Any time of the day, thousands of boys and girls—all students, as the bags on their backs indicate—are seen in Srinagar’s uptown Baghat Parraypora area, known across the Valley as a hub of coaching centres. By the latest count, around 12,000 students are enrolled in these centres, where they are coached for various competitive exams. Most are from various districts of the Valley and prefer to stay in Jammu & Kashmir’s summer capital as the city is considered comparatively safer and witnesses less frequent shutdowns than the hinterland. In the southern districts, especially Shopian and Pulwama, there have been numerous shutdowns called by separatists against killings of civilians and militants. As a result, schools and colleges were able to hold classes for less than 15 days since they reopened in March after a two-month winter break.
According to Latief Masoodi of the Coaching Centres Union of the Valley, around 7,000 more are enrolled in coaching centres elsewhere in the city, while 6,000 to 8,000 students from the Valley join centres in Jammu and Delhi—for Srinagar, though relatively calmer, is no stranger to killings and shutdowns. Perhaps to reiterate the omnipresence of violence in Kashmir, be it city or countryside, just a few metres from a popular coaching centre, there is concertina wire on the footpath and a posse of armed personnel on the road, signalling the presence of a camp of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force in the vicinity.