Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the octogenarian separatist from Kashmir who has spent a life time sucking up to Pakistan, loves to call himself a “Resistance Leader.” The sobriquet reduces the sense of guilt that he feels for having ‘slept with the enemy” for a major portion of his adult life.
Geelani is a resistance leader insofar that he specialises in resisting everything that is good for the people of Kashmir. It is this quality of his which makes him the favourite poster boy of Pakistan’s notorious spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), in advancement of its agenda to keep Kashmir on the boil. Geelani’s job is to consistently identify and destroy anything that can make the life of the common Kashmiri easier and more meaningful and he is very good at it.
His latest target is the Army Goodwill Schools operating in the Kashmir valley. “Educational institutions being run by the army are making children indifferent towards their religion and culture,” says our resistance specialist while urging parents to desist from sending their wards for education to these institutions.
It is worthwhile to look into the motive behind this new “resistance front” that Geelani is seeking to open up, undoubtedly at the behest of his foreign masters. Why does the ISI want the schools to be shut down and why has Geelani been assigned to discredit them?
During the times of peak terrorism, most of the government teachers preferred being posted at places that were close to their homes. The result was that government schools in inaccessible areas remained bereft of teachers. Also, many schools were burned down by the terrorists.
The Army, under Operation Sadbhavna, opened a number of Army Goodwill Schools, especially so, in remote inaccessible regions of the State with the intention of providing quality education for a nominal fee to the deprived children. The Army, through this effort, not only provided education in areas that were unserviced by the government but also generated employment for trained teachers and other staff.
From a humble beginning in makeshift barracks with classes only up to Eighth standard, this initiative by the Army has, over the years, grown into a quality resource. The schools now provide quality education to thousands of students of Kashmir up to the secondary school level.
The Army Goodwill schools are affiliated with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). The syllabus, therefore, is consistent with the norms prescribed by CBSE across the country; it does not interfere with the “religion and culture” of the students as Geelani is at pains to profess. The students passing out from these schools are doing extremely well and the most meritorious of them are further coached for competitive examinations by the army. They are bringing in excellent results.
The teachers of these schools are so dedicated that even during times of turmoil and social disruptions they continue to function uninterrupted. Their popularity is such that there is a long queue of parents vying for admission of their wards.
Many attempts have been made by terrorists and separatist to get these schools closed down; teachers have been threatened, building have been burned down, parents of children studying in the schools have been intimidated. All of this has come to naught and the initiative is progressing by leaps and bounds.
The progress being made by the Goodwill Schools has, very naturally, become anathema for those who wish to keep Kashmir in the dark ages. It is from here that Geelani’s latest diatribe against the noble institutions flows.
Sadly for Pakistan, ISI and Geelani, the strategy evolved to discredit the Goodwill Schools is unlikely to succeed. They are attempting to reverse a wave that has gained firm roots. Secondary education through Army Goodwill Schools is, by no means, the only initiative taken by the army for the benefit of the youth. It completely understands the aspirations of the youth and has taken multiple initiatives to give it wings. In fact, the list of progressive initiatives taken by the army for the youth in Kashmir is so long that it would not fit in an article. Mainly, it includes conduct of education and motivation tours, providing infrastructural facilities to government schools, institution of many programmes to prepare deserving candidates for competitive examinations, of which the Super 30/40 is the most well known and a host of other initiatives. What all can the ISI and Geelani stop?
In the previous year, parents defied all threats by terrorists and separatists and sent their wards to examination halls to appear for Board examinations. The unprecedented attendance took the wind out of the sails of the separatist and divisive narrative that had been projecting alienation of the young school going boys and girls as the reason behind the unrest and strife in the valley.
It is quite apparent that the common man in Kashmir is more interested in seeing his offspring’s pursuing education than pelting stones and imposing lock-outs as Geelani and his cohorts would want.
What Geelani and his masters are failing to understand is that the new age Kashmiri youth is energetic, upwardly mobile, forward looking, willing to shed the baggage of the past and ready to pursue a life of dignity and achievement. This young lot in Kashmir is eager to become a part of the great Indian success story, it is eager to prove itself equal to the best in the country and willing to work hard to get there, be it in sports, studies or other professional activities. For this the parents as well as the children are looking eagerly for the kind of quality education that the Army Goodwill Schools are providing.
Geelani’s diatribe against the Army Goodwill Schools and other forms of progressive education in Kashmir is cruel propaganda designed to keep the people of Kashmir backward and suppressed. The people of Kashmir realise this and are not likely to be taken in by such false machinations. This initiative by him, like many before, will not only fall flat but will end up with the proverbial egg on his face.
(Jaibans Singh is a reputed analyst, author and commentator)