‘When Security Personnel robbed even dead’

Eyewitness account 21 May 1990: ‘When Security Personnel robbed even dead’

Srinagar: “Dead bodies were lying all around me. Blood was profusely oozing out from my legs. I hold my breath, acted as dead and was shocked to see Indian Security Personnel frisking the pockets of dead bodies and robbing them with their belongings,” an eyewitness of 21 May 1990 Srinagar bloodshed told Srinagar based news gathering agency CNS on Monday.

Tahir Ahmed Baba son of Jalal-u-Din Baba resident of Mashal Mohalla Hawal was only 17 when on 21 May 1990 he heard that gunmen in Old City had assassinated Mirwaiz Molvi Mohammad Farooq. Security personnel killed scores of mourners by firing upon Mirwaiz’s funeral procession. He was one of the fortunate people who survived in that bloodbath though he is physically handicapped now as one of his legs was amputated due to blood loss on that fateful day.

Recounting the nightmare of that day, Tahir Ahmed Baba said militants had called for complete civil curfew for three days when possibly on Monday (21 May 1990) the news about the killing of Mirwaiz broke. “I along with other people managed to reach at Sher-i-Kahsmir Institute of Medical Science through interiors of city though security personnel had sealed every nook and corner of the city. Thousands of people including women were waiting outside SKIMS wailing and crying,” he said adding that funeral procession of Mirwaiz Molvi Mohammad Farooq started from SKIMS itself and passed through roads amid pro-freedom and anti-India slogans. “People in thousands, especially youth and women, were seen moving towards Soura. With each step the procession was swelling as passersby and others joined in, chanting pro-freedom slogans.”

“Security forces deployed on roads retreated at every point, as the procession was very huge. However the situation changed when people reached near Islamia College. A huge contingent of security personnel had been kept ready to prevent the procession from moving forward. They had blocked the road with drop-gates, and heavy vehicles,” Baba said adding the security personnel deployed on roads did not fire upon the procession.

“There was a security camp inside Islamia College and the security personnel from that camp fired indiscriminately on people. The continued firing shots created panic and people fell on road like cards. Opposite to Islamia College was Animal Husbandry Office and I myself witnessed people who climbed over the wall of that office were hit by bullets and they fell down. I tried to jump from the wall and suddenly bullets pierced in my both legs and I fell over dead bodies,” handicapped Baba said adding that the body of Mirwaiz was lying in the middle of the road and whosoever was coming close to it was being shot by security personnel.

He said there was uproar from everywhere. People were crying. Road was filled with blood. “Those who were lying injured were crying for help and I was one among them. Scores of security personnel walked over dead bodies and shot those whom they find crying for help. I was scared and held my breath. What I saw shocked me. Indian security personnel were frisking the dead opening their pockets and robbing them. They (security personnel) were snatching golden earrings and chains and finger rings from the dead women,” Tahir Ahmed Baba told CNS.

He said a large contingent of Forces Personnel was brought in to wash the blood on roads. “They sprayed buckets of water on roads, cleared it and fled from the scene. When people saw the troopers fleeing, they came and put the dead bodies into pushcarts. All the injured were rushed to SKIMS and I was one among them. Due to blood loss my both legs had become functionless, however due to efforts of doctors one of my leg was saved while the other was amputated,” he said.

“That was a nightmare for me and I think what British did in Jalinwala Bagh was repeted by India on 21 May 1990 in Srinagar,” Tahir Ahmed Baba said.

Pertinently, 72 people including four women were killed on that fateful day. “The total number of persons who got killed were 72 but the list available with us is of 52 people including 4 women namely Shakila Banoo, Jalla Begam, Shamima Akhtar and Fatima Banoo.