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Tangmarg: An all-Muslim school founded by missionaries, which was torched by local Muslims angry at TV images of the Quran being torn in the USA, has been promised aid from the local authorities in Indian Kashmir.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has given his assurances that his government will help rebuild the Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson School in Tangmarg, which was burnt to the ground in the attack on September 13.
The Rt Revd Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy, Bishop of the Amritsar Diocese of the Church of North India which runs the school, was among a group of Christians who met Mr Abdullah a few days after the burning.
He told Lapido: ‘We do not know what the assistance will be and when it will be provided, but the Chief Minister was kind to us.’
All the 550 students at the private school 45km from the Jammu and Kashmir state capital, Srinagar, are Muslim and come from 150 villages in the predominantly Sunni Muslim area. Mr Abdullah’s father, Farooq Abdullah, is president of the ruling Jammu and Kashmir National Conference party, and an alumnus of the main branch of the school in Srinagar. He is married to a British Christian.
The school’s Principal, Parvez Samuel Kaul, explained: ‘We need to re-build the school in Tangmarg soon, but we do not have the funds.
‘We were the first to start a school in Tangmarg in 1996. The government schools were established after we showed the way. The school has had the best results in Tangmarg every year.’
Mr Kaul stated that whilst Christians in Kashmir were used to dealing with challenges, the school burning was the worst he’d been forced to face.
‘There are only a few hundred Christians in the Kashmir Valley [the Muslim-majority region in India’s northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir], but they have had cordial relations with the Muslims,’ he said.
Mr Kaul recalled how the wooden structure of the school – comprising 24 rooms, staff quarters, laboratories and a large auditorium – was burnt to the ground in minutes.
While no one was hurt in the arson attack, at least five Muslim protesters were killed and over 50 injured as security personnel opened fire to control the mob. The mob also set fire to six government buildings.
The principal was distressed that the school was attacked even though the threat by an American pastor to burn the Quran to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks had been withdrawn. Unlike other international channels which decided not to broadcast any coverage of the few scattered incidents involving anti-Muslim activists, Iran’s Press TV channel repeatedly showed pictures of a different man destroying a Quran in Tennessee.
The government has now banned local cable operators from carrying Press TV. However, it is still available via internet services or direct broadcast satellites.
Lapido has learned that although local mosques played a role in mobilising local Muslims, the instigators were from secessionist and political groups.
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, a Srinagar-based journalist, said: ‘The Quran burning issue was exploited as an excuse to cause unrest.’