At least fifty civilians were killed and around 250 injured when personnel of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) opened fire on a peaceful procession at Gaw Kadal in central Srinagar.
Defying curfew, people had marched from Batmaloo, Raj Bagh and other localities, forming a 10,000-strong procession in the city’s commercial hub, Lal Chowk. As it headed for Chotta Bazar, where several women had reportedly been molested by forces personnel during search operations the previous day, the procession was blocked near Gaw Kadal by police and paramilitary contingents. The men in uniform opened indiscriminate fire on the marchers, causing heavy casualties.
The massacre proved a turning point in Kashmir history. The on-going insurgency became a mass movement overnight. According to noted journalist Tavleen Singh, India lost Kashmir, if not geographically then certainly where its heart was concerned.
Notwithstanding reports from human rights activists and widespread anger in Kashmir, no action was taken against the then governor, Jagmohan. On the contrary, some people were sent to Srinagar with offers of internal autonomy, which, not surprisingly, found no takers.
Some people in the procession showed exemplary courage. A youth from Sarai Bala, Abdul Rauf, fell in a pool of blood when he tried to snatch the weapon of a CRPF man who was raking the multitude with gunfire. The paramilitary man emptied his entire magazine into Rauf’s chest.
Around ten martyrs were buried at the Sidiqabad graveyard in Batmaloo. A First Information Report (FIR 3/90) was registered in the Kralkhud Police Station. The police said only 21 persons had died. The case was closed as `untraced’ after a few years. A human rights defender has recently filed a petition in the State Human Rights Commission, prompting the latter to seek reports from police and other agencies.