Published: 05th March 2019
Why Kashmiris from Harvard, Penn State are fighting to keep the Falah-e-Aam schools from being banned
The government has announced that schools and orphanages will not come under the ban but reports suggest schools in certain areas are still getting shut down
Around 250 Kashmiris studying in illustrious universities like Harvard, Penn State and Imperial College have sent an open letter addressed to the Jammu Kashmir government asking them not to ban schools run by the Falah-e-Aam Trust and the Jamaat-e-Islami, in the aftermath of the Pulwama attacks and the heightened tension across the border. Incidentally, all these Kashmiris had once studied in those schools and now form part of a global alumni network that had risen to this challenge.
As almost 3000 other people signed the same petition, the Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to exclude educational institutions from the ban they've imposed, according to reports from the PSAJK. The government finally gave into the pressure and decided that schools, mosques, orphanages and other social welfare initiatives would not come under the ambit of the ban. The J&K government had decided to ban the Jamaat-e-Islami organisation and its affiliated Falah-e-Aam Trust that runs schools, for allegedly supporting militancy. The Trust runs over 350 schools across the state of Jammu and Kashmir with an enrollment of over one lakh students and 10,000 staff members. The ban could have affected thousands of students especially since the FAT schools mostly cater to children from underprivileged backgrounds.
When he heard of the news of the schools shutting down, Bilal Majid, an alumni who is currently a researcher at AMU decided to get the alumni to file a petition together. Signatories included people from Harvard University, Harvard Medical School, Imperial College London, University of Pennsylvania, University of Westminster, other Universities in Netherlands, Germany, Indian universities like JNU, AMU, UoH, Jamia, UoK , IITs and several others.
In their letter, the alumni had stated that the Falah-e-Aam Trust or FAT schools is a registered trust and that it has been providing education for the needy. They also stressed on the fact that the Trust is non-political in nature and that the schools are detached from the Jamaat-e-Islami organisation so as to remain apolitical and charitable.
"Any ban on FAT schools by the Government today would not only be illegal but would have immense ramifications on the thoughts and minds of millions in the state. If the government is failing to deal with Kashmir politically, it must not ban schools in anger and desperation," the alumni wrote.
However, the petitioners are not completely convinced of the government's statement about lifting the ban. "We are hearing reports that schools in some areas are still being shut down. The news channels are saying different things but we are not completely sure that the ban has been lifted. Till we are completely certain about it we have to keep campaigning," Bilal said.
Bilal who studied at the school for 10 years said that children from very economically and socially deprived backgrounds have found a place in the school when others had turned them away. "The government schools are not too great and the private schools are too expensive and only cater to the rich. I see this move as a classist and casteist one because the ban will only mean that underprivileged children will be deprived of a good education," he said. Bilal added that while they might not have the funds, yet the school provides the students education that is on par with the private schools.
Many have alleged that the children in these schools are being taught radical ideologies, which Bilal dismisses as false. "These allegations are completely untrue. The students are taught what is in the syllabus and nothing else. That is why people from across the world have come out in support of the petition," he said. "These are the only schools that many of the families in Kashmir can afford. We just could not let this happen," Shafat Maqbool, another AMU researcher said. Shafat also pointed out that there are a lot of legal aspects to the ban and the government cannot take such authoritarian action.
The alumni, in the letter, also pointed out that the shut down could lead to political and social disturbances, "Any ban on FAT schools by the Government today would not only be illegal but would have immense ramifications on the thoughts and minds of millions in the state. If the government is failing to deal with Kashmir politically, it must not ban schools in anger and desperation," the letter pointed out.