Sunday, January 19, 2014

Another account of Cow Bridge Killings

Gow Kadal. 1950s.


Based on an account I heard in 2013 from a cousin of my father. The family lost a member in the violence that erupted in 1990 and is now what would be considered right wing in political outlook. And yet, this is the account I got...

January 21st

The house was on Nai Sadak. From the main window of the house you could see the bridge that connected the locality to Maisuma Bazaar, the place that was going to be the epicenter of violence in 1990, the bastion of JKLF. This is the bridge known as Gaw Kadal or the Cow Bridge. The line of sight from the house was such that if someone was standing on the center of bridge, you could see him completely, but further down, the other side only partially visible.

That day inmates of the house were glued to the window as they tried to fathom the sounds. They could see a large sloganeering crowd on the other side of the bridge, approaching their side. On this side, they could see a picket of about twelve CRPF men blocking their way. The city was under a curfew. These men were issuing orders warning the people disperse and move back to their houses. The people were protesting exactly against such orders. The inmates of the house thought maybe the security men were worried about their security. There were a couple of Pandit households in this vulnerable area. The men watching the procession from the window were a bit anxious. But this was Kashmir, even this was normal. They had seen may such processions in their lives. The people in the crowd had probably taken part in too many processions in their life. It was just another average Kashmiri day. The neighbourhood mosque which was under JKLF control was time and again advising the crowd over the loudspeaker to not touch the Pandits and their houses, to maintain peace and to march forward. The crowd continued to move forward.

Suddenly, without a rhyme, shots rang out. At first a tickle of loud bursts. From the window you could see a figure taking position, a quick thinking uniformed sikh man who hinged his semi-automatic gun to the railing of the bridge, and squeezed his finger to unleash death. In the later news reports, this action came to be described as 'indiscriminate firing'. The inmates of the house, with reflex of a cornered animal, ducked and lay flat on the floor. The wooden walls of the house it seemed had been blown away, it was as if the fire was directed at them. And the firing just wouldn't stop. It was like rain, like a thunder storm, even maybe like a cloud burst. Ashok Ji, a neighbour, another watcher in the house next door, was a bit slow in deciphering the scene. A bullet flew past him and glazed his ear. The reports were to say that the firing on the crowd was carried out from both ends of the bridge. People were caught in the middle. Initial official reports said about thirty people were killed. Over the years, as the stories grew, the number grew to about two hundred. Out of blood came accounts of people jumping into river and drowning, injured executed at point plank range, people chased and shot dead. The man blamed for ordering fire was given a name: Allah Bakhsh, SSP of J&K Police, with family ties to all the high and mighty of Kashmir state bureaucracy.

When it was over, the entire neighbourhood was drowned in sound of wailing. Up until now, a Pandit was still expected to join his neighbours in grief. And most of them did join. But not after that day. Bloodletting of that day, changed the core of the people. When an inmate of the house showed up at a neighbour's house to offer condolence, he was chased away.  'Battov, ye korov telephone', 'Pandits, you telephoned them!', was intermixed with the wailing sound. People swore revenge. The Pandits were suspects. The rumor blamed the pandits for calling the security men and somehow ordering the massacre. Over the next few days a new phenomena was observed in the city, people climbed up the telephone poles and pulled apart the wires. City was now plunged into a blackout of another kind. Every family was marooned, on its own and drifting in an unending nightmare in which monsters of all kind took life. Monsters that were to haunt Kashmir for a long time to come.

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Das Gerücht, "The Rumor," (1953) by German artist A. Paul Weber.
Perhaps the person best to understand nature of propaganda, having produced quite a bit.
An ambiguous figure who produced anti-Semitic and war mongering illustrations in his love for Germany and
was imprisoned for opposing Nazis and Hitler.
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