Education suffers in cross-LoC shelling in Kashmir

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Hundreds of schools were ordered to close indefinitely in two halves of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir Wednesday after shelling by Indian and Pakistani troops killed 14 civilians in two days.

Authorities in the Indian Occupied Kashmir said nearly 300 schools had been ordered to close from Wednesday morning, following the death of eight people on Tuesday in mortar shelling along the highly militarised Line of Control (LoC).

Officials in Azad Kashmir said around 25 schools would be closed in the Nakyal Sector for the rest of the week due to shelling by Indian forces which had killed six civilians since Monday.

The closures represent another blow to a beleaguered education system already hit by widespread closures in Srinagar, the largest city in IOK, and arson attacks on schools.

“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 a foreign media agency.

He said the LoC remained relatively calm overnight with only a few cases of cross-LoC firing in some areas.

On Monday Pakistani authorities said an 18-month-old girl was among six civilians killed on its side of the border in firing by Indian forces in the Jammu region.

Islamabad summoned a senior Indian diplomat to protest over the killings.

The closure order in the Jammu region comes at a time when teaching at many governments 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 52-day-long curfew and a continuing shutdown called by Kashmiri groups, that has severely hit normal life.

The region has suffered its deadliest violence in the last six years — with at least 90 people killed in street protests triggered by the extrajudicial killing of a popular separatist leader, Burhan Wani, by Indian forces in July.