Sopore Massacre: Eyewitness Account  

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Saleem Qadri

SOPORE

On a chilly wintry morning of January 6, 1993, people of Sopore town woke up to a normal day. During those days BSF (Border Security Forces) stationed in the town used to patrol the roads extensively.

At main chowk, Shalpora Gully, some people were unloading a truck laden with some goods that day. It was supposed to be a routine day until gun shots created panic and tension instantly gripped the whole town. And then all guns starting blazing. BSF men stationed in the main chowk started firing indiscriminately on the people.

Reports suggested that a group of JKLF militants opened fire on a BSF patrolling party which resulted in killing of a BSF personal. The militant outfit also decamped with his service riffle. This enraged the paramilitary men who then “shoot to kill” and started stacking up bodies across the town. The act which left many families devastated in Sopore was soon termed as Sopore Massacre.

Among those who were killed in the Sopore that day included three brothers identified as Bashir Ahmad Shalla, Sajjad Ahmad Shalla and Muhammad Ashraf Shalla.

Ghulam Hassan, an eyewitness to the incident while narrating the incident told Kashmir Life: “I was a 17-year-old at that time and used to run a Barber shop which was very close to the firing incident spot. That day, I was doing my normal business. But suddenly, I saw people running scarily and heard some of them talking about IED blast at main chowk.

“When I came out of the shop to inquire about the incident, I saw men in uniform firing indiscriminately on the people. A BSF personnel was lying in a pool of blood,” Hassan recalled.

A Bus which was on the way to Sopore from Bandipora was also stopped by the “blood thirsty” BSF men who started firing indiscriminately on it and killed most of the people and left many bloody wounded.

Another eyewitness told this reporter that he saw BSF men throwing gun powder on the shops including the famous cinema “SAMAD TALKIES”, Islamia College Sopore (Women’s) and also burnt shopkeepers alive inside in their shops.

“After taking refuge inside a building, we left our shoes on first floor of the building and were watching all this carnage from top of the building,” the eyewitness said. “In a meantime, two BSF personnel came to search more persons and I offered two Rakaats of nafal nimaaz and prayed for help from Allah.”

“When I finished the prayer, I saw BSF men leaving the building and another BSF personal saying that “Yeh jootay un logoon kay hai, jin ko hum nay goliyaan mar di aur jalaya (the shoes belong to those whom we killed and burnt down).”

He welled up while recounting the incident. “Around 59 civilians were martyred that day,” he said. “And around 350 above shops were smoked up by ruthless BSF personnels.”

Another eyewitness recounted: “When we came out from the building, a BSF officer ordered his men to assemble us and start firing. I feared for my life and started weeping. It was then a BSF man told me, ‘you saw everything and it is now your turn!’ ”

But the timely visit of then deputy commissioner, he said, saved him and others from the “insanity” of BSF personnel. BSF personals took photos of the locals and meanwhile, a senior police officer came there and started hurling abuses at the locals.

A few days after, the state government announced relief for the victims.

One of the members of Traders Federation Sopore told Kashmir Life that Syed Ali Geelani appealed the victims not to receive any relief from state government by saying “we will collect our own relief across the state and our men will work for that”.

“But unfortunately the relief never reached to the victims,” the trader alleged. “Geelani was not sincere in rebuilding the Sopore town again.”

Earlier, the trader said there was rift between the Geelani group and other locals in Sopore town “because of which government relief was not provided.”

A police official on the case proceedings said, “The case is the office of CBI and they have started to investigate.”

A case is almost closed, the cop said, and there is less chance to re-open the case because of failure and un-availability of witnesses.

(The author is Kashmir-based correspondent with India Blooms News Service, Kolkatta.)

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