Primary schools reopened in Indian-administered Kashmir on Monday after more than one-and-a-half years.
Schools and other educational institutions closed in Jammu and Kashmir in March last year following the coronavirus outbreak.
Kashmiri schools usually close in December for winter vacations and open on March 1. But last March, schools had barely opened after a seven-month-long military and communications lockdown the Indian government imposed on Aug. 4, 2019, a day before Kashmir was stripped of its autonomous political status.
Saad Ahmad Bhat, a third grader, is excited to attend classes after Aug. 3, 2019, when tens of thousands of Indian soldiers started taking over official buildings and streets in the run-up to the Aug. 5 decision.
Saad's school is about 12 kilometers (7.4 miles) from his residence in Qamarwari area of the capital Srinagar. The region’s COVID-19 guidelines do not allow school buses to pick and drop students for now. So Saad’s father Tariq Ahmad has hired an autorickshaw to carry his son to Ram Nath Goenka School.
“Saad has been on his toes. In fact, during the COVID-19 lockdown last year, he asked me to take him to his school. He said, ‘Baba I have forgotten what my classroom looks like.’ In this godforsaken place, seeing children go to school is one of the happiest sights,” Tariq told Anadolu Agency.
Classes for the sixth and eighth grades opened on March 8 but the classes for kindergarten and the grade five were deferred till March 15. Some schools will be holding classes for only half of the total students with social distance maintained in classes.
- Disputed region
Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965, and 1971 -- two of them over Kashmir.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or unification with neighboring Pakistan.
According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.