Written by Peer Viqar ul Aslam
Srinagar: A tall, lean college girl dressed in a white tunic, face masked with a scarf, her beautiful enraged eyes craving for vengeance, frantically looks for more stones and throws them at a posse of riot-geared policemen who just fired a tear gas canister at their group.
The fearless girl’s choice of picking a stone and raising ‘seditious’ slogans against the ‘confederation’ amid a deafening blast of the tear smoke shell seems a ‘sharp’ one.
Every time she throws a rock, the jingles around her wrists make a rhythmic sound breaking through the chaotic tension.
The soft gender is resisting the label ‘protected by men’ with stones simmering through the air.
The girl struggles to understand the battle of imbalance.
Instead of water cannons aimed at her are modern combat weapons, and for every protesting girl, standing guard are three policemen.
On the smoke-filled streets, rocks and tear gas grenades fly overhead.
She sees her fellow comrades falling to the ground, some hit in the heads and some in the eyes, strangulated by pepper gas and panicked by aerial shots.
Yet she stands fearless and hurls another stone with all her might.
She picks one more stone but struggles with it weight and decided to break it into two, bruising her silken soft hands.
Angered and enraged by bloodshed and ‘subjugation’, she has decided to fight for her ‘freedom’ herself.
In all conflicts, women have suffered innumerably and immeasurably but the world is changing from women ‘pleading’ for basic rights to women demanding ‘equal’ rights.
“We cannot be mute spectators with all the injustice and oppression happening around us,” said Fareeha (name changed) from Women’s College. “We are not weak or afraid, and we will fight with stones in our hands.”
With only her eyes visible, the black-veiled girl blames the use of force by paramilitary forces and the failure of the government to provide space for peaceful protests.
“Our Islamic identity has nothing to do with stone pelting, it is the oppression and the situation created by the government that has forced us to hurl stones,” says Ayesha (name changed). “Every day, our brothers and fathers are killed, we have the right to protest and we will resist against tyranny and oppression.”
She took to stone pelting for the first time, after the government forces raided Pulwama Degree College in south Kashmir.
Recalling her first stone-throwing incident, Ayesha says, “I was filled with anger, where in the world are students beaten mercilessly and dragged out from schools and colleges?”
On April 24, the day student protests rocked the heart of the Srinagar City, another young girl in western attire, Mehreen was struggling to run as the government forces were closing in on the protesters.
She removes her low-heel canvas shoes not meant for the ensuing battle between the agitated youth and the heavily-armed forces, picks them up in her hand and runs bare feet on the rough road, before she finds her way back to safety while tear gas canisters are exploding near her.
Mehreen barely escapes unhurt.
She recalls it as a day her inner conscience was awakened after she swung her arm to throw her first stone.
“I was scared but I am not willing to give up the fight, we will not suffer anymore and this resistance will continue,” Mehreen says. “It gave me indescribable peace of mind, my consciousness is awakened and I am no longer party to maintaining criminal silence.”
Surprisingly, it seems college-going girls are planning a ‘feminist’ coup of the male-dominated ‘resistance’ block, stammering their feet forcibly over the parochial setup and saying no to the ‘harassment’ and repeated ‘humiliation’ by the government.
The use of brute force against the students has created ripples with a mammoth march of ‘female’ students who have set ‘pro-liberalism’ into motion promising unwavering resolve to bring the ‘repressive’ force down to its knees and defeat the ‘invincible’ forces.
“We are against the state terror, we will defeat them and one day we will be free,” Mehreen says. “If peaceful means of protest are banned and stopped, the only option left is to throw stones or pick up arms.”
As student politics and campus unions stand banned or restricted to underground work, the recent success of the ‘strike call’ given by the banned Kashmir University Students Union (KUSU) indicates rise of the student political movement and Kashmir of 1990s.
The only difference seems students in growing numbers are picking stones replacing Kalashankovs and grenades.
“If this continues, we may even pick up arms against the continuous oppression and the holocaust that is taking place in Kashmir,” Mehreen says. “The world has failed us and we have no expectations.”