Some senior separatist leaders have lately asked Kashmiris not to send their children, particularly daughters, on the Indian Army-sponsored package of educational tours to different States. But this has had little impact as the series of all-India tours from rural areas like Handwara in Kupwara district — once known as the gateway of militancy — has progressed without pause.

With scores of Kashmiri students, boys and girls, back from “India” — as they routinely refer to the States they visit — young aspirants are bracing up for the expedition. Many of them, like Bashir Ahmad Lone, have seen “India” only on television. On Wednesday, a high-spirited group of 20 girls was seen off for an extensive tour of the metropolitan cities of Delhi and Mumbai. The group will also be visiting Pune, the Indian academic capital, to which many Kashmiri students go for studies every year. A visit to the Army Public School, Pune, arguably the best in a network of 130 Army Public Schools and 239 pre-primary Army Public Schools in India, is also on the cards.

“We are sending 20 girls on an all-India tour. They will be going to Mumbai, Pune and Delhi and visiting all educational institutions,” said Manzoor Ahmad, Principal of the Girls Higher Secondary School . An officer of Rashtriya Rifles (RR) 21st battalion, which has been fighting the secessionist insurgency here continuously since early 1990s, and has organised the current package for Class 11 students, clarified that almost all students on board were chosen from different government and private schools.