January 21, 1990: When troopers painted Gawkadal Bridge red with blood

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    SRINAGAR:  It was this day (January 21, 1990), twenty-seven years ago, when at least 52 Kashmiri innocent civilians were butchered by India’s Central Reserve Police Force in the heart of the Srinagar city when thousands of people took out a massive anti-India procession.

    Number of people who witnessed the bloodshed said that anti-India sentiments were running deep and the city was reverberating with pro-freedom slogans while everywhere people took out processions. “On January 21, 1990, the whole city was under siege, massive search and crackdown operations were carried out to trace down the militants. 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.”

    Some of the witnesses said that a procession actually started from Ikhrajpora that swelled up as it passed through lanes and bye lanes of the civil lines areas. Young and old, filled with anger came on the streets. Bubbling with the sentiment of freedom, the slogans sent sound waves which broke the cold air. As the procession reached Maisuma, the Indian Troops were assembled at the Gowkadal Bridge, to thwart the protests. The resonance of the slogans kept the procession going; they were unaware of what was going to happen. As soon as they stepped on the bridge, the sounds of Light Machine Gun (LMG) and AK 47 surrounded them. Bullets were fired. People were falling like the pack of cards. Some people 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 the whole magazine (32 bullets) into his chest. According to eyewitnesses 18 bullets were shot in the stomach of a budding youth Irfan Ahmed after marauds troopers found him breathing among the dead. Entire carbine was emptied in the chest of the neighbor 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 the sounds of bullets got down, the bridge and the road was full of bodies. It was a scene from a war. The blood was rushing down the road into the river below making the water red.

    Fifty two people died and 250 sustained bullet injuries. However the official death toll was put to 21. 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.

    International Forum for Justice Chairman, Muhammad Ahsan Untoo who published book-lets of this gory massacre at Pratap Park today said that it’s not just a day; it is a reminder of what we have forgotten, of what we have done to the dreams of the martyrs. We are too busy with taking potshots at each other.

    Untoo was accompanied by Hameeda Nayeem, Zareef Ahmed Zareef, Shabir Ahmed Dar, Muhammad Iqbal Mir and Farooq Ahmed, the retired Chief Engineer who is the witness of this massacre and received bullets at that fateful day when he was on official duty. (CNS)