Hundreds upon hundreds of teachers took to the streets in Kashmir’s capital of Srinagar on Monday, standing in solidarity to government officials. They were demanding higher pay in a country that has been torn by extremely high levels of militarization and years of struggle between India and Pakistan.
The protest was led by the group Jammu and Kashmir Teachers Forum. Police quickly dispersed the peaceful protest with giant water cannons that blasted teachers away from the scene of the demonstration in front of Khalsa Public School, Greater Kashmir News reports.
One witness estimated that as many as 5,000 teachers and allies lined the streets in protest. The witness also told Greater Kashmir that at least two dozen protesters were injured as the police attempted to disperse the demonstration. There were no exact numbers of how many people were arrested during the protests, but many sources speculate that at least dozens were detained.
Demonstrators feel that the police and officials have not listened to their demands and are trying to drive attention away from the difficult situation they are left in. The men who were protesting in the streets were blasted with purple water from a giant water cannon that blasts human bodies back with extreme force. MSNBC’s photo blog shows the image of a lone man, drenched in purple water, holding a sign aloft with the words “Is it possible in 2012 to work for just .50/day” in English.
Protests are often squashed quickly in such a highly militarized area. There are at least 500,000 Indian troops currently stationed in the Muslim-majority Kashmir at the moment, but there might be as many as 1 million. The population rests at around 4 million, according to AJ&K, making it one of the most militarized places to live on the planet, with about one armed soldier for every civilian.
More than 100 people were killed last year during a summer protest against Indian forces. Indian officials claim that they will reduce the number of troops in the area if the violence dies down, according to the BBC. Many residents fear detainment by these Indian forces. Countless numbers of people have disappeared over the years of Indian militarization, often after they expressed discontent with the current situation. Human Rights Watch states that families of people who have disappeared are terrified to file complaints, worried that swift retaliation will follow.
It is to be hoped that the detained teachers who participated in the peaceful rally will be returned to their families and their work and that they will not disappear because of their outspoken wishes and hopes for their communities.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons