The Lone Survivor

Death follows a strict calendar, and comes when it has to come. Fourteen-year-old Riyaz Ahmad Ganaie proved it on October 22, 1993. He was in a procession that was intercepted and fired upon by BSF troopers near the Bijbehara post office.  He sustained multiple injuries in his chest, abdomen and hands, but survived.

Talking to the Kashmir Reader, he said: “We came out of the Jamia Masjid and marched towards the highway.  A BSF party allowed us to go ahead. But the moment we came close to the post office, I heard a shot. Before I could decide what to do, bullets were showered on us. I saw a number of people getting hit and falling down. Finally, I also fell down. A bullet had pierced my chest. I lay down quietly for some time till the firing stopped. Slowly, I raised my head, only to receive a shock. I was lying on the road, all alone. I stood up suddenly and ran towards a lane but several bullets hit my chest and abdomen. I saw my intestines coming out of my belly. I held them with my hands and two bullets hit my hands as well. But I continued to run.”

“While I was running, a neighbor, Gulab Khan, saw me. He lifted me on his shoulders and ran towards my house. My mother came out and was shocked to see me drenched in blood. A few men accompanied us to the hospital. The door was closed, and a BSF man was standing there with his finger on the trigger. My mother tore her pheran (a loose gown that Kashmiris wear in winter) and dared him to shoot her.

`Go ahead, shoot me. See what you have done to my son.’

The trooper allowed us in. I was the first victim to reach the hospital.  But the doctors referred me to the Anantnag hospital.”

Meanwhile, other injured were also brought in.  After first aid, they too were referred to other hospitals.

“We were literally dumped into a police vehicle.  The vehicle was stopped by army men near Sumji’s house. Sumji is an important figure in Bijbehara and is associated with Hurriyat (G).  All injured were ordered to disembark. The volunteers accompanying the injured raised pro-freedom and anti-army slogans. The angered army men also opened fire on us. A few sustained injuries but the driver managed to take us away. We were again stopped at Khanabal by the army. The same questioning followed. We were freed when a soldier looked at me. There were no doctors available in the hospital, and we were referred to Srinagar.  We were given a truck. At every camp, we were stopped and questioned.  Finally we reached the SMHS hospital where a number of people were waiting for us. Somebody carried me to the operation theatre in his arms. But the doctors did not attend me.  I had not lost my consciousness and heard them say that I had very few chances of survival. They operated upon the other injured. Finally my turn came.  When I opened my eyes, I was lying on a bed. I had survived the bullets. Later, I was told that victims who, according to doctors, had more chances of survival, had all succumbed to their injuries.  I was the only survivor.”

Reyaz showed his hands. The bullets marks are still there and he has lost some of his fingers. “I can never forget what I have gone through,” he said. He got married in November last year. He is keen to identify the martyrs who achieved martyrdom on that day but could not be identified.

A Pandit family who stayed back in the Valley in 1990 had to migrate because of the Bijbehara carnage.

Reyaz said:

“Amongst the  killed was a  13- year- old Kashmiri Pandit boy,  Kamal  Ji  Koul  who  had  also  joined  the  peaceful  procession. He believed that the siege of the Hazratbal shrine was uncalled for. He received several bullets in his chest. The family was devastated. The site of the massacre which the family had to cross every day was simply unbearable. The family migrated to Jammu.  It had survived the dangerous period of 1990, but when the boy was destined to die, he fell to BSF bullets. And, this time the militants mourned his death. The neighbours still miss the family.”