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Srinagar, where campuses simmer with anger and anxiety

Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, 17/04/2017: Students of Government college for women try to venture out of college to register their protest in Srinagar on April 17, 2017 after the students of SP College staged a protest on the MA Road to express their anger against the last week’s Pulwama Degree college incident where more than sixty students suffered injuries in forces’ action.  

College and high school campuses in and around Srinagar, simmering for long, erupted in unprecedented and violence this week, leaving over 100 students injured, at least 10 seriously.

The epicentre of the students’ unrest was Pulwama district in south Kashmir, which has been restive in the past one year. The violence graph in the district is looking like the 1990s, when militancy was at its peak in Jammu & Kashmir. Encounters, killings of local militants and growing protests have become a daily norm in Pulwama, just 30 km away from Srinagar.

In this backdrop, the Army’s attempt to engage Pulwama’s top government institution, Government Degree College, to hold a seminar came at the wrong time. Pulwama was already on edge over the Srinagar Lok Sabha byelection on April 9, when violence broke out.

What irked students?

When students of Government Degree College saw a mine-protected (Casspir) vehicle on the campus on April 12, they began throwing stones at it, triggering clashes. An Army officer had come to talk to Principal Abdul Hameed about the seminar and to seek participation of students — about 5,000 study in the college.

Later, the principal praised the Army for “showing exceptional restraint by moving out within 10 minutes of their arrival in the college.” The situation was brought under control, but it went out of hand three days later.

Amid allegations and counter-allegations of what happened on April 12, there were fresh clashes between students and the police. Stones were hurled at the police, who countered by lobbing tear-gas shells on the campus, choking many students. Students alleged pellets were also fired at them. Doctors at the district hospital treated at least 50 students.

Why did the protest spread?

Soon, a video went viral, showing the principal pleading with the police to withdraw from the campus. Two other videos, showing security personnel “beating up students,” also did the rounds. There was no official confirmation of these videos. The incident shook the students in the Valley. In protest, thousands of students, some in school uniform, took to the streets on Monday and clashed with security forces in north, south and central Kashmir. Over 50 students were injured in the day-long clashes. A girl student of Nawa Kadal Degree College, Srinagar, sustained a skull fracture.

Srinagar, where campuses simmer with anger and anxiety

How did the CM react?

The State government on April 18 decided to close all colleges for a week. Even Kashmir University, Islamic University for Science and Technology and Central University witnessed on-campus protests, which turned into anti-India demonstrations. Classes were suspended. The beleaguered Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti expressed concern over the Pulwama incident and called for action against those “who vitiated the peaceful atmosphere.” She has sought a report from the police, appointing Divisional Commissioner Baseer Ahmad Khan as the inquiry officer. The office of principal of Government Degree College, Pulwama, has been attached to the main office of the college, till the inquiry is over. The move is seen as a punishment to the principal for voicing his concern against police action on the campus.

Unable to control the anger on the campus, the authorities withdrew 3G and 4G Internet services to stop circulation of videos. Many rallies against anti-police “excesses” in Kashmir had been streamed live on social media to galvanise more support for street protests.


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Printable version | Jun 10, 2021 10:41:07 PM |

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