Anger against the killing of 13 militants and four civilians on 1 April in Shopian manifested in widespread Valley-wide student protests and clashes in which 20 students were injured on Thursday.
Kashmir remained shut for the past three days against the Shopian killings. On Thursday, the government tried to test waters by announcing educational institutions will remain open.
But rather than attending classes, students assembled in various campuses and shouted pro-freedom and pro-militant slogans.
The first protest broke out at Kashmir University at Hazratbal, where hundreds of students marched from their departments and assembled near the Humanities Block.
“Nobody is safe in Kashmir. Civilians are brutally killed for no reason. No one is being held accountable,” the students said.
Displaying placards with messages ‘Go India, Go Back, Kashmir belongs to us’, the students said their right to protest peacefully has “also been snatched”.
A student leader, requesting anonymity, said: “What can you expect from young blood when all means of protests are choked? How to resist in such circumstances? Obviously, gun is the last resort.”
The protesters dispersed peacefully. Class work in a few departments was disrupted.
As the protest at the university subsided, hundreds of students from Women’s College, Sri Pratap College and Kothibagh Girls Higher Secondary School poured onto Moulana Azad Road. When they reached Regal Chowk, the police tried to push them back. Some students, females among them, threw stones at the forces who charged the protesters with batons and also threw stones in retaliation.
A female was among the six student protesters who suffered minor injuries in police action. A police officer told Greater Kashmir that station house officer Maisuma, sub-divisional police officer Kothibagh, station house officer Kothibagh and three policemen also sustained minor injuries. Several other paramilitary troopers were also injured, he said.
Fariha, an arts student at the Women’s College MA Road, holding a stone in her hand, said: “I protest against the killing of my brothers in Shopian and Ganderbal. My protest is in solidarity with my slain brethren who were blown up with explosives.”
Shops in the area downed their shutters and traffic was disrupted for some time. The unrelenting students then assembled at Ghanta Ghar, where other youths joined the protest. The police again charged the students with batons and fired teargas canisters into them.
“While running for cover, two students sustained mild injuries,” a police source said.
The most intense protests, which morphed into clashes, occurred at the Amar Singh College. A picket guarding the entrance gate of Sher-e-Kashmir Indoor Stadium, right opposite the college campus, was set on fire by the protesting students.
“Government forces threw stones at students who took shelter inside Lal Ded Hospital. The troopers broke several window panes of the hospital,” said Muhammad Rajab, who had come to visit an ailing relative at the hospital.
The student protest spilled over to Jawahar Nagar, Rajbagh and other adjoining areas.
Three female students were injured when government forces charged them with bamboo sticks in Bemina Degree College. Students alleged that the troopers entered the campus and fired dozens of teargas canisters into the protesters.
“They hit a girl with a bamboo stick in her leg. Her leg was plastered,” said Shaziya Yousuf, a student protestor.
She said, “Kashmir has been turned into a military garrison where bullets and pellets are only reply to everybody who raises voice against repression and reign of terror by the forces.”
A protest also erupted at the Central University campus at Nowgam, Srinagar. An eye- witness said that the students held a peaceful protest at the campus to condemn the Shopian killings and express solidarity with their families.