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After a week's closure, colleges to reopen in Kashmir

Srinagar: The colleges in Kashmir valley are likely to re-open here on April 24 after remaining suspended for a week. The state government ordered the suspension of class work in view of escalation of student protests against the alleged police crackdown in south Kashmir’s Degree College Pulwama (April 15) that resulted in clashes between students and security forces within the college premises, which left over 50 students injured.

Despite the closure of colleges and higher secondary schools there was no let up in protests that continued for several days compelling the state government to suspend teaching activity in all colleges of the Valley. Kashmir University Students Union (KUSU) that had earlier called for protests, urgedupon the student community on (April 20) to resume their classes.

It all started with the thrashing of students in Pulwama College where clashes erupted between students and security forces the moment a couple of police vehicles reportedly stopped at the college gate which infuriated the students leading to a chaotic situation and injuries to several students. Within no time, life came to a standstill in the town with markets and streets presenting a deserted look. Authorities closed the Pulwama College for two days in view of the situation.

As other colleges opened here on April 17, students took to streets to protest against thealleged thrashing of Pulwama Degree College students.Thestudents of SP College and SP Higher Secondary School, both adjacent to each other, assembled within their respective campuses and staged protests, while trying to march outside the premises. The security forces already deployed there swung into action and fired dozens of teargas shellsto push the students back. The students, however, offered stiff resistance and pelted stones at the security forces, triggering clashes. The ding-dong battle continued throughout the day with protests spreading to nearby Government College for Women and other colleges across the Valley. Students from women’s college blocked the road outside the college and raised anti-government slogans.

As the situation turned grim, authorities immediately snapped mobile internet services across the Valley (April 17 afternoon) and the same continued to be barred till report was last filed (April 22). Over 70 students sustained injuries on that day.

To cool the tempers, an inquiry headed by Divisional Commissioner Kashmir was ordered, the report of which is expected to be submitted within a week. Minister for Education Syed Altaf Bukhari was quoted as saying, “There has been trespassing and anyone who trespasses in any school or college, action will be taken against him. They (students) were in the college and if I can’t provide security to my students in their colleges and schools, then I don’t think I have any right to head this department.” The minister added that the students have a right to demonstrate for their genuine demands inside their school and college campuses and can’t be touched by anyone. The state government also attached the Principal of Pulwama College (April 19) to allow what they called “an impartial probe” into the incident.

Terming the use of force against students and crackdown on Kashmir colleges as “worst form of state terrorism,” the joint separatist leadership including Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF chief Mohammad Yasin Malik, called for an hour-long peaceful protest after the Friday congregational prayers (April 21) to express solidarity with the students.

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