Valley calm on 20th birth day of bloodshed
Yasin addresses 100-strong rally, Geelani shoots off statement from Delhi
AHMED ALI FAYYAZ
SRINAGAR, Jan 21: It doesn’t take much to remember and forget in the Valley. History is replete with remembrance and forgetfulness. Nobody remembered Kashmir’s last monarch Yusuf Shah for over 400 years till Sheikh Abdullah and Yusuf Taing went all the way to Biswak (Bihar) to discover his tomb in 1977. That again ended up as a celestial event. Nobody talked of that Yusuf Shah thereafter. May be someone does in next 400 years.
With the Kashmiris finding Sher-e-Kashmir’s name on the fallen autumn leaves of Chinar in 1950s, he himself had reduced to a sub-conscious entity in early 1970s. Pakistan’s defeat in two successive wars in between pushed Sheikh to a far bitter mundane reality. The referendum in his mind voted for power. Days to come vindicated Sheikh’s decision. Valley dismissed him as a traitor and observed total shutdown on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s call on the day of his decision to return to the chair of Chief Minister. Three days later, Kashmiris gave him a veritable hero’s welcome as thousands of them gathered on either side of the highway to greet and garland him.
Sheikh conquered Srinagar with a massive gathering as melancholy faded into euphoria and jubilation on his arrival in Lalchowk on that historic day of spring in 1975. One-odd voice of dissent, Sofi Mohammad Akbar, was consigned to oblivion. In contrast to Sheikh’s million-strong funeral procession in 1982, Sofi’s last rites in 1988 became a bit of ‘news’ only when Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, with a courtesy lift to then Sopore MLA Syed Ali Shah Geelani, came all the way from Civil Secretariat of Jammu and landed his flying machine on the Mahaz-e-Azadi chief’s town. He even set free Sofi’s protégé Azam Inquilabi for whose signing of parole die-hard Farooq Rehmani had failed to find a surety in the valley of four million people.
Nobody remembered Maqbool Bhat on the day of his execution at Tihar Jail on February 11 in 1984. Abdul Gani Lone’s loud calls of shutdown fell on the deaf ears on that day and the following anniversaries. It took the people of Valley six long years to first remember Bhat in February 1990. By that time they had forgotten Sheikh Abdullah and begun to remember Sheikh Mukhtar---the lion of the African desert.
Much like Sofi Akbar’s loneliness in 1988, Sheikh Abdullah in 1990-95 had one-odd homage payer at his grand mausoleum at Hazratbal in Maqbool Shah Khaksaar of Ikhrajpora, who never hid his pride of leading Sher-e-Kashmir’s militia to repulse the Pakistani tribal raider’s invasion in 1947 till he was gunned down by guerrillas outside his mosque in 2005.
In 1990s, Kashmiris did enthusiastically begin to remember another Yusuf Shah, albeit only after his turning into the Hizbul Mujahideen chief ‘Syed Salah-ud-din’. Nobody really knows how long Shah’s guns and amulets loom large on their conscious mind.
It was exactly on this day of January 21 in 1990 that the real foundation stone of a defiant, secessionist movement was laid in Kashmir with a major massacre. CRPF troops opened machinegun fire from their sandbag bunkers on an Azadi procession, killing nearly 50 civilians at Gawkadal. Anniversaries for the next many years did not need anybody’s call to ensure a total shutdown in entire Valley. Those critical of the brutal killing of SHO Maisuma , Sadullah, by the ‘Mujahideen’ a year before, and gunning down of two IB officials around the same spot later, vanished into the thick fog of the sentiment of Azadi.
First murmur of protest in Gawkadal came three years later when JKLF gunmen allegedly committed rape-cum-murder of a mother and daughter of the Braroo family of the staying back Kashmiri Pandits at Basant Bag. It was silenced with just a couple of browbeats.
This Maisuma-Gawkadal-Basantbagh locality, bordering Srinagar uptown and downtown, came to be remembered later for being the residence of JKLF Chairman, Yasin Malik. Much more than the massacre, people later began to remember it for being a rendezvous of the Indian intellectuals, mediapersons and foreign diplomats who for years thronged Malik’s non-descript house and office.
One day, even Kuldeep Nayar found himself tired of offering glasses of juice to break Malik’s weekly and fortnightly fasts-unto-death. And he turned his back on Maisuma. With that change in the atmosphere, it required a much stressed call from militants and Hurriyat to remember the martyrs of the Gawkadal massacre on January 21. In the next couple of years, militants and Hurriyat themselves forgot to issue a call of strike on this historic day.
This Wall Street of Azadi observed total boycott to all Assembly and Lok Sabha elections from 1996 to 2004 but flocked to the polling booths at Veterinary Hospital and Mallinson School in the Municipal Elections of 2005. A couple of years before, Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed’s demolition squads had the temerity of dismantling an unauthorized projection of a shop that belonged to once revered, once dreaded Yasin Malik’s close relative.
In 20th year of the movement, Maisuma-Gawkadal came up with a queer presentation of its split personality as groups of people maintained their stone pelting sessions against Police and CRPF and the JKLF Chief became the glamorous hero of a celebrity wedding with the young Pakistani painter Mashaal Mullick. Amid a razzmatazz, wags were heard shouting: “Bharat teri maut aayi, bhabhi aayi bhabhi aayi---a parody of once the popular slogan “Bharat teri maut aayi, Lashkar aayi Lashkar aayi”.
And look what the champions of Azadi did on the 20th birth day of the Gawkadal massacre: Biggest crowd puller Geelani shot off a statement of tributes from his second home in the Indian Capital, New Delhi; Others from Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to Maulvi Abbas Ansari to Bilal Gani Lone to Prof Abdul Gani to Shabir Shah even didn’t do that in their luxurious drawing rooms in Srinagar. There was no activity in the Valley, either at the Martyrs Graveyard or elsewhere, as everybody seemed to be busy with routine daily chores. Business was brisk at Lalchowk and around. Yasin Malik addressed a gathering of a little over 100 fellow residents at Maisuma to remember the Gawkadal martyrs and tell his audience that their blood wouldn’t go waste.