Srinagar: Shops in Sopore town caught fire when college students and local youths hurled petrol bombs at police, after clashes began between college students and policemen at the gate of Sopore Government Degree College (GDC) on Tuesday morning. The police threw dozens of teargas shells into the college premises to prevent the students from coming out, but the clashes intensified when local youths arrived and began pelting the policemen with stones and rocks. The students were protesting over the Kathua rape and murder. Mass protests by students were held in several other parts of the Valley as well.
In Sopore, the college students boycotted classes and tried to take out a rally on the road outside the college. Police reached the spot and asked students to hold their protests inside the college premises. It angered the students and they started hurling stones and rocks on the policemen. That was the beginning of intense day-long clashes between the two sides.
Witnesses said that police lobbed teargas shells inside the college premises while the students were continuously pelting them not only with stones but chairs, wood, stoves, and many other objects from within the college. The policemen were trying to hold their position on the road outside, blocking the gate in a bid to prevent students from coming out.
According to witnesses, male students were seen climbing the wall and the main gate of the college. They were constantly shouting pro-freedom, pro-militant and anti-India slogans while hurling stones at the police.
After clashes turned intense, local youths joined the students in hurling stones and rocks on the policemen. The police had to fire countless teargas shells to disperse these stone-throwing youths.
The clashes led to shopkeepers closing down their shops and traffic going off the roads in Sopore town. Protesting youth including students threw petrol bombs on the roads, which resulted in nearby shops catching fire. The fire was immediately doused by fire tenders that had already been deployed in the area.
According to reports, three students, including a girl, sustained minor injuries during the day-long clashes in the town. They were given first-aid and are said to be stable.
The third-semester exams scheduled today at the college were cancelled.
It was after one year that Sopore town witnessed such intense protests; the last such clashes occurred during the student uprising last summer.
Elsewhere in the Valley, students, teachers, traders and government employees took out rallies demanding that the men accused of the rape and murder of the 8-year-old girl in Kathua be hanged.
In Srinagar, students of SP College and Kothibagh Girls Higher Secondary School took out a protest march in Lal Chowk area. The protesting students held placards and banners in their hands that read: “Am I going to be safe?” , “Punish the Culprits”, “There is no excuse to ignore rape”, “Respect the sex which gave you birth”, “Where is the promised land for the woman?” and “ No mercy, hang the rapists”.
The traders associations of Maisuma market, Kuker Bazaar Lal Chowk, Gowjara, and the Kashmir University Teachers Association, Anganwadi workers association also took out protest marches in Srinagar. The protesters raised slogans against the Jammu Bar Assocation for trying to shield the culprits.
In Bandipora, many students of government higher secondary school Nadihal took out a protest march after boycotting classes. They marched towards Bandipora Chowk raising slogans of justice and Azadi.