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India bans Kashmir schools over alleged secessionist ideals

August 29, 2022
topics: Islamophobia
by: Mubashir Naik, Irshad Hussain
located in: India
tags: education, India, Ismalophobia, Kashmir

The recent ban on FAT-run schools in Kashmir is poised to have a devastating effect on poor and middle-income children in the region, irrespective of their religion.

Three years ago, Arshid Ahmed (an alias), a 16-year-old tenth-grade student in Srinagar, Kashmir, lost his father to blood cancer. He was about to drop out of school due to financial difficulties at home when an opportunity to attend a school affiliated with the Falahi Aam Trust (FAT) came up and ensured he could continue his studies.

But the local government in Indian-administered Kashmir has recently imposed a ban on all schools run by FAT - a trust set up by the now banned Islamic group Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI), forcing the schools to shutter. This took place amid growing aggression against Muslims in India.

JEI, on its part, declared it is a "non-political" body dedicated to "education and service to mankind." The group was outlawed in February 2019 for promoting hatred against the Indian state. As a result, hundreds of its core members, activists and supporters were detained, arrested, summoned and interrogated.

Accusations LEVELED against JEI

The State Investigation Agency (SIA) of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, which is investigating the case, claimed that the ban was predicated on alleged egregious fraud, open unlawful activities and widespread encroachment of public property by these institutions.

The ban was imposed after SIA found these institutions to be involved in the radicalisation of youths who would later become hardcore secessionists, an SIA official said in a statement.

A report published in a local daily newspaper further revealed that officials claimed JEI-affiliated schools, seminaries and orphanages had played a destructive role in the large-scale unrests of 2008, 2010 and 2016, arguing they had caused great harm to civilians and forced them to shut down businesses through threats, intimidation and street violence.

The authorities also claimed that JEI had acquired the lands it owns by coercion at gunpoint and alleged that members of the group colluded with revenue officials who forged entities in revenue documents, thereby committing fraud.

The government further stated that JEI has been indulging in activities prejudicial to internal security and public order and have the potential of disrupting the unity and integrity of the country.

The Indian government has also accused JEI of having close links with militant outfits and supporting extremism and militancy in regions including Jammu and Kashmir. It said JEI supports secessionist, terrorist and separatist groups engaging in activities intended to disrupt the territorial integrity of India.

The chairman of FAT, Showkat Ahmed Var, issued a statement and called the ban order "unjustified," highlighting that the Trust is not part of the banned JEI and only manages seven schools that are still associated with it. 

Trust officials claimed that after 1990, a majority of schools ended their affiliation with FAT, leaving only 18 institutions. Of them, 11 either ceased their operations or were de-affiliated with the Trust. JEI had been banned in 1967, but that decision was later overturned by court in 1990. 

Orphans impacted

Two PhD researchers who wished to remain anonymous conducted an investigation in 2014 into the academic pursuits of FAT. They told FairPlanet that there are more than 5,000 orphans among the 75,313 FAT students, which includes non-Muslims and 4,000 youngsters receiving free education. 

"Falah-e-Aam trust schools mean hope for all those downtrodden students who belong to the poor, orphan and destitute families and don't have any source of income to continue their education," Ajaz Bhat, a teacher at one of the FAT-run schools, told FairPlanet.

"Students may join other government schools, but where will thousands of teachers go? The government has snatched our livelihood," Bhat added.

Bashir Ahmed, 45, a FAT school alumnus and current government employee, told FairPlanet that these schools are the backbone of poor and middle-class students, as they provide quality education at a very low fee compared to other private schools.

According to Ahmed, FAT schools have produced excellent doctors, engineers, lawyers and other professionals from poor and middle-class families. "If these institutions would not have been there, the future of all those students would have been completely different," he said.

Rakib Akhtar, 16, a tenth grade student at a FAT-affiliated school in Srinagar, supported the view that these educational institutions are a lifeline for orphaned children. Shuttering the schools, he said, will end the ambitions and restrict the career choices of countless orphans who study there.

"We have 400 students, 120 of whom were orphans, in the Srinagar-based FAT-run school," he told FairPlanet. "They are being taught free of charge in these institutions." 

He further said that the management keeps the fees low while providing religious education, "Something [that] other public and private schools do not provide," Rakib adds. 

Ghulam Nabi Var, head of the Private Schools Association of Jammu and Kashmir (PSAJK), affirmed that many orphans receive free education at these institutions. "These kids' right to an education is being taken away by the government," he told FairPlanet

According to the government order, all students attending FAT-run institutions must enroll in nearby government schools for the upcoming academic year. Government schools have been ordered to make it easier for such students to enroll. 

education at risk

However, 16-year-old Akhtar points out that the majority of students in FAT schools have already completed 50 percent of the Board-required curriculum. "We also finished the midterm exams and are currently preparing for the annual examination," her said. "We can't go to another school because the midterm exam is already over. The Government's order has an impact on our academic activity."

He says that the progress of thousands of students and teachers has been severely harmed by the decision. "I feel this order will increase the dropout rate in Kashmir," he added. "And most of the poor students cannot continue their studies due to financial constraints at their homes." 

Asked how to avoid similar bans in the future, a JEI member said on condition of anonymity that the ban on the group is currently deliberated by the Supreme Court of India, and that they are hopeful it could be overturned. If the ban on Jamaat-e-Islami is revoked, he said, then the order to shut down FAT-affiliated schools will almost surely be rescinded. 

Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, also lashed at the government's ban on FAT-affiliated schools. 

"The move to ban FAT affiliated schools is another form of atrocity inflicted on people of J&K to sabotage their future," She tweeted. "After land ownership, resources & jobs the last target is education. I am sure Kashmiris will overcome this & not let their children suffer."

Image by Dana Smillie / World Bank.

Article written by:
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Mubashir Naik
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Irshad Hussain
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India
The local government in Indian-administered Kashmir has recently imposed a ban on all schools run by the Falahi Aam Trust (FAT) amid growing aggression against Muslims in the country.
© Nasir Kachroo/NurPhoto via Getty Images
The Indian government accuses JEI of having close links with militant outfits and supporting extremism and militancy in regions including Jammu and Kashmir.
© Yawar Nazir/Getty Images
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