Kashmir’s Jalianwala Bagh: When blood flowed in the river down the bridge

SRINAGAR: On 21 January 1990, the Indian paramilitary troops of the Central Reserve Police Force opened fire on a group of Kashmiri protesters in what has been described by some authors as “the worst massacre in Kashmiri history”, along with the Bijbehara Massacre in 1993.

At least 52 people were killed, however the actual toll could be higher. The massacre happened just a day after the Government of India appointed Jagmohan as the Governor for a second time in a bid to control the mass protests by Kashmiris.

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

As word of the raids spread the next morning (20 January 1990), thousands of Kashmiris took to the streets in protest, demanding independence. Jagmohan responded by putting the city under curfew. That evening, a large group of protesters shouting pro-independence slogans, reached Srinagar’s wooden Gawkadal Bridge over the Jhelum River. According to the J & K police, on approaching the wooden bridge a large crowd of demonstrators started pelting stones, after which the security forces fired on the crowd, leading to the death of several protestors.

“On January 21, 1990, the whole city was under siege, massive search and crackdown operations were carried out to trace down the militants,” an eye witness said. “The news of women being molested and hundreds of people being arrested by the Indian forces on the directions of the then Governor Jagmohan sent shockwaves throughout Srinagar city.”

Young and old, filled with anger came on the streets. The Indian troops assembled at the Gowkadal Bridge and started depressing the trigger of LMG and assault rifles shooting right into the crowd. People fell like pack of cards. Some jumped over the bridge to save their lives.

Twently-four years old youth Abdul Rouf, according to eyewitnesses saved scores of people. He confronted a CRPF trooper who emptied an entire magazine into his chest. 

According to eyewitnesses 18 bullets were shot in the stomach of a youth Irfan Ahmed after marauds troopers found him breathing among the dead. Entire carbine was emptied in the chest of the neighbour of this youth who was later identified as Farooq Ahmed. They kept shooting, until everyone at the bridge was dead. Some pretended to be dead and thus survived.

As guns silences, what surfaced was nothing less than a scene from a war. The bridge was littered with bodies and the river down the road turned red with the blood of the victims.

Some 52 people died and 250 sustained bullet injuries. Police registered the FIR vide number 3/1990 at Kralkhud Police Station but it was registered against the ‘atrocious mob’. Nothing was written against the CRPF and Police action. The case stands closed and the culprits untraceable.

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