Empowering People-The ‘School Chalo’ Programme

Nilesh Kunwar
November 10, 2016 OPINION 360 Views
Empowering People-The ‘School Chalo’ Programme

The separatists want the people to believe that the Indian army in Kashmir has no compassion for the locals. That’s why separatists abhor any public appreciation of civic actions or educationally oriented programmes undertaken by the army and detest the people’s wholehearted participation in these initiatives.
It is not that the people in Kashmir don’t listen to or value what the separatists say. But when mere promises (made by separatists) are pitted against visible actions (by the army) then the insightful Kashmiri makes an unbiased inference and the ongoing protests are a case in point. Schools in Kashmir were shut down as part of this protest and though the separatists kept extending the agitation by issuing fresh protest calendars, they never cared to think about the poor students whose education was suffering because of this, but the army did!
It can be argued that when an agitation is on and everything comes to a standstill, then how the separatists can prevent education from being disrupted. But there is a saying that when there is a will there is a way and if the ‘joint’ Hurriyat was serious on this issue then it could have surely done something. The protest calendar issued by separatists includes a ‘relaxation period’ (from evening till next day morning) to allow people to go outdoors for making purchases or any other personal reasons.
If the Hurriyat wanted then it could easily have organised classes in each locality for students during this ‘relaxation’ period. If there was a problem of teachers in some areas then the services of volunteers could be obtained. However while the Hurriyat has failed to do this the army has done so through its “School Chalo” (Let’s go to school) programme. Working closely with village elders, parents of school going children and teachers, the army has been able to guide the locals to set up study cum recreational centers for students in any other suitable building in their respective localities.
Even the staunchest supporter of the ongoing agitation will not like that the education of his children should suffer due to continuous shut down of schools. Many parents of school going children today were themselves students in the 90’s when schools in Kashmir were burnt down for the first time by militants. Having had suffered on account of disruption in studies the thought of their children having to undergo this harrowing experience preoccupies the minds of all parents. This is why the “School Chalo” project is rapidly gaining popularity!
What has made this initiative all the more appealing to locals is that it is entirely a community effort with the army only playing the role of facilitator. The idea of starting the “School Chalo” project came to the mind of Maj Gen Ashok Narula, GoC Victor Force when he saw the education disruption issue not from the perspective of an army man but as a parent. Resultantly, the “School Chalo” project is purely an education oriented programme devoid of any ulterior motives and that is why even though the separatists may not be quite happy with this, they have no grounds to criticise the army for launching this project.
The ‘joint’ Hurriyat also knows that since it has kept on extending the protests without doing anything to address the resultant key issue of disruption in education, it doesn’t have the moral right to admonish the locals for making the “School Chalo” project a grand success. The silence of the separatists on this project is welcome as it’s a big relief to the students who are happy since they can catch up with their studies and constructively engage in healthy recreational activities. Their parents are also relieved as they no longer fear for the future of their children.
It’s a ‘win-win’ situation for all!

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