It has been over 31 years since January 21, 1990, when the Indian paramilitary troops of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) opened fire on a procession passing over the bridge that connects Basant Bagh with Maisuma, in Srinagar, killing at least 52 people and injuring 250, according to survivors and media reports.
The major killing became known as the Gawkadal Massacre and is now usually marked by a shutdown.
The shutdown is being observed on Thursday in Lal Chowk area and parts of Downtown Srinagar.
Just two days after the Government of India appointed Jagmohan Malhotra as the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir on January 21, 1990, a mass protest rally was being carried out by the pro-freedom leaders in Srinagar. As people reached the Gawkadal, the CRPF personnel deployed there fired indiscriminately, killing more than 50 people and injuring hundreds of others.
The massacre was named after the Gawkadal Bridge in Srinagar. The survivors recall that the Indian paramilitary troops of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) opened fire on a group of Kashmiri protesters in what has been described by some authors as “the worst massacre in Kashmiri history”.
What led to protests that day?
The forces had conducted house-to-house searches during the preceding night to search for militants and trace the weapons and other ammunition which according to them was kept in the houses of locals. The word spread among the people that during the searches by Indian forces, women were molested and it spread like wildfire across Kashmir Valley.
People in thousands came out on roads and began to march towards the old city area of Srinagar. The procession from areas like Magarmal Bagh, Padshahi Bagh, Kursoo-Rajbagh, Jawahar Nagar and Mehjoor Nagar reached Lal Chowk and began to move towards the old city through Gawkadal.
At Ghanta Ghar (Clock Tower) in Lal Chowk, a police officer, DSP Alla Baksh, stopped the procession and forced them to move towards Gawkadal through Maisuma. As people reached the Gawkadal Bridge, the CRPF personnel already deployed there opened indiscriminate fire, killing 52 civilians and injuring more than 250.
Police registers First Information Report (FIR)
Police registered FIR number 3/1990 at Police Station Kral Khud Srinagar on 21-01-1990. The sections charged in the FIR were 148, 149, 307, 188 RPC, 153 RPC.
According to the FIR, people from different parts converged at Gawkadal defying curfew. The people were raising slogans against Indian government and had demanded demilitarization of Kashmir. The deployed forces in the curfew area resorted to indiscriminate firing that led to mayhem. In the massacre at Gawkadal, 52 civilians were killed, according to unofficial estimates, while the police in its FIR mentioned the death of 22 persons.
In February 2019, the police said they had closed the investigation into the 1990 Gawkadal killings case, saying they found no clue to trace the accused persons. The police in their reply to the State Human Rights Commission had also said the records pertaining to the incident were lost in the 2014 floods.
Following the massacre, the remembrance of the incident of January 21, 1990, is now an annual affair and is usually marked by a shutdown. (KDC)