Not Forgotten

0

Almost two and a half decades after the highway massacre in 1993, the families in Bejbehara still have their lives shattered, reports Saqib Mir

Zainab, now 58, is laboratory assistant in the education department. She is trying hard to forget the blood splattered highway where she was desperate to trace her son, who did not return after Friday prayers on October 22, 1993.

Happily married, Zainab’s husband was a businessman. They had two sons Adil and Afroz. “Prayers were over and Adil and his father returned home,” Zainab remembers. “There was massive firing but Afroz was missing.” Her younger son, Afroz was a seventh standard student.

After prayers, people had resorted to a symbolic protest against the continued siege of Hazrtabal shrine in Srinagar. Militants, mostly from JKLF, had taken refuge in the shrine, triggering a cordon and a protracted stand-off. On the highway near Goriwan, the Border Security Force (BSF) had opened fire on the procession, killing 41 civilians (officially 31) as 73 survived injured.

Father had to undergo 20 minor and 10 major surgeries in last 23 years but could not recover. “Doctors told us his entire body was infected by his infected leg,” Nabi said. “He passed away on May 25, 2017, after remaining bedridden for all these years.” 

As she failed to trace her son, Zainab rushed to the neighbouring Islamabad hospital. She does not know how she reached there. “I saw a long line of dead bodies in the hospital premises but could not trace my son,” Zainab said. “I drove back, and found a little coffin the neighbourhood, it belonged to my son.”

The murder, Zainab said, shattered the family. Afrooz was preparing to sit for a competitive examination to become a doctor. “The killing pushed him into such a situation that he dropped out and for many years he would behave abnormally and finally he started assisting his father at the shop,” Zainab said.

The family lives in an old house. “God has given us everything but we do not know why we do not want a new home,” Abdul Rasheed Zargar, Arooz’s father said. “We are unable to forget the loss.”

Mohammad Subhan Rah and his two sons Ghulam Nabi and Ghulam Qadir were in the same mosque and later in the same protest rally.

“When BSF men started firing, the empty cartridges were falling on the road like hailstones and were bouncing,” Ghulam Nabi said. He survived unhurt, unlike his father and brother. Qadir was hit by a bullet injury in his right ankle, underwent a surgery, and recovered.

Their father had to undergo 20 minor and 10 major surgeries in last 23 years but could not recover. “Doctors told us his entire body was infected by his infected leg,” Nabi said. “He passed away on May 25, 2017, after remaining bedridden for all these years.” He said the family spent every single penny on him and both the brothers had to drop out. “Gulam Qadir is a woodcutter now and I drive a lorry,” he said.

Not far away from Rahs’ lives Sara Begum. The 1993 massacre devoured her only son, Arshid Tak, then an eleventh standard student.

They were trying to live normally but the destiny had other plans. One night in January 1997, they had a knock and some gunmen requested her husband Ghulam Mohiuddin, a retired doctor, to treat one of their injured colleagues. He had no options. Next morning his corpse was recovered by police.

Sara was so frightened that she fled to Srinagar, rented a flat and lived there for many years. “I do not know, how I still manage to live,” she said.

In Sara’s neighbourhood lives Mohammad Rafiq Ganie with his aged mother, his two brothers, and their children. In that 1993 procession, his three brothers had participated. Two of them Mukhtar and Tariq were hit by bullets. Fortunately, Tariq survived, unlike Mukhtar who breathed his last at Pampore when he was being shifted to SKIMS in a Fire and Emergency Services vehicle.

“Within days after the killing, our father Mohammad Shabaan was mentally so depressed that he required a doctor and for many years he was on medication till he died in 2012,” Rafiq said. “Doctors told us he died of trauma.”

The families have not forgotten their wards, lost to the massacre, is clearly visible from the small cemetery where the slain were buried. Located not far away from Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s home, the graveyard looks quite a recent phenomenon. “The slain were boys who used to play in this park so when they were killed, we laid them to rest in the same park,” one elderly resident explained.

 

About Author

Leave A Reply

*