Indian armed forces occupy schools | New Internationalist


June 25, 2015

melgupta under a Creative Commons license

Years ago, a grenade captured the leg and part of a teenager’s spleen in an attack on an army-occupied high school in Bandipore district, north Kashmir.

Lying on his hospital bed far away in the state’s summer capital, Srinagar, the teen recalled how his friend died in the classroom, asking for water. The school, which also serves as a military camp – like several schools in conflict zones across India – is heavily guarded and fortified on all sides. The deposit of weapons inside the camp is also a serious danger.

“It was revenge for the murder by an activist of a soldier in the village,” said a schoolteacher.

From the snow-capped mountains of Kashmir to the dense jungles of Chhattisgarh, such incidents are common.

Despite years of proxy warfare with forces illegally occupying schools, hospitals and homes, successive governments have made no effort to improve the situation.

In fact, India was not one of the 38 countries that endorsed the new Safe Schools Declaration during the United Nations Security Council’s debate on children and armed conflict last month. “The Safe Schools Declaration provides a concrete way for countries to commit to protecting children’s education, even during armed conflict,” said Zama Coursen-Neff, director of children’s rights at Human Rights Watch.

Last year, the UN Security Council urged all member countries to “consider concrete measures to deter the use of schools by armed forces and non-state armed groups in violation of applicable international law.”

Since 2005, schools and universities have been used for military purposes by government forces and non-state armed groups in at least 26 countries, including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Burma.

The schools were used as bases, barracks, detention centers, weapons depots and sniper stations. These practices endanger the lives of students and teachers by turning their schools into targets of enemy attacks. Students and teachers have been injured and killed in such attacks. The practices also expose students to sexual violence, forced labor and forced recruitment by soldiers sharing their schools. Students must either stay home and interrupt their studies, or study alongside armed fighters while potentially being in the crosshairs.

In India in 2010, more than 129 schools were used as barracks or bases across the country, particularly in Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, but also in the northeast of the country, in Tripura, Manipur, Nagaland and Assam, disrupting education for around 20,800 students.

Last December, a mass grave containing eight human skulls was discovered in an abandoned school complex in Manipur where Indian paramilitary forces set up a base camp in the 1980s.

Since the Supreme Court’s order to leave occupied schools was issued in February 2010, little has changed. Professor Nandini Sundar, who has filed an application with the Supreme Court against the Chhattisgarh government, explains what is happening in Chhattisgarh: “The court ordered the paramilitary forces to leave the schools; since then, there has been no monitoring of schools to verify whether they have complied with the order. She adds that there are reports that central reserve police camps have been set up next to schools and girls’ homes.

“Students, both men and women, have been sexually assaulted and harassed and illegally recruited into armed groups by unruly soldiers using their schools or universities. The educational consequences of military use of schools and universities can include high dropout rates, reduced enrollment, lower transition rates to higher levels of education, overcrowding, and wasted time. education. Girls are particularly affected, ”says a 92-page Human Rights Watch study,“ Lessons in War 2015: Military Use of Schools and Universities during Armed Conflict ”.

Activists attacked some 140 schools in India between 2009 and 2012, and government forces used the schools extensively as barracks or bases, mainly in the east of the country.

The government’s latest resolve to resolve political conflicts by providing jobs for young people is indicative of their frivolous approach to giving peace a chance. In addition, without a good education, the prospects for young people to find employment elsewhere are poor. Their future is in the hands of a state that tries to eradicate violence and “bring peace” by grabbing land and water from people in the name of development.

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