Probably the first time ever, Srinagar's school and college students are targeting the security forces. Mukhtar Ahmad and Umar Ganie dive into the newest phenomenon in the restive valley
A student pelts a stone at the security personnel during clashes at Lal Chowk in the heart of Srinagar. Students’ clash has spread across the Kashmir valley leaving hundreds injured so far
Come summer in Kashmir, it is often a protest against some event that triggers more protests, eventually sending things spiralling out of control.
The spring of 2017 saw violence following the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on July 8, 2016, and has been renewed this April, coinciding with the blooming of tulips.
The pent up anger of 2016 is seeking release in 2017 through street protests after the long and harsh winter hiatus. But unlike previous years, last week saw scores of young girl students from Srinagar colleges come to the fore.
These protests burst out of nowhere, but the clear trigger was the April 18 incident at the Pulwama Degree College, where rock-throwing students clashed with police and paramilitary forces. This clash was triggered by the fact that the security forces set up a barricade near the main entrance, besides a mobile bunker next to the college gate.
Students armed with stones, taking aim at the security personnel
"The forces resorted to heavy baton charge on students who were protesting within the college premises," said Ubaid, a student.
Boycotting their classes, students came out and charged at the police with stones. After that, the floodgates opened, with girl students too joining the boys in staging protests and hurling stones and bricks at the security forces.
The Maulana Azad Road, the main thoroughfare in Srinagar, had to be closed for traffic several times in the past 10 days as students of Sri Pratap College and Sri Pratap Higher Secondary were joined by students of the adjacent Government College for Women, protesting while shouting pro-azaadi slogans.
A young man carries an injured college student to the hospital
The police had to resort to repeated tear gas shelling and baton charges to clear the thoroughfare.
It was after several years that students of Women's College, MA Road, a prestigious college for women in Kashmir, were not only staging protests but also indulging in heavy stone pelting at the forces.
"We are not feeling safe within the confines of our college," said Kulsooma, a student. "There is insecurity all around. That is why we are on the streets protesting. This insecurity will end only once the issue is resolved peacefully," she added. "We were protesting peacefully against the beating of students in Pulwama. They fired tear gas shells inside the premises. Some students fainted; others were beaten, " said Ifra, a final year student.
A security personel fires a tear gas shell to disperse stone throwing students. Pics/Umar Ganie
Girls attired in college uniforms were seen facing baton and automatic weapon-wielding cops with stones.
"This was all surprising as I saw for the first time girl students facing tear gas shells in the city centre, Lal Chowk, and resort to stone pelting. This has added a new dimension to the situation in Kashmir," said Jan Sahib, a shopkeeper in Lal Chowk.
The state government immediately responded by ordering closure of the educational institutions across the valley to stymie the growing protests. Although colleges and schools partially opened later, the protests are still continuing.
The PDP-BJP coalition government has been trying to deal with the protests only as a law and order situation and resorting to measures which are not addressing the root cause of alienation and anger.
"We are handling the situation purely as a law and order matter. The immediate need is to address the political dimension of the problem," a senior police officer told mid-day requesting anonymity.