1990 Handwara Massacre: Time For An Independent Probe By Sitting HC Judge, Says IFJHR Chairman Ahsan Untoo

SHRC disposes off case citing absence of victim families, lack of cooperation by BSF unit involved in crime

Srinagar: On January 25, 1990, 21 people fell to bullets of the paramilitary BSF men in this Handwara area of Kupwara district. On the fateful day, barely four days after Gaw Kadal massacre in Srinagar where 52 unarmed civilians were shot dead by the paramilitary CRPF men.

The Handwara blood bath was carried out when around 10,000 people were heading towards Handwara Chowk to protest against the Gawkadal massacre.

An FIR vide NO- 10/1990 stands registered at Police station Handwara under sections 307, 151, 53, 427, 336, 449, 448, 436, 435–A. Police have cited that all the accused BSF men are untraceable. “Till this date the government has no answer to our queries as to what led to this massacre. Killed persons were not militants but civilians who were protesting peacefully,” says chairman International Forum for Justice and Human Rights (IFJHR) Muhammad Ahsan Untoo, who has been pursuing the case before the State Human Rights Commission since past many years.

He said that Handwara was one of the worst massacres in the history of Kashmir as people still remember the bloodbath as if the incident happened today. Twenty-one protesters were killed in cold blood, and 75 were injured on January 25, 1990.

THE INCIDENT: “It had been almost a year now that resistance had been gradually spreading in Kashmir. Month of January brought with it news of heavy deployment of BSF and CRPF in the Valley. Massive protests and curfews in Kashmir had become order of the day by that time. Soon news of Jagmohan taking over as the Governor of J&K was received and on the first night of Jagmohan’s tenure curfew was imposed in the entire Valley,” said Abdur Rashid, an eye-witness.

On Jan 21, 22, 23, 24 there were massive protests in entire Kashmir including Handwara town of Kupwara district against the Gawkadal massacre. On Jan 24, an organized protest programme was devised and all the people were asked to assemble at Handwara chowk and take part in protest demonstration.

On Jan 25, thousands of people from Ramhal, Vilgam, Rajwar, Kandi, Nagarwari, Qaziabad, Qalamabad, Kulangam and adjoining areas started pouring in at Handwara Chowk.

In Handwara, people were hoisting green flags amid pro-freedom, anti- India and anti-Jagmohan slogans at the time.

At around 11 am, a large procession from Ramhal area had reached Handwara chowk via Magam route.

A TATA- 407 vehicle of BSF from Waripora Handwara, (No. HVN-7717) appeared near police station Handwara and tried to make its way through the procession, protestors didn’t allow it to pass on, this infuriated the BSF men who opened fire on the unarmed protestors, there was retaliation from the protestors who resorted to stone pelting, and they even set the BSF vehicle on fire.

BSF troopers showered the bullets entered into the police station Handwara and ransacked the records and furniture in there and beat up police men.

Habibullah Khan (Eye-witness)

“When the procession was passing though Handwara Police Station, the BSF fired at us,” recalled Habibullah Khan a survivor who was part of the procession.

According to Khan, people were protesting peacefully when troopers opened fire at them. “Suddenly people hit by bullets were falling in front of me. Some of them died on the spot. I could see the bodies of Muhammad Shafi War of Divaspora, Shafi Khan of Sodal, Nazir Ahmad Dar of Braripora, Shiefud-din Khan of Wullarhama, Ghulam Muhammad Sheikh of Wajhama, Ghulam Muhammad Beigh of Wudpora, Ali Mohammad Itto of Chogal, Ghulam Muhammad War and Muhammad Amin Masala both residents of Kulangam receiving bullets and dying in front of me. Many others were critically injured,” he said.

Khan added that the mere thought of that day sends shivers down his spine. “The BSF troopers had gone berserk. Doomsday cannot be worse than what I witnessed. Within minutes bodies were piling on streets and blood was scattered every where.I escaped miraculously in the indiscriminate firing, BSF men didn’t allow us initially to remove the injured to the hospital,” he added.

TIME FOR A FRESH PROBE BY SITTING HC JUDGE: The petitioner and the rights activist, Muhammad Ahsan Untoo said that since the SHRC has disposed off the case citing lack of cooperation by the officials of the district, next of kin of victim families and the non-identification of the BSF men involved in the act.

“Since the Handwara massacre remains a blot on the fact of Indian democracy, I demand a transparent and fresh probe into the incident by the sitting High C0urt Judge,” says Untoo. He said that there is also an ambiguity as to whether the ex-gratia was provided to all the NoKs of the slain.

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