Gawakadal Massacre of January 21, 1990
The separatist sentiment had taken roots into the hearts and minds of the people. The Kashmiri youth had taken to arms. Hundreds of young boys would cross over the other side of the line of control (LOC) to seek arms training.
It was now the turn of common people to demonstrate their support for the movement for “azadi”.
On January 21, tens of thousands of civilian residents from uptown localities of Raj Bagh, Jawahar Nagar, Alochi Bagh, Bazullah, Batamaloo and other surrounding areas came out on the streets to walk through the capital city to demonstrate their support for the fledgling movement.
Nobody had any inkling about what was in store for them
As the procession reached Gawkadal, a large posse of CRPF confronted them and showered barrages of bullets on them without any evident provocation.
Within minutes over 50 people were done to death and dozens others injured.
The authorities, then or now, had never been able to explain what made them to kill people in such a savage manner.
The only explanation lies in the threat the Governor Jagmohan gave covertly. He was appointed governor of Jammu and Kashmir on January 18. Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, who had a personal grudge against Jagmohan for having dislodged him as the chief minister of the state in 1984 and installing his brother-in-law Ghulam Mohammad Shah as his replacement, resigned and the state came under the direct control of Jagmohan.
On January 19, Jagmohan, in a television and radio address to the people of Kashmir, said, “I have come as a nurse. I will not take any salary. I will just take rupees 1000 to meet my personal expenses. I promise you a clean administration. But if anybody creates a law and order problem, Meray Haathon say Aman ka patta Khisak jaye ga (the cards of peace I’m carrying will slip away from my hands)”.
It was a direct threat to the people: “behave or face the consequences”.
Within 17 hours of Jagmohan’s warning Gawkadal massacre happened.
It did not stop there. It rather proved a stimulus for many more such savage incidents.
It was followed by massacres at Karfalli Mohalla, Chotta Bazar, Handwara, Khanyar, Zakoora, Tengpora, Hawal and other places.
The trail of blood set in Jagmohan’s era continues unabated. Though in Kashmir events take place at such a pace that every new incidents takes over the previous one but Gawkadal would be remembered for ever.
Ironically, the migration of Kashmiri Pandits also began the same day (January 19). Many Pandits were provided government transport and protection to ensure their migration.
This made many people believe that before crackdown on local population, Jagmohan wanted Pandits leave the valley.