January: a month of massacres – I

       Sopore massacre

On January 6, 1993 militants opened fire on Border Security Force (BSF) personnel at Baba Yusuf Lane  in the apple town Sopore. It is believed that the BSF sustained some fatal casualties. Angered, they ran amuck and opened indiscriminate fire on innocent civilians. They also torched the entire market.

 

 

The authorities initially denied the allegations saying the killings took place during cross fire between the militants and the BSF. However, a judicial enquiry was later initiated. A few BSF soldiers were also suspended. According to official data 250 shops and 50 houses were torched and 57 persons fell to bullets.

After seventeen years of the massacre, a budding journalist Noorul Haq happened to meet some of the killers at Mewat Haryana. A discussion ensued. Haq narrates the story as follows: “After listening that I am from Kashmir’s Baramulla district, now the old men (retired BSF personnel) in their 80’s, started cursing Kashmir, Baramulla and Sopore. I felt some interest in them as I was in a mood to listen from them about their time in Kashmir. They then started talking with each other as how on that fateful day they fired indiscriminately on the civilians, burnt everything that came in their way.

 

I inquired about the day of which they are talking? They told it was January 6, 1993. Place was Sopore. While listening to their horror stories and ghastly tales, it sent shivers down my spine. They were just recalling the history of Kashmir in front of a Kashmiri just in a sarcastic tone. There was gloom all over in front of my eyes. Their speech became a live picture.

After some time I don’t know what happened to them, they felt guilty. They offered me a place to sit and narrated the whole story of 6th January 1993.

"Kid, it was after when some ‘terrorists’ fired on BSF and one of our soldiers got killed and even they took his gun away. Then our ‘commander’ gave us orders, who was given orders by his seniors, to kill all and burn down the Sopore town as a war tactic and revenge the killing. "I still remember when I fired indiscriminately on a private bus full of civilians. I don’t know how many got killed. I did not know why I was killing the innocents. We later burnt the bus," said one of them.

It must be noted that on the fateful day of January 6, BSF soldiers attacked a private bus coming from Bandipora, killing the driver and at least 15 passengers as well as attacking and burning three other cars. Some residents were burnt alive as security forces set fire to their homes, shops and godowns.

“We just burnt the shops. People inside the shops were crying for help, but we burnt them alive also,” said one among them with tears in his eyes.

“We are a disciplined army, we have to follow the orders. We can’t go against the orders. So we did as ordered. Till date, we feel guilty. We massacred humans, rather humanity. And one thing I will tell you, it was your entire Governor who asked for it. Governments will not tell you as what happened that day or what is happening in Kashmir. It is all politics." (SIC)

Gawkadal massacre

On January 19, Jag Mohan took charge as Governor of the state. Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah resigned in protest and the state came under governor’s rule. This was Jag Mohan’s second term as governor. Earlier he had dethroned Farooq Abdullah and installed his brother-in-law, Ghulam Muhammad Shah as the Chief Minister. Then the state came under governor’s rule for a brief spell. Jag Mohan constructed some roads that won him a lot of good will. He was honoured at the abode of Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Wali at Chrar-e-Sharief.  This perhaps was the reason for his appointment as governor for the second time. But Kashmir had changed and Jag Mohan had to flee from Kashmir in five months. On January 20, he addressed the gullible Kashmiris from Doordarshan.

Jag Mohan’s speech was highly provocative. He said: “I will not take any salary. I will just take Rs 1000 to meet my personal expenses. I promise you a clean administration. If any body creates a law and order problem, meray hatoon say amun ka pata khisak jaye ga (the cards of peace I am carrying will slip away from my hands). It was a clear warning. “Behave or I teach you a lesson”, he conveyed in strong words. In less than twenty-four hours the threat was carried out.

Processions were organized from Batmaloo, Rjbagh and elsewhere. A peaceful procession was intercepted by a party of Jammu Kashmir police and CRPF led by DSP Allah Baksh near Gaw Kadal. The men in Khakhi opened fire without any provocation. I did not know what to do. Everybody was running for his life. I also started running. I saw my brother’s driver, Farooq Ahmad, falling to bullets. I could not do anything for him, so I did not stop. Running for safety was my only priority then. But while running I saw something that had never happened before in Kashmir. A CRPF trooper with a light machine gun (LMG) was firing indiscriminately on the scared people.

Fifty-two people died on the spot and around 200 sustained injuries. Jagmohan says in his Frozen Turbulence that only ten persons died. However, twelve bodies were buried at Sidiqabad, Batmaloo graveyard alone. These did not include the bodies of Farooq Ahmad and Rouf. An old man from Maharaja Bazaar was laid to rest at Sarai Bala. This massacre proved a turning point in Kashmir history. It turned the movement into a mass uprising overnight.

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