SRINAGAR, India â€” Dozens of people were injured Monday in anti-India protests and clashes between Kashmiri students and government forces in the disputed Himalayan region.
The protests began in Indian-controlled Kashmir’s key city of Srinagar when hundreds of college students took to the streets to protest a police raid in a college in southern Pulwama town on Saturday, in which at least 50 students were injured.
Police said the first clash occurred after officers tried to stop hundreds of students from marching in the city’s main commercial hub. The students were chanting slogans “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom.”
The protests soon spread to several colleges in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir, leading to pitched battles between rock-throwing students and government forces firing shotgun pellets and tear gas.
Kashmiris have been seething with anger since April 9, when eight people were killed by government troops during clashes on a polling day for India’s parliament seat. Only about 7 per cent of the area’s nearly 1.3 million voters cast ballots, the lowest turnout in elections over the past five decades.
The Monday’s protests were called by Kashmir University Students Union, a banned student body. A statement by the students’ union said that Saturday’s violence highlighted India’s “sole ‘policy’ in Kashmir: to rule by repression and fear.”
Rivals India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety.
Since 1989, rebel groups have been fighting for independence from India or its merger with Pakistan. About 70,000 people have been killed in the rebel uprising and a subsequent Indian military crackdown.
Rebel groups have largely been suppressed by Indian forces in recent years. However, public opposition to Indian rule remains deep and is now principally expressed through street protests marked by youths hurling stones at government forces.
The Associated Press