrine was on in the Jammu region.

“How are we going to make up our studies?,” asked Sakshi Sharma, a student of 10th standard.

“Elections are important but our studies are equally important,” she said.

Ram Parkash, a mathematics teacher also felt the same way. “Ultimately, it would lead to pressure on all of us and if the results are bad, then no one would blame the agitation or elections, it will be us who will be held accountable.”

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