Srinagar: The year 1990 in Kashmir began with massacres. On January 21, Gawkadal Massacre was perpetrated by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) killing at least 52 civilians in indiscriminate firing. This sparked protests across the Valley.
Four days later, another massacre took place in Handwara district of North Kashmir.
People from Ramhal, Vilgam, Rajwar, Kandi, Nagarwari, Qaziabad, Qalamabad, Kulangam and adjoining areas had started gathering in Handwara Chowk, to protest against Jagmohan Malhotra, the newly appointed Governor.
Witnesses from that time and locals say that around 11 am, a large procession from Ramhal reached the spot through Magam route.
They say that 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.
According to eyewitnesses, protestors did not allow it to pass, infuriating the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel who opened indiscriminate fire on the protestors.
“People were protesting peacefully when troopers opened fire at them. Suddenly people hit by bullets were falling in front of me. Some of them died on the spot,” a survivor narrates.
“I could see the bodies of Muhammad Shafi War of Divaspora, Shafi Khan of Sodal, Nazir Ahmad Dar of Braripora, Shief-ud-din Khan of Wullarhama, Ghulam Muhammad Sheikh of Wajhama, Ghulam Muhammad Beigh of Wudpora, Ali Mohammad Itto of Chogal, Ghulam Muhammad War and Muhammad Amin Masala — both residents of Kulangam — receiving bullets and dying in front of me. Many others were critically injured,” he said.
“It was a doomsday; bullets were being showered like rain onto the protesters. The incident still sends shivers down the spine of the people.”
Recalling the incident another survivor said, “Within minutes, bodies were piling on streets and blood was scattered everywhere. I miraculously escaped from the indiscriminate firing; BSF men didn’t allow us initially to move the injured to the hospital.”
Human rights activists say at least 34 people lost their lives and 175 others suffered grievous injuries. However, the official data puts the number of the dead below the figure.
An FIR vide number 10/1990 stands registered at Police Station Handwara under sections 307, 151, 53, 427, 336, 449, 448, 436, 435–A.
“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,” International Forum for Justice and Human Rights (IFJHRJK) Muhammad Ahsan Untoo, who has been pursuing the case before the State Human Rights Commission, told KDC.
“Handwara witnessed one of the worst massacres in the history of Kashmir. It remains a blot on the face of democracy. I demand a transparent and fresh probe into the incident by a sitting High Court judge,” he said.
State Human Rights Council (SHRC) has disposed off the case, citing lack of cooperation by the officials of the district and the non-identification of the BSF men involved in the act, he said. (KDC)