‘But for this incident, the political wilderness of Plebiscite Front leaders would have ended in 1973 itself. This incident deferred transfer of power to Sher-e-Kashmir by two years’
The leaders were all set to take the Plebiscite Front to the altar for their vested interests. A deal had been finalised. People, by and large were scared of indulging in political talk. It was at this crucial juncture of Kashmir history that the students of Government College for Women did the `impossible’.
Daring cane charge and tear smoke shells, the defiant students made a strong political statement on November 14, 1973.
Stage was all set for changing the name of the college on the birth anniversary of the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. The students resisted the move. Out they came on the posh MA Road and pelted stones on government vehicles and the police. Unaware of the mood of the girl students, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah arrived on the scene in his car to preside over the function. He had to retreat as a few stones thrown by `delicate hands’ smashed the wind screen. But for this incident, the political wilderness of Plebiscite Front leaders would have ended in 1973 itself. This incident deferred transfer of power to Sher-e-Kashmir by two years.
The valiant girls first smashed the signboard that was installed on the main building of the college. The remains of the board remained there till 2009 to remind people of the valiant fight of the college eves. In a jiffy the students of SP College and SP School joined the chorus. Bilquees, a student narrated the story. “As soon as we came out of the college, we saw a bony chap throwing stones on the police. He guided us and saved many girls from the cane yielding police men. The boy was later identified as Jaleel Andrabi.”
Jaleel won international acclaim for his work on human rights. He was killed in 1996 after his arrest by Major Avtar Singh. Major Avtar is living a lavish life in America. A Srinagar court has instructed the Interpol to arrest the erring Major. The killing has been agitated repeatedly by the Amnesty International and other human rights groups.
Bilquees and her friends were the last to leave the `battle field’. “We insisted on removal of the board. The authorities promised us immediate action. However, when we looked around, the protesters had left. We were the only persons present on the scene. Then we decided to leave”, she said.
The agitation spread to other districts. People especially the students came out in large numbers to protest. They raised slogans against New Delhi and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. His effigies were burnt at a number of places. The government was forced to close down all educational institutions indefinitely. When the colleges opened after a fortnight, the students of Regional Engineering College staged a demonstration at Lal Chowk. Brutal police action left several students injured. Scores were taken into custody. The agitation evoked response in Jammu as well. The Jammu students attacked MA College and chanted anti-Pakistan slogans.
According to Shabnum Qayoom, the incident took place on November 5. In his Kashmir ka Siyasi Inqilaab, he says Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was supposed to preside over the function and faced wrath of the angry students when he was on his way to the college. However, according to Bilquees, it was November 14 and not November 5. “We came to know about the designs of the authorities when all preparations had been finalized. The students were asked to stay back and that is it”, she said. Other students of those times have differed with Shabnam Qayoom.
The college remains `nameless’ to this day. It is still called `Government College for Women’. Very few persons are aware of the historic role the college played in Kashmir politics at a crucial phase. The daring students gave an opportunity to the resistance forces to regroup. The much needed regrouping took place and infused new life in the movement though for a brief period. After two years the leaders fell from grace. They joined hands with the `worms of the gutter’. A movement spread over 22 years was brutally killed. Surprisingly, rather shockingly the Kashmiris celebrated the demise.
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