Twenty four people, including 12 security personnel, were injured on Monday as students clashed with police who used tear gas to disperse the protesters as colleges opened in Kashmir after a five-day shutdown.
As soon as colleges reopened on Monday, students of Sri Pratap Higher Secondary School and College came out on roads adjacent to the institutions and pelted stones on security forces who retaliated with tear gas and water cannons.
Students shouted Islamic and pro-azaadi slogans as they charged at the security personnel and threw stones that left a dozen policemen injured.
“Twelve personnel including three officers were injured in the stone pelting. Some boys involved in stone pelting were caught on the spot and detained by police. The mob was dispersed and the normalcy was restored in the area,” the police said in its statement.
Senior superintendent of police, Srinagar, Imtiaz Ismail Parray was hit by a stone in his arm. “I am fine now,” he told HT.
The protests came on a day when Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi and pressed for a dialogue with separatists in the state.
Eyewitnesses recounted that students from the SP College climbed up the walls of the nearby women’s college and started targeting security personnel with stones.
“Some students also reached the gate of the women’s college and from there targeted the security personnel. Meanwhile, behind the boys, some women students also started protesting inside the women’s college campus and eventually, some of them protested on the road as well,” an eyewitness said.
Police fired dozens of tear gas shells inside the women’s college campus that left students and faculty members present inside feeling suffocated, a teacher said.
Lal Chowk and adjoining areas descended into chaos with traffic caught in the ensuing disturbance while tear gas smoke left pedestrians with fits of coughing. A press photographer was also reportedly injured while covering the clashes.
A shopkeeper, who sells books and newspaper near Lal Chowk, said, “In the long period of time, I have been working out of Lal Chowk, I have never seen such a situation. It seems students have overcome their fear of injury or even death.”
The students kept regrouping and targeting the security forces after short intervals. A police control room official said that students had come out on the roads and security forces retaliated to quell the protests. “The situation is now under control,” the official said on Monday afternoon.
Former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted: “While @MehboobaMufti goes door to door in Delhi to save her job the state teeters on the brink - student protests are the new worry.”
While @MehboobaMufti goes door to door in Delhi to save her job the state teeters on the brink - student protests are the new worry.— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) April 24, 2017
Student protests have become a new challenge for the administration in Kashmir where the law and order situation has gone downhill after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani last summer.
Unprecedented student protests had erupted across the Valley last Monday against the alleged high-handedness of security forces in Pulwama Degree College in south Kashmir on April 15. Following the clashes on April 17, the government had ordered shutdown of classes in the institutions in an attempt to prevent escalation of law andorder situation.
(with inputs from PTI)