The Uniform Rage

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If educated boys and girls will not be allowed to vent their anger through protests it could lead frustration among the young generation and when the youngsters are beaten and harassed that could give rise to alienation and other issues that could be more dangerous.

Asem Mohiuddin 

basket ball

The students of MA College Srinagar protesting against Pulwama college incident .Photo/Altaf Hussain

Srinagar: On Saturday JK government gave a clean chit to principal Degree College Pulwama, Abdul Hameed Sheikh and absolved instead the inquiry committee recommended action against the police officer, Station House Officer Pulwama and his subordinates for entering into the Pulwama Degree College and ruthlessly thrashing students in which 54 students were injured, the entry of police and the Centre Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawans into the premises of Degree College Pulwama triggered Valley wide student protests and boys and girls clashed with police and the CRPF across Kashmir.

It was first time when student’s anger was at its peak; even the pictures of girls of Valley’s reputed Women’s College pelting stones on police and smashing windows of police armed vehicles went viral on social media. A picture of a young girl holding basket ball in one hand and stone on the other became symbol of rage against the Centre and state governments. Even after two weeks, the protests are still continuing though the intensity has come down, but not the anger that is simmering within the student community who are seen as the future of the state. The class work still remains suspended at SP College Srinagar where pitched battles were witnessed between students and the police. The schools and its vicinities presented picture of a virtual battle field with shells and stones splattered everywhere in the campus.

The student outrage/Photo: Altaf Hussain

The student outrage/Photo: Altaf Hussain

“I was angry with the way the policemen treated us. They abused us so I started pelting stones on the police vehicles,’’ said a girl protestor when asked why she was forced to take this extreme step.

It all began when police and the CRPF men went inside the Pulwama Degree College on April 15, the students seeing police and the CRPF vehicles entering in the campus enraged that triggered clashes. Though, school administration tried to pacify the police and urged them to leave the campus, however, instead paying heed to the requests of the college administration, police and the CRPF jawans showered pellets, bullets and tear smoke shells on the students who were in their college uniform. Even a video where principal Abdul Hameed Sheikh who also hails from Pulwama is seen pleading officials not to use force on students, but, the police officials without caring about the status of principal of the College showers invectives and tear smoke shells towards him. Even principal bravely questioned policemen showering pellets and tear smoke shells to spray bullets on him and leave his students unharmed. And when pictures of students being thrashed by the police and CRPF went viral, the students’ community across the Valley got enraged and next day protests were held in every part of the Valley forcing government to shutdown the schools and colleges. The  J&K’s Education Minister, Altaf Bukhari also attached the principal of Degree College and initiated an inquiry headed by J&K’s Divisional Commissioner, Baseer Ahmad Khan to find out the reason behind the protests and police action.

Police arrest the protesting student/Photo: Altaf Hussain

Police arresting the protesting student/Photo: Altaf Hussain

Bukhari while initiating the inquiry promised strict action against any person who trespassed the college premises.  The principal, according to government was attached for an impartial probe. During inquiry, it was found that police officials on ground were involved in provocation and trespassing and principal was given a clean chit. The inquiry committee also recommended action against the police officials who were involved in thrashing the students. Even the J&K’s Education Minister, Altaf Bukhari acknowledged that students have right to protest inside the college or school premises and they should not be harassed in a country which has its base on the democratic setup. “The students have every right to protest inside their campuses and nobody can touch them inside schools and colleges, once they come on road it becomes law and order problem,’’ Bukhari said while reacting on the Pulwama incident.  He also asked students to maintain maximum restraint and remain focused on the education.

Though the student politics is banned in Kashmir and no union is allowed by the government, however, thrashing students who are in school uniform is a basic human rights violation. The constitution of J&K and India has given right to the students to organise protests on various issues, even we have seen big student protests in different Colleges and Universities across India. Recently, Jawahar Lal Nehru University and Jadavpur University was in news for student protests, however, government allowed them to vent their anger but in-case of Kashmir, the government is using different yardstick and dealing with iron hand to the student politics.

If educated boys and girls will not be allowed to vent their anger through protests it could lead frustration among the young generation and when the youngsters are beaten and harassed that could give rise to alienation and other issues that could be more dangerous. Though for the time being government has been able to quell the protests, however, the anger that is simmering among the youths of Valley could erupt anytime, so government should open channels of communications with students, young leaders so that their grievances could be redressed. Treating every disease with force sometimes backfires and history is witness to it. In 1989, when youngsters who were campaigning for the MUF candidates were harassed by the police and beaten inside police lockup’s by the politicians against whom they had campaigned, it gave rise to the militancy in Kashmir and even after 27 years, neither state nor centre government is able to control it, instead it has put future of two generations at jeopardy.

“The current lot of students is the product of turmoil. They have seen lot of miseries, injustice and their life has seen many ups and downs. So they want to express their feelings against the injustice they have seen around them,’’

In a state where mainstream politicians like Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, Saifudin Soz who had been law makers not only in the state but in the centre government and enjoy all the perks from the government including security could issue statements praising militants, criticize the centre and advocate for talks between India and Pakistan and also term stone pelting youths as national heroes, then what is wrong when young boys and girls who are still immature and can’t differentiate between right and wrong should be harassed, arrested. This trend should be put to an end; instead these young minds should be allowed to express their feelings, even in the parameters of democracy and they should be given a space. Infact, government should sent a tough message that students should be allowed to organize peaceful demonstration inside their school and college campuses, but at the same time tough action should be taken against police officials who view every problem in the Valley through the prism of militancy and counter insurgency. All the big mainstream leaders who are now prominent at national and state level have once been student leaders and have benefitted from the student politics, closing doors on the student politics is not good omen for the democracy setup, instead it gives rise to dictatorship and closes every door of dialogue besides encourages dynastic politics.

Female students hurling stones at government forces during protests/Photo: Altaf Hussain

Female students hurling stones at government forces during protests/Photo: Altaf Hussain

“The current lot of students is the product of turmoil. They have seen lot of miseries, injustice and their life has seen many ups and downs. So they want to express their feelings against the injustice they have seen around them,’’ said a senior college professor. “At least, these students should be given an opportunity to express themselves inside their campuses, once that space is reduced, these youngsters start looking for other alternatives and stone pelting is one such alternative.’’

The story published first in print edition of May 5-11, 2017

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