Dr. Reyaz Ahmad Ganaie
It was Friday 22 October 1993, the 8th consecutive day of the continuous siege laid by the Indian security forces around the Holy Shrine at Hazratbal Srinagar. As the whole valley was observing a protest strike on the 8th successive day massive peaceful demonstrations were being held throughout the valley against the siege. The people of Bijbehara town were no exception to the wide spread demonstrations being held everywhere in the valley. On this fateful day , the people of the town offered the Friday congregational prayers in Jamia Masjid Bijbehara where from a large procession of around 15000 emotional but peaceful people started marching through the various streets of the town. The protesters were raising Slogans demanding the lifting of siege of the Hazratbal Shrine .
When the procession reached the main road (Srinagar-Jammu national highway) the 74th battalion BSF personal allowed the whole procession to come out on the National Highway and then suddenly the BSF personnel stared indiscriminate firing on the procession from all sides for one hour, emptied their magazines and killed 40 persons on spot and injured 300 persons. It was a doomsday for the people of Bijbehara. The dead bodies were piled on streets and blood was scattered everywhere. At the time of incident, I was 13 years old. I was one among the thousands in procession in which I got many bullets in my chest and my both hands got critical injuries. I remember that it was a day when people drove dead bodies on hands carts. The image of my mother beating her chest and pulling her hair are still fresh in my mind when I was lifted by one of my neighbors, Gulab Khan and Mohammad Ramzan Ganaie and tried to approach towards the hospital and on the way there were several people who had come out of their houses to inquire about the firing including my mother and when she saw me in blood bath she cried and asked me what I had done?
I told her that I got bullets on my whole body and I will not survive now. When we tried to enter the hospital premises, the BSF personnel at the hospital gate did not allow us to do so but my mother did not want her son would for want of treatment; she tore her clothes and asked the security forces either to kill us or allow us to enter the hospital. After witnessing the courage of my mother and the gravity of the situation the BSF personnel left the place and allowed us to enter the hospital but there was no facility available in the hospital and we were asked to go to the district hospital Islamabad.
When we were on the way to the district hospital, we were stopped by the Rashtriya Rifles at the Padshahi Bagh Bijbehara just 300 meters away from the incident who started asking us what happened as if they were unaware of the incident and asked all the injured to come out of the vehicle but the people who were accompanying us agitated and shouted slogans in favour of Azadi which infuriated the security forces and then they started firing on the vehicle carrying the injured. At Khanabal , we were again stopped by the Army for want of identity and when they saw the injured in the vehicle they started asking about the incident and wasted our time for nothing and finally we reached to the district hospital where there was no doctor, staff and the medical facility and all the injured were referred to the Srinagar in a truck and after reaching back to Bijbehara few more people accompanied us in the truck and we started travelling towards Srinagar.
At Sangam bridge, we were again stopped by the security forces for a few minutes and this process continues until we reached Srinagar with the well planned deliberate attempt on part of the security forces that injured persons should not survive. When we reached the SMHS hospital, all the injured persons were taken to the operation theatre except me as the doctors diagnosed least chances of my survival. I was operated at last and these memories are still afresh in my mind.
Later on, after few days of my operation I came to know that all the injured who were operated first and having the chances of survival had died. Due to the paucity of the time and space I am not in a position to narrate each and every moment of the day but I can say that it was like a Doomsday for me and my family, in particular, and the people of Bijbehara, in general. Amongst those killed was a 13 year old local Kashmiri Pandit boy namely Kamal Ji Koul who had also joined the peaceful procession as he thought the siege of Holy shrine was uncalled for. However after the death of the Pandit boy his family left the valley and migrated to Jammu.
On the next day , the authorities imposed curfew in Bijbehara for several days to suppress the movement. Thousands of troops were deployed in the town. Even photo journalists and press was not allowed in the town. However, despite the passage of time, the township is unable to forget the 22 October massacres. This day always reminds us of the procession and the martyrs who are our real heroes who laid their lives for just cause and the best nation is one which does not forget its heroes. Yesterday was the 24th anniversary of the Bijbehara massacre. After the incident , the government as per routine ordered a magisterial enquiry. Although the inquiry report prepared by magistrate Bijbehara Firing case and submitted to the government recommended the dismissal of accused should be followed up with the initiation of criminal proceedings to ensure justice. However, such recommendations could not help the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to deliver on Bijbehara massacre after the Home and Defence ministries refused it access to relevant case files of the court martial, in which all the BSF Personal accused for the massacre were acquitted. Even after taking the matter to the Supreme Court, the Indian government’s refused on grounds that records could not be available for reasons of so called national security. NHRC withdrew the case from the court in September 2000 without ensuring justice to the people who lost their kith and kin in the incident. The Bijbehara like incidents in fact proved that large scale killings through indiscriminate firing without any provocation by the Indian forces on peaceful protesters demanding the lifting of siege of Hazratbal shrine has proved that India has rules out land on the behest of military might and that new Delhi has declared a war against people of Kashmir.
—The author is the victim, eye witness and the survival of the Bijbehara massacre. He has done a Ph.D. from the Pondicherry Central University and can be reached at: at [email protected]