January 27 is remembered as one of the bloodiest days in the history of Kashmir. It was on this day, in 1994, when forces unleashed a hell in Kupwara by killing 27 innocents. The incident which later became Kupwara Massacre continues to haunt the psyche of the survivors—even after 22 years have gone by.
The survivors while recalling the bloodbath say the northern town was punished for turning their back to R-day. By the new dawn, they say, the forces arrived on the scene to paint the town red. That day, Abdul Rashid Dar, a government employee, almost fell to bullets—but he survived miraculously only to narrate the deadly ordeal:
“On 23rd January, army’s Punjab regiment came into the market and threatened the traders against observing a strike on January 26. The market was abuzz—since, Eid-ul-Adha was approaching. They warned of dire consequences if we didn’t celebrate the R-day. They even threatened policemen. I along with my brother used to sell sacrificial animals in main Kupwara square for Eid. By the dawn of January 25, a local cleric and worshippers were beaten to pulp without any provocation. This triggered a mad rush of rage in locals. They wanted to retaliate, but couldn’t in the face of gun-trotting forces.
And then on January 26, markets in Kupwara wore a deserted look. This didn’t go well with army. On January 27, we went to lodge a complaint against the army’s highhandedness – for thrashing worshippers, cleric. While we were returning after meeting the DC and reached the Kupwara bridge near Bus Stand, we faced a volley of bullets fired by army.
I jumped from the bridge and hid behind a large stone. Firing stopped. I came out only to witness mayhem amid horrific scenes of bloodbath. My brother was also killed. He was hit by three bullets. In an hour’s time, army piled up 27 innocent bodies.
After a brief lull, just outside the hospital, vehicles carrying injured were stopped by an army officer and started registering the names of the people on board. The army officer dragged down a man from one of the vehicles and shot him dead from point blank. He was reportedly killed for arguing with the army officer. After the gruesome massacre, the army men asked the people to assemble in a ground and undergo an identification parade. I saw how an injured son died in his father’s arms after army stopped his father from taking him to hospital.
It was brutal when the injured were blindfolded and taken to Zangli army garrison and from there taken to Army interrogation centre somewhere in Srinagar. After the incident, police registered a case FIR No: 19/94 under Sections 302, 307 dated 27-01-1994 in police station Kupwara. But till then, army men—shielded by AFSPA—continue to remain untouched by law.”