The people of Kashmir remember January 25 for two massacres. Along with a number of others, both bloodbaths, eight years apart and with a collective toll of 48, remain unresolved to this day. Four days after the massacre at Gaw Kadal in Srinagar, twenty-five persons fell to bullets in Handwara. According to eyewitnesses, people in large numbers had been marching towards the main town.
“It was all peaceful. People hoisted green flags amid pro-freedom slogans. Slogans against Jagmohan were also raised,” one survivor recalls. The status of the case registered by the police 24 years ago is unknown. A worn-out copy of the FIR lies in the Handwara police station, and carries only the state government and the BSF’s version. It makes no mention of the killing of innocent civilians. It says that the protestors who were in thousands assembled from villages were raising provocative slogans and stoned and torched the BSF Tata 407 carrying eatables and also set the Dak Bungalow in Handwara on fire.
Eight years later, 23 Pandits were massacred at Wandhama on the blessed night of Lailat-ul- Qadr. The inhuman act changed Kashmir for good. Local Muslims had been busy in prayer at the Wandhama mosque, when at around 11.45 p.m. wailing women came rushing towards the place of worship. Twenty-three villagers, all Kashmiri Pandits, had been massacred in cold blood by masked gunmen. The victims had not migrated in the early nineties but had stayed back when most of the Pandit community left the turmoil-ridden Valley.
The massacre caused outrage across Kashmir where people demanded an impartial probe and exemplary punishment for those responsible. The Valley’s traditions of tolerance and brotherhood came under fresh strain, and sparked off another wave of migration. People demanded an impartial probe and severe punishment to the culprits responsible for the massacre. The age-old bonds of brotherhood and peaceful co-existence were further damaged. The abode of the saints witnessed yet another migration. Sixteen years have passed, but nobody has been brought to justice. The police have failed to identify the killers. The file has been closed and consigned to records.
Shortly after the massacre, the police came up with a note said to have been pinned to the body of one of the victims. According to the police, the note was from a till-then unknown organization, the Inteqaam-ul-Muslimoon, claiming responsibility for the killings. The police further said that both communities in Wandhama had termed the shifting of an army camp from the area a few months earlier as unwise.
The government has been ignoring public demands for thorough and impartial probes into the massacres. The government’s reluctance to do so indicates that someone in the corridors of power is scared of the truth coming out.