Massive student protests stun Kashmir

Massive student protests stun Kashmir
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Women’s College students shield male students of SP College from police, say ‘time has come for girls to pick up arms’

Muheet ul Islam/ Junaid Manzoor

Srinagar: School and college students, many of them girls, clashed with police and paramilitary on the streets of Srinagar, hurling stones and raising anti-India slogans, causing markets to shut and traffic to go off the roads, on the day schools and colleges were re-opened in Srinagar after having been closed for four days since the killing of local militants and civilians in Shopian.
The nerve centre of the city, Lal Chowk, shut down as students in school uniform, both boys and girls, fought pitched battles with government troops who responded with teargas shelling. Nearby, at Amar Singh College in Gogji Bagh, students shouting anti-India, pro-Pakistan, pro-Azadi slogan, pro-Islam and pro-militant slogans and displaying the Pakistan flag began marching out of the college en masse. They hurled stones at the paramilitary picket outside the Sher-i-Kashmir Indoor Stadium and tore down the board on the stadium gate because “Sher-e-Kashmir” was written on it. A group of more than a dozen students brought the board down and then destroyed CCTV cameras installed outside the stadium. They also ripped out tree guards erected on the road divider of the Wazir Bagh road to use them as road barricades to block movement of police vehicles. Initially, police did not use teargas until a few policemen sustained injuries by stones. The students also set ablaze the CRPF picket outside the stadium, after which teargas was liberally used to control the protests. The rising flames were doused by a fire tender that was rushed to the scene.
Clashes between students and government forces erupted also at Bemina Government Degree College as soon as the college gates were opened in the morning. Eyewitnesses said that students first assembled inside the campus to raise anti-India and pro-freedom slogans, then offered funeral prayers in absentia for the militants and civilians slain in Shopian on Sunday. The college administration objected to the prayers but the students did not care.
“We offered Nimaz-e-Jinaza (funeral prayers) for our brothers who sacrificed their lives for us and for our freedom,” a student of the college said.
Later, students came out to protest on the main road and soon, clashes with the police deployed outside began. The intense clashes continued through the day. “Police locked the main gate of the college but students attacked them with stones from inside the campus,” an eyewitness said, adding that a few teargas shells were thrown inside the campus.
Clashes were also reported from Islamia College of Science in Srinagar’s Hawal area. A female student studying in the 5th semester told Kashmir Reader that class work was suspended after a group of masked youths entered the college premises. “They came and told everyone to vacate the campus,” she said. “The masked youth received support from the students of our college and threw stones at policemen.”
Protests rocked Kashmir University after students of various departments got together to raise anti-India, pro-Pakistan and pro-freedom slogans. The students condemned the Shopian killings and demanded punishment to the army soldiers.
“We want university authorities to form a group of competent officials to act as a pressure group on the government,” a group of students at KU said. “Day in and out we are being killed, maimed and beaten. We want the university to play its role in society.”
Student protests were also held in Central University of Kashmir’s Nowgam campus. Funeral prayers in absentia were also offered for the slain militants and civilians.
Students of Women’s College and Sri Pratap Singh (SP) College staged a combined protest on MA Road Srinagar. The protests later spread to Regal Chowk and female students were seen hurling stones at policemen, who exercised restraint and did not retaliate.
Later, students of Government Women College appeared again on the same spot and took out a protest rally right from their college gate to Amira Kadal. The group of students addressed the media and said they felt the time had come for females to pick up arms against “Indian occupation.”
“For how long shall we remain silent? I believe time has come for us to pick up arms to support our brothers in fighting against the tyrannical Indian rule,” a student said before she headed towards Amira Kadal.
The female students were followed by their male counterparts from SP College. The male students hurled stones on forces’ vehicles deployed on the Amira Kadal bridge. The police shot a few teargas shells into the crowd, creating panic among pedestrians. Police also tried to detain a few male students but female students intervened and shielded the boys. The boys then went through Goni-Khan and Maharaja Bazar Lane to support their fellows who were hurling stones on troops near Lal Ded Hospital.
Students of schools and colleges in north Kashmir also staged protests. Reports said that students of GDC Handwara, GDC Kupwara and GDC Pattan held protests inside their institutions. The students of GDC Handwara tried to come out from their campus but police and CRPF blocked the main gate, after which minor clashes took place.
In neighbouring Palhalan, some youths tried to block the Srinagar-Baramulla highway but were chased away by police. In Baramulla, female students of Women’s Degree College and students of Government Higher Secondary School for Girls also held protests.
Students of Govt Degree College Sumbal held a protest inside college premises and tried to march out to the road, but forces deployed outside did not let them do so. The students offered funeral prayers in absentia for the slain militants and civilians inside the college premises.