Gawkadal Massacre: The Tragedy of Kashmir

Gawkadal Massacre: The Tragedy of Kashmir

On 21 January 1990, death and destruction stalked the streets of Srinagar. This reached a climax at Gaw Kadal where paramilitary forces brazenly and unabashedly opened fire on unarmed protestors, killing 50. There were two contexts to what came to be called as a massacre. One was the local one: Kashmir was in a state of deep and wide political ferment. Prelude to a widespread insurgency, Kashmir, prior to the Gaw Kadal massacre, witnessed the collapse of state authority against popular demands for freedom. This was complemented by incidents of militancy. All this appeared to have rendered the state paranoid, to the extent of attempting to snuff out this popular rebellion by dint of force and by virtue of arms. The other was the global and international one: the last decade of the 20th century witnessed watershed political changes whose import and significance is still panning out. The reference here is to the end of the structural bipolar world order that came to be known as the Cold War. This led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its satellite states. Complemented by the Tiananmen Massacre wherein a broad and popular uprising against Communist rule in China was crushed by the Chinese state, the effects of these international developments of significant import appeared to have forged the decision making calculus of powers that be in Jammu and Kashmir and India. Paranoia, on part of the state, might have been the operating dynamic and the conclusion that the state appears to have drawn was to crush any hint of rebellion in Kashmir by dint of armed force. While these structural contexts are important and pertinent, the sad fact is that scores of people lost their lives in this despicable act. This is overlaid by a tragic irony wherein none of the perpetrators of this heinous crime was brought to the book. In fact, the Gaw Kadal case massacre was later declared closed. A clear cut instance of mass murder was swept under the carpet but given the scale of the tragedy, it remains etched in the historical memory of Kashmiris. That a murder of this scale was sought to be covered up officially and glossed over is in itself abominable but given similar incidents, even though of a lesser scale, that have happened since then points out and builds to the tragedy that is Kashmir.

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