Twenty-eight years on and the survivors of Kashmir's one of the deadliest massacres of May 21, 1990 at Hawal in downtown Srinagar, still vividly remember what happened on that fateful day.
For those who survived thousands of bullets fired by the paramilitary CRPF on the funeral procession of Mirwaiz Moulana Muhammad Farooq, memories of the carnage will not fade ever. The survivors even remember the name of the CRPF commandant posted at Hawal, who ordered his troops to open the fire.
"It was a mayhem," recalls advocate Nazir Ahmed Baba, one of the survivors of Hawal massacre. "I remember everything that happened on that date. Perhaps, the decision to allow funeral procession of the Mirwaiz was not communicated to the CRPF camp at Hawal. Bullets rained in all directions and dead fell like the apples fall from the trees when they are ripe."
Nazir, a resident of Hawal, said paramilitary CRPF men had blocked all the roads and even the lanes and the bylanes. "The only option with us was to ferry the dead and injured on the handcarts. Some were taken to the SMHS and those seriously injured to the SKIMS, Soura," he recalls.
For Nazir, the haunting memories that pushed him into depression for few years would fade only when he would be laid to rest in his grave.
The body of Mirwaiz Farooq was being taken from the SKIMS Soura to Mirwaiz Manzil, Rajouri Kadal by a huge procession. Thousands of people had assembled at the SKIMS, to have last glimpse of the Mirwaiz. When the procession reached Hawal area of old Srinagar along with the body of Mirwaiz, the paramilitary personnel stationed in a camp at Islamia College trained their machine guns at the peaceful procession.
"And then it was havoc," says Nazir. "I could see multiple bullets hitting people in their head, stomach, arms and they were falling flat on the ground. Even those shouldering the coffin of the Mirwaiz also sustained bullet injuries. As one was hit by bullets another shouldered the coffin."
Despite bullets raining in from all directions, Nazir says, people didn't allow the coffin of the Mirwaiz to fell on the ground. The ever haunting memories of May 21, 1990, continue to disturb this old city resident, even after passage of 28 years. "I remember the massacre as if it happened yesterday," he says.
Over 60 civilians were killed and more than 200 injured at Hawal on that day. J&K was under unpopular rule of the then Governor Jagmohan.
"When people find nothing except the handcarts to ferry the dead and injured, I went to my house and took out my vehicle," he says.
"I pulled one of the injured who was hit by a bullet in his belly and rushed towards the SKIMS, but he succumbed on way. I drove back to the spot and started shifting other injured to the hospital."
Farooq Ahmed, another survivor of the massacre vouches that there was no provocation from the procession carrying the Mirwaiz's body.
"For a moment, I thought I am dead as a bullet had hit me in my right hand and one of my fingers was hanging by just a vein. I fell down and when I opened my eyes, I found people in a pool of blood lying around me," Farooq says as tears well up in his eyes. He says hundreds were injured including children, women and elderly.
An elderly man from Hawal, wishing not to be named as he feared reprisal from the forces, says memories of Hawal massacre can never lose colour. "Forces didn't even spare the dead and trampled over them," he says amid sobs. He rues that even after 28 years there is no headway in the probe into the incident.
Witnesses assert that later the body of Mirwaiz was taken through lanes and bylanes to Mirwaiz Manzil Rajouri Kadal. A memorial has also been established at Hawal in old Srinagar outside Islamia College, in memory of martyrs of Hawal with the names of victims carved on it.
The then Governor had announced a 'time-bound' inquiry into the massacre within a period of two months. However, in reply to an RTI application in 2013, the then divisional commissioner Kashmir had stated that a criminal case vide FIR 35/1990 was registered into the incident at Nowhatta police station.
"However, there is no information with the department as to whether there was any inquiry, judicial or magisterial, ordered by the government," he had stated.
On a petition by a human rights activist, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in 2014 ordered time bound inquiry into the massacre and sought a report from the government within two months.
"Despite various communications addressed to the DGP, divisional commissioner Kashmir and also from secretary of the commission, authorities are unmoved. In view of the insensitive approach of the authorities, the commission is left with no option but to entrust the inquiry to the investigating wing of this commission," the SHRC had stated.
In December 2017, the investigation wing of the SHRC found that the CRPF had identified 15 of its officers and personnel for "indiscriminate firing" that killed "35 civilians at Hawal in 1990. "The SHRC investigation, however, could not ascertain if any action was taken against these CRPF officers and personnel.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Chairman Hurriyat Conference (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said: "We remember Hawal massacre as another painful memory of that tragic day. Justice can be delivered anytime but going by the history of the massacres inflicted on us over the past 30 years, it looks very unlikely."