Gawkadal massacre

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The Gawkadal massacre was named after the Gawkadal bridge in Srinagar, Kashmir, where, on 21 January 1990, the Indian paramilitary troops of the Central Reserve Police Force opened fire on a group of Kashmiri civilians in what has been described by some authors as "the worst massacre in Kashmiri history".[1] At least 50 people were killed.[2] According to survivors, the actual death toll may have been as high as 280.[3] 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 civilians.[2]


Violence erupted in the Kashmir region of India Jammu and Kashmir in November 1989, though unrest had been building in the state since the 1987 elections, with widespread allegations of rigging by the National Conference party, with the collusion of the Indian government.[4] At the same time, Pakistan has been training and arming the youth of the Kashmir Valley for an insurgency.[5][6]

Following the kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of Indian Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (later founder of the People's Democratic Party), the government decided to take a harder stance against the separatist rebellion.[citation needed] To that end, despite fierce opposition from the state government, Sayeed appointed Jagmohan, a known forceful administrator,[citation needed] governor of the state. As a result, the state government, then led by Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah resigned in protest, and the state went under Governor's rule.[7][a]

On the night 19 January 1990 (or the early morning of 20 January),[8] Indian security forces conducted extensive house-to-house searches in Srinagar, in an effort to find illegal weapons and root out any hidden militants.[9] Three hundred people were arrested, most of whom were later released.[1] Both Jagmohan and Abdullah deny any involvement in the decision to carry out the raid.[9] According to Manoj Joshi, the search was ordered by the police chiefs.[8]

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.[10][11] 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, "Indian dogs go back" and "Azadi ka matlab kya, La Ilahi lilillah [illallah]" ("What is freedom, Allah is the only god").[12]

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.[13] Organisers fanned out through the city and massive processions were initiated by the evening.[14] A curfew was imposed by night fall.[13]

The massacre[edit]

On the evening of 21 January, a large group of protesters reached Srinagar's wooden Gawkadal Bridge. Security forces fired on the crowd, leading to the death of several protestors.[2] 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 Gaw Kadal." Security forces fired on the protestors .

Indian authorities put the official death toll for the massacre at 28.[3] 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.[1]


In the aftermath of the massacre, more demonstrations followed, and in January 1990, Indian paramilitary forces are believed to have killed around 300 protesters.[15] As a Human Rights Watch stated in a report from May, 1991, "In the weeks that followed [the Gawakadal 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."[9] 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."[9]

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.[9] 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.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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 Schofield 2003, p. 148.
  2. ^ a b c d Kashmir's first blood, Indian Express, 1 May 2005.
  3. ^ a b 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
  4. ^ Ganguly, Sumit. Explaining the Kashmir Insurgency: Political Mobilization and Institutional Decay Archived 13 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine. "International Security," vol. 21, no. 2.
  5. ^ Sirrs, Owen L. (2016), Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate: Covert Action and Internal Operations, Routledge, pp. 157–158, ISBN 978-1-317-19609-9, Yet these differences [between JKLF and ISI] were set aside, and in 1986 an agreement was finally reached between ISI and the JKLF. Under its terms, the JKLF agreed to provide insurgent recruits while ISI supplied the training facilities, funds, and operational support.
  6. ^ Jamal, Arif (2009), Shadow War: The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir, Melville House, p. 129, ISBN 978-1-933633-59-6, 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.
  7. ^ Focus shifts to Raj Bhawan, J-K heads for Governor's rule. Express India. 8 July 2008.
  8. ^ 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."
  9. ^ a b c d e Everyone Lives in Fear: Patterns of Impunity in Jammu and Kashmir. Human Rights Watch. 2006.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ Shekhar Gupta, Militant movement holds Kashmir in a state of violent siege, separatism gets new legitimacy, India Today, 31 Jan 1990.
  13. ^ 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
  14. ^ 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)."
  15. ^ Mirza, Waheed. Growing up in Kashmir's war zone. "BBC News." 16 August 2007

Coordinates: 34°04′29″N 74°48′33″E / 34.07477°N 74.80918°E / 34.07477; 74.80918