Protect Indian Schools From Conflict Before Elections


Over the weekend, Maoist insurgents set fire to a tent and generator at Sondaha Primary School in the Indian state of Bihar, where police planned to stay during the upcoming national elections, United News of India reported. .

It is not the first time. The Maoists have repeatedly committed violence against schools in the run-up to elections in India. They attacked at least two schools ahead of the 2014 national elections, and in 2009 carried out at least 14 attacks on schools in Jharkhand and Bihar states.

Deliberate attacks on schools that are not used for military purposes may constitute war crimes under international humanitarian law.

But the police shouldn’t have used the school in the first place. Although government security forces have been deployed inside schools for security reasons ahead of elections in the past, the Indian Supreme Court has repeatedly ordered the government to ensure that school buildings are not occupied by the security forces for any purpose.

It is also increasingly recognized internationally that parties should refrain from using schools for military purposes. In 2014, the United Nations Security Council declared that the use of schools for military purposes, such as barracks or bases by the security forces, endangered the safety of children and teachers as well as the education of children. The Security Council also called for enhanced international monitoring and reporting on this use of schools. In 2015, he encouraged all countries “to take concrete steps to deter such use of schools by armed forces and armed groups”.

Advice on how countries can better protect schools is included in the 2015 Safe Schools Declaration, developed under the leadership of the governments of Norway and Argentina. To date, 84 countries have approved the declaration. Unfortunately, India is not one of them. But it’s time for that to change before the countries backing the declaration meet at the Third International Safe Schools Conference in May, to discuss what more can be done to keep students, children and children safe. teachers and schools, even in times of armed conflict.

The bad history should not repeat itself with every election. Maoist insurgents and government security forces in India should respect children’s safety and their right to education by keeping schools banned – not only in the weeks leading up to national elections – but at all times.

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