The people from North Kashmir’s Kupwara district paid a heavy price for observing a shutdown on the eve of India’s Republic Day in 1994. Despite warning from Indian troopers not to observe shutdown on January 26, 1994, the people as usual remained indoors and observed India’s Republic Day as ‘Black Day’, but the next day, in retaliation, troopers from 31 Medium Regiment gunned down 27 innocent people including three policemen in Kupwara market. The massacre took place on January 27, 1994.
Justice continues to elude the families of victims even after the expiry of 23 long years.
The First Information Report (FIR) vide number 19/1994 under section 302, 307 lodged in Police Station Kupwara reads that, ““in a criminal assault, the soldiers of 31 Medium Regiment who were on road opening party duty led by Field Officer S. Bakshi gunned down scores of people in indiscriminate firing in Kupwara market and its vicinity without any provocation.”
The victims who fall prey to the bullets were mostly traders. Three among them were policemen and one was a government employee.
Witnesses to this gory massacre still feel chill down their spine when they narrate the ordeal.
A local from the district told news agency CNS that they are all set to observe a complete shutdownon Saturday to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the massacre. The survivors allege that the massacre was carried out by the soldiers to punish the people for observing shutdown on January 26.
“A day before India’s Republic Day, Indian Army had warned the shopkeepers of dire consequences if they observe strike and didn’t celebrate the R-day, next day,” said a local shopkeeper who survived the massacre adding that ignoring the warning people especially traders observed a complete shutdown in the district on January 26.
“As the shopkeepers opened their shops on January 27, the soldiers came and opened indiscriminate fire from all directions, killing 27 people and leaving scores wounded,” he said and added that after the gruesome massacre, the soldiers “asked us to assemble in the ground and undergo an identification parade.” He said none was allowed to lift the bodies and carry the injured to hospital.
“A boy died in front of his father, who begged before armed troopers to allow him to take his son to the hospital. But they didn’t give heed to his pleas,” the shopkeeper who survived during the blood bath said.
“Even local policemen who were on duty were not spared. At least 3 of them died on spot,” said the survivors.
International Forum for Justice, Human Rights JK (IFJHRJK) chairman Mohammad Ahsan Untoosubmitted a petition with State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) seeking direction from the commission to investigate the killing of persons in Kupwara Chowk on January 27, 1994.
The petition reads:
“That on January 27, 1994, Army personnel of 15 Punjab Regiment killed 27 innocent persons; reason being that the shopkeepers had downed shutters of their shops on January 26 on the call of separatists. Army avenged the act by opening fire on innocents.”
“That no investigation has taken place in the said case.”
“That all the 27 persons that were killed on that fateful day were civilians.”
“That the families of the deceased persons are starving as they deceased persons were the sole bread earners of their families and they were not compensated by the government.”
Locals alleged that killers were shielded and they are still roaming free. “We demand that case should be reopened and killers be punished. Sooner or later the culprits will face the music,” said the survivors. (CNS)