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March 1, 1990: When 47 civilians were massacred for Azadi

Mir Faheem Aslam


Srinagar, Feb 28: In the newly constructed market at Zakoora Crossing, 14 km northeast of Srinagar, it’s hard to find any trace of a carnage the Army soldiers carried out 17 years ago, killing about 30 unarmed civilians after firing indiscriminately on them. But the mayhem still haunts eyewitnesses and survivors of the incident.

It was the afternoon of March 1, 1990—those days entire Valley was up in arms demanding freedom from India and protesting against atrocities by the Jagmohan regime—when a group of about 2,000 people decided to rush to Srinagar office of the United Nation’s Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to submit a memorandum.

Comprising young and old, the protesters, many of them clad in shrouds, were immersed in the din of Azadi slogans, recalled a shopkeeper at the Zakoora Crossing. In the meantime, he said, a convoy of five Army vehicles led by three Junior Commissioned Officers was returning from Sonamarg to Srinagar but found the road blocked near the crossing.

Initially, the locals said, three policemen who were guarding the crossing told the soldiers to wait for sometime till the protesters pass. “This led to a heated argument between the policemen and the soldiers,” the locals said.

Unprovoked firing

“We still remember an Army official telling the cops ‘give way or we’ll shoot you’,” many eyewitnesses of the incident said. They said three Army vehicles were fitted with light machine guns (LMGs) and as the convoy turned towards the demonstration, the soldiers opened fire. “Soon bodies piled up. I myself counted 11, they had died on the spot,” the shopkeeper, who requested not to be named, told Greater Kashmir. “Later many more succumbed to their injuries. And when I removed some people to the SKIMS, Soura, the doctors said they were no more,” he said. “Army wanted to kill them all because very few people had bullets in legs.”

In all, 26 civilians fell to the soldiers bullets while 50 more were injured in the incident that later came to be known as the Zakoora massacre.
The mayhem continued for more than two hours, with the injured, helpless and hopeless, watching the bloodbath from a distance. None from the civil administration came to their rescue.

Only the locals rushed there ferrying the injured to hospitals, said Ali Muhammad, one of the eyewitnesses, insisting that the protesters had no clash or argument with the Army. “The firing was simply unprovoked,” he recounted.

‘Can I meet my son’

A shopkeeper at the Zakoora Crossing said a 50-year-old survivor of the carnage, a deaf, often visits the spot where his son, who also was among the protesters, died. “He only says, ‘can I meet my son’,” the shopkeeper said.

Another massacre

On the ill-fated day, 21 more Kashmiris were killed at about 5 pm by the Army soldiers who fired at a bus near Tengpora, Bye-Pass. They too were unarmed. The dead included five women.

Next day, global watchdog, Amnesty International issued a second appeal for urgent Action on Kashmir pertaining to Tengpora and Zakoora. A detailed account appeared in the March 31, 1990 issue of the Economic and Political Weekly of Bombay, which reproduced the text of “India’s Kashmir War” by a team of four members of the Committee for Initiative on Kashmir.

S. Mulgaokar quoted excerpts from the same report in the “Diary of a Recluse” in April 7, 1991 edition of The Indian Express.

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Tears, prayers mark Gaw Kadal massacre anniversary

Arif Shafi wani


Srinagar, Jan 21: Aizi Begam, 72, of Maisuma whose son Shabir Ahmad was among 52 persons who were massacred by CRPF troopers this day on January, 21,1990 at Gaw Kadal remembered him with tears, as people offered prayers, and shouted pro-freedom slogans at the spot to mark the massacre’s 17th anniversary.

“I am proud of my son. Before achieving martyrdom he saved lives of many people in the procession,” said Aizi, holding Shabir’s photograph, sobbing as her son Zahoor Ahmad consolded her.

“Troops fired many bullets at Shabir who came in way of a trooper firing indiscriminately at hundreds of unarmed peaceful protesters,” Zahoor said.

Aizi Begum’s only regret is that she couldn’t see Shabir’s face before he was buried. “Government had imposed a curfew after the incident. I wanted to kiss his head; she made a proud mother,” she said.

Scores of people, including the relatives of the victims offered prayers at the spot. A memorial in the form of a big canvas with image of a soldier pumping bullets with a machine gun in the chest of a civilian was hung from a wall near the massacre site. A graphic narration of the massacre has been drawn on the canvas.

Muhammad Yaqoob who lost his father Haji Ali Muhammad in the massacre said, “The people who were massacred were demonstrating against the molestation of women at Chotta Bazar a day before. They had marched on many streets peacefully and were demanding action against the troops accused of the molestation of the women, but when they reached Gaw Kadal, they were killed like flies.”

Yaqoob said his father had locked them up in their house and himself joined the protesters. “He told us ‘you stay at home, I will go with the protesters’. At home we heard continous rattle of fire and several hours later I went to the spot and saw the bodies lying on the bloodied road,” he said.

Zulima Mukhtar, sister of Abdur Rauf who took 52 bullets on his chest said, “It is high time we take the cause for which Rauf and 51 others laid their lives to its conclusion. But for that we must all be sincere.”

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Also read:

Indian Forces Worst Massacres In Kashmir’s History

Terrorism in Kashmir

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Jan 6, ‘93 when 57 people were massacred in Sopur

Ghulam Muhammad


Sopur, Jan 5: Massacre of 57 unarmed civilians in Sopur town 14 years back is one of the few massacres that got a few columns of space in prestigious TIME magazine. The magazine described the massacre, and the protests that ensued thus:

“Perhaps there is a special corner in hell reserved for troopers who fire their weapons indiscriminately into a crowd of unarmed civilians. That, at least, must have been the hope of every resident who defied an army-enforced curfew in the Kashmiri town of Sopur to protest a massacre that left 55 people dead and scores injured.”

“It was India’s latest blow in a three-year campaign to crush the predominantly Muslim state’s bid for independence. In retaliation for the killing of one soldier, paramilitary forces rampaged through Sopur’s market setting buildings ablaze and shooting bystanders. The Indian government pronounced the event “unfortunate” and claimed that an ammunition dump had been hit by gunfire, setting off fires that killed most of the victims.”

The magazine had titled the news report (on January 18, 1993) “Blood tide rising: Indian forces carry out one of the worst massacres in Kashmir’s history.”

In the reconstructed Iqbal Market it is hard to find the traces of the carnage the Border Security Force troopers carried out on January 6, 1993, killing 57 persons, most of them roasted alive in shops, buses, and houses. The troopers set about 100 houses and 300 shops on fire after dousing them with gunpowder, the local residents recall.

It was the chilly morning of January 6, 1993 when militants attacked the troopers of BSF at Baba Younis Lane near the Sopur town’s main street, killing two of them. The militants also took away the rifles of the slain troopers. The troopers went berserk and opened indiscriminate fire on unarmed civilians and set on fire markets, mainly Iqbal Market, and Women’s Degree College.

The local residents regard the incident as one of the worst massacres in the history of Kashmir.

“I cannot forget that horrendous incident till I am alive; the troops were on rampage; I lost two relatives in the incident,” said Ali Muhammad, an eyewitness and survivor of the carnage. “I wonder can doomsday be worse,” he says.

The mayhem continued for more than 2 hours with people—helpless and hopeless—watching the devastation from a distance. None from the civil administration or Fire Service Department came to the rescue of the hapless people. Only the valor and heroism of the local populace made its appearance, helping each other. In one hour, the locals recovered the dead bodies of more than 50 civilians and miraculously rescued many more.

Some fifteen civilians who tired to rescue their brethren were also shot dead by the troopers, said Abdul Majid, a survivor. Ghulam Nabi Bhat of New Light Hotel shouldered 11 dead bodies and before he could carry the 12th, he too was shot dead.

For three days people rummaged the debris for dead bodies. Strong protests rocked the town for many days continuously. Many charities came up but soon vanished. The insurance companies refused to give any compensation to the victims. The victims knocked the doors of government offices but to no avail.

“The massacre would haunt us as long as we are alive,” said Muhammad Abbas of Sopur.

Names of few slain:

  • Abdul Majid Sofi, 35, s/o Muhammad Shafi r/o Krankshiwan
  • Abdur Rashid War s/o Ghulam Muhammad War r/o Tujarsherief, Sopur
  • Abdul. Khaliq Malik s/o Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din r/o Arampora
  • Abdul Ahad Kanjwal r/o Muslimpeer
  • Abdul Ahad Shalla r/o Shallapora
  • Abdur Rashid Sofi s/o Abdul Jabbar r/o Wanagam, Bandipora
  • Abdul Ahad Liloo,70, r/o Bba Yousu, Sopur
  • Abdur Razaq Chalkoo s/o Ghulam Muhammad
  • Bashir Ahmad Shalla s/o Ghulam Rasool r/o Shallapora, Sopur
  • Farooq Ahmad Banday s/o Abdur Rashid r/o Sangrampora, Sopur
  • Ghulam Nabi Zargar alias Shaheen s/o Qadir Joo r/o Badamibagh Sopur
  • Ghulam Muhammad War s/o Muhammad Sultan r/o Tujarshrief
  • Ghulam Nabi Bhat s/o Haji Abdullah r/o Sangrampora
  • Gulzar Ahmad Sheikh s/o Muhammad Abdullah r/o Shahabad Sopur
  • Ghulam Mohi-Ud-Din s/o Assadullah r/o Nathpora, Bandipora
  • Ghulam Rasool Sofi s/o Muhammad. Sultan r/o Langate
  • Ghulam Muhammad Khan r/o Bandipora and
  • Ghulam Muhammad Hajam s/o Abdul Gaffar r/o Mohallah Hajampora, Sopur.

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Kashmir remembers Rauf who took 32 bullets on chest
Exiled Journalist Mir Abdul Aziz Declared National Hero

Arshad Me’raj


Srinagar, Nov 23: Abdur Rauf Wani is the heroic young man who took nearly 32 bullets fired from a light machine gun by a paramilitary trooper on his chest, saving scores of lives at Gaw Kadal, Srinagar on January 21, 1990 during a protest march in which 52 people were massacred.

Before he could slip into obscurity as a statistic of the ongoing struggle, the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) awarded him posthumously the annual Robert Thorpe Award. Besides, Khawaja Mir Abdul Aziz, an exiled Kashmiri journalist and resistance leader, was declared as one of the National Heroes of Kashmir.

To award Rauf and commemorate Mir Aziz, a function was organised at a local hotel here on Thursday.

Zulehuma Banday, sister of Rauf, received the award: a trophy and a shawl. In a tearful brief address, she thanked JKCCS for giving recognition to Rauf. She said, “The sacrifice of Rauf is for a bigger cause and Kashmiris have been sacrificing for the past hundreds of years; we should not forget those who sacrificed their lives for that bigger cause.”

Rauf, 24, did his schooling from prestigious Tyndale Biscoe School. As 18-year old boy in 1984 when Sikhs were massacred in Delhi and when riots erupted in the Valley, he jumped the window in second story of his home and saved the life of a labourer who was trying laces of his shoe and was shot at in his head. Rauf had responded to the cries of the labourer when people closed their doors and windows in wake of police firing, said his sister Zulehuma. Rauf was jailed for a month during 1987 for his support to Muslim United Front in the elections that were rigged in favor of National Conference.

On January 21, 1991, thousands of people took out a huge protest march against molestation of women by the troops in Chotta Bazaar locality by paramilitary CRPF troops. The then government headed by Governor Jagmohan allowed the march to proceed for nearly two kilometers, but when it reached Gaw Kadal, the peaceful protesters without any provocation were fired at indiscriminately by paramilitary troopers and police led by DSP Allah Baksh. Fifty-two people including women died and nearly 250 were wounded.

“Rauf rushed towards a trooper who was mowing down unarmed people with a light machine gun and faced the barrel, took all the bullets in the magazine,” said Zahir-ud-Din, one of the protesters and eyewitness of the massacre.

At the award giving ceremony many speakers said the government of India and the state government was projecting “collaborators of occupation” as the real heroes of Kashmir.

“They haven’t projected any person who offered resistance during the resistance movements and didn’t compromise,” said the JKCCS president Pervez Imroz. “The state has been honoring the brutal Dogra rulers who massacred the people of Kashmir; they have established Gulab Singh and Zorawar Singh chairs in Universities, but haven’t done anything for the unsung heroes of Kashmir.”

Imroz said, “The civil society was trying to bring out the lives of heroes from the oblivion and introduce them to the younger generation who don’t know anything about them.”

Peer Ghulam Rasool who deliberated on “Concept of National Hero” said the government of India and the state government have been projecting the collaborators as real heroes for the past 50 years.

“They have also been dehumanizing and denigrating people, like they did to Kabailis. Many of the people who were resisting against the rule of Dogra Maharaja and later the Indian rule and communal Indian parties have been clubbed together with Kabailis,” Rasool said. He said among the internationally renowned leftist thinker and writer Eqbal Ahmad was one of those who have been “denigrated” as Kabaili raiders.

Noted academician Dr Hamida Nayeem while speaking during the function said the enslaved nations have no histories, their histories are written by the occupation and colonial forces. “When a nation becomes free only then can it write its own history and decide who is the hero. Today’s hero can become tomorrow’s devil. During his early life, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was a hero, but see how we look at him today,” Dr Hamida said.

She said the Kashmir history was being shaped by a huge dominating nation and there was clear demarcation between stooges and those people fighting for the rights of people. “The state machinery has manufactured and concocted our history,” Dr Hamida said, adding the Kashmiris have not been able to write their own history.

“We have produced great scholars and intellectuals who can be designated as national heroes,” she further said while referring to the names of Lallitaditya, Sheikh-ul-Alam (RA), Lalla Ded, Kalhana and others. Dr Hamida said, “Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah succeeded in weakening the autocratic set-up but committed historical and monumental blunders after which he was designated as the collaborator of India.” According to Dr Hamida, Maqbool Bhatt who challenged the Indian domination didn’t compromise despite being tortured severely. “Dr Aga Shahid Ali despite being an apolitical person had become an international hero and a symbol of Kashmir by writing about anguish of people of Kashmir in his book A country Without Post Office’.”

She further said the academia was in the hands of dominant powers and that is why the Kashmir history wasn’t made the part of curriculum. “We are taught world history, Indian history, but our children know nothing about their own history.” She added that the politicians are misinterpreting the saints and poets of our valley.

Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain, an academic, said the best way to remember heroes is not through awards but to carry forward the mission for which they tried and died. “Mir Khawaja Abdul Aziz proceeded against the tide and led a miserable life. He didn’t cash on his sacrifices, which has become a trend with present leaders,” he said. Dr Showkat said Pakistani authorities had jailed Mir Abdul Aziz for his critique of “erroneous Kashmir policies after the failure of Operation Gibraltar”. Mir Abdul Aziz and Ghulam Nabi Gilkar were each offered 35 acres of land in Islamabad after their release, but they declined saying that they have to go their homeland when the issue would be resolved.

Trade Union Centre leader Sampat Prakash while speaking on the occasion said, the trade union has played a pivotal role in the ongoing freedom struggle. “We have raised the Kashmir issue at various forums and recently at Indian Social Forum and had been able to highlight it as a disputed territory,” he further said. He said the state is involved in sponsoring the terrorism. “SOG personnel are targeting the tourists and the attempt on the life of High Court Bar Association (HCBA) chairman was also made by these personnel,” he further said. Noted civil rights activist from New Delhi, Gautam Naulakha while delivering his presidential address said, “The history of oppressed and occupied is not written by their own people but is provided by the occupiers and collaborators.”

“National heroes are needed during the struggle as they support and inspire the people during the movement when the chips are down,” he said, “51,288 militants were arrested and tortured; they are also the heroes whom we don’t know and they did not surrender. Only 3800 surrendered.” He said freedom movement was because of the people as they aspired for it.

Greater Kashmir Executive Editor Zahir-ud-Din while speaking on the occasion termed the January 21, 1990 incident as a turning point the history of freedom struggle. While quoting the then governor Jagmohan’s statement, Zahir-ud-Din said the Gaw Kadal massacre was a planned one. “The day Farooq Abdullah resigned, Jagmohan issued a statement saying ‘if any one tried to disturb law and order the card of peace will slip out of my hand’. After Jagmohan’s statement people were expecting that something bad was in the offing. The Gaw Kadal occurred after his statement and turned the struggle into mass movement,” he said adding that from that day the youngsters starting going across the Line of Control.

Zarief Ahmad Zarief, Dr Mubarik Ahmed and Dr Altaf Hussain also paid glowing tributes to Khawaja Abdul Aziz Mir and Rauf Wani for their bravery and valour.

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Kashmir imbroglio-an identity problem

The dispute could be resolved by addressing the roots of the problem,
says S G H Naqshbandi


As a result of new world realities the Kashmir question has once again come to limelight and both India and Pakistan are trying for a viable solution to this vexed problem and restoration of peace in this trouble-torn region. In this regard some some confidence building measures like that of ceasefire on the line of control, exchange of POWs and civilian prisoners, exchange of parliamentarians, journalists, writers, social activists, followed by fresh round of talks between the external affairs secretary of Pakistan and Indian foreign secretary has started.

The UPA government favours talking to APHC and will not be rigid in talks with separatist groups and would talk with an open mind.

The world’s newly changed nature in which the socialists and western liberal models have been changing into a supra national model and each nation is undergoing internal democratic changes as also the struggle of ethnic minorities, for recongition of their distinct identities have erupted. West is saying good bye to nationalism and third world to non-alignment and engaged in the formations of international superstructures like European Union, SAARC, Asean, OIC, OAU, IMF and World Bank etc. Uniparty system yielding place to multiparty system, coupled with emergence of ethnic struggles in Russia, China, Africa, Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan including Kashmir are continuing unabated. In the process of globalization and interdependence national interest has turned into global one.

In today’s world no country can progress by adopting a confrontationist policy. Sooner the disputes are settled, the better it is. In this way the heavy expenditure on military and security will be reduced enabling the recovery from economic crises.

The method of dialogue and discussion, not force, is the only way to solve long standing problems. Kashmir is no exception to it. It continues to be a bleeding wound and malignancy. The practice of past 15 years shows that the practice of bullet for bullet has failed in Kashmir and elsewhere.

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The inhabitants of the
most beautiful prison.

700,000 in Kashmir!



November 2018
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