On January 21, 1990, scores of peaceful protestors were gunned down by a joint party of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and the CRPF near Gaw Kadal in central Srinagar. The more that 10,000-strong procession was on its way to Chotta Bazaar where the CRPF had molested some women during Kashmir’s first search operation.
The march was intercepted by the Police and the CRPF, and within no time men in uniform opened fire, killing around 52 persons on the spot. Over 200 were wounded. The massacre, Kashmir experts believe, proved to be a turning point: it left nobody in Kashmir to be won over by New Delhi. A few civil society members from the Indian capital and elsewhere rushed to the Valley to investigate. They held the personnel on duty responsible for the killings.
The Government of India also realised the gravity of the situation. Some important and influential individuals came to Srinagar, offering Kashmiris total internal autonomy. But there were no takers.
With respect to the killings, an FIR was registered in the police station concerned, but the case was closed as `untraced’ after a couple of years. The police inaction, or rather the inaction of the government, sacrificed justice at the altar of what in the Kashmir context is known as India’s “national interest.”
A human rights activist has now sought the intervention of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in a bid to bring those responsible for the carnage to book. The Commission has issued notices to various quarters and sought details from the police. But, a probe by a body like the SHRC cannot deliver justice. Although twenty-four years have passed, people believe that a judicial probe could go a long way in identifying those involved and bringing them to justice.
It has now been established beyond doubt that the procession was totally peaceful and spontaneous. It was a reaction to an act of outrage in a particular locality. The provocation, if any, came from the men in uniform. Had the procession been allowed to march ahead, nothing would have happened. India would not have lost Kashmir the way it did. However, it is never late to mend. A probe can be ordered even now. Witnesses are still around, and willing to testify on record. Shielding the culprits, as pointed out by many time and again, has not served any purpose. In fact, India has lost much of its credibility by protecting forces personnel involved in massacres, rapes and murder in Kashmir.