You know all that blither about the Kashmiri freedom struggle being riddled with “Wahhabi/Salafi jihadists”? Well the truth about terrorism in Kashmir is quite the contrary because this is the time they commemorate several massacres of unarmed civilian protesters by Indian occupying forces, just in the month of January. January 21st, 1990 was the first of many massacres of unarmed civilian protesters by Indian paramilitary forces. On that day, several thousand Kashmiris violated a curfew which India had no right to impose & peacefully marched through Srinagar to protest incidents of police brutality & violence during search operations. When the front of the protest was halfway across the Gaw Kadal bridge, CRPF paramilitary troops opened fire with machine guns from three directions & reportedly continued indiscriminate firing for three hours. The casualty & injury figures from this incident differ considerably (from 52 to 280), probably because some were killed on the spot, some of the injured were executed as they lied on the ground, others died at the hospital, & others died later from their injuries–& also because the Indian Army calculates loss of Kashmiri life very differently than Kashmiris who witness the carnage or lose loved ones.
According to one report, as the protesters scattered for safety, Indian troops went through the bodies lying on the ground to finish off any survivors among the injured & kick bodies near the edge of the bridge into the river. The soldiers than piled bodies into a convoy of trucks, covered them with tarpaulins, & drove around Srinagar before dumping them at police headquarters. Only then were they taken to the hospital. Fearless against the threats of military violence, unarmed civilians in Handwara came out on January 25th, just four days after the massacre at Gaw Kadal bridge, to protest Indian Army violence. Again, fatality figures conflict, but at least 26 protesters were shot dead by paramilitary troops. Protesters who ran for safety to the nearby home of a local politician were denied entry & fired on by his security guards. After these incidents, foreign journalists were banned from entering Kashmir for several months.
There have been other massacres in January, most notably at Sopore on January 5th, 1993 when Indian paramilitary troops killed 55 civilians & torched 600 houses. According to one report, Kashmiri civilians sought safety in shops which were fired on & then torched.
If you have to ask why Kashmiris are still commemorating the massacres at Gaw Kadal & Handwara 28 years later, it’s because humanity has a long memory for mass murder, indiscriminate shooting of unarmed civilians, the loss of beloved family, friends, & neighbors to massacre, especially when such violence is still going on & when there hasn’t been a modicum of elementary justice for the executions of so many Kashmiri protesters. It is also a way to remember & honor those who died in the struggle for freedom & to commit to continuing the struggle they gave their lives for.
(Art work depicting Gaw Kadal massacre by Mir Suhail)