Students on roads


After years of declining college student interest in political matters, political engagement and protests have returned to the university and college grounds in Kashmir. Thousands of students hit streets on April 17 to pour their anger against the torture and beating of their fellow students by security forces in Pulwama. The protests, however, did not stop there. Since then the protests not only continue but have swelled with now school children joining protests. The savagery displayed by police and CRPF men while treating students in Pulwama and later days elsewhere boils one’s blood. It is corollary that in such provocative situation the protests are turning violent that is quite disturbing. More than 100 students from different colleges and institutions are reported to have got injured in police action, and many of them are girl students. One of the girl students of Nawakadal Women’s college has got seriously wounded in head by a stone pelted by police/CRPF men. She is battling for her life in SMHS hospital. This has infuriated the student community further and the protests by them continue. The government has been forced to close the colleges and university. Now higher secondary schools too have been closed. But the way government is trying to manage the anger of the students, the situation is unlikely to return normal. The provocative statements by the ministers in charge of the state and the brutal actions by police and CRPF on roads are bound to deteriorate the situation further. Only sick minds can think that such suppressive measures could scare away protestors. The BJP minister Chander Prakash Ganga’s call to fire bullets on stone pelters is sheer frustration of people in power. "They are the traitors. Whether they live in the country or come from Pakistan, they can only be treated by bullets. If bullets are not there at least they should be punished, like beating them by canes. Mark my words and see they will pelt stones again. What 'azaadi' are they demanding?" Ganga is seen saying in a video clip that has gone viral on social networking sites. Ganga’s outburst comes at a time when security agencies and the police have been directed by the State Cabinet to exercise as much self-control as possible in order to prevent loss of human lives in the Valley. At least 10 protesters have been shot dead and hundreds injured since April 9 when polling was held in Srinagar parliamentary constituency. The protests, however, refuse to die down. Gone are the days when people could be scared away by tear smoke shells or aerial firing. It may not be going overboard to say that Kashmir’s present generation has moved far from scare and fear. They cannot be cared away by the yells and shrills of Chandra Prakash Ganga. They proved it in 2008, 2010 and more lately in 2016. Use of force cannot be always a tool to calm the streets, more so, when it has failed time and again. The people in power should take the student protests seriously because in spite of reprehensible violent show this was a large protest with significant public support and the capacity to have a palpable impact on mainstream politics. You do not have to believe that the protesting students could be forced to silence. Most of what is happening on Kashmir roads is the making of the government itself. Instead of correcting its mistakes, the people in government are adding fuel to fire by making inflammatory and threatening statements. It should be taken note of by everyone that you are dealing with a people who cannot be cowed down or scared away by threats and warnings. There is immediate need for understanding the situation in proper perspective and instead of issuing threats that concerns of the protesting students be addressed.