Jammu, July 4 (IANS) For the girls of Mahore in Jammu and Kashmir's Reasi district where militants used to have a free run, it is time to realise their dreams through education.
Till a few years ago, they stayed at home on diktats by militants against girls going to school.
"Now the girls are coming out unhesitatingly in large numbers, not only to attend school but also to take part in other activities," a state education department official, who did not want to be named, told IANS.
Mahore was a sort of liberated zone for militants where their laws prevailed.
As a result, education was a casualty since teachers feared going to schools and parents too were hesitant to send in their children.
"Like many other far-off areas in Jammu, in Mahore too there was a sharp drop in girls attending schools," the official said.
There was a time in the 1990s when hardly any girls went to government schools, he said.
Now with militancy fading from Mahore, the scenario is changing.
"The attendance of girls is going up in schools in the area; in some places, it is more than boys," the official said.
"Girls are attending most of the programmes which the army is conducting under Operation Sadbhavna. These include employment camps, vocational training courses and lectures," said an army spokesman.
He said the girls from areas around Mahore such as Arbais, Badder, Bagankote, Bagodass, Banna-A and Banna-B also participate in these programmes.
The army recently held a series of lectures for girl students of Class 10, 11 and 12 on job opportunities, higher education, self-help schemes and health and hygiene.
"There was tremendous enthusiasm amongst these girls who are now ready to shed the fears of terrorism and progress along with developing India. They are now keen to venture out and earn a niche for themselves in various fields," he said.
"I was not aware that women in India have made such progress in the last decade or so. Neither was I aware of the educational opportunities that I can venture into, after completing my class 12," Nafisa Akhtar, a Class 11 student from Mahore, told IANS on the phone, after attending the army programmes.
She said she aimed to be a teacher.
Fahmida Khan's father was killed by militants in 1998 in the village of Bagankote. She was four then, the youngest of five siblings. The family then moved to Mahore.
"I have come to know through these camps that I too can join police or army. I have made up my mind to join either and fight social evils and militancy," the Class 10 student of a government school said.
(Binoo Joshi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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