Bijbehara: People in Bijbehara town of south Kashmir’s Anantnag district on Sunday paid obeisance to the victims of the infamous Bijbehara massacre of 1993.
More than 32 people were killed-about 25 of them teenage students-and about 200 others were injured-some of them handicapped for life-after members of the Border Security Forces (BSF) opened fire on unarmed protestors.
People from across Bijbehara, including the relatives of the victims, visited the Children’s park, where the martyrs are buried, in New Colony area, and prayed for the peace of the departed souls.
The park was turned into a graveyard after mourners were not given access to the existing Martyr’s graveyard by the BSF men.
Though for the first time since the massacre a shutdown was not observed in the town but people kept pouring in at the graveyard and prayed for the eternal peace of the departed souls.
The BSF men had fired at a procession protesting against the siege of Dargah in Hazratbal, Srinagar.
Militants and civilians were trapped in Dargah for over a month and people in Bijbehara had come out in solidarity that Friday not knowing they would be showered bullets upon.
Survivors of the massacre had termed the firing by BSF men as completely unprovoked and the same was established by a magisterial inquiry initiated into the massacre.
“The killings were cold blooded and barbarous in nature,” the inquiry report had established.
The following day, on October 23, the BSF men ruthlessly beat up the people digging graves for the dead.
The Children’s Park:
The Park, which is now a graveyard, had been set-up recently and children had already been playing in the park while it was being constructed.
During one such session of play 16 year old Arshid Hussain Tak-son of a doctor-had engraved his name on the fresh concrete.
“Little did the poor soul know that he would be buried inches away from his engraved name in a few days,” a visitor at the graveyard today told Kashmir Reader.
Tak however was not alone for there were many teenagers, most of them classmates, who were buried that day in the park.
“The park was meant for us to see our children grow up playing in. Now all we see is their graves,” remarked another visitor, who had come to pray at the graveyard today.
The Pandit Boy:
The victims though were not all Muslims, as one might think for the protest was against the siege of a place close to the hearts of the majority Muslim population.
Kenwal Ji Koul alias Babloo, was a 17 year old Pandit boy who fell to the bullets of the BSF men that fateful day.
While many lost most in the massacre Babloo’s family was completely wiped out from the face of the earth.
The news of Babloo’s killing came as a death sentence for his old mother, whose name nobody remembers now.
“She died of shock the same day, the poor lady and now there is no one left of the family,” a local told Kashmir Reader.
The people in Bijbehara say they can never forget the gruesome details of the day.
“The day will remain etched in my memory till I die,” a local told Kashmir Reader today at the graveyard, “We might have moved on but we have not forgotten,”
The other people Kashmir Reader talked to said nobody cried on the day.
“There were only howls. Howls like a man ripped apart by a beast will let out. The whole town was one big family mourning together,” another visitor at the graveyard said.
A 33-year-old man, now an employee of the state government, said he saw 30 corpses that day.
“Imagine seeing 30 bullet riddled corpses in a single day and that too at the age of around 9. I, to this day, have nightmares of the day. How can we forget what India unleashed on us that day,” the man told Kashmir Reader.
Twenty-four years is a lot of time but the people of Bijbehara have never forgotten the gory details of the day.
The remembrance can be gauged from the fact that during the last year’s unrest, post Burhan Muzaffar Wani’s killing, the people of the town came together and ‘beautified’ the graveyard.
Hundreds of people-including young boys, middle aged men, children and elderly people-came together and toiled for days to erect a new boundary wall for the graveyard.
Money was collected from people and a higher boundary wall with an iron grill atop was erected around the graveyard.
“Hundreds of people worked here like laborers; including doctors, engineers, lawyers, research scholars and people with humble backgrounds; to beautify the graveyard,” a 25-year-old businessman, who lost his father in the massacre, told Kashmir Reader.
He said that the people did not come out to work for lure of something, “but to preserve the memory of our martyrs.”
The government forces though made sure that the people involved in the renovation of the graveyard were harassed, allege the locals.
“Many of the people were picked up and questioned by the police following the renovation. We were told that we received funds for the renovation while the truth is we raised all the money by ourselves,” a local said.