Munazah Kanwal
Srinagar: Angry teenage Kashmiri girls in school uniforms hurling stones at government forces has become the defining image of protests in the valley this summer.

Braving tear smoke shells and even pellets, these protesting girls have hogged headlines, even featuring prominently in the international media.

It is for the first time that large number of girls in school uniforms and headscarves have joined male protesters to express their anger and resentment, sending the government into a tizzy.

Rising Kashmir explores as to what pushes these young school-going Kashmiri girls into defying the military might with a stone in hand and azadi slogans reverberating in the air.

The new bout of protests started on April 15 after over 60 students were injured by CRPF and police personnel at Government Degree College Pulwama. The students had resisted the presence of the forces in the campus.

Enraged over the incident and as a mark of solidarity with the injured boys and girls, students of various colleges and universities across the valley took out protest marches only to be met with batton charge and tear smoke shells. Protestors included girls from Women College Maulana Azad Road and Nawakadal and other higher secondary schools like GGHSS Kothibagh.

A student protester Iqra from Women’s College Nawakadal was the first to get seriously wounded when she was hit by a stone reportedly flung from a slingshot by CRPF men. She suffered from skull fracture and has been nursing the injury at SMHS hospital.

Another girl from downtown Srinagar was also targeted with a slingshot on her forehead. The photos of the profusely bleeding girl rescued by a photojournalist also went viral.

“The Indian paramilitary is so brutal that they do not even spare young teenage girls,” said a women bystander.

As rumours of Iqra death spread, scores of girls came out on streets, shouting slogans “Go India, Go Back” and “We want freedom”.

“Indian forces have wrought hell here. How long can we continue to remain silent? Our brothers are being tortured and killed and womenfolk are molested. No one is allowed to raise his/ her voice here. Are we to remain mute spectators? It is better to die fighting than to remain silent. And we will not relent till we achieve our goal,” said an angry girl from GHSS Kothibagh.

Watch Video: Female students with stones in hand redefine protests in Kashmir

Pictures of girls kicking armoured police vehicles have also gone viral.

Such protests are no longer the forte of boys. It is in sheer desperation that girls have taken to roads despite a conservative upbringing.

The protesting girls said their priority had been studies and not politics but recent killings forced them to come out on streets.

“The provocation might have come because of the killings but the anger is deep rooted. We have heard stories of immense brutality of Indian forces from our parents that includes mass rapes of Kunan-Poshpora. The stories make you seethe with anger and your blood boils,” said Waheeda (name changed), a student of Women’s College M A Road.

Among the pictures that went viral was a picture of a college girl with a basket ball in one hand and stone in the other. It was tweeted by former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah as well.

“We were going for basketball practice, but the forces provoked us into pelting stones by assaulting us. Otherwise we are not stone pelters,” said a girl who was part of the group.

Tears welled up another girl’s eyes as she recounted the horrors of the day.

While talking to this reporter, a burqa-clad girl angrily picked up a stone and threw it against a nearby wall to vent out her frustration.

“Madam! Please tell me? Can government bring back the dead and restore vision to the eyes that they attacked with pellets in the recent unrest. If no, then how does it try to placate us into believing that they are with us and that we should protest no more? We will protest, no matter what,” she said angrily.

Young Kashmiri girls have come of age and are no longer afraid of looking death in the eye.

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