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Article
Gawkadal Massacre – A chapter of bloodshed
written by : Ruwa Shah
An open shoot out by the paramilitary troopers of Central Reserve Police force (CRPF) on the old wooden bridge of GawKadal Srinagar on 21st January 1990; which turned the bridge red with the blood of innocent Kashmiri protestors, was the first massacre Protests in Kashmir that Kashmir witnessed after the eruption of armed rebellion since 1989. The paramilitary troopers, that day, resorted to indiscriminate firing and used the Light Machine Guns (LMG) to kill the unarmed people. Indian authorities claimed that 28 people were killed but independent media reports say that more than 50 people were killed in that bloody massacre. The peaceful procession which constituted thousands of people marching towards Chotta Bazaar area of old city, were protesting against the 'atrocities' which the troopers had committed a night before in that area. Raids, house to house search, unwarranted arrests and alleged molestation of women led to anger amongst the people. People from the areas of Batamaloo, Raj Bagh, Mehjoor Nagar and Magarmal Bagh had joined the procession and had to pass the GawKadal Bridge.
Jagmohan was appointed as the governor of Jammu and Kashmir on 19th January 1990 by New Delhi. Indian authorities claim that they did so in order to root out militants, and control the unrest in valley, which arose after the elections held in 1987. Eyewitnesses said, "On that night, in response to the harassment's and unprovoked arrests done by the Indian forces thousands of people marched from their homes defying the harsh curfew. Indian forces conducted warrant-less arrests and house-to-house searches in Srinagar. They dragged many people out of their homes into the harsh cold. Many people complained that they were beaten and abused." Round the clock Curfew was imposed in valley but it was hardly followed as the anger and 'urge to retaliate' led the people to break every wall which hampered them. Restrictions couldn't calm the anger in the hearts of people. Protesting against the 'brutalities' committed by CRPF in masses raised their voices who were demanding "Azaadi" (freedom) from the Indian rule. People began to pour out into the streets of Srinagar. Announcements were made from the loudspeakers of Mosques urging Kashmiris to come out on the streets. Thousands of Kashmiris gathered to protest the actions of the forces. Soon as the procession reached the old wooden bridge of GawKadal, people were allegedly provoked and they pelted stones on the paramilitary CRPF, who had already covered up the bridge. Soon the stones were rebounded as bullets which thrashed their lives. "They had fixed an LMG at a corner of the bridge near Basant Bagh end, and when the troopers faced a huge mob, they got panicked and fired indiscriminately leaving so many civilians dead", Gulzar Ahmad, 39 a survivor recounts. "They had fixed an LMG at a corner of the bridge near Basant Bagh end, and when the troopers faced a huge mob, they got panicked and fired indiscriminately leaving so many civilians dead" The cordoned bridge that day witnessed dozens of innocent deaths; the blood flowed with the gush of river Jhelum. Bodies gathered over each other as a pile. Troopers of CRPF continued to fire till the winter chill turned into the warmth of bloodshed. Gulzar who was then 16 years old, would not have survived had he not pretended to be dead. "I fell on the stack of dead bodies, I blinked carefully and looked up in fear of a bullet, pretending to be dead", he says. It seems that the red memories of 21st January 1990, still haunts Gulzar. Farooq Ahmad, an engineer is another survivor. "I saw soldiers coming forward, shooting anyone who was injured. Someone pointed and shouted, 'That man is alive,' and the soldiers began firing at me. I was hit four times in the back and twice in the arms." Seeing how he was still alive, another soldiers raised his gun, but the officer told him not to waste ammunition: "He will die anyway," Basharat Peer quotes him in his book "Curfewed Night". The cordoned bridge that day witnessed dozens of innocent deaths; the blood flowed with the gush of river Jhelum. Bodies gathered over each other as a pile. Troopers of CRPF continued to fire till the winter chill turned into the warmth of bloodshed. As Human Rights Watch stated in a report from May, 1991, "In the weeks that followed the massacre, as security forcesComplete Shutdown in Valley; People protest against Anti-Muslim Film. Read more ... » fired on crowds of marchers and as militants intensified their attacks against the police and those suspected of aiding them, Kashmir's civil war began in earnest." In an aftermath of massacre Kashmir's insurgency had a peak. Mass unrest got a hike. Protests, demonstrations continued for long but no report has been ever filed against the troopers yet. Now the state human rights commission (SHRC) had ordered an inquiry on 26th December 2012 which is supposed to be presented before 26th February 2013. Justice is still awaited, eagerly. (Ruwa Shah is a freelance Journalist from Kashmir) Courtesy The Vox Kashmir.

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