Jan 21, 1990: Massacre Horrors Haunt Survivors

SRINAGAR: Relating events of that fateful day when paramilitary forces opened their guns on unarmed civilians at city’s Gawkadal area, eyewitnesses say the gory images haunt them to this day. Panicky people of different age groups falling on the roads, some jumping in the nearby river to escape indiscriminate firing and countless injured crying for help, are the images they want to erase from their memory but can not.

One of the eye witness Farooq Ahmad Wani could not stop his tears while relating the story. “I was posted as assistant executive engineer in PHE those days. There was drinking water shortage in some localities of city. Curfew was imposed and I as a responsible officer got some curfew passes from Deputy Commissioner Srinagar to ensure drinking water through tanks to the general public. I was not allowed to proceed beyond Jahagir Chowk by CRPF and policemen already deployed there”, said Wani.

He said that he opted for Gowkadal route to reach at Habbakadal. “As soon as I reached Gowkadal bridge, CRPF men opened unprovoked firing on the procession passing through the area resulting in killing of innocent Kashmiris”, he added.

He said that there was no space to move towards a safer place as bullets were raining from every direction and he lied on the bridge, adding, “My face on the ground was touching the burning charcoal. As soon as the firing stopped I lifted my head”.

He said that one of the CRPF men shouted “Sir he is still alive” after he saw me moving. An  officer there pointed his gun towards to me but I quickly waved my identity card and shouted "I am a government officer on duty". Wani says, the plea had no effect and the CRPF officer fired several bullets at me causing grave injuries.

Wani said, he could see any one lying on the road, who they found alive was shot dead.

Terming the massacre intentional, the eyewitness continued, “Another CRPF officer who found me still breating wanted to shoot me but his colleague told him not to waste bullets as the injured (Wani) will die any way.

Wani, who later served as Managing Director JK Cements said that the injured persons were shifted to a police vehicle. “After I regained consciousness and opened my eye, I heard people talking in Kashmiri to my great relief. I was lying at PCR from where I was referred to hospital for treatment”, said Wani.

Wani said that the massacre is the worst stigma in the history of Kashmir and involved uniformed persons who should be brought to book.  

Wani, who has retired as Chief Engineer, disclosed that after his recovery when he joined back office, he was offered reward by the then governor’s advisor Hameedullah Khan which he refused to take and asked Khan to set up the independent commission to hold inquiry into the Gowkadal massacre.

“It was the massacre of peaceful and unarmed civilians. The victims and their kin should be given justice”.

Rauf Ali, whose father Ali Mohammad, was also killed in the same massacre, demands that the culprits of this brutal massacre should be hanged.

On January 19, 1990, the night Delhi appointed Jagmohan as governor, government forces conducted extensive, warrant-less house-to-house searches in Srinagar, in an effort to find illegal weapons and root out any hidden militants. Hundreds of people were arrested.

On 21st of January 1990 a peaceful demonstration protesting against alleged molestation and arrests during the search operation by government forces took to streets. One such protest march at Gow Kadal was fired upon by CRPF personnel causing death of 50 persons and injuries to several others.

Police FIR maintains 22 people were killed while rights groups and separatists say over 50 people died in the massacre.

Meanwhile human rights groups have urged the SHRC to conduct an impartial probe into the massacre.

“ International Forum for Justice and Human Rights Forum have urged SHRC to order this inquiry in free and impartial manner. We urge the government officials to cooperate in the fresh inquiry so that justice can be delivered to the family members of the victims of Gow Kadal massacre,” said a spokesman of  IFJHRF.

The group had on May 1, 2012 filed a petition in State Human Rights Commission (SHRC). The SHRC later issued notices to Director General of Police, Union Home Secretary, J&K Home Secretary and IGP Kashmir to submit their reports on the incident.

The massacre happened just a day after the Government of India appointed Jamohan as the Governor in a bid to control the mass protests by Kashmiris. (KNS)

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