After twenty-seven years, the government has broken its silence on Basant Bagh massacre. Responding to a petition in the state human rights commission (SHRC), the government has stated that 22 persons got killed and 12 sustained injuries on January 21, 1990 at Gaw Kadal.
The government statement, however, contradicts, then Governor Jagmohan's figures. In his Frozen Turbulence, Jagmohan while giving a brief account of the situation that according to him warranted prompt and stern action. On page 10 and11 he writes: "I went on working in the Secretariat and returned to Raj Bhawan late in the evening. The night that followed was the strangest night that I have ever lived, Hardly had I gone to bed when the two telephones at my bedside started ringing, almost continuously. At the other end, there were voices of alarm, of concern, of fright, sometimes muted voices of men too terror stricken to speak. `Tonight is our last night', moaned the voice. `By morning , we –all Kashmiri Pandits—would be butchered', said another voice. `Send us aero planes, take us out of the Valley; evacuate us at night if you do not want to see our corpses in the morning', pleaded another."
When this all happened, Jagmohan was still in Jammu. This is night intervening January 19-20 and he is `able to contact the divisional commissioner, Jalil Ahmad Khan and deputy Inspector-General of Police SA Ali on phone. "I goaded them to take prompt action. ….I personally spoke to SSP Allah Bux (SiC), and motivated him to stretch all his resources. I knew he was the key man in the situation. I also got in touch with the senior army officers."
Jagmohan also received calls from the union home ministry saying Pandits are in utter panic. " There were other calls from New Delhi and I assured action."
Next day Jagmohan reaches Srinagar. On page 18, he writes: "I spoke to my advisor Ved Marwah, and called in Lt.-Gen.M A Zaki, Corps Commander Northern Command. The three of us sat in my office. `We have hardly any time for discussion', I said.. `Within a few minutes , we must act or suffer being overwhelmed.'. They agreed. Action was soon on. The curfew which existed only in name, began to be enforced. The crowds which had gone beresk, burning public buildings—SIDCO office complex at Natipoora, Women's Polytechnic Saida Kadal, Mehjoor Bridge etc—had to be dispersed. Firing had to be resorted to by the security forces at Hawal, Tulsi Bagh, Gaw Kadal, Lal Bazar, Saida Kadal etc. Twelve trouble makers lost their lives and many were injured."
On page 19 he writes: "By the evening , the city had become quiet. Order had been restored. The curfew restrictions began to be respected. Arson could not be indulged in with impunity. The first effective action to pull back Kashmir from the jaws of pro-Pakistan and pro-Independence militants had been taken."
This is how Jagmohan acted in those fateful days. According to him only twelve persons lost their lives on that day. I, my brother and Sheikh Abdul Kabir buried twelve corpses in Sidiaqabad, Batmaloo grave on January 22 which were handed over to us by the Police Control Room. These did not include Abdul Rouf from Sarai Bala who received 28 bullets in his chest, an old man from Gonikhan area and Farooq Ahmad from Court Road. Therefore, Jagmohan has lied about the killings in his book.
Two years ago, during a function in New Delhi, my journalist friend had a chance encounter with Jagmohan. After some initial frowns, Jagmohan agreed to speak. He said only twelve people got killed at Gaw Kadal on January 21, 1990.
The SHRC quoting the report from Police Hospital Srinagar and other hospital records says 22 persons died in the incident and just 12 sustained injuries. Jagmohan says many were injured.
The SHRC did a commendable job in the mass/unmarked graves a few years ago. The Basant bagh massacre should have been investigated the way it (SHRC) investigated the mass graves case. Police did not investigate the case for obvious reasons and closed it down after eight years as untraced. The police report submitted to SHRC reflects the flaws in investigation, if at all it was conducted. It is silent about the identity of the victims. Pertinent to mention, a case under FIR 3/1990 under section 147, 188, 153, 307 had been lodged in the incident at police station Kral Khud,
The report from DC Srinagar is equally ambiguous. Exgratia benefit of Rs 25,000 each as per the rate of applicable at that time of incident as per government order no 145/R/520-523/AC dated 26-07-1990, has been sanctioned and provided in favour of NOK's of only 6 deceased in the incident. No attempt to identify the victims has been made.
The truth needs to be unveiled. Identification of the victims is necessary. The SHRC has rightly said that the district administration has been unjustifiably parsimonious in sharing information in the instant matter. Can the SHRC do what it did in unmarked/mass graves case?