Will reopening of colleges in Kashmir be a peaceful affair?

The recent decision of the Jammu and Kashmir government to reopen colleges and universities by October 9 is seen as an effort to restore normalcy, amid hopes that the move does not become an opportunity for student protests and violence.

The educational institutions have remained shut in Kashmir ever since restrictions were imposed on August 4 as the Centre moved to abolish its special status granted under Article 370.

A fortnight back, authorities decided to reopen schools up to the 10th standard in the Kashmir Valley, but the attendance of students has remained disappointing so far, mainly because of absence of proper public transport and fear among the parents about sending their wards to schools in a tense situation.

A major decision has now been taken to reopen colleges and universities by October 9.

The resumption of academic activities at higher levels in the Valley would be a milestone towards restoration of normalcy.

However, much will depend not only on the attendance of students in these institutions of higher learning, but also on whether these institutions function peacefully once they are reopened.

There are apprehensions that reopening of colleges and universities could provide opportunity for student protests, and even violence. The apprehensions are not without basis as college students, in the past, have indulged stone-pelting and other activities to disrupt peace in Kashmir valley.

In the last two months, the Kashmir valley has not witnessed any major incident of violence, mainly due to curbs and heightened security apparatus.

Except for stray incidents of stone-pelting at some places, the Valley has by and large remained peaceful.

The authorities have also ensured that there is no shortage of essentials despite the normal activities being adversely affected over the last 59 days.

All government departments have functioned normally in the Valley during this period including the hospitals and the state-run ration stores.

The government recently said that restrictions imposed under Section 144 of CrPC, which bans gathering of more than four persons at a place, have been lifted from all the police station areas in Jammu and Kashmir.

The government has also announced polls for the Block Development Councils to be held on October 24.