1 March 1990, When Troopers Massacred 51 Unarmed Protesters
Srinagar, Feb 28: Memories of the carnages carried out by Army at Zakoora Crossing and Tengpora in the city outskirts 19 years ago are still fresh in the minds of the eyewitnesses and survivors of the tragedy. Fifty-one unarmed civilians were killed and dozens more injured when the Army soldiers fired indiscriminately on them on March 1, 1990.
It was the time when the entire Valley was demanding freedom from India and protesting against the atrocities of Jagmohan regime, that a procession of over 1500 protesters headed towards the Srinagar office of the United Nations to submit a memorandum seeking freedom from India.
Eyewitnesses, most of them shopkeepers at the crossing, said the protesters, clad in shrouds, were immersed in the din of Azadi (Freedom) slogans when a convoy of five Army vehicles led by three Junior Commissioned Officers was returning from Sonamarg to Srinagar but found the road blocked near the crossing.
They said three policemen, guarding the crossing, asked the soldiers to wait till the protesters pass. This led to a heated argument between the policemen and soldiers, they added.
“An Army official told the cops ‘give way or we’ll shoot you’,” the shopkeepers said. “Within minutes, the convoy turned towards the demonstration and the soldiers opened fire from three machine guns fitted over the vehicles.”
A survivor of the massacre, Muhammad Iqbal (name changed) of Zakoora, said 11 people died on the spot, and many more succumbed to their injuries on way to the SK Institute of Medical Sciences, Soura.
Iqbal said 26 civilians were killed and some 50 more injured in the incident, which is today remembered as the Zakoora massacre.
“The mayhem lasted for three hours. None from the civil administration came to the rescue of people,” he added.
Only the locals rushed there ferrying the injured to hospitals, said Ali Muhammad Mir, one of the eyewitnesses, insisting that the protesters had no clash or argument with the Army. “The firing was simply unprovoked,” he recounted.
Until recently, Mir said a 50-year-old survivor of the carnage, a deaf would often visit the tragic place as his son was one among the killed protesters. “But for the past two years, he too didn’t turn up,” Mir added.
Twenty-one more people were killed at about 5 pm by the Army soldiers who fired at a bus near Tengpora on the same day. They too were unarmed. The dead included five women.
Next day, global human rights watchdog Amnesty International issued an appeal for urgent action on Tengpora and Zakoora massacres. A detailed account appeared in the March 31, 1990 issue of the Economic and Political Weekly of Bombay, which reproduced the text of “India’s Kashmir War” by a team of four members of the Committee for Initiative on Kashmir.