It has been more than twenty years of the gateway to our road of the massacres. It was this day, twenty three years ago, when the youngsters couldn’t stand anymore at the crossroads. When people couldn’t bear the humiliation anymore and they came out without any fear. When the shackles of forcible enslavement were twisted and cracked. When the rivers knew they would be flowing with blood. When the graveyards knew they would run out of soil. It was this day that started it all. Jagmohan, the notorious Indian official was appointed as the Governor of Jammu Kashmir on January 19, 1990. He had a history of tormenting trouble in Kashmir during his previous appointment as the governor in 1984. He was known for his Rastriya Sang Sabha leanings. In his first address to the State on the January 20, 1990, he stunned everybody. “I have come as a nurse; I will not take any salary. I will just take 1000 rupees as my personal expenses. I have promised you a clean administration. But if anyone creates a law and order problem, Mere Aaath se Aman ka Patta Khisak Jaayega (the cards of peace that I am carrying will slip away from my hands)”.
On January 21, 1990, the whole city was under siege, massive search and crackdown operations were carried out to trace down the rebels. The news of women being molested and hundreds of people being arrested by the ‘Security’ forces sent shockwaves throughout the City of the Sun.
People couldn’t bear this humiliation anymore; they came out breaking the curfew in many areas, protesting against this drastic violation of ethics and morality. The people from nearby areas of Maisuma, assembled together and took out a procession. Young and old, filled with anger came on the streets. Bubbling with the sentiment of freedom, the slogans sent sound waves which broke the cold air.
Irfan, a teenager skipped his tuition classes to be the part of the protests at Maisuma. It was hard to not be a part of the protests. He was spirited with passion of freedom. He was at the forefront of the protests. “Allah Hu Akbar” resonated in the skies.
As the procession started walking, the Indian Troops were assembled at the bridge, to thwart the protests. Some people out of fear vanished in the by-lanes, to become the eyewitnesses to what was going to happen. Around a hundred people, in the procession kept walking. Screaming and shouting slogans of freedom and protest. The resonance of the slogans kept the procession going; they were unaware of what was going to happen. As they were walking on the inclined road of Gaw Kadal, they sighted a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) company armed with guns. CRPF ran after them into the by-lanes, some stood there thinking they won’t shoot due to the presence of the women. As soon as they stepped on the bridge, the sounds of Light Machine Gun (LMG) and AK 47 surrounded them. Bullets were fired. People were falling like the leaves of a Chinar in the autumn. Some people jumped over the bridge to save their lives.
Abdul Rauf a young man of 24-years-old was caught in the melee of fallen people, alive and the dead. He rose up, from the bodies. He was puzzled as to why they were shooting indiscriminately. He walked towards the CRPF trooper carrying a Machine Gun; he caught hold of the gun barrel. The CRPF trooper emptied the whole magazine into his chest. Thirty two bullets. He died. I know he must have smiled. That brave soul died, saving lots of people.
Irfan the teenager, who was at the front of the procession, was shot. He fell on the bridge. Eighteen bullets were shot in his stomach after he was found breathing. Farooq Ahmed, a neighbour of Irfan grabbed the barrel of a trooper to his stomach and took the bullets. Entire carbine was emptied in him. They kept shooting, until everyone at the bridge was dead.
As the sounds of bullets got down, the bridge and the road was full of bodies. It was a scene from a war. The blood was rushing down the road. Blood poured on the river below. It was floating with the blood
like the memories of our dead.
CRPF checked on the bodies after the firing was over, those found alive were shot until they were lifeless. The Police brought trucks after hours of the massacre. Dogs were sniffing the bodies of the dead. An eyewitness said, “I saw a dog eating a human arm”.
The impact of the massacre was such that from hundreds, people started crossing over the line in thousands. Boys as young as fifteen and fourteen went across the line.
Fifty two people died and 250 sustained bullet injuries. As usual the official death was put to 21. Police registered the FIR (No.3/90) at Kralkhud Police Station. It was registered against the atrocious ‘Mob’. Nothing was written against the CRPF and Police action. The case stands closed and the culprits untraceable.
Twenty one years have gone since the rivers and skies turned blood red. Today is that day when we lost our brethren. People still walk by the Gaw Kadal (bridge), but who remembers what happened that day. A memorial stone was built by Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). It is hidden from the view by the Auto Rickshaw stand. The water underneath the bridge has turned into dirty filth. We still talk about the sacrifices and pay tributes to the martyrs. M’s, G’s, R’s and so many other groups pass their condolences. And yes accompanied by the usual “We will take their mission to its logical end”. Today even the most popular “government” newspaper skipped it. It’s not just a day; it is a reminder of what we have forgotten, of what we have done to the dreams of the martyrs. We are too busy with taking potshots at each other.
“We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget”.
Illustration by Malik Sajad for Conveyor magazine.