12 SUSPECTS ARRESTED SO FAR, 23 OTHERS STILL AT LARGE
Waking up from its deep slumber Mehbooba Mufti led alliance government in Jammu and Kashmir has set up Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the rising incidents of torching of school buildings across different parts of kashmir valley.
At last count 25 school buildings have been completely burnt down and declared unfit to hold classes.
The SIT team consisting of senior police officers is set to begin its work soon.
According to Deputy Inspector General (DIG) South Kashmir, Nitish Kumar, so far we have identified at least 35 persons allegedly involved in burning down of school buildings. He said out of these 12 have been arrested while 23 others continue to stay at large and yet to be apprehended.
According to DIG Nitish Kumar, the list of suspects was prepared on the basis of information received and complaints made by local residents in the vicinity of burnt down schools.
SIT WOULD IDENTIFY REAL CULPRITS
He said SIT would focus on identifying the real culprits and filter the names of those who were not directly involved in the conspiracy behind torching the schools and depriving the valley students from attending their classes.
The conduct of the state govt had also come under scanner as over the last 100 days neither the state police department nor the state education department initiated a formal probe behind the stray incidents and were awaiting political nod at the highest level before formally initiating the probe.
A Senior Intelligence officer based in Srinagar claimed that the entire state govt machinery is up on its feet to ensure safety of school buildings.
Sounding philosophical he said, “If a society chooses to shut down or burnt down its centres of learning and prevent young students from attending classes no one can save the society. It is destined to ruin”.The Intelligence officer also claimed, it is the handiwork of vested interest who is trying to take advantage of volatile political and security situation in the state. We have to be alert and stay ahead of others to survive”.
PRECIOUS TIME LOST, EVIDENCE ON GROUND ZERO FRITTERED AWAY?
A senior police officer in Srinagar claimed already precious time and evidence on record has been washed away in the recent weeks. He said in the absence of any forensic inspection of the accident sites where these fire incidents took place it is difficult to ascertain which combustible material was used to torch the school buildings.
According to preliminary reports notorious stone pelters from South Kashmir districts of Kulgam, Pulwama, Shopian and Anantnag were initially picked up by the police without confirming their involvement in the case.
It is difficult to round up suspects in the case as eyewitnesses have not come forward to report the matter to the police teams.
Special Director General of Police, Coordination, Law and Order, SP Vaid had earlier directed Station House Officers (SHOs) to nab the culprits.
Vaid had expressed inability of the state police department to provide fool proof security to the school premises during day time.
“Since the large number of policemen are busy in maintaining law and order in the Valley, how could we expect that they will also guard all the schools in the valley? At this juncture, it is not possible for us to deploy police in every school,” the Special DG said.
Twenty four schools, two of them private and one Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV), were gutted completely or partially since September in mysterious blaze incidents across Kashmir valley.
Six schools, the highest number so far in Valley, have been gutted only in Kulgam district of South Kashmir.
On October 28 Government Middle School Habber Khag in Budgam district was set ablaze by miscreants while police said it thwarted an attempt of miscreants to set ablaze a Government Middle School in Ganderbal town. According to rough estimates, 5000 students have been affected due to burning of these schools.
SCHOOLS ARE THE PROPERTY OF PEOPLE
Director of School Education Kashmir (DSEK) Aijaz Ahmad Bhat said that the schools are property of public and it is the responsibility of people to safeguard them from the actions of arsonists. “There are thousands of schools scattered all across the Valley and they belong to people. The Department of Education cannot protect them but people can,” he said and termed the gutting of schools a major loss.