‘My parents thought I had walked out of a grave’

‘My parents thought I had walked out of a grave’
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Days after Sopore massacre when Abid reached home, his family was mourning his death

SOPORE: Twenty five years after the Sopore massacre of January 6, 1993 Abid Ahmad Peer, 40, remembers the details but doesn’t like to talk about them. It takes at lot of persuasion to make him break his silence.
“The way I escaped death, it was as if I was born again. After that episode friends and relatives called my survival ‘Naar Manz Gulzar’ (Flower out of fire),” Abid said.
Some 55 civilians were killed; hundreds injured and around 200 shops were destroyed on the day by a BSF party led by Commanding Officer of 94 Battalion S. Thangappan after a trooper was killed by militants in Sopore Chowk.
Abid is a survivor who escaped the jaws of death on the day. A resident of Bandipora, Abid was then a 15-year-old school student who had visited his uncle’s home in Sopore during holidays.
He was returning home that day and boarded a bus near Sopore chowk.
“I boarded the bus for Bandipora in Iqbal market Sopore. Some seats were already occupied. I took a seat in the middle and noticed that the bus was moving slowly to get more passengers (a habit of bus drivers in Kashmir). There must have been around 20 to 25 people on the bus,” Abid recounts.
“When we reached the main chowk near Samad Talkies (popular cinema in Sopore) there was some firing nearby. A few passengers along with the driver jumped off the bus and ran away. I was not able to get down. In no time the BSF forces turned into barbarians, killing everyone in sight and burning down shops.”
In the bus, Abid and fellow passengers were reciting prayers.
“One of the BSF troopers entered our bus as its engine was still on and started driving it to the nearby burning shops, but a big footpath prevented him from doing so. As terrified passengers, we were sobbing and shivering, thinking that our end was here,” he said.
“Soon two troopers came; one put the barrel of his gun through the driver’s door and another through the front door and started shooting indiscriminately, without looking inside. As passengers sitting in front were hit with bullets, I took refuge on the floor. I saw people falling on the floor with blood coming out from their bodies. I closed my eyes. Ten minutes later some BSF personnel boarded the bus. I shut my eyes and held my breath, besides the lifeless body of one passenger.”
“The jawans left the bus thinking that all the passengers were dead. After a long while, I stood up and went to the back side of the bus and peeked out to see if the BSF was gone. They were at a distance, stopping a truck. I continued to look. In some time they pulled out four men from the truck and shot them at point blank,” Abid says.
Disoriented and petrified, Abid soon noticed some smoke. “I realized that the BSF had set the bus on fire. The flames and smoke started entering the bus. I along with two female passengers, who were unconscious all the while but woke due to smoke in the bus, decided to leave the bus. Slowly we stepped out, watching out for any signs of the BSF. We ran through the narrow superintendent street of Sopore. As soon as we entered the locality, a woman grabbed me and took me to his home at Sheikh Mohalla. I was shivering and in a state of complete shock. The family broke down upon seeing me and washed my blood-smeared face and kissed me. They put their son’s clothes on me as my own clothes were soaked with blood.”
Abid was also witness to the aftermath.
“Later I saw people bringing dead bodies from the main chowk and putting them near the local graveyard, taking their identity cards and writing their names on the list. I was shocked to see that my name was on the list. Maybe my identity card was among the dead. That day I couldn’t go to my home and stayed in Sheikh Mohalla because there was a curfew and BSF personnel were searching for the survivors,” Abid recounts.
When he finally got home after few days, Abid was in for another shock. Presuming him to be dead, his family was already mourning him. “They looked at me in disbelief as if I had walked out of a grave. There were no phones those days. How could I have got in touch? I explained my plight to parents and we all sat down in an extended hug, crying,” Abid said.