'What would you do if a policeman, or for that matter, any person, abuses your family?', asks a 21-year-old student who became the face of students pelting stones in Kashmir.
Text and photographs: Umar Ganie
She dreams of being a part of the Indian football team, but on April 24, life for Afshan Ashiq changed and from being a peace-loving Kashmiri she transformed into a stone-pelter.
Ashiq, a second year Bachelor of Arts student, was caught on camera hurling stones at the police, a moment which quickly transformed her life.
On Saturday, May 13, the 21 year old revealed the story behind the image after she apologised for the incident to Jammu-Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti at the Tourist Reception Centre ground by the Jhelum river.
Recounting the day, she said she was escorting a group of 10 to 16 girls on a regular 15-minute walk from the Government Girls Higher Secondary, Kothi Bagh, around mid-afternoon on April 24, when demonstrations broke out.
Unbothered by it -- she had come across many such protests in the past -- she decided to take an alternative route to the sports complex. Subsequently, the J-K police started firing teargas shells at the protesters.
"We were walking peacefully towards the ground, but then a police officer started to abuse me and my group of girls. Another policeman slapped one of the girls and then we protested," she said.
"We might be women, but we are not weak. The police abuse us and our family members as they have no regard towards women," Afshan said.
They girls would not have pelted stones, Afshan added, "had the police not misbehaved with them. They forced us to pelt stones on them on that day, otherwise we never protest in our lives and never pelt stones on anyone."
Afshan said her anger was not directed at the state government, or the army or the Central Reserve Police Force.
"We do not have any problem with the army or the CRPF. If I pelted stones on that day, we pelted it against the police."
"I am angry at the state police and will continue to do so till my last breath. The Jammu and Kashmir police is not disciplined like other forces. They fire teargas at us and it is routine for them now," she said.
"What would you do if a policeman, or for that matter, any person, abuses your family?" Afshan asked.
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