All you need to know about “Handwara Massacre”

Handwara Massacre, Jan 25, 1990

The Handwara bloodshed was carried out when around 10,000  people were heading towards Handwara Chowk to protest against the Gawkadal massacre, where CRPF killed as many as 52 people.

22 people were killed by paramilitary BSF men in Handwara town of District Kupwara, on Jan 25, 1990, just four days after Gaw  Kadal massacre in Srinagar where 52 unarmed civilians were shot dead by the paramilitary CRPF men.

Handwara Massacre

Survivors Narrative 

1) Gh Rasool Khan: It had been almost a year now that resistance had been gradually spreading in Kashmir. The 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 an 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.

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 the 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,  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 into the police station Handwara and ransacked the records and furniture in there and beat up policemen.

2) Habibullah Khan: Khan revealed 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.

3) Majboor Kashmiri: While recounting the moments Majboor Kashmiri a local journalist said:  I was near the police station and saw the first bullet fired by a BSF man and hitting one Ghulam Muhammad Khoja of Kulangam who used to work as a vendor at Handwara. A bullet pierced through his head and dropped him dead.

4) Muhammad Maqbool Mir: Muhammad Maqbool Mir a shopkeeper in his forties said that I  was 15 years old then. As firing started I saw several people falling to bullets. I jumped into the police station and took refuge in the Munishyat room of Handwara police station and hide under a table. The firing was continuing, by the time bodies were dumped by some policemen into the compound of the police station. BSF men were on the killing spree, a Policeman saw me  hiding under the table and told me that they (BSF) men will not  spare me.” A policeman asked me to lay on the ground and he caught hold of me from my leg and dragged me towards the bodies and dumped me there within minutes several dead bodies were piled on and I was lying under a body. Blood oozing out of a  body was pouring on my clothes and a BSF man aiming his gun approached towards me and left me presuming me dead after seeing blood on my clothes. Again a policeman came told me that you will be taken to hospital among the dead bodies. Again I  was dragged out and dumped in a police truck, I could see the bodies lying in a truck and hear the screams of injured, some injured were succumbing to their injuries and I could hear so many people reciting Kalima while succumbing. I could feel the hot blood oozing out of the bodies trickling on my face.  By 2 pm firing stopped. I was dumped in mortuary which was located in a makeshift tin shed at district hospital Handwara,  when a civilian touched me I whispered that I am alive. The news of my death had spread like a wildfire. Even my parents and relatives had dug up a grave for me. I was taken to my home and my parents and relatives were shocked to see me alive.

5) Manzoor Ahmad Sheikh: I was then 15 years old, by the time all the people had reached  Handwara chowk. I along with my elder brother Shams-U-Din and my father Ghulam Mohammad Sheikh were part of the protest demonstration. A BSF soldier sitting under the cover of a shop fired indiscriminately on the protestors. I was holding the hand of my father and I saw a bullet hit his head, he did not leave my hand, despite receiving a bullet, again the trooper aimed and fired at the chest of my father, I saw my father falling on the ground and shouting run away Manzoor,  save your life. Even today I recall the last words of my father.

6) Javed Zargar:  There was no place in the wards of the hospital. We brought the beds out the hospital and placed them in the park of the hospital, we on our own started providing first aid to the injured, critically injured persons were taken to Baramulla hospital. Women and youth of Handwara were leading from the front to treat the injured; Women had brought the water for the injured.  Curfew was imposed in the entire town around 4 pm.  Defying the curfew agitated protestors set on fire the government buildings including walnut factory at Magam,  Horticulture produces marketing center Budkoot, Forest division  Langate, Dak Bungalow Handwara, and Range office quarters etc.  Despite the curfew, people reached the homes of the deceased persons and participated their funeral prayers. Curfew in Handwara and its adjoining areas continued for 9 consecutive days.

Later, India’s home minister, Mufti Sayeed arrived in Handwara only to terrorize the terrorized, saying: “One bullet will be replied with 100 bullets,”  Mufti, a Kashmiri holding the control of forces stationed in the valley with his remarks proved that his loyalty to Delhi came at the cost of lives of Kashmiris.  By October  1, 1990, the then governor of Jammu and Kashmir was no longer governor, but his “bullet politics” trailed behind.

Case: An FIR vide NO- 10/1990 stands registered at Police station Handwara under sections 307, 151, 53, 427, 336, 449, 448, 436, 435–A. The cops promised a swift action, but that “swift action” continues to elude the people even after 28 years. In the name of the case, there exists only a deadbeat FIR copy with 1990\10 number, mentioning nothing about killings. It only carries government’s and BSF’s version: “The protestors who were in thousands thronged from villages and pelted stones and torched the BSF Tata 407 carrying eatables and also ransacked Dak Bungalow Handwara.

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