The Sopore Massacre
By Noor ul Haq
06 January, 2013
I was just 8 years old, when my neighboring town Sopore, was burnt down to ashes. A kid not fully involved in the politics of Kashmir but listening to BBC and VOA with my family was a habit, yet sans that feeling of belongingness with Kashmir freedom struggle. In the evening it was habitual to learn about the killings, tortures and all brutalities carried out by Indian army in and around Kashmir. On 6th January 1993 one more massacre was added to the history of Kashmir The horror news tonight was, that Sopore town has been burnt down to ashes and people killed. Simply it was a massacre .
It all happened on the morning of 6 January 1993 when a group of armed JKLF militants attacked a platoon of Border Security Force soldiers at Baba Yousuf Lane near Sopore and killing at least one. After this incident the security forces fired at local residents and set fire to local homes and businesses. The Indian Government initially claimed that the high civilian casualties were the result of an intense gun battle between the BSF soldiers and militants in which an explosives cache belonging to the militants exploded and spread the fire to nearby buildings. However, the government was later prompted to initiate a judicial inquiry into the matter and was also forced to suspend several BSF officers due to the widespread publicity that the incident had generated.
Later on, the official Indian Government reports state that 250 shops and 50 homes were burnt down although locals claim as many as 450 buildings were burnt down and at least 57 people massacred.
Exactly after 17 years, I met some BSF personnel accidently, in Mewat district of Haryana some 45 kms away from millennium city of Gurgaon, who turned out to be a part of that killing squad in Sopore way back in 1993.
After listening that I am from Kashmir's Baramulla district, now the old men (retired BSF personnel), 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 we fired indiscriminately on the civilians, burnt everything that came in our 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 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 tactics 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 was not knowing why am I 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 all your 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", he added.
The massacre left dozens orphan and widows who are still waiting for justice. The apple town famous for its apple orchards was left to a town of ashes, mutilated bodies, wailing women and crying children.
"There were shrieks and wailing everywhere. It was just a doomsday for people of Sopore." they said.
And the days passed by, Sopore went on, a new market opened up but what Kashmir lost were the humans killed at the hands of Indian 'democratic' forces which added to the history of Kashmir. A history about which Kashmir is proud.
Noor ul Haq is a journalist in Kashmir.
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