Gaw Kadal Massacre: ‘I saw a dog eating a human arm’

Jagmohan was appointed on January 19, 1990. That night, in response to the kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed and other militant attacks, Indian security forces conducted warrantless and thus illegal house-to-house searches in Srinagar, hunting for illegal weapons or other evidence of support to the militants. They dragged many people out of their beds into the bitter cold. Many Kashmiris complained that they were beaten and abused.Jagmohan maintains that he had nothing to do with the decision.

The next morning, as word of the searches and beatings began to spread, people began to pour out into the streets of Srinagar. From the mosques, loudspeakers urged Kashmiris to come out and fight for azaadi, or freedom. Thousands of Kashmiris gathered to protest the actions of the security forces.

The state government declared a curfew, but few if any Kashmiris observed it.It was early evening when one group of marchers reached the Gaw Kadal Bridge on Srinagar’s Jhelum River. They were shouting slogans and some were pelting the soldiers with stones. Troops from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) opened fire into the crowd. Eyewitnesses say the shooting was a brutal and excessive use of lethal force against demonstrators. Many demonstrators were shot from behind as they turned to run away.Kashmiri news photographer Meraj-ud-din described the scene:

“When I reached Gaw Kadal, all I could see were the dead. I saw bodies of children, bodies of women, bodies of men…. Later they brought the bodies to the police compound. I saw them again. There I cried. I shouted, screamed. ‘Don’t do this to the people.’ That day I saw everything.”

Human Rights Watch, in its 1991 report on the shootings, criticized the killings and concluded that the use of lethal force was not proportional to the threat.

At least thirty-five people died. Many estimates put the toll near one hundred. Until then, this was the highest number of persons killed on a single day since the violence erupted in Jammu and Kashmir.The killings drew international attention. The London based daily,the Independent, carried an interview with one of the survivors, a thirty-eight-year-old mechanical engineer called Farooq Ahmad, who worked for the government:

“I was just standing watching the procession of Muslims demonstrating against India. It was curfew time and there were CRPF on both sides of the lane. They should have given a warning, telling people to go back to their rooms. But there was no warning, so people thought the procession was allowed. Then there were two shots in the air, and more shots, shots and shots – people were falling down. I also fell down. Someone pushed me down. The CRPF took control of the area. There were a lot of dead and injured. But I was safe, no bullet. Then came somebody, they said I was still alive, and that fellow, an officer, came with a Bren gun, a light machine gun. He aimed at me and started firing.”

Farooq Ahmad survived. But few in Jammu and Kashmir have forgotten that incident. Human Rights Watch recently met with an eyewitness who recalled the events at Gaw Kadal.

“I remember that scene perfectly. There were so many people. I remember thinking that all of Srinagar must be out on the streets. They were shouting slogans and calling for freedom. There was a CRPF bunker just near the bridge. Suddenly the soldiers opened fire. It was machine-gun fire and all I could hear is the rat-a-tat sound. At that time, we were not used to the sound of firing like we are today. I think everyone was shocked. No one had expected the troops to start firing. Soon, there were people falling down all over the place. I remember the man standing next to me saying, ‘I know I have been shot but I can’t feel anything.’ I looked at him. And then I saw his foot. There was a bullet stuck inside his shoe… All around people were groaning with pain. Everyone that could ran away. I stayed where I was in case they fired at me. I stood there for many hours. Finally, the police brought trucks and started taking the dead and wounded away. But they had been lying there for many hours before the trucks came. I remember that there were dogs sniffing at the bodies. I will never forget one sight. I saw a dog eating a human arm.”

The shooting at Gaw Kadal Bridge and the way the Indian government responded may have been the turning point in the rebellion. As Human Rights Watch said in a May 1991 report, “In the weeks that followed as security forces fired on crowds of marchers and as militants intensified their attacks against the police and those suspected of aiding them, Kashmir’s civil war began in earnest”.Almost every day there were protests. Teachers, students, and government employees came out into the streets shouting slogans. At the same time, there were increased attacks from militants, now with a religious dimension. Hindu Kashmiris, called pandits, came under attack. Many were abducted or killed. Many received anonymous notes that were threatening and abusive.Thousands of pandits began to flee the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, relocating to squalid camps in Jammu and Delhi. At least three hundred thousand Kashmiri Hindus still remain displaced.

The state administration, led by Jagmohan, sought to end the militancy and the mass protests through the increased use of force. Government forces fired live ammunition on crowds of unarmed demonstrators.Round-the-clock curfews were imposed for days in major towns to prevent protests.Paramilitary troops conducted large-scale searches, called “crackdowns” in Jammu and Kashmir. Residents were forced to gather outside while troops ransacked their belongings, looking for hidden weapons. Informers, in hoods, identified alleged militants to be taken into custody, who were then often tortured and sometimes killed.

No known action was taken against any CRPF officials who ordered their forces to open fire at Gaw Kadal, or against the officers present during the shooting. No public inquiry was ordered into the incident.The police did file complaints against demonstrators who pelted stones at security forces, but they were not investigated. Without an investigation into what exactly happened in Gaw Kadal, there will be no chance of holding those responsible accountable.

The consequences of Gawkadal and the failure to hold the security forces accountable have been far reaching. Many young Kashmiris began to join the militants, whose popularity shot up. One man told Human Rights Watch that he and other parents watched helplessly as their sons enlisted with the militants: “Boys, as young as fourteen or fifteen, crossed the border and came back with guns. No one could stop them.”

“Gaw Kadal remains an emotional and sentimental subject for Kashmiris even today”.

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About Al Shaheed

writing wounds without the trace of blood
This entry was posted in Gaw Kadal, Massacres, State Terrorism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Gaw Kadal Massacre: ‘I saw a dog eating a human arm’

  1. TJ says:

    The use of brutal force always furthered the cause of freedom. The state terrorism is worst form of human suppression.Kashmirs don't want to remain with India its very simple. In the greed of water resources Indian has imprisoned the whole valley of Kashmir. The modern keep to the rhetoric of democracy and respect for people's will but they are exposed in their designs when it comes to the suppressed Muslim and third underdeveloped world.Indian's flirt with USA after fully exploiting its Soviet friends is one of the causes that give confidence of using disproportionate force against the Muslim majority of Kashmir.Every day Kashmiris or Filistinis are killed and not one bothers in the international community. If a dog is killed in Europe they go on mourning and media coverage for days and days but nothing move them from their place after. when so many Kashmiris are martyred.What to talk of non Muslim states even Muslim states are not exerting diplomatically to influence India to stop highhandedness. Kashmiris are brave people, Allha willhelp them as they are on true path, force has not worked anywhere when used unjustifiably. The usurper are destined to doom and perish. In the end who would smile will be the people fighting for their rights. Life is not very long……..the struggle would be taken over by the coming generation, who would realize the goal of FREEDOM.

  2. rohullah says:

    inqelab zindabaad …………

  3. Sahil says:

    we want freedom. go india go back

  4. dinesh says:

    Being an Indian I am hurt as my brothers and sisters are suffering in Kashmir. May god be with you all. Please stop this atrocity.

  5. kamran says:

    dear dinesh thanks for your humble comment it shows humanity is still there overcoming any religion.my dear friend you might have studied only one case like this but there r hundreds of episodes like this which remember us gen dier there r hundreds of officers in indian army,crpf.bsf,and even in our own jnk police who r worse than gen diar.once again thanks god bless you

  6. Asalamualiqum,thanks dear brother dinesh for your lovely comment.It shows your amount of humanity in you.May the almighty allah show you the right path and help you in every time of your life and make your hereafter better as well.

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