Thursday, September 9, 2010

Save schools during Bihar polls: rights body


Maoists and Indian authorities should protect schools and children’s access to education during theupcoming Bihar state elections, Human Rights Watch has said.

The use of schools by police and paramilitary forces as bases during the election campaign can disrupt students’ access to education and may increase the likelihood of Maoist attacks on schools, it said Tuesday.

A new 243-seat Bihar assembly is to be elected in six phases from Oct 21. A key reason for the staggered election is to deploy security forces around the state to prevent anticipated violence from the Maoists.

Human Rights Watch called upon the Maoists, also known as Naxalites, to end attacks on schools and for the authorities to consider alternatives before deploying security forces in educational facilities.

“We’ve seen time and again that the Maoists step up violence, and particularly their attacks on schools, during national and local election periods,” said Bede Sheppard, senior children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Whatever the impact of Maoist school attacks on the elections, the long-term damage to children whose schools are destroyed is far greater,” it said.

It said that during assembly elections in Jharkhand in 2009, Maoists bombed 21 government schools in the month before the first day of voting, Nov 25. In 2009, Maoists attacked 23 schools in Bihar.

During election campaigns, police and paramilitary forces frequently occupy school buildings as bases, generally for a few days, Human Rights Watch said.