The Killing of January 21st 1990 at Gaw Kadal bridge, in Srinagar Qualifies as the first major & worst slaughter of Kashmiri Muslims by trigger-happy Indian forces. In this incident the number of Killed varies from 52 to 100-Some by direct firing & others by drowning after they jumped into the river, a tributary of river Jehlum, out of fear. In that respect it bears resemblance to massacre at Jallianwallah Bagh where many protestors died by jumping into the nearby well.
The firing on the peaceful protestors , who were protesting unauthorized searches, massive arrests & molestation of women committed on the previous day during a search & cordon operation by the Indian security forces, was directed by CRPF-an Indian Para Military police force, under the guidance & direction of a local police Officer- Allah Baksh who later inherited a sobriquet name “General Dyer”-the officer who ordered indiscriminate firing on innocent Indian protestors at Amritsar’s Jallianwallah Bagh. Says Khurram, the award winning human rights activist, whose grandfather was also killed in this incident “I was 14 years of age then, and the man behind that massacre (Allah Baksh) lived next door. It was a torture to see him every day. As a young boy, I had decided to take revenge on him, but then, as I grew up, I realized that the greatest revenge would be fighting for justice,”. Allah Baksh died a year ago.
Writes Balraj Puri, a Jammu based political activist, in his book, “Kashmir Insurgency and After on page 65, “Soon after the imposition of Governor’s Rule, the people in Kashmir were administered a severe shock. At 5 a.m. on 20 January 1990, security forces cracked down on a part of Srinagar city, conducted a house-to-house search and rounded up over three hundred persons, most of whom were, however, released later.”
Recalling his meeting with various effected families immediately after the incident puri says “People also complained that most of those arrested were beaten up or dragged out of their houses. In some cases, they were not even allowed to wear shoes and taken barefooted. The next day people were on the streets, defying curfew, to protest against the alleged excessive and use of force in the search operation and ill-treatment of women. Groups of demonstrators started from different parts of the city. They were not stopped en route but fired upon when most of them converged around Gaw Kadal.”
Writes Famous historian & Travel Writer William Dalrymple -“When I got to Srinagar the following day, I went straight to the city hospital. Every bed there was occupied and the overflow lined the corridors. One man, an educated and urbane city engineer named Farooq Ahmed, described how after the firing, the CRPF walked slowly forward across the bridge, finishing off those who were lying wounded on the ground. When the shooting began, Ahmed had fallen flat on his face and managed to escape completely unhurt. “Just as I was about to get up,” he told me, “I saw soldiers coming forward, shooting anyone who was injured. Someone pointed at me and shouted, ‘that man is alive,’ and a soldier began firing at me with a machine gun. I was hit four times in the back and twice in the arms.” Seeing that he was still alive, another soldier raised his gun, but the officer told him not to waste ammunition. “The man said I would anyway die soon.” –Brave Indian Soldiers indeed!
This incident also triggered the migration of Pandiths from Kashmir. The rumors were strife that Jagmohan had advised them, through few select leaders, to leave Kashmir temporarily to Jammu so that Muslims could be dealt effectively. As Puri recalls “ During our visit to Srinagar we also formed a joint committee of Kashmiri Muslims—former Chief Justice Mufti Bahauddin Farooqi and a leading advocate Ghulam Nabi Hagroo—and Kashmiri Pandit leader H N Jatoo to allay the apprehensions of Kashmiri Pandits about threat to their lives. We also were able to persuade some other Muslims leaders and priests to issue appeal to the Pandits not to migrate. Somehow our efforts did not succeed in preventing the mass migrations of the Pandits as contrary forces proved more effective.”
The biggest tribute to Gaw Kadal martyrs is the adoption of word “Gaw Kadal” by the “Urban dictionary” to mean “massacre of a protesting crowd with no means of escape”. It is now upto writers, both in Urdu & English to popularize its usage.
(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant. Feed back at firstname.lastname@example.org