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'Schools are high value, soft targets for the Naxals'

August 20, 2010 16:41 IST
The past five years have seen Naxals attacking schools on at least 48 ocassions.The spate of attacks on schools increased in 2008. In fact 13 schools were attacked in Jharkhand in one month in 2009. Rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa traces the history of Naxal attcks on schools in the last few years.

Attacking schools is part of the Naxal strategy.

Over the past three years, the number of attacks on schools has seen a steep rise. The argument advanced by the Naxals is that schools have become police stations and security forces take cover here. To substantiate their claim they have never attacked a school when children were in it and attacks have always taken place when the school premises were closed.

Security personnel who battle the Naxals however claim that the reason behind the attacks on schools is only to gain mileage and create a fear pyschosis among the local population. Basically this trend of attacking schools was started in Nepal and now has been followed in India. Security personnel say that schools are a symbol of the government and this is the Naxal's way of expressing their opposition to the state. Whenever a school is targeted, it creates fear in the minds of parents, who send their children to school. Moreover in the villages, the school is always a central structure and an attack on such a structure would always cause a larger impact, the Naxals believe.

Meenakshi Ganguly of Human Rights Watch who has documented such attacks in a report called 'Sabotaged Schooling' says that the Naxalites are directly targeting and blowing up government schools, including those not used or occupied by security forces. The government's failure to promptly repair the damaged schools enhances the lasting negative impact of these attacks. The Naxals claim that their attacks on schools cause no disruption to children's education because, they assert, they only target schools being used by state security forces in anti-Naxal operations.

Ganguly however suggests that such claims are false. "Our research suggests that many schools that have been attacked were not being used by the security forces at the time. Deficiencies in government monitoring make it difficult to get clear information on the extent and pattern of Naxal attacks. Schools are a high-visibility, soft target -- attacking them garners media attention and increases fear and intimidation among the local community. While the Naxals do not appear to be targeting students directly, attacks on schools that are not being used for military purposes are a violation of both Indian and international humanitarian law," she says.

Ganguly has visited 22 schools and interviewed over 130 people, including 48 children ages 7 to 17. The Naxalites have frequently bombed schools in government-controlled areas. These attacks typically occur during the evening or night, and are carried out with improvised explosive devices known locally as 'can bombs' -- metal cans packed with explosives. The Naxals primarily use gelignite, dynamite, potassium nitrate, ammonium nitrate and emulsion explosives.

State wise timeline of Naxal attacks on schools:

Jharkhand

2006

May 24: Naxals blew up a school in Meghania village in the Chatra district.

November 24: Naxals blew up a school building in the Latehar district.

2007

October 25: Naxals destroyed a school building at Sobaranpur in Giridih district

2008

September 28: Naxals blew up a school building in Palamau district.

November 29: 50 Naxals blew up a school building at Panki in Palamau district.

2009

March 21: Naxals blew up a primary school and a primary health centre at Nitar under Manatu police station in Palamu.

March 30: Naxals blew up two buildings housing primary schools in Ghansitola village in the Latehar District. In another incident, a primary school building in the Banalat area of Gumla District was blown up.

April 2: Naxals blew up a school building at Moktama village of Chatra District. They also blew up an anganvadi (infant care centre) in the same village.

April 9: Armed Maoists blew up the building of the Belhra High School at Bishrampur in the Palamu .

April 19: Naxals blew up a school building in Kiukra village under Pirtand Police Station in Giridih.

May 24: In Chatra, Maoists blew up two blocks of a middle school building in the Kaura village under Pratapur police station.

October 13: Naxals blew up a school building in the Chatra.

October 27: Naxals blew up two schools in the Giridih.

November 5-6: Naxals blew up a school building in Chatra. They also blew up a middle school building in Asona village of Chatra.

November 10: Naxals blew up a school building at Banbirua in the Latehar

November 9-10: Naxals blew up a school building at Kona village in the Latehar.

November 23: Naxals blew up three schools in Palamu and one in Giridih.

November 23: Naxals blew up three schools in Palamu and one in Giridih. The Manjhladih Middle School at Dumri in Giridih was also blown up.

2010

March 21: Naxals blew up a primary school at Nitar under Manatu police station in Palamu.

April 19: Armed Naxals blew up a school building in Kiukra village under Pirtand police station in Giridih.

May 24: In Chatra, Naxals blew up two blocks of a middle school building in the Kaura village under Pratapur police station.

April 4: Naxals blew up a school run by an NGO, Alternative for India Development, at Chapee under Panki police station in Palamu.

July 1: Naxals damaged the middle school Charai village in Palamu.

August 8: Naxals blew up a school building in Kanda village in Palamu.

BIHAR

2007

April 10: Naxals blew up two adjacent schools that housed a CRPF picket at Banahara village under Haveli Khadagpur police station in the Munger district.

2010

March 29: Over 200 armed Naxals blew up two school buildings at Duddha village in Kaimur district.

April 10: Naxals blew up a school at Sarodag village in Kaimur.

Chattisgarh

2007

July 28: Naxals blew up three school buildings at Gordand and Karmari villages in the Bastar district between July 28-31.

October 20: About 250 armed Naxals damaged three school buildings in Murdanda village of Bijapur.

December 9: Naxals destroyed a school building at Sangam village in the Pakhanjur area of Kanker.

December 28: Around 200 armed Naxals destroyed a primary school building and a primary health centre at Morlle village in Bijapur.

2009

November 7: Naxals blew up a primary school building in Dantewada.

2010

February 21: Naxals blew up a state-run school building at Maheshwari village in Jamui district.

July 19: Nearly 100 Naxals damaged a school building at Puspal village in Dantewada.

Orissa

2009

December 22-23: In a series of attacks, Maoists blew up four school buildings in areas bordering Jharkhand.

2010

May 1: About 200 Naxals stormed the girls' school premises at Dhepaguda under Narayapatna area in Koraput sistrict and triggered at least three bomb blasts.

July 6: About 100 heavily-armed Naxals blew up a school building in MV-21 village under Kalimela Police station area in Malkangiri.

August 14: Naxals blew up the newly constructed hostel building of the residential Sevashram School at Manyamkonda in Malkangiri district to threaten students and teachers not to hoist the tricolour or observe Independence Day.
Vicky Nanjappa