Gawkadal Massacre: Still a nightmare for survivors

Gawkadal Massacre: Still a nightmare for survivors

Ishaq Bhat

Srinagar: In a usually busy Gawkadal locality here, there are no apparent signs of a carnage that the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) men carried out over two decades before. Yet, the memories of the incident, in which 52 civilians fell down to the bullets of CRPF are still fresh in the hearts and minds of its witnesses and survivors.

Fifty two unarmed civilians were massacred by the CRPF troopers on January 21, 1990 at Gawkadal in the heart of Srinagar city.

Not knowing how to respond to the mass uprising, New Delhi deputed Governor Jagmohan to Kashmir. He took the charge on January 19 and on the same night the troopers searched homes in the Guru Bazaar-Chota Bazaar area during crackdown operations, and randomly arrested 56 civilians, beat up and molested women.

Survivor of the bloodshed and Valley’s renowned Journalist Zahir-ud-Din recounts with Agence India Press: \”Embarrassed by the molestation of women at Chotta Bazaar during the first ever search operation in Kashmir, it hid behind the clouds. The molestation of women sent shock waves across Srinagar. People came out to register protest. Processions were organized from Batamaloo, Rajbagh and from various other places and marched towards Chota Bazar.\”

\”The peaceful protest was intercepted by a party of Jammu and Kashmir Police and CRPF led by DSP Allah Baksh at Gow Kadal. They fired indiscriminately without any provocation. Everybody ran for his life. A CRPF trooper with a light machine gun was firing indiscriminately on the scared people. Rouf (an unarmed youth) went to him and tried to snatch his gun. The trooper sensing danger emptied the entire machine in his chest. I somehow managed to escape from there and reached home in the evening,\” remembers Zahir.

Recalling the day with the Agence India Press, a Shopkeeper at Lalchowk wishing anonymity said, “The security forces went on rampage and proceeded to indiscriminately firing at unarmed peaceful protesters, and the bodies were scattered on the road. The Imam Sahib of our mosque mustered up courage and walked among the bodies, trying to see if someone was breathing. How can we forget that day?”

“It was like doomsday in Srinagar, thousands of protesters were marching and shouting the slogan, HUM KYA CHAHTAY AZADEE (we want freedom),” says shopkeeper, who is eye witness of the massacre, “After some time police appeared on the spot. Bodies were taken to the Police control room, wounded were taken to hospital and curfew was imposed for next four days in the city.”

\”I cannot forget that horrifying incident till I am alive. The troops were on rampage. I lost two relatives in the incident,” says an eyewitness and survivor of the carnage, Irshad Ahmad (name changed), \”The massacre would haunt me till I am alive.\”

The place where the massacre took place turned one of the volatile and sensitive place in Kashmir and remained a hot spot for separatists.

In the repercussion of the Gawakadal massacre, more demonstrations followed, and in January 1990, Indian paramilitary forces are believed to have killed around 300 protesters in the first few weeks of the year, states Human Rights Watch in a report.

Violence erupted in Kashmir valley in November 1989, though unrest had been building in the state since the 1987 rigged elections.

Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir People’s Political Party(PPP), Chairman, Engineer Hilal Ahmad War has called for a shutdown in Masuma, Gaw Kadal and other adjoining areas on 21 January to mark the 22nd martyrdom anniversary of Gaw Kadal Martyrs.

War said, “The Gawkadal Massacre was a well thought plan of the then Home Ministry of India which was aimed at to pave the way for Kashmiri Pandit’s exodus from Kashmir”.

“The conspiracy of Kashmiri Pandits exodus was hatched by the then Governor of J&K, Jagmohan in collaboration with Home Ministry of India. The Home Ministry of India was then headed by PDP Chief Patron, Mufti Muhammad Sayed who claims to be the well wisher of oppressed Kashmiris,” alleges War in his statement.

PPP Chief urges International Human Rights Organizations to set-up an International Independent Tribunal to probe the Gawkadal Massacre so that the conspirators be unmasked and punished under International Humanitarian Law. (AIPNEWS)

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