Stone-pelting in Kashmir has dominated headlines for a while now. But the third week of April saw the birth of a new face of rebellion, with young girls taking to the front-lines of the protest.
School-going girls picked up stones and stood their ground against gun-toting men in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk. Dressed in school uniforms, and standing tall with bags on their backs, they covered their faces and proclaimed loudly that they had had enough of being told how to lead their lives. The Quint reached out to schoolgirls who had taken to stone pelting on 24 April.
“We are not scared. If the boys can come out to protest, so can we,” said Rumaisa (name changed), a 17-year-old student at Kothi Bagh Girls Higher secondary school. The girls seem undeterred by death. “Bullets don’t scare us anymore.”
Twenty-four people, including 12 security personnel, were injured on 17 April as students clashed with police, as colleges opened in Kashmir after a five-day shutdown. Such was the intensity of the protests that security personnel had to resort to using teargas shells inside the campus to bring the situation under control.
Students were seen shouting pro-azaadi slogans as they charged at the security personnel and hurled stones at policemen, who had arrived on the spot armed with teargas shells and pellet guns.
The violent protests first erupted on 15 April, when security forces allegedly raided a college in southern Kashmir's Pulwama district and assaulted students. At least 54 people were injured in the violence. Two days later, another round of student protests left more than 100 students hurt.
“We are protesting against the manhandling and beating up of students by security forces. The government is now targeting the student community,” said a student at the Girls’ Higher Secondary School, Soura. “If they attack us, we’ll fight back.”
Last week, Iqra (17) sustained a serious head injury after a policeman allegedly hurled a stone at her. Iqra was one of the 100 students from Women’s College, Nawakadal, who participated in a peaceful protest against the police action that had left dozens of college students in south Kashmir’s Pulwama injured.
“Our education is suffering, but how does that matter? Young boys and girls are getting killed. We won’t stop,” another girl student said. “This is going to continue so that eventually we can live peacefully. We can’t go on with our lives when we know our brothers and sisters are being systematically targeted. We can’t forget that Insha lost her eyesight. We can’t forget those 100 young boys who were killed last year.” she added.
Valley Unrest Hurts Education
Education has taken a major hit since the return of tensions in the Kashmir Valley since the summer of 2016. Dozens of government run and private schools were targeted by unidentified arsonists reducing them to smouldering pillars and charcoal frames.
(Adnan Bhat is a Srinagar based journalist.)