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“The way killings happen in Kashmir every day, there are little hopes for happy living”

The student uprising in Indian-held Kashmir refuses to die down. At least 100 students were injured when security forces clashed with students protesting across the valley. Students are livid at the heavy-handedness of security forces during a by-election earlier in April, which saw the lowest turnout in decades. Security forces have continued to use excessive force which has only spurred on more anti-India sentiment. Last week, Iqra Sidiq, a 19-year-old college student, was hit by a rock thrown by security personnel. Her skull was cracked and she suffered brain damage. She spoke to The Daily Vox about her experience.

On Monday, April 17 we attended just three classes – Urdu, statistics and English – and I missed my last class which was Business Law and we took out a peaceful protest rally from our college which is located in the old part of Srinagar known as Nawakadal locality.

The gate was shut by the college authorities initially. There were police outside the college but once we saw that the police were leaving, we left our classes and went to a peaceful protest rally. The protests were happening everywhere on that day against the assault on the students in South Kashmir’s Degree College Pulwama by Indian forces, in which 54 students were injured, including girls.

When we reached Sakidafar locality, which is five kilometres away from our college, Nawakadal, where I am a first year undergraduate student, the police and CRPF [Central Reserve Police Force] were present on both sides of us. They pointed their guns at us, and all the girls were scared and we started running away for safety. They told us that they won’t hit us but we were still frightened. It was a peaceful rally comprising of girls only. Suddenly, while running, a stone came from a CRPF bunker on my side and it hit me. I could not understand what happened. My leg was hurt too and it was more painful than my head.

I fell on the road and was lying unconscious. The two boys who were walking from there brought me to the hospital and my two friends were along. Here (in hospital) they told me to eat a banana and if I vomit there is something serious wrong. I did vomit after eating a banana. The doctors told me to immediately go for the CT scan which showed 60 fractures on my skull. The doctors called for an emergency operation and I was taken to the operation theatre which took nearly five hours. The people who brought me here called my parents because it was important to get the father’s permission before conducting a surgery. When my parents reached the hospital they were shocked, because in the morning I had left for college and I was absolutely fine. I was not holding a stone in hand to throw at them, it was completely a peaceful protest and the CRPF people targeted me.

A scan showing the extent of Sidiq’s skull fracture

Today was my class and I missed it. I am still wearing the college uniform. I don’t know when I can again go to college and attend my class. When I was brought to the hospital I thought they will just dress my wounds and I will go home. I didn’t know my brain is damaged. This is what they are doing to students and youth in Kashmir. I want to ask the government why they are building the tall college buildings. On one side they are killing the students, and on the other side they show the peace and development. What will these empty colleges mean when the students are being deliberately attacked?

We were protesting peacefully because every now and then our brothers and being killed. See what they did to me, they don’t even spare the women. I can’t look at my father, he is in total shock. He is silently watching me. He is a labourer. He burns the light of his eyes by working as a copper smith. He works even at night to earn and educate his children. We are four sisters and two brothers. I am my father’s dream and they have shattered it. I don’t know what my future will be like after this, whether I will be again able to study and go back to my college. The children of ministers are enjoying [living] in other states and countries and here the children of Kashmiri people are being killed.

No one talks of justice. Even I don’t ask for an investigation because I know there won’t be any, there are thousands such cases and no one has been able to get any justice. Once we leave home in the morning we don’t know whether we are going back safely. The way killings happen in Kashmir every day, there are little hopes for happy living. They don’t ask us why we are protesting but they are only discovering the new ways of oppression.

The doctor treating Iqra said that she has multiple fractures in her skull and is showing signs of recovery.

“She has a contusion (haemorrhage) on the left side of her brain. Her skull has multiple fractures and we are hopeful after one surgery because she has shown the signs of recovery”.

As told to Rifat Fareed, edited for brevity and clarity.

Rifat Fareed is a journalist based in Srinagar.

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