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Seven Horrific Massacres in Kashmir History

​Over hundred thousand people have been killed in the longstanding Kashmir dispute between two South-Asian neighbors – India and Pakistan – which have fought four wars over the highly contested territory during the past six decades. The people of this restive Himalayan region have witnessed unprecedented violence, particularly upon the eruption of a ‘popular’ armed rebellion, which was followed by ruthless counter – insurgency offensive by the state.

At several crucial historical junctures, the population of the region has been subjected to extreme violence by the state apparatus that may have no near analogy in the history of Sub-Continent. Following are the seven horrific massacres in Kashmir history, which the oldest United Nation dispute has endured:

1. Shalbaf Massacre (1865)

Shalbaf Massacre
Kashmirs’ shawl artisans working under supervision.

The carnage is among the first of such incident in Kashmir that happened in response of the exploitative work system. About 28 Shalbafs or shawl-weavers were killed when Dogra army caught them at a bridge in Kashmir Old City’s Zaldagar on April 29, 1865.

The artisans had been protesting against high taxation and long working hours. When the protesters reached Zaldagar, forces led by Colonel Bijoy Singh asked the demonstrators to disperse. The protesters, however, refused, following which troops fired indiscriminately. The forces also chased protesters with ‘spares’ forcing many caught at the Haji Rather Sum Bridge of Zaldagar to jump off into the Kuti Ko’el (stream). As many as 28 craftsmen died while 100 others were left injured.

Ironically, no enquiry was ever constituted about what led the incident. Also, no charge sheet was produced in any court following the massacre.

2. Central Jail Massacre (1931)

Mourners sit aside the body of Central Jail Massacre victim.
Mourners sit aside the body of Central Jail Massacre victim.

Twenty-one civilians were killed when Dogra Army fired upon a crowd protesting outside Srinagar’s Central Jail on July 13, 1931. The protesters were peacefully agitating the arrest of the Abdul Qadeer Khan, an associate of Jamaal-ud-din Afghani. He had reportedly come to Kashmir in a cook’s disguise to catalyze masses against the despotic rule of Maharaja and had been arrested following a fiery speech against the regime.

The massacre as reported was the counter-reaction to the masses acceptance of Qadeer’s speech at Kanqah-e-Maula mosque that had sharply criticized people’s submissive role as the root cause of their subjugation and deprivation under Dogra rule. The massacre marks the beginning of Kashmir’s political struggle, and every year on July 13,  is observed as ‘Martyrs Day’ in its remembrance. The slain men were laid to rest in the graveyard at Khawaja Naqshband’s shrine in Old Srinagar city.

3. Jammu Massacre (1947)

Photo courtesy: Life
Photo courtesy: Life

The incident in October 1947 reportedly happened just five days before Pakistan irregulars’ attack in J&K and nine days before the Maharaja accession to India. An estimated 500,000 Muslims were massacred in the Jammu province in the months of October and November, quotes Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal in ‘Prejudice in Paradise.’ 

According to ‘The Times,’ former Kashmir editor G K Reddy, there was ‘a mad orgy of Dogra violence against unarmed Muslims [that] should put any self-respecting human being in shame.’ Carnage in the province was such that about 123 villages were ‘completely depopulated’. Even the names of the places were immediately erased to conform to new ownership. Urdu Bazar became Rajinder Bazar and Islamia School became Hari Singh High School.

Kashmir’s then emergency administrator Sheikh Abdullah blamed Muslims for siding with Pakistan. “Jammu Muslims are to be large extent themselves responsible for what has happened to them, because though in a minority, they had, by their words and deeds, let their tongues in favour of Pakistan,” P N Bazaz quoted Abdullah in ‘The Struggle for Freedom in Kashmir,’ p 332. After the Jammu genocide, ‘The Times’ reported that an estimated 237,000 Muslims had disappeared or exterminated from the Jammu province.  

4. Gaw Kadal Massacre (1990)

Armored army vehicle stands in the old city, a day after Gaw Kadal massacre.
Armored army vehicle stands in the old city, a day after Gaw Kadal massacre.

Over 50 civilians were killed and hundred others injured, when Indian troops fired indiscriminately over the crowd that had assembled on the wooden Srinagar’s Gawakadal Bridge over the Jhelum River on January 20, 1990. The incident occurred after news about the molestation of women during a search operation in Chota Bazar area of Srinagar spread all across the city. Thousands came out on roads and began to march towards the old city area of Srinagar. When the procession reached the Gaw Kadal Bridge, the paramilitary deployed there, opened indiscriminate fire killing over 50 demonstrators. The incident took place immediately after Jagmohan took over as governor of the state, and announced to deal sternly with those who would demand freedom. 

5. Hawal Massacre (1990)

A memorial for Hawal massacre victims.
A memorial for Hawal massacre victims.

Fifty-six civilians were killed and dozens were left injured when Indian army fired upon on the procession in Central Srinagar’s Hawal area. The procession was taken out after unidentified gunmen killed pro-independence leader Mirwaiz Moulvi Farooq at his residence in Hazratbal area. On May 21, 1990, when people were taking the slain body of Mirwaiz for funerals, they were intercepted by paramilitary who indiscriminately fired upon the mourners.

A case was registered at Police Station Nowhatta, but even after two and a half decades, the probe into the incident is still under investigation with the Crime Branch, and is yet to fix any responsibility of the massacre.

6. Sopore Massacre (1993)

An eyewitness recounts the incident to the media. (video-grab)
An eyewitness recounts the incident to the media. (video-grab)

Over 55 civilians were killed by the Indian Border Security Forces in North Kashmir’s Sopore on January 6, 1993. The firing was in retaliation to the killing of one BSF personnel, who was killed by guerrilla rebels. Besides, the troopers also burned down more than 250 shops and 50 homes.

International news agencies reported: “The Border Security Forces sprayed a public coach with machine-gun fire, killing the driver and more than 15 passengers, said witnesses. Three other cars were also fired on, and then the paramilitary forces set the vehicles ablaze. Next, they began herding the native Kashmiris into shops and houses, said witnesses. Then the security forces shot them, splashed paraffin over the bodies and set the buildings alight.”

7. Bijbehara Massacre (1993)

Victims of Bijbehara Massacre.
Victims of Bijbehara Massacre.

Over 50 civilians were killed and 200 injured when they were fired upon by the Border Security Force in South Kashmir’s Bijberaha on October 22, 1993. The people had led a peaceful protest against the Hazratbal siege, where rebels had taken refuge. The agitators were demanding lifting of the cordon.  Though the figures vary but as Amnesty International reported, at least 51 people died and 200 were wounded on that day, which included incidents in Srinagar and Bijbehara.  The firing had lasted for ten minutes.

After many official enquiries the government indicted the BSF in March 1994 for firing into the crowd “without provocation” and charged 13 Border Security Force officers with murder. But a nonpublic General Security Force Court trial conducted in 1996, however, led to their acquittal.

Others:

Handwara Massacre (1990)

Twenty-six civilian protesters were killed on January 25, 1990 in North Kashmir’s Handwara after they were fired upon allegedly by troops.

Zukoora & Tengpora Massacre (1990)

Thirty-three civilian protesters were killed and 47 injured at Zakoora Crossing and Tengpora Byepass Road in Srinagar on March 1, 1990. The paramilitary massacred the demonstrators, who were calling for the implementation of a United Nations resolution regarding a plebiscite.

Khanyar Massacre (1991)

Over 20 civilians were massacred by paramilitary forces in Old City’s Khanyar area.

Wandhama Massacre (1998)

On January 25, 1998, 23 Kashmiri Pandits of Wandhama village were killed by unidentified gunmen. According to the testimony of one of the survivor, the gunmen came to their house dressed like Indian Army soldiers. Police failed to arrest or get anyone convicted, and the case was subsequently closed.

Chattisinghpora, Pathribal, and Barakpora Massacre (2000)

On March 20, 2000, unidentified gunmen dressed in Indian army fatigues, entered the village of Chattisinghpora in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district, and systematically shot dead 35 Sikh men. The massacre took place on the eve of US President Bill Clinton’s visit to the Subcontinent. The incident was blamed on two militant organisations, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen, but the Hurriyat Conference accused the government of carrying out the massacre to discredit the Kashmirs’ independence movement.

On March 25, five civilians – supposedly militants responsible for Chattisinghpora were killed by Army in the Pathribal forests. This was later found to be a fake encounter. Following this, April 3, eight civilians protesting the fake encounter were killed in CRPF and police firing in Brakpora area of the district.

Nadimarg Massacre (2003)

In March 2003, alleged militants killed 24 Pandits in Nadimarg village of Pulwama district.

theparallelpost | 2015

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