Kashmir tense: Internet mobile, schools, colleges shut down

Situation in the Valley on Monday spun out of control as students clashed with security forces. In an unprecedented move, policemen have been told not to go home for the next few months

PTI Photo by S Irfan
PTI Photo by S Irfan

Ashutosh Sharma

Student protests rocked the Kashmir Valley on Monday, forcing the government to shut down 3G and 4G internet mobile services (called e-curfew in the Valley) and shutting down schools and colleges after students and police clashed in several districts including Srinagar, Baramulla, Bandipora, Anantnag, Kupwara, Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama.

For the first time, said former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in a statement, the state police has been forced to issue an advisory asking policemen to stay back at their posts and not go home “for the next few months”. The advisory follows growing incidence of militants targeting homes and family members of policemen.

A policeman was taken hostage a few days back and taken to a local mosque and forced to appeal through a loudspeaker asking policemen to leave the service or face social boycott.

The ban on internet mobile services is meant to stem the flow of videos showing security forces in poor light. People armed with mobile phones have been uploading videos of security forces thrashing youth, forcing them to chant anti-Pakistan slogans and abuse separatists. While security forces too have been busy uploading videos to counter this narrative, the damage seems to have been done.

Omar Abdullah tweeted, “I hope @MehboobaMufti has thought through the implications of mass student protests across the Valley. This is a deeply worrying situation.”

Srinagar-based senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari tweeted, “Major law and order problem underway as student protests rock #Kashmir Valley…”

The PDP-BJP Government, in desperation, filed an FIR against the Army for using a civilian as a human shield, the video of which was widely shared on social media. It was, however, a meaningless gesture because in Kashmir, where Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is in force, the Army can pretty much do anything. And predictably this gesture has failed to cut any ice.

While students were agitated over security forces invading Pulwama Degree College last week in search of a student, unprecedented violence marked the clashes in several districts. Tear gas shells were used extensively by security forces to disperse the students.

Students reportedly shouted pro-Pakistan slogans to provoke security forces. Clashes and protests were reported from Shopian, Awantipora, Kulgam, Ganderbal and Bandipora as well. At Srinagar’s Lal Chowk, students of SP College clashed with security forces while students of Government Women’s College, Baramulla, also came out on the street and had to be dispersed with tear gas and pepper shells.

There was no sign of any shift in the government’s hardline approach, bolstered by hate-filled messages circulated on WhatsApp and directed against ‘Kashmiri separatists’ and others expressing sympathy and support for them.

Former general officer commanding-in-chief (GOC-in-C) of the Udhampur-based Northern Command, Lt Gen HS Panag, was abused on Twitter for saying that the image of the Kashmiri civilian used as a human shield would haunt the Indian Army for ever. Among the trolls were singer Abhijeet and Pandit activist Ashok Pandit and academic Madhu Kishwar.

However, a woman from an ‘Army family’ sought to put it in perspective when she tweeted,

  • Such hate-filled messages make lives of armymen in Kashmir more difficult and put them at greater risk
  • The army has 13,000 vacancies in the officer cadre alone. Why are people who spread these messages do not join the army?

But amidst the video-war and Twitter war, the situation in the Valley appears to be fast spinning out of control.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines

Published: 17 Apr 2017, 9:07 PM