Pellets fired on protesting students in south Kashmir
Srinagar/PULWAMA/Anantnag: Three students were brought to Srinagar hospitals from Pulwama District Hospital with serious pellet injuries and about 50 girl students were rushed to Tral sub-district hospital after fainting from teargas, while in Anantnag two girl students suffered pellet injuries, four were hospitalised for suffocation, and one among a dozen injured male students was shifted to Bone and Joint Hospital in Srinagar on Wednesday. Elsewhere, across the Valley, student protests over the Kathua rape and murder continued to turn into street clashes with police and paramilitary forces.
In Tral, eyewitnesses said that soldiers of the army’s 42RR “went berserk” outside the Government Degree College (GDC) Tral where students were holding a peaceful protest. The soldiers vandalised private vehicles, motorcycles and window panes of houses and shops in the area, witnesses said. “Soon after that, students clashed with police and CRPF personnel who fired pellets and tear smoke shells at them,” an eyewitness said, adding that at least 50 girl students fainted from the teargas and some male students sustained pellet injuries.
Medical Superintendent Pulwama Abdul Rashid Parra told Kashmir Reader that five injured persons were received at the District Hospital. He said three of them were injured by pellets and were referred to Srinagar hospitals for advanced treatment.
Block Medical Officer (BMO) Tral, Dr Bashir Ahmad, told Kashmir Reader that 50 students, 48 of them girls, were brought to the sub-district hospital on Wednesday. He said that most of the girls had fainted due to suffocation from teargas.
Three students were also arrested by government forces at GDC Tral, locals said.
ADC Tral, Riyaz Ahmad Malik, and Tehsildar Tral, Mohammad Maqbool, visited the GDC and assured that the matter would be discussed with police and the arrested students will be released. After the intervention of ADC Tral Riyaz Ahmad, the arrested students of GDC Tral were released, local sources said.
Meanwhile, shopkeepers pulled down their shutters in the town after news of the injuries to students.
In Awantipora, clashes erupted between students of Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) and government forces when the students were protesting against the Kathua rape and murder. “Students pelted stones while the forces used dozens of tear smoke shells to keep them from venturing out to the road outside the college,” a source at the university told Kashmir Reader.
The university administration suspended class work for the day, which helped in containing the clashes. However, the clashes continued for the better part of the day.
Several students were injured in clashes in Anantnag district as well. The students that Kashmir Reader talked to maintained that their protests were peaceful and not a single stone was thrown from their side until police “provoked” them by throwing stones and firing tear smoke shells.
“When some girls were injured, the boys resorted to stone-pelting,” a girl student admitted at Anantnag district hospital told Kashmir Reader.
During the clashes, fifteen students had to be hospitalised, five of them girls. “One of the injured was shifted to Bone and Joint Hospital in Srinagar. Five girls were brought in injured and two of them had pellet injuries. The girls had fallen unconscious due to suffocation from teargas,” a doctor at Anantnag District Hospital told Kashmir Reader.
Clashes spread to other parts of Anantnag town and continued throughout the day. Peaceful protests by students were reported from Bijbehara and Dooru areas of Anantnag district.
Students also held protest rallies in Kulgam and Shopian towns. The protests remained largely peaceful.
In north Kashmir’s Bandipora, student protests led to day-long clashes after the district administration announced that all educational institutions would open on Wednesday. Students of Government Degree College (GDC) Bandipora, both male and female, took out a march from Patushahi to Bandipora Chowk but police intercepted them near Watapora, after which clashes ensued. Police used tear smoke shells to disperse the students, but some of the girls who remained adamant were successful in reaching Gulshan Chowk, some five kilometres from their college. At Gulshan Chowk, police dispersed them after firing some teargas shells and a mild lathi-charge by women cops. Reports said that some girl students sustained injuries and some suffered suffocation due to teargas.
In the clashes near Watapora, a sub-inspector sustained injuries after a stone struck his hand. The officer received several stitches at the hospital where he was taken to.
Students of GDC Sumbal took out a protest march and blocked the road near Irrigation Colony. Witnesses said that army vehicles were stuck on the road due to the blockade and soldiers resorted to aerial firing to disperse the students, which triggered chaos in the market and resulted in a partial shutdown for an hour. Police later swung into action and the student protesters dispersed.
Students of Higher Secondary School Arin took out a long protest march towards the district headquarters, where they dispersed peacefully.
Students of the Industrial Training Institute (ITI) in Bandipora also took out a protest march, carrying placards, from Gulshan Chowk towards the ITI in the morning.
In Baramulla town, the situation became tense in the morning when a group of school students held a protest near the Azadgung bridge, chanting slogans demanding justice for the Kathua girl. Local sources said that two army men were making a video of the protesting students and they were chased away by students, after which teams of police reached the spot and dispersed the protesting students, which led to clashes for some time during which police fired some tear smoke shells. There was no report of any injury in these clashes.
Soon after the incident, police deployment was increased outside the Government Women’s College and Government Girls Higher Secondary School and also around other institutions. Women’s police was also deployed in front of these two educational institutions. Police also reportedly used a drone to keep watch over the college and school. Locals said that the drone was seen flying for hours over both the institutions.
Sources said that students of Government Higher Secondary School Fatehgrah in Narvaw Baramulla took out a peaceful march from the school to main market Sheeri, where they held a protest and later dispersed peacefully.
A similar rally by students of Government Higher Secondary School Dangiwocha Rafiabad led to clashes with police, after students hurled stones and then police used tear smoke shells to disperse them. The clashes continued for some time, local sources said.
Reports said that students of different schools including of Government Degree College Uri and Government Higher Secondary School Uri staged protests against the Kathua rape and murder. Protesting students marched to different markets in the town and later dispersed peacefully.
Reports said that several students of Government Boys’ Degree College Baramulla located at Khawajabagh were detained by police after college hours. Police did not confirm having made any arrests.
In Ganderbal, clashes erupted after police foiled the protest march of students of Government Degree College. Witnesses said that police resorted to teargas shelling. The students had come out of the college gate and sat down on the Ganderbal-Shalbugh road outside the college. They then tried to march towards Tawheed Chowk but police didn’t allow them to move forward, triggering clashes.
After the students attended classes late in the afternoon, many girl students again started marching towards the busy Beehama Chowk. When they reached Gousia Chowk, students of Government Boys Higher Secondary School also joined them and marched up to Beehama Chowk. Government forces deployed in the area had to fire teargas shells to disperse the students, which triggered clashes in the area. The students hurled stones but there was no report of any injuries in these clashes.
Sources said that police detained some students during the clashes. Police, however, said the situation was completely under control.
In Srinagar, students protested together with lawyers and government employees at Press Enclave and Lal Chowk. Students from Vitasta Law College, Kashmir Law College Nowshara, Childline Srinagar, and College of Education (MA Road) took part in the protest.
Clashes reportedly broke out between students of Bemina Degree College and government forces in Bemina area.
Police issued a statement regarding the student protests in south Kashmir.
‘Today morning a peaceful protest was taken out at Anantnag which was allowed by police and district administration. Subsequently some miscreants indulged in stone pelting and turned violent and tried to enforce forceful shutdown in Anantnag town.
‘In the said incident 2 police personnel and 2 miscreants received injuries when they were hit by stones. All of them are stated to be stable.
‘In another incident at Pulwama, while municipal committee Pulwama was busy in anti-encroachment drive, the demolition drive was pelted upon to disrupt the process. Police party reached the spot and subsequently dispersed the miscreants. No injuries were reported in this incident.
‘In Awantipora miscreants tried to block main road but due to timely intervention of local police, the situation was handled and no street vandalism could take place.
‘It is clarified that situation has been brought under control in all these locations. We request citizens not to fall prey to any speculations and rumors which are intended to disturb peace. And we seek their cooperation for maintaining order.’
—With inputs from Bilal Habib, Arif Rashid, Mohammad Suhail and Mushtaq Ahmad