“Bodies were piled up, locals brought blankets to cover them”

  • Iqbal Kirmani
  • Publish Date: Jan 23 2017 7:16PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Jan 23 2017 7:16PM
“Bodies were piled up, locals brought blankets to cover them”

                                                        Illustration by Suhail Naqshbandi

People had assembled at Tankipora, bodies were piled up, and locals brought blankets to cover the ‘martyrs’.

 

 

 

January 21, 1990. “Chotta Bazar Aur Guru Bazar Mein Changezi Dour Ki Yadein Taza”, read the front page headline of Urdu Daily Alsafa on January 21, 1990. 

The news that people were arrested, women and children had been dragged out of their beds during the night, had created widespread anger.

“Allegations that forces had molested women during search operations enraged everyone,” recalls Jameel Ahmad, a 9th standard student back in 1990. Now 42, Jameel is a government employee in the electric department.

Jameel resides in Tankipora area near the office of Deputy Commissioner Srinagar. “It was a bloodbath, Karbala, Aen looth,” Jameel says while recalling that bloody day which shook the Valley.

Protest Marches were happening in almost every part of Srinagar, he says, and one such procession was coming from Rajbagh, Radio Colony and Ikhrajpora localities of the city.

Curfew was defied by people and the procession had marched through the city, crossed Maisuma, and moved towards Chotta Bazaar. “As procession reached Gaw Kadal, the people were fired upon by the CRPF troops,” says Jameel. “More than 50 people died that day and hundreds were injured.”

 

Unforgettable Scenes

The silence of the curfew was broken by gunshots that had silenced many across the river Jhelum that day. The news quickly spread that the procession coming from various localities after reaching Gaw Kadal chowk was fired upon by troops.

At Yaarbal, Tankipora people assembled as the dead and injured were brought through Shikaras from Ganpatyar river bank, where from people would normally cross the river through Shikaras.

“The plan was that once across the river the injured could quickly be transferred to Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital (SMHS),” says Jameel.

But, Jameel adds, to give a quick first aid, it was decided to get the doctor and the only nearest doctor was at the Ganpatyar river bank.

“A Pandit doctor, probably Kashi Nath, was already at the bank giving first aid to many injured people,” recalls Jameel. “He was waiving towards us so that the injured with us could reach him in time for treatment.”

The gory scenes are etched in Jameel’s memory. Even 26 years later, he recalls every minute detail. “His stethoscope was in his left hand and he was waiving towards us to quickly get the injured to him,” Jameel remembers.

Jameel and many other locals quickly rowed back to Ganpatyar to reach the doctor. The doctor would put his stethoscope on the victims, declare some of them dead, put a blanket on their faces, and advice hospitalisation for other injured civilians.

Jameel recalls one particular incident he cannot ever forget. “When one of the boats with injured people reached back to Kashi Nath, the doctor hopped into the boat to check on the victims,” he remembers. “One person raised his left hand, showed the victory sign to him with his fingers, and then he breathed his last on the spot.” 

People had assembled at Tankipora, bodies were piled up, and locals brought blankets to cover the ‘martyrs’.

“Some of the bodies were placed in Tankipora Masjid and we clearly told troops on roads to not create trouble or things would go out of control,” recalls Tariq Ahmad, a local resident of Tankipora.

Among the dead bodies brought to them they could only recognize one Farooq Ahmad Dagroo. “They used to live here but had shifted from here some time ago,” says Tariq. “We couldn’t recognize and know others among the dead.” 

Through narrow alleys dead bodies were brought in blankets from Yaarbal and roads were getting filled with people accompanying the injured.

Sensing trouble, the troops, ensuring curfew stays imposed, began retreating. As people moved forward, forces took a backward step; however, the barrels of their guns were still facing the swelling crowd.

“They moved with us as we begun marching towards Deputy Commissioners Office nearby. Their guns were always pointing towards us but we didn’t stop,” Jameel recalls the events still fresh in his memory.

 At the gates of DC office, the troops entered the compound of the office. Only when the last of their men entered safely, they closed the gates, their guns still pointing towards people outside.

“At that very moment police party arrived and we handed over the dead bodies and they took the injured with them too,” says Tariq.

Kashi Nath, the good doctor, also left the valley afterward. He sold his property at Ganpatyar. The two banks of Jhelum opposite each other still remain a haunting place for Jameel. 

“The two sides exchanged dead bodies that day and Jhelum has never been the same for us since then,” Jameel says while politely declining to accompany me to the Yaarbal at Tankipora. “No, I can’t go to that spot,” he says after a brief pause, asking another local person instead to show me the bank. “I don’t ever go there.” 

 

Case Status!

The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) ordered a probe in the Shooting incident after two local human rights groups, International Forum for Justice (IFJ) and Human Rights Forum (HRF), on May 1, 2012, filed a petition before the SHRC seeking justice for the victim families.

Later, the SHRC also issued notices to the director general of police, J&K, Union Home Secretary, State Home Secretary and Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, to submit their reports.

On 26th December 2012, the Division Bench of SHRC ordered a special inquiry to be conducted by the SP of the Police Investigation Wing of the SHRC. One of the accused in this case, Allah Baksh, has already expired. He never faced any inquiry.

The FIR filed by police at Kral Khud Police station under FIR No: 3/90 is against the protestors, blaming them for attacking the CRPF personnel. The death of only 22 persons has been recorded. Nothing substantial has come up till date. The absence of any investigation in the incident only resulted in ambiguity over the actual death count widely believed to above 50.