In Kashmir, memories of 21st January are inscribed irrevocably into the minds of people – the day when Kashmiris bore the brunt of the first massacre of the political turmoil. 26 years later, the eye-witnesses still shudder while recalling the scenes of the day.
Ghulam Malik Dar, 55, Labourer: ‘I saw a crimson river flowing over the bridge’
All of a sudden, a sea of people had flooded alleys, lanes leading towards Gawkadal. I saw people coming from Ikhraj Pora, Rajbagh and Jawahar Nagar. The rage was palpable in the procession that coalesced near the bridge. It was peaceful procession though, reverberating with pro-freedom slogans. But, suddenly, the testy CRPF forces raised a false alarm. Setting their automatic weapons in action, they unleashed a flurry of bullets from three different sides. I saw two boys hugging each other in the moment of panic.
Many people cowered down with fear. The indiscriminate bullets tore through their bodies. Many people ran away in an attempt to save their lives. Insides homes, fear-stricken inmates went down into basements. There were dead bodies on the road. I was watching all this hiding in a nearby house. I saw a crimson river flowing over the bridge.
Abdul Aziz Gujoo, 65, Baker: ‘I still remember how Rattan Rani Hospital became a literal grieving centre’
That was the most shocking day that kept haunting me years to come. The painful feeling is yet to sink in. You know, the way they [CRPF] killed the first person, Farooq Ahmad, was soul-shattering sight. What was obvious from the body language of forces—was their eagerness to pull the trigger. Yes, they had come to spill blood. Otherwise, why was a peaceful procession such a threat to them? That demon called Jagmohan had given them a license to kill. I still remember how the nearby Ratan Rani Hospital became a literal grieving centre. Most injured were taken there. Those are unforgettable scenes.
Abeena, 32, Scholar: ‘My grandma nursed the wounded inside home’
All these years, I grew up listening the haunting tales of that day. My grandmother would tell me repeatedly how forces unleashed hell on the bridge on January 21, 1990. Though I was too young to understand anything then, but all these years, I could visualise what exactly happened there.
However, I remember, how my grandma Fiza Begum—a nurse by profession—treated many injured persons that day at home. She attended many persons with bullet-ridden bodies. You know, the memories of that day freaked out my grandma. It was impossible for her to forget the events of the day during her lifetime. Even I get repeatedly disturbed after hearing those stories.
Ghulam Mustafa Bhat, 55, Labourer: ‘The day triggered our unabated woes’
It was a fine day before a procession came and met the slayers waiting on the other sides of the bridge. All of the sudden, the air of Gawkadal turned mournful. The memories of that day are impossible to forget. It was a bloody day that triggered our unabated woes. I saw people screaming, shouting, running for their lives in the face of barrage of bullets. Luckily, I was indoors—or, I would have figured in the dead list, too. What a bloody mayhem it was!
(Saba Khan is intern with Kashmir Life)