Srinagar: The reason why student protests are continuing in Kashmir, according to Education Minister Altaf Bukhari, is that they are the outcome of the “assault of government forces” on educational institutions.
“When police and other security forces will barge into colleges, like in Pulwama, students will react,” Bukhari said while speaking to Kashmir Reader. “Students were reacting to the high-handedness of forces. They were also expressing solidarity with the college students of Pulwama. So, the protests of students are legitimate.”
He said the government forces should not have entered the college in Pulwama and other school premises.
It was the assault of government troops on Degree College Pulwama on April 15 that triggered the current spree of student protests, the scale of which is unprecedented in Kashmir. The troops went inside the Pulwama college, beat up students, and fired teargas canisters and pellets that caused injuries to more than 50 students in that assault.
Soon after the incident, the government removed the college principal and under public pressure, called for a probe into the incident. The probe indicted police officers and government troops of ‘trespass’ into the college, absolving the principal of any blame.
Bukhari rejected the idea that the students were protesting on the roads because they wanted a political solution to the Kashmir issue. “They are young minds who have no idea of politics. Neither they have put such a demand before me, nor have we come across such demands in the past one month,” Bukhari said. “The Pulwama college incident triggered the protests. Now, when school or college students protest or strike, those of another educational institution think they have to do so as well. They react to what others are doing. This creates a cycle of protests. When the students clash with troops, it produces a situation that leads to more protests. So, the protests are due to circumstances, rather than being offshoots of any political problem.”
Recently, Governor NN Vohra held meetings with government officials in a bid to calm down the situation. On Friday he called a high-level official meeting at Raj Bhavan where he stressed on the need “to counsel students and ensure that unhealthy influences do not adversely affect the teaching schedules in educational institutions.”
Bukhari said that the government has taken a “friendly approach” towards the student protests. “We have handled the situation well. We hope this or the next week will see an end to the protests,” Bukhari said.