1990 Gawkadal massacre

Coordinates: 34°04′29″N 74°48′33″E / 34.0748°N 74.8092°E / 34.0748; 74.8092
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Gawkadal massacre)

Gawkadal massacre
Part of Kashmir insurgency
Gawkadal, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, India

34°04′29″N 74°48′33″E / 34.0748°N 74.8092°E / 34.0748; 74.8092
Caused byGovernment suppression of pro-Independence demonstration
Lead figures

Jagmohan (Governor)
Mohammed Ahmed Zaki (Srinagar Corps commander)
J. N. Saxena (DGP, J&K Police)
Joginder Singh (IG, CRPF)

Ashfaq Majeed Wani (JKLF commander)
Muhammad Ahsan Dar (Hizbul commander)


The Gawkadal massacre was named after the Gawkadal bridge in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, India, where, on 21 January 1990, the Indian paramilitary troops of the Central Reserve Police Force opened fire on a group of Kashmiri protesters in what has been described by some authors as "the worst massacre in Kashmiri history".[2] Between 50 and 100 people were killed, some from being shot and others from drowning.[1][2] The massacre happened two days after the Government of India appointed Jagmohan as the Governor for a second time in a bid to control the mass protests by Kashmiris.[1]


January 1990 was a major turning point for the Kashmir insurgency as well as the Indian government's handling of it. By this time, the Kashmir insurgency was one-and-a-half year old, having been launched by the Pakistan-based Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in July 1988 under Pakistani sponsorship,[3] a year after the rigging of 1987 Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly election by India which saw NC leader Farooq Abdullah win but "lose his credibility".[4] However, pro-Independence JKLF was not in Pakistan's interest.[5] By October 1989, its secret service ISI, working with the Jamaat-e-Islami Azad Kashmir, brought together some of the key Islamist insurgent groups working in Kashmir under the banner of Hizbul Mujahideen.[6] In a key meeting in Kathmandu on 14 January 1990, Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir was persuaded to take control of Hizbul Mujahideen.[7][8] Henceforth, the Kashmir insurgency was to run along an Islamist paradigm.[9] An often-heard slogan was "Azadi ka matlab kya, La Ilahi lilillah [illallah]" ("What is the meaning of freedom? It is Islamic State").[10][a]

Concurrent to these developments, the Indian central government was going through a crisis. Rajiv Gandhi lost the general election held in 1989, and a minority government led by opposition Janata Dal under V. P. Singh took power, with external support from the Bharatiya Janata Party. Singh appointed a Kashmiri politician Mufti Muhammad Sayeed as the Home Minister. A week later, on 8 December 1989, the JKLF kidnapped his daughter Rubaiya Sayeed, demanding the release of jailed JKLF militants in return for her release. The government's capitulation to this demand strengthened the image of JKLF and gave a fillip to its azadi (freedom) movement, while at the same time undercutting the authority of the state government led by Farooq Abdullah.[11]

Following these events, the Indian government decided to replace the Governor K. V. Krishna Rao.[12] Under the pressure of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the V. P. Singh government in Delhi, chose Jagmohan to succeed him. Jagmohan had served a previous term as the Governor in the State, during which the Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah was dismissed. Abdullah had held it against Jagmohan, and resigned from Chief Ministership when he heard the news.[13] The state went under Governor's rule.[14][b]


19 January[edit]

On the night 19 January 1990 (or the early morning of 20 January),[15] Indian security forces conducted extensive house-to-house searches in Srinagar, in an effort to find illegal weapons and root out any hidden militants.[16] Three hundred people were arrested, most of whom were later released.[2] Both Jagmohan and Abdullah deny any involvement in the decision to carry out the raid.[16] According to Manoj Joshi, the search was ordered by the police chiefs.[15]

The night of 19 January also saw the initiation of a mass revolt in the Kashmir valley. Various reports indicate that Kashmiri Muslims were out on the streets shouting anti-India, pro-Pakistan and Islamic slogans. Mosques crackled with loud speakers, issuing slogans and playing pre-recorded messages.[17][18] India Today described the mood in the Valley as one of open defiance: "mobs challenged the gun, defying policemen to fire at them". They chanted slogans for "Indian dogs go back" and "Azadi ka matlab kya, La Ilahi lilillah [illallah]" ("What is freedom, Allah is the only god").[10]

20 January[edit]

As word of the raids spread on 20 January 1990, crowds gathered outside the Divisional Commissioner's office in Srinagar to protest the 'atrocities', and were tear-gassed.[19] Organisers fanned out through the city and massive processions were initiated by the evening.[20] A curfew was imposed by night fall.[19]

21 January[edit]

On the evening of 21 January, a large group of protesters shouting pro-independence slogans, reached Srinagar's wooden Gawkadal Bridge. According to the J & K police, on approaching the wooden bridge a large crowd of demonstrators started pelting stones, after which the security forces fired on the crowd, leading to the death of several protestors.[1] The police record mentions that "on January 21, a big crowd raising anti-India slogans was heading towards Lal Chowk and the security forces tried to stop the crowd near Gawkadal. Instead of dispersing, the unruly crowd started pelting stones at government buildings and security force personnel."[1]

Indian authorities put the official death toll for the massacre initially at 21–28,[21] however, later raised it to 50 after counting the bodies.[1] International human rights organisations and scholars estimate that at least 50, and likely over 100 protesters were killed—some by gunshot wounds, other by drowning after they jumped into the river in fear.[2]


In the aftermath of the massacre, more demonstrations followed, and in January 1990, Indian paramilitary forces are believed to have killed around 300 protesters in total.[22] As a Human Rights Watch stated in a report from May, 1991, "In the weeks that followed [the Gawkadal massacre] 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."[16] MJ Akbar, editor of Asian Age newspaper, said of the massacre, "January 19 became the catalyst which propelled into a mass upsurge. Young men from hundreds of homes crossed over into Pakistan administered Kashmir to receive arms and training in insurrection Pakistan came out in open support of secession, and for the first time, did not need to involve its regular troops in the confrontation. In Srinagar, each mosque became a citadel of fervor."[16]

No known action was ever taken against the CRPF forces officials responsible for the massacre, or against the officers present at Gawkadal that night. No government investigation was ever ordered into the incident.[16] Fifteen years later, the police case was closed and those involved in the massacre were declared untraceable. No challan has been produced against any person in court.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The slogan itself was an adaptation of that of the Pakistan movement from the 1940s: Pakistan ka matlab kya, La Ilahi illallah.
  2. ^ Farooq Abdullah is said to have resigned on "the midnight of the 18th" (Joshi 1999, p. 39). Jagmohan was sworn in as the Governor on the evening of the 19th (Joshi 1999, p. 39), which left almost an entire day when the state was run by only officials. Worse, due to weather conditions, Jagmohan was able to reach Srinagar only on the morning of the 21st to take stock of the situation and issue pertinent orders.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Kashmir's first blood, Indian Express, 1 May 2005.
  2. ^ a b c d e Schofield 2003, p. 148.
  3. ^ Jamal 2009, pp. 129, 137: "By Spring 1988, Zia regime also started pressing JKLF to begin the armed campaign. JKLF didn't yet think the timing was right. But reluctantly agreed to set the Martyrs' Day, 13 July, as the formal start of the campaign. At this stage, there were 10,000 trained militants, working in some fifty units.".
  4. ^ Dateline 1987. Kashmir Life 24 March 2016.
  5. ^ Jamal 2009, p. 137: "The ISI initially backed the JKLF only as a way to push its client, the Jamat-i-Islami, into militancy. Moreover, it had planned to replace the JKLF once Jamat-i-Islami could be pushed into the conflict.".
  6. ^ Jamal 2009, pp. 140–141.
  7. ^ Jamal 2009, pp. 142–143.
  8. ^ Riedel 2012, pp. 39–40: "By setting up an umbrella group, Hizbul Mujahedeen, to unite the pro-Pakistan elements, the ISI gradually isolated the JKLF, cut off its aid, and took control.".
  9. ^ Sirrs 2016, pp. 159–160: "Like the JKLF, [Hizbul Mujahideen] was "overwhelmingly Kashmiri" as far as its cadre went, but it rejected the JKLF's nationalist agenda in favor of an Islamist one. What this meant in theory was that the party saw nothing that was doctrinally incorrect in joining and thereby strengthening Pakistan.".
  10. ^ a b Shekhar Gupta, Militant movement holds Kashmir in a state of violent siege, separatism gets new legitimacy, India Today, 31 Jan 1990.
  11. ^ Joshi 1999, p. 38.
  12. ^ Joshi 1999, pp. 38–39.
  13. ^ Focus shifts to Raj Bhawan, J-K heads for Governor's rule. Express India 8 July 2008.
  14. ^ a b Joshi 1999, pp. 39–40: "The first act was initiated by the state's top police officers, Director-General of Police J.N. Saksena and Inspector-General of the CRPF 'Tiger' Joginder Singh. To 'welcome' the hardline governor, they instituted the long-awaited crackdown with searches in Guru Bazar and Chota Bazar areas on the morning of 20 January and detained some 250 youths for interrogation. That same morning when Saksena arrived in Jammu from Srinagar to brief Jagmohan, he did not mention the searches or their possible fallout. Perhaps he had misjudged the situation."
  15. ^ a b c d e Everyone Lives in Fear: Patterns of Impunity in Jammu and Kashmir. Human Rights Watch. 2006.
  16. ^ Schofield 2003, p. 148: 'The whole city was out. I was sleeping — it was midnight. I heard people on the road shouting pro-Pakistani slogans and Islamic slogans — "Allah o Akbar", "What do we want? We want freedom!"' recalls Haseeb, a Kashmiri medical student. (p. 149) In defiance of what came to be called 'crackdown' by the authorities, the people continued to come out on the streets: 'There were loudspeakers in the mosques, encouraging people to come out. Everyday, all day people were shouting slogans,' recalls Haseeb. 'Azadi, Azadi, Allah-o Akbar — Freedom, Freedom, God is Great' was broadcast from the minarets.
  17. ^ Chowdhary, Rekha (2019), Jammu and Kashmir: 1990 and Beyond: Competitive Politics in the Shadow of Separatism, SAGE Publishing India, p. 73: 'The use of the religious places for issuing threats and intimidating the minorities was a reality of that time. To quote Wajahat Habibullah who was posted as Special Commissioner in Anantnag in 1990, "... Places of worship, like the one in Anantnag, where the majority went, were being used to issue threats to them [Kashmiri Hindus] over loudspeakers. I learnt later that these inflammatory sermons, and their reverberating public applause, were audio recordings circulated to mosques to be played over loudspeakers at prayer time.", ISBN 978-93-5328-232-5
  18. ^ a b Rai, Mridu (2021), "Narratives from exile: Kashmiri Pandits and their construction of the past", in Sugata Bose; Ayesha Jalal (eds.), Kashmir and the Future of South Asia, Routledge, pp. 103–104, ISBN 9781000318722
  19. ^ Joshi 1999, p. 40: "Throughout 20 January, organizers fanned out across the city and from that evening, massive processions took to the streets demanding azadi, and chanting [slogan] 'Death to Indian dogs' and 'Allah-o-Akbar' (God is great)."
  20. ^ Dalrymple, William (1 May 2008), "Kashmir: The Scarred and the Beautiful", The New York Review of Books, archived from the original on 1 February 2016
  21. ^ Mirza, Waheed. Growing up in Kashmir's war zone. "BBC News." 16 August 2007