Hundreds of schools were ordered to close indefinitely in India-held Kashmir (IHK) on Wednesday after shelling allegedly by Indian and Pakistani troops in the region killed at least 14 civilians in two days.
IHK authorities said nearly 300 schools had been ordered to close from Wednesday morning, following the death of eight civilians on Tuesday in mortar shelling along the highly militarised border.
Officials on the Pakistani side said around 25 schools would be closed in the Nakyal sector for the rest of the week after India resorted to “unprovoked firing”.
The closures represent another blow to a beleaguered education system already hit by widespread closures in Srinagar, the main city of held Kashmir, and arson attacks on schools.
Eight civilians including two children were killed on Tuesday when mortar bombs hit two locations in the Samba and Rajouri sectors, in the Jammu region of held Kashmir.
“Nearly 300 schools, both private and government-run, have been asked to close down in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts,” Pawan Kotwal, a top official in Jammu, told AFP.
He said the border remained relatively calm overnight with only a few cases of cross- border firing in some areas.
Pakistani authorities said a total of 19 civilians — 11 along the LoC and eight along the Working Boundary — have so far been killed in about 178 ceasefire violations, including 45 on the Working Boundary. Another 80 people have been severely injured in the attacks, they added.
Pakistan lodged a protest with the Indian Deputy High Commissioner J.P. Singh against “unprovoked” Indian firing across the Working Boundary and the Line of Control (LoC).
The closure order in the Jammu region comes at a time when teaching at many government and private schools in Srinagar and elsewhere in the Kashmir Valley remains severely disrupted.
Although schools are officially open, many pupils and teachers have been unable to attend class for months because of a continuing shutdown called by militant groups, which has hit public transport and businesses.
After Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani was shot dead by Indian forces in Kashmir in July, the region has suffered its deadliest violence for the last six years ─ with at least 90 people killed in street protests.
Nearly 30 schools have been torched in the Kashmir Valley since July but there have yet to be any arrests for the arson attacks.
Indian and Pakistani troops have regularly exchanged fire across the LoC and the Working Boundary since the Uri army base attack on Sept 18 left 19 Indian soldiers dead.
Eight Indian troops have also died in the border skirmishes.
Each country accuses the other of violating a 2003 ceasefire and engaging in “unprovoked firing”.
Relations between the two countries have plummeted in recent months since the Uri attack.
India has blamed Pakistan-based militants for the attack and its Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently characterised Pakistan as the “mothership of terrorism“.