A fresh spell of protests left at least six students injured in Indian-held Kashmir on Monday as police clashed with students and army resorted to firing in the air to disperse pro-freedom demonstrations.
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Protests broke out on the day the government offices and the civil secretariat opened in Srinagar after the annual darbar move, a remnant of the erstwhile Dogra rulers who shifted their capital to Jammu region for six months to escape the harsh winter of Kashmir.
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Student protests were reported on Monday from Tral town, Langate, Aripanthan, Kupwara as well as the capital Srinagar where students took out a demonstration against the last month’s assault on students of Pulwama Degree College that left 50 pupils, many of them girls, wounded.
Witnesses said an Army convoy passing on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway on Monday was stopped by students in Zakura locality of Srinagar who later pelted stones at the vehicles. They said the Army fired shots in the air to disperse the students.
Seven students were detained in Tral town after forces were stoned in the area. It was not immediately known if they have been released. Police deployed in these areas mostly used teargas and batons to disperse the protesting students, triggering clashes and stone throwing. There were no reports of any injuries among the students.
Tensions in the student community escalated since April 15, when police raided Pulwama Degree College, about 30 km from Srinagar, over unknown reasons, angering the students. In the subsequent clashes, at least 50 students were injured.
On April 17, the region erupted in another round of student protests that left more than 100 students and an unknown number of police officers injured. To prevent the situation from blowing into a full fledged rebellion, authorities responded by closing colleges, universities and some high schools for a week, but the protests continue unabated.
Meanwhile, students of Al Fallah Public School in Aripanthan staged a demonstration to demand the release of Sahil Ahmad, a student of sixth standard, who has been detained by police last Thursday during a nocturnal raid in the area.
He was allegedly arrested in place of his elder brother Adil. Reports said Sahil was later released while the protests went on in the area.On Sunday, suspected fighters killed three civilians and a policeman. One of the fighters was also killed when they attacked policemen clearing the site of a road accident late Saturday near Kulgam district.
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“A police party was at the accident site when they were attacked. In the cross-fire, one policeman and three civilians died. One of the attackers also died,” a police source said.
On Sunday, thousands of local residents gathered to mourn the dead attacker at a funeral where fighters fired shots into the air as a mark of respect.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the predominantly Muslim Kashmir valley, one of the world’s most heavily militarised areas, where most people favour independence or a merger with Pakistan.