As schools in Kashmir Valley reopened on Monday after over three months, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah asked hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and other separatists not to target children because they are going to schools.
Though the educational institutions reopened, attendance was thin against the backdrop of Geelani's call to parents not to send their wards to schools and colleges and his appeal to teachers to stay at home. "We hope Syed Ali Geelani and other separatists will cooperate and will not target children because they are coming to schools," Omar told reporters in Jammu.
"It is unfortunate certain separatist leaders have decided that children's education is not important.. Education should be kept out of the purview of any conflict," he said. The government had yesterday announced a comprehensive plan for resumption of classes in schools and colleges and holding of annual examinations in the Valley.
However, Geelani had asked people to strictly observe "civil curfew" when schools and colleges resume their normal functioning in the Valley and also appealed to teachers and the non-teaching staff to stay at home. Omar hit out at local media for creating a "hype" over the development.
"I was very disappointed this morning to seek OB vans parked outside schools (in Kashmir). You were filming children being brought to schools. You were unnecessarily making targets out of children, where it should not have been done. "Please don't give much hype... the moment media starts projecting this as somebody's victory or somebody's loss, you are endangering the lives of the children more than anybody else," he said, while inaugurating a hospital project here. "Please cooperate with the government. Education is now a fundamental right of children. We want to restore that right. We are doing everything possible to ensure safety of children coming to schools."
On the response of the Centre's eight-point package, he termed it as "mixed" and said a beginning has been made. The package was not announced to make any particular person happy, he said, adding the aim is to resume political dialogue, reach out to people who have lost their kin and show them that government stands by them in difficult times besides compensating the losses to an extent.
"As I said right in the beginning, that it is nobody's victory or defeat. It is victory of those children who have been able to come back to schools and resume their education," he said.