Gaw Kadal, 21 Jan 1990: A bloodied memory of massacre

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Like every day, on 21 January 1990, Ghulam Ali Dar alias Gulle Kak left home early in the morning to deliver newspapers in the vicinity. However, while returning home Kak saw an unprecedented deployment of government forces on Gaw Kadal, a bridge in Srinagar, just a few meters from his residence.

Unaware of what was to unfold, Kak, 70, after being stopped by the forces to go further, took a detour to reach home. He parked his bicycle outside his house and started walking towards the bridge to know what was happening.

“There was a large procession coming towards the bridge from the civil area side. As the protesters reached the bridge, the troops opened fire on the march,” Kak recalls.

Kak said before he could have come to senses, he saw dozens of people falling on the ground.

“I was stunned to see things unfolding before my eyes,” he said. “The troops were firing indiscriminately. I saw two people embracing each other, before falling into a ditch. Both of them died.”

Kak said, after the gunfire stopped, the troops started checking each person to make sure they were all dead.

“Whosoever was breathing, the troops shot more bullets into them,” he said.

Human rights groups say 51 persons were killed in the massacre while 250 got injured. Though, the official figures put the number of fatalities at 21.

Police in FIR no. 3/90 registered at Kralkhud Police Station under RPC 307, 148, 149, 188 and 153 stated that the CRPF troopers had opened fire to stop “unruly mob raising anti-India and anti-forces slogans” heading towards Lal Chowk.

The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) had ordered an inquiry into the case on 27 December 2012 following a petition filed by International Forum For Justice and Human Rights Forum (IFJHRJK). 

On 22 November 2017, then Inspector General of Police (IGP), Munir Ahmad Khan, submitted a report to SHRC.

In the report, it is said that in context of the case, it is submitted that on 08 September 2013, “the CD file of the case is submitted to the prosecution section of PHQ J&K, through Head Constable Ghulam Ahmad no. 4165/S vide DDR no 18”.

“It is apt to mention here that the observation of SP SHRC that authorities have failed to identify the magistrate detailed to Gawkadal area on the day of occurrence is completely misplaced and misconceived,” the report reads.

The police report also identifies the names of 22 civilians killed in the massacre and also mentions the names of twelve others who were injured.

Shakeel Khan, another eyewitness to the incident, said that it was “mayhem”.

“It was a peaceful protest. People from the nearby vicinity had gathered to protest against the highhandedness of troops,” Khan said.

As per the local inhabitants the day before the massacre, forces had carried out nocturnal raids into several houses in a Chota Bazar locality and conducted wanton arrests besides molesting some women.

“So, people were on the streets to protest against the nocturnal raids conducted by government forces,” Khan said. “However, without any warning, the troops started indiscriminate firing on the protesters. There were heaps of dead bodies everywhere.”

The memories of the massacre are still haunting the survivors and the victims who had a close shave with death.

Meanwhile, to mark the 31st anniversary of the Gaw Kadal massacre, a shutdown was observed in parts of Srinagar city on Friday.

Many netizens also took to micro-blogging site Twitter to express their solidarity with the victims’ family.

“Today is the 32nd anniversary of another dark chapter in our history – the nightmare of Gawkadal on 21st January, 1990. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims who lost their lives. 32 years and justice is still awaited. (sic),” tweeted Srinagar Mayor Junaid Mattu.

“From GawKadal to KunanPospora: we remember it all. Remembering the #GawKadalMassacre of 21 Jan 1990 when forces killed more than 200 Kashmiri civilians. #WeRemember  #Kashmir(sic),” president of Jammu and Kashmir Ittihad-ul-Muslimeen, Masroor Ansari said.

Senior journalist Jahangir Ali also took to social media to remember the day.

“22 years ago, on this day, 55 people were shot dead and 300 injured in Gaw Kadal for staging a protest in Srinagar. We call it Gaw Kadal massacre. Justice? The case has been closed and the culprits declared “untraceable”. (sic),” Ali said.

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