Understanding the nexus between ‘Violent’ Student Protests and state response
The student protests and its response from the state in the form of shutting down the educational institutions frequently is worrying and distressful. Presently, students are clashing with police in the backdrop of Kathua murder and rape. From central to south to north Kashmir, campuses have been converted into virtual battlefields. The pitched battles in streets between forces and students have ensued in injuries to hundreds of students across the valley. A few of them have lost eyes due to pellet injuries. The state’s response has acted as a catalyst to further deteriorate and has devolved the situation. More importantly, it has smitten the entire educational session of 2018. Every now and then, the government issues diktats of closing down educational institutions. Stanching the functioning of educational institutions by regularly closing them down puts the careers of students at stake.
Today, I would like to hash out different dimensions of the same issue in the context of prevailing situation. Many people are asking, why are students departing their classrooms? Pelting stones and humoring in ‘hooliganism’ and ‘violence’? In spite of the fact that the crime branch has submitted its investigations, accused rapists and murderers are inside the jails and the trial of the case is going on. Before, discussing the different dimensions of these incidents, let’s first agree upon a point, that protesting peacefully is a fundamental right and the state has no right to infringe and encroach it. The students have a right to protest peacefully and express their outrage.
Now coming towards the different dimensions and attributes of how one can understand this problem, which are broadly two: firstly the students are causing law and order problems while participating in ‘peaceful protest’ rallies. Secondly the police and the state are deliberately pushing students to wall by not allowing them to assemble and protest peacefully, and thereafter confrontations occur, resulting into clashes. The state doesn’t want to see students coming out, protesting and expressing outrage. Both these dimensions need to be understood in the proper perspective. In case of Kashmir, second dimension seems to be a predominant and preponderant approach of the state in dealing with student uprising, which is a living reality and no one can deny this fact.
While the whole world is up in arms against the gruesome incident of rape and murder of 8 year old girl, the state seems to take an unreasonable and imprudent approach in dealing and handling the peaceful protests. The state doesn’t want students to raise their voice against injustice, tyranny and participate in the democratic setup. Students’ power and their dominating the scene will challenge the state narrative and dump it for once and all. Student activism has been viewed as a threat to the state since long.
In the context of first dimension, sometimes, mere presence of police near the emotionally charged crowd provokes the people who are protesting, because, the police has not been able to maintain its image in the eyes of the people in Kashmir. Moreover, it has been seen at different places that the police is stopping students from moving ahead. That becomes a catalyst for confrontations and clashes.
Few days ago, in a viral video, a police man was alleged to have hurled obscenities at a girl student. “I was walking when they threw stones at me and fired a tear smoke shell in my direction,” the girl says in the video. “When I him to stop as I was not part of any protest, he asked me to sleep with him.” The girl said that the police were “provoking” the students to pelt stones. This incident took place in Anantnag.
In order to make the situation feasible for keeping the educational institutions open and functional, the state should allow the students to protest without confronting them. The state should stop using force as a means to quell protest gatherings. The ban on student unions should be lifted. Leaders of unions will keep the students organized. Furthermore, Kathua rape and murder was just a spark that forced students to come into streets. The larger narrative behind the protests revolves around the reaction to human rights abuses committed by the state forces especially during last few months. Dozens of civilians have been killed and hundreds injured near encounter sites. All these events revolve around the harbored sentiment and political aspirations vis-a-vis an unfinished Kashmir dispute which needs to be addressed at the earliest. Those at the helm of affairs must understand that containing and managing the conflict with brute power will prolong the conflict and not resolve it.
Author is a student of Law at Department of Legal Studies, Central University of Kashmir. He blogs at http://AbrarReyaz.wordpress.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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