In what is being described by Al Jazeera as an “extremely rare occurrence,” students have taken to the streets of central Srinagar, Kashmir, to protest the strict Indian security forces that occupy the city.
Since the killing of popular rebel leader Burhan Wani last year, there has been an increase in security forces and youth rebels in the area. Police and government forces reportedly raided a university campus to arrest students tied to this rebellion against the Indian army.
Protesting students were met by security forces with tear gas and batons, leaving hundreds of students injured.
A member of the banned Kashmir University Students’ Union who called for the protests told the Kashmir Dispatch that “the savagery inflicted on students isn’t only a display of the basic lack of regard for the sanctity of educational institutions,” but also an attempt “to humiliate and break the will of the youth of the Valley who are at the forefront of the struggle for right to self-determination.”
The state Minister of Education Altaf Bukhari reported that they are “handling the situation peacefully,” and said that they have told educators to counsel the students and listen to their issues.
Yasir Altaf, a Kashmiri student studying at VUW, remains in contact with family and friends in the city. He told Salient “the students in Kashmir as well as other civilians are facing not only curfews and bans from security forces. […] They are being killed through the pellet guns and shelling in the open public.”
Suhail Ahmed, Assistant Professor of New Media at Central University of Kashmir, told the Washington Post that viral videos on social media, such as one where security forces were shown using a student as a human shield while driving through the city, were also a key factor in mobilising youth protesters. Attempting to slow the spread of such viral videos, state leader Mehbooba Mufti has instituted a one-month ban on sites such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter.
Kashmir Valley has been the location of a territorial battle between India and Pakistan since 1947 and is currently partitioned into two main territories, the Indian-administered and the Pakistan-administered.
BBC reported that the city is one of the most militarised zones in the world.