“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Does azadi include the freedom to deny the young their right to education?

Education First, Freedom Can Wait

Manzoor Anjum

By denying our children access to education, what kind of freedom we are looking at? If the society is uneducated, illiterate and ignorant, who cares whether it is free or enslaved.

Mushtaq Ahmad is a retired professor. Though money had never been his goal, he has made fortunes out of teaching job and even after retirement, he is obsessed with teaching. Once I asked him that why he is not enjoying his retired life and why he still looks for excuses to teach. In response to my suggestion, he had a hearty laugh as if I was a clown and cracked some joke. “By making such a stupid suggestion, you have proved yourself to be from some very low clan of ignorant. Work is worship and when your work is to teach, it becomes more than worship.

“I agree with the principle that one should retire once he attains the age of 60 because after that the aging impacts his/her ability to make decisions. But the people, who have to make decisions, never retire unless Almighty orders their retirement. You have parliamentarians who have crossed 80 and 90 making decisions for people. You have Khushwant Singh – 95 – still commenting on sensitive issues. They are the people who should retire at 60 because age impacts their decision making ability and understanding. And their wrong and aging decisions and analysis impacts the life of ordinary people. I just teach, I am not a policy or decision maker. So why should I retire?” lectured the retired professor.

I had made a very simple comment and was lectured – nay, bashed and bombarded and amidst this bombardment I forgot to tell him that the mental agony he was suffering of from past few months was over as his son had got admission in a very prestigious boarding school of India outside J&K.

Abdul Rashid is a coppersmith. He too is worried about the education of his child. But he is very poor. He can’t afford the luxury of sending his child to study somewhere outside Kashmir – not even to neighbouring Jammu. Given the situation that prevails in Kashmir, Rashid has one-point-agenda and that is to ensure that his child remains indoors. But the child manages to give him a slip and inscribes Go India Go slogans on roads and walls.

Mohammad Umar is a trader. His son is in Delhi Public School. The school management has managed to take the students of 12th class to Delhi. Parents had to foot in extra bucks but they did so without complaining because the only thing they cared about was education of their kids.

All these people are supporters of Kashmir movement but none of them subscribes to Massrat Alam’s idea that education is not important. It is their belief that education is the corner-stone of emancipation that they are eager to send their kids outside Kashmir Valley to study. But one of three – Abdul Rashid – can’t afford this and that is why his child is following not him but the dictates of Massarat Alam.

Abdul Rashid is not an educated person but has the realization what education means and the other two persons too know the power of knowledge. For Rashid, no freedom (Azadi) is much attractive and inspiring than the education of his child and rightly so. History stands witness that there is no slavery worst than the ignorance and illiteracy.

In 1947, Pakistan emerged as an independent and free state. But where has this freedom led that country? It was named as Islamic Republic of Pakistan. And today in that country Muslims are shamelessly killing Muslims. And today Pakistani analysts confess that as the nation was not educated, it failed to harvest the gains of freedom. And what did Bangladesh achieve after getting freedom? A starving country, plagued by poverty and illiteracy!

The proud Afghans defeated then USSR and achieved freedom. But how did this freedom help the population there? They are now inching toward a victory over mighty US, but will that freedom either change the lives of poor Afghans for anything better? US troops may leave Afghanistan but will their departure end the tribal confrontations? Would the infighting stop?

This country will get the real freedom only when it comes out of the abyss of ignorance. If the people are uneducated, illiterate and ignorant, it hardly matter whether they are free or enslaved. Genghis Khan and Alexandra the great conquered the world with sword but their victories could not bring the changes which were brought by Islamic victories because Muslims then were armed with not just sword by knowledge and philosophy.

What is freedom? Do Muslims and Hindus get freedom if they are separated from each other? If Sindhis are allowed to be separate from Punjabis does this give any freedom to the two? Does break-up of a family mean that the individuals get freedom?

Freedom is a concept which needs a better understanding and that understanding comes only through education. Confining such a great ideal (freedom) to petty hatred or whimsical love can be disastrous for the whole nation. I know, there would be people who will oppose my concept of freedom but I am convinced that for freedom you need an educated and enlightened society and an uneducated, illiterate and ignorant society will never get benefited even if it achieves its freedom.

From past three months everything is closed. We have had loses of almost 27000 crores. However, economic loses are immaterial but the loss we have been suffering on the front of education can never be done away with. By depriving our kids of education, we are committing a sin for which our future generations would never forgive us. The intellectuals of the society (those who don’t write columns in newspapers) are worried and wondering that why the leadership is playing blind to this grave issue. Why they are not opposing the closure of schools?

Agreed, that there are some college and university students who wrongly think that closure of educational institutions for some more moths would ensure Azadi for Kashmiris but it is the duty of leaders not to get carried away by these few who lack both wisdom as well experience.

Those who claim to be the leaders of the movement need to think about the collective good of the society and it goes without saying that denying students access to education is in no way good for the people.

It is a long drawn battle and we can’t keep business establishments and schools closed endlessly. Wisdom demands a realistic approach – an approach that helps the movement to inch toward logical conclusion and at the same time minimizes the sufferings of masses. The children of rich have all avenues available to study and moneyed people are very comfortable despite the three month long strike. But what about the poor, what about the education of their children. No leader, no matter how big or small he/she is has a right to make poor suffer.