Editorial: Right to education in Jammu & Kashmir shouldn’t be politicized

IN LIGHT OF  THE EMPHATIC WIN BY THE BJP-LED National Democratic Alliance (NDA),  one issue that is going to vex public discourse either way is Article 370 of the Indian constitution,  which determines relationship of Jammu & Kashmir with the Indian union. On one side there are those who have been fed on the thought that two constitutions shouldn’t exist in a country and a case is often made that its presence has become raison d’être for secessionist sentiments in the valley. There is a countering view saying that special status the state enjoys is a model centre-state arrangement and needs to be strengthened and understood in perspective of devaluation of power, autonomy, preservation of cultural heritage, etc.  At the same time, you will be wondering as to why an education news magazine like ours is reflecting on such a volatile political issue.  There is a big reason.

Right to Education or RTE is not applicable in Jammu & Kashmir despite being a fundamental right under constitution of India (Article 21-A). While we are hearing that the process of enacting & implementing RTE in the state is fairly at an advanced stage and may be enacted any time soon, yet it is necessary to provide answers as to why it didn’t happen simultaneously with rest of the country on April 1, 2010. Article 370 may be partly responsible because it mandates a process under which the President of India has to pass an enabling order and state legislature has to take the call.

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A school assembly in Kashmir

The story doesn’t stop there. Education is free at all levels  from school to university in the state. There have been some people who have made historic contributions to the access, expansion and quality of education there. Late Adbul Ghani Lone, a politician turned separatist, who was allegedly killed by militants in 2002, in his tenure of education minister in the state introduced English in schools, something which all people in the state should be proud of because compared to many other states, the youth of the state  educate with an English language advantage.

The right-based

approach 

is as old as independence in the state, it would have been better for the Govt of India or think tanks to study its achievements or failures, taken a leaf from it and made an evidence-based RTE legislation. The state needs to be acknowledged for its visionary interventions and constitutional provisions vis-à-vis children.

In March 2010, the state notification under its 2002 School Education Act incorporated several of the provisions provided in the central RTE, and therefore, hawks both within the state and outside must not use non-implementation of RTE as a

 pretext in slamming the state. The  School Education Act, 2002 with a few amendments will be as good as RTE A

ct.