SRINAGAR: Students of the Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) at Awantipora have said that government troops fired teargas shells, pellets and stun grenades at them, injuring many students including girls, when they held a protest outside their university on Wednesday against the killing of a youth in Shopian the previous day. The students said that police and paramilitary troops heckled and abused them while they were going home in the university buses. The university authorities had asked students to leave for home early after the student protests came under teargas shelling outside the campus.
“As soon as the buses started to leave from the university, police and Central Reserve Police Forces standing near the campus started teasing, abusing and provoking us,” a student of the university told Kashmir Reader.
The students said that the university was immediately closed after the standoff with the government forces. “While we were going in the buses, police and paramilitary forces abused us and hooted at the girl students,” said Omar, a student at IUST.
“The police continuously abused each passing university bus. They were simply provoking us to retaliate so that they could use more force on us,” said Omar.
A girl student said that when she was sitting in the bus, a policeman shouted at her, “Aur Maango Azaadi”, and the other policemen started laughing at this.
“The policemen were shouting all kinds of things. They were provoking us. When it became unbearable, some of the boys shouted back,” she said.
Students had held a protest outside the university campus where they blocked the highway and shouted slogans in favour of freedom and former Hizbul commander Zakir Musa.
The students said that police accompanied by army soldiers of Rashtriya Rifles (RR) came to the spot and started shelling teargas at the students. “Thirty students sustained injuries,” said a girl student who was hit by a teargas canister on her foot.
“We started the protest in the campus, but we wanted it to be more impactful, so we went out on the highway. We partially blocked the highway and we were just going to protest for 10-15 minutes. But soon the forces came and started shooting pellets, stun grenades and teargas canisters at us. Even though there were girls in the protest, they showed no restraint. I was hit by a teargas shell in my foot and somehow managed to enter a nearby house for safety,” said the girl student.
Police arrested two protesting students, after which the university administration intervened.
“After the arrest of two students, the university administration intervened and pacified the students,” a student said. “When the situation became normal, the forces began to use surveillance drones over the university, which provoked some students to protest again, but this time within the campus. The police at the gate of the university then shot teargas canisters inside the campus. Many students suffered breathing problems and had to break their Ramzan fast,” said a student.
While speaking to Kashmir Reader, a police officer at Awantipora police station said that the students had blocked the highway for more than 20 minutes. He said the police used force only when the students started hurling stones at them. He denied firing teargas shells inside the university premises.
“We showed the maximum restraint that we could. We even got a letter of appreciation from the Vice Chancellor for the restraint we showed. We requested the students to end the protest but they pelted us with stones. We had to use force in retaliation. About 8 policemen suffered injuries in the clashes and one sub-inspector is seriously injured and has to undergo a surgery. We didn’t use any teargas inside the premises,” the officer said.
Refuting the claims of teasing and abusing of students, he said, “It is not possible that there was police standing all along the way. We all were standing at the gate along with the university administration and we made sure that the students went out safely. Unfortunately, there are some people who want anarchy and will lie about things which never happened.”
He further said that police in Kashmir do not have access to drones for use in surveillance.
Dr Mushtaq Sidique, Vice Chancellor of IUST Awantipora, said that police showed the maximum restraint in dealing with the protesting students. “Police showed the maximum restraint. There might be some injuries but they are minor. We had requested students but they didn’t listen. We had contacted the police to ask them to use mild force, to which they agreed. They did not fire teargas canisters directly at the students to avoid any injuries,” Sidique said.