The untold story of Bijbehara Massacre
Adhering to the protest call given by All Parties Hurriyat Conference in Kashmir valley against the siege of Hazratbal Masjid, on this day in 1993, thousands of people offered congregational Friday prayers in the Historic Jamia Masjid Bijbehara. After the prayers, a peaceful procession led by Hurriyat leader Ghulam Nabi Sumjhi marched towards the national highway road to register their protest. The people from all walks of life and age groups including students were in the procession. They were protesting against the siege of Hazratbal Masjid and chanting slogans, Dargah Ka Mahasara khatam karo khatam karoo, to put an end to the siege of Hazratbal Masjid in Srinagar. Once the protesters reached Goriwan Chowk, the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel of 74th Battalion without any provocation opened fire on the protesters. It was terrible. There were so many people lying on the ground. Others were running in panic for safety. The men in uniform continuously fired indiscriminately upon the protesters leaving 32 civilians dead and hundreds injured. Although police had registered an FIR and a routine magistrate inquiry was also ordered into the massacre but all these years nothing has been done.
Despite the passage of twenty five years, the perpetrators of the Bijbehara Massacre were not brought to justice. If we turn the pages of history which replete with massacres, unlike celebrations we have only mourning to commemorate the civilian killings and massacres since times immemorial. In this massacre a number of students were killed mercilessly by the Border Security Forces. The sad part of this massacre is that a couple of houses got locked forever. Those families were left with no heir because their lone sons got killed in the massacre. One among them was Mohammad Shafi Hamdani. The father of Mohammad Shafi had already died and soon after the incident, due to the pangs of separation of his lone son his mother also died. The other youth who got killed in the Bijbehara massacre was Manzoor Ahmad Bader. Manzoor was orphan and was living alone with his mother. The mother of Manzoor, having no one to look after, has developed deformity in her whole body. Her daughters were already married. In the given circumstances, she was compelled to live with one of her married daughters and is continuously living with her but in a state of shock.
How I could relate how the families felt and suffered out of this massacre. The ruins of the abandoned houses of these families are still standing, depicting the pain and sufferings of the incident. One of the houses got totally damaged in the devastating flood of 2014. The debris of the house is lying on the ground as no one could raise it again in absence of the heirs. However, despite the passage of twenty five years the incident gives us a constant reminder of what happened on 22nd October 1993.
Bijbehara is perhaps the first and only town in valley where people have raised the memorial for the martyrs soon after the incident. The remains and standing structure in the shape of a monument is inscribed with the names of martyred people. The playground was turned martyr’s graveyard near New Colony Bijbehara. This a living example and a tribute to the martyrs of the Bijbehara massacre.
The other part of the story for which we feel sadness and despair is about the survivors of this massacre. The messacre left them disabled. I realize there is something we could do to highlight and to commemorate the Bijbehara massacre. It is how people always feel whenever a tragedy like Bijbehara massacre makes headlines. We can show that the disabled lives also matter. People with disabilities are among the most adversely affected during conflict situations and Bijbehara massacre is no exception to it. Among these disabled survivors of the massacre are Sara Begum, Ali Mohammad Tak, Mohammad Yousf Shah, Abdul Gani Hajam, Ghulam Mohammad Pandit, Mohammad Shaban Rah, Mushtaq Ahmad Pandit, Mohammad Asif Ganie, Mehmood Ahmad Nazmi, Jan Mohammad Pandit etc. There are many number of survivors of this massacre but I cannot catalogue here the names of all. Among these disabled survivors is Sara Begum. Once the firing started, Sara Begum known for her bravery came out of her house to look what had happened. When she saw the injured persons outside her house, she remained stand still in the shock. While the firing was going on, she attempted to lift the injured and carry them to the safer place but the tyrant troops did not spare her as well. She was fired upon indiscriminately, leaving her severely injured. Sara Begum with the permanent disability is now struggling hard to cope up with her deteriorated health. Another survivor of this massacre is Ali Mohammad Tak. He got multiple bullets in his leg and due to the severe injury he lost his lower limb in the incident. Ali Mohammad Tak, now in late eighties, is struggling hard in life to meet his both ends. He was running a provisional store. Due to his severe disability and circumstances he had to windup his business for known reasons. Similarly, Mohammad Yousf Shah of Pazalpora who is in late fourties also lost his limb. He is living in an abject poverty. In this massacre, Abdul Gani Hajam, who died few years ago, had also lost his limb. The two other survivors of this massacre, Ghulam Mohammad Pandit and Mohammad Shaban Rah also died recently due to both amputations and streptococcus infection. Mohammad Shaban had undergone several surgeries including the excision in his leg, but all in vain. Due to the poor and deteriorated physical condition and infection, Mohammad Shaban Rah finally lost his battle of life last year without getting justice. Being a part of this procession, I also got several bullets in my lower abdomen and hands. This is what we all have gone through these years and despite the passage of twenty five years the massacre is still afresh in the minds of people. The victims are still seeking justice. But why I survived this massacre and why I am alive today is probably to narrate this story of loss and bereavement; to unfold the grim details of the massacre so as to aware the new generation how we have suffered all these years of turmoil.
Author has done Ph.D from the Pondicherry Central University. He is an eye witness and survivor of Bijbehara massacre.
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