Darsh Dawood is a bachelors student of journalism at GWC,…
Thirty one winters later, Ghulam Mohammad Dar still carries the first carnage of militancy-era in his head like a nightmarish strife. Besides changing Kashmir, the bridge butchery altered this erstwhile newsagent forever.
Itâs been a sad transformation, he says looking at a dead pigeon floating on frosty waters under the bridge.
That day, he recounts, many of them met the pigeonâs fate in that ice-covered water body.
Kashmirâs winter of discontent had begun. The other dayâs neighbouring assault had set the stage for the temper fury. People in hundreds were heading towards the bridge in a solidarity march.
But they were soon running for their lives.
While many fell into the water body, some, he pauses and points at the dangling meat in a nearby butcherâs shop, were lying as lifeless on the bridge as that slaughtered animal.
âHow did it change a commoner like you?â
He looks at the bridge, like he was doing that day, when mean machines meant massacre.
A carefree newsagentâwhose dawn routine would take him to the winding alleys of downtown filled with a âmilitant moodâ and the raging rumours by late eightiesâwas living his own Srinagar spirit.
Kashmir was changing, so were men of his agesâbetrayed by the ballot, bitten by the system, and beaten by the âidea of democracyâ in Kashmir.
As their âpolling agentâ conviction sent them packing to prisons, he could hear the altered street din and discourses.
In the era of rising stardom of Michael Jackson and a boy-faced Tom Cruiseâthen twin heartbeats of teens in SrinagarâDar saw the rising readership of an author speaking truth to the power.
With status quo waning and old empires crumbling across the globe, the old promise looked very much possible.
And then, it happened.
In his own neighbourhood, a boy became a mindful of shifting sands in global order and went to confront Soviets in the âtheatre of holy warâ.
Later, the pioneers of firepower would run their own clandestine campaign in the community of transportersâwhose evolution from National Conference vote-bank to a defiant pocketâwould herald a new order.
âAll this was a part of the change the young and restless were seeking for long,â he says, looking at the faded poster of a Kashmiri still lying in Tihar Jail.
âSo, now, after the boys were betrayed and beaten in the game of ballot, they made this bridge township an epicenter of a new cryâthe cry of liberty.â
When the same boys, including an incarcerated native, carried the dramatic hostage swapping spectacle in the heart of Srinagar, the town threw its weight behind the boys talking about the sweeping change.
âAnd then, he came on the orders of the hostageâs father, and committed carnage hereâŠâ
âWho could, except Jagmohan?â
Later the Raj Bhavan ramrod would give it away, in one of his rarest interviews given to a roving reporter from Delhi â then freely covering Kashmir amid a gag on local press and ban on âadverseâ foreign scribes.
As Delhiâs disciplinarian of the defiant valley, he said it with a straight face, âA few of those bloodletting episodes were unfortunate, but they did curb the menace.â
Before his own backer removed him from Raj Bhavan for presiding over the carnage of the assassinated clericâs mourners, the controversial governor wrote Gaw Kadal as its worst legacyâjust two days after he came as a ânurse orderlyâ.
After that bridge butchery on January 21, 1990âkilling around 52 Kashmiris and wounding hundredsâKashmir was never the same again.
With Pandits deserting the valley, many fear the cold-carnage would continue without any halt.
At the bridge, the witness breaks his sullen silence with a monologue of sorts.
âWhat should I tell you about it now? Should I detail the scene of how I saw corpses on the bridge? Or, shall I tell you about that brute officer commanding kill orders? Or, maybe, I should describe those men, who played dead that day? Or, perhaps narrate those raids that followed after the killingsâŠâ
At late sixties, heâs still in a frozen time-frame. His leisurely strolls often end up as a silent musing on the bridge. The chilling winter of Kashmirâs collective memory seems to have taken its own toll on the witness.
âThe blood they spilled that day is refusing to thaw thirty one years later,â he says.
Before walking back, he takes another look at the lifeless pigeon in the frozen waters below. Along with the butchered animal and the faded poster of the rebel nearby, a stark resemblance continues to take him to the day when the defiance and death forever changed the witnessâs hometown.
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Darsh Dawood is a bachelors student of journalism at GWC, Srinagar. He is currently interning with the Mountain Ink.