29 Years On, Justice Eludes Handwara Massacre Victims 

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SRINAGAR — Twenty one people, all civilians, fell to the bullets of the paramilitary BSF personnel in Handwara township of Kupwara district on January 25, 1990, barely four days after massacre of 52 civilians on Srinagar’s Gow Kadal bridge by paramilitary CRPF men.

The Handwara blood bath was carried out when around 10,000 people were heading towards town centre to protest against the Srinagar massacre. At the end of the day official death count was 25 dead and 75 injured.

An FIR vide NO- 10/1990 stands registered at Police Station Handwara under sections 307, 151, 53, 427, 336, 449, 448, 436, 435–A. Police had then assured that the killers will be taken to task. However, 29 years have passed justice eludes scores of families whose members were either killed or maimed for life.

Police have cited that all the accused BSF men are untraceable. “Till this date the government has no answer to our queries as to what led to this massacre. Killed persons were not militants but civilians who were protesting peacefully,” insists Muhammad Ahsan Untoo, a rights activist who has been pursuing the case before the State Human Rights Commission since past many years.

THE INCIDENT: “It had been almost a year now that resistance had been gradually spreading in Kashmir. Month of January brought with it news of heavy deployment of BSF and CRPF in the Valley. Massive protests and curfews in Kashmir had become order of the day by that time. Soon news of Jagmohan taking over as the Governor of J&K was received and on the first night of Jagmohan’s tenure curfew was imposed in the entire Valley,” said Abdur Rashid, an eye-witness.

On Jan 21, 22, 23, 24 there were massive protests in entire Kashmir including Handwara town of Kupwara district against the Gawkadal massacre. On Jan 24, an organized protest programme was devised and all the people were asked to assemble at Handwara chowk and take part in protest demonstration.

On Jan 25, thousands of people from Ramhal, Vilgam, Rajwar, Kandi, Nagarwari, Qaziabad, Qalamabad, Kulangam and adjoining areas started pouring in at Handwara Chowk.

In Handwara, people were hoisting green flags amid pro-freedom, anti- India and anti-Jagmohan slogans at the time.

At around 11 am, a large procession from Ramhal area had reached Handwara chowk via Magam route.

A TATA- 407 vehicle of BSF from Waripora Handwara, (No. HVN-7717) appeared near police station Handwara and tried to make its way through the procession. Protestors didn’t allow it to pass on. This infuriated the BSF men who opened fire on the unarmed protestors. There was retaliation from the protestors who resorted to stone pelting, and they even set the BSF vehicle on fire.

After the massacre BSF personnel ran into the Police Station Handwara and ransacked it before thrashing policemen on duty there.

TIME FOR A FRESH PROBE BY SITTING HC JUDGE:

The petitioner and the rights activist, Ahsan Untoo says that since the SHRC has disposed off the case citing lack of cooperation by the district officials, next of the kin of victim families and the non-identification of the BSF men involved in the act, a fresh probe is warranted.

“Since the Handwara massacre remains a blot on the face of Indian democracy, I demand a transparent and fresh probe into the incident by the sitting High Court Judge,” says Untoo.  He said that there is also an ambiguity as to whether the ex-gratia was provided to all the NoKs of the slain.

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