Srinagar: Within less than a week of Kashmiri trucker Zahid Rasool Bhat succumbing to burn injuries sustained in an Udhampur fire-bombing, parts of the Kashmir Valley have turned into a police and paramilitary fortress, adversely affecting normal life -- hitting hard the students the most.
With a virtual curfew crippling life in south Kashmir's Anantnag district, most students from different areas in the southern parts of the Valley missed bi-annual exams for undergraduate classes or their class 8 annual boards.
The preventive measures make it difficult for students to commute from places like Pahalgam (45 km away), Kokernag (25 km) and Verinag (30 km) to Anantnag where their examination centres are located.
The reason -- security barricades at every 100 metres and stringent checks at all points.
Though authorities deny there is a curfew, the restrictions have forced residents to opt for an enforced stay at home rather than face the travails of repeated security checks.
"There is no official curfew in Anantnag. Yes, we have imposed Section 144, which bars more than four people from gathering at one place. Though traffic is off the roads, we have asked government employees to reach office as per schedule," Anantnag Deputy Commissioner Muneer-ul-Islam told IANS over phone on Friday.
"Despite strict restrictions and the curfew, we are forced to sit for exams and the administration is sleeping over the issue," rued Faisal, a college student from Pahalgam, who reached an hour late at his exam centre at the Boys' Degree College in Anantnag on Thursday. He was not allowed to take the examination.
The agitated students claim that security personnel manning barriers do not allow them to move ahead even when they show their Kashmir University examination admit cards and insist on curfew passes -- though the authorities maintain that the admit cards would be entertained as curfew passes in case of examinees.
Due to insistence by security personnel, students reach exam centres late and are not allowed to sit for the test, the students complain.
"The local administration should have contacted university and other authorities for the postponement of exams, but they did not address the issue," said Kokernag resident Rayees, a college student who also could not take his exam on Thursday because he was inordinately held up at security barriers enroute.
The students appealed to the Kashmir University authorities to reschedule their exams in view of the prevailing situation.
"We request the Kashmir University authorities for re-examination of students who missed their exams and postponing of the remaining exams till the situation becomes normal," said college student Nasir Khan from Brakpoora area of Anantnag township.
The authorities, however, assured on Friday that they would ensure that those who could not appear in the exams due to security restrictions would be allowed to be re-examined at later dates.
"I had a word with the Kashmir University vice chancellor... he assured me that he will reschedule the dates and get conducted fresh exams for those who could not appear," Anantnag DC Muneer-ul-Islam said.
Meanwhile, Shah Faisal, director of school education, Kashmir, told IANS on Friday that those students who missed the board exams should contact the cluster heads concerned.
"Anyone who missed the exams due to law and order disturbance need not worry... we will take supplementary exam for them," Faisal said, adding: "All such students are requested to contact the cluster head concerned."
(Aadil Mir can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)