Sopore: Today is the 25th anniversary of the Sopore massacre but the memories of the horrific tragedy are still fresh for the eye-witnesses and the families of those killed on this day in 1993, allegedly by the men in uniform.
The witnesses recalled the episode, saying that it was a cold morning on this day in 1993, when 57 civilians were allegedly killed by the forces in this north Kashmir Sopore town, popularly known as the Apple town.
“The incident took place after militants attacked BSF men of 94 battalion at Baba Yousuf Gali near Women’s Degree College Main Chowk Sopore and snatched a weapon from a BSF trooper there,” Ghulam Rasool Ganai, a shopkeeper who was an eyewitness to the carnage said.
He said that following the incident, forces went berserk and fired indiscriminately upon the unarmed civilians and set ablaze the markets especially the area from main Chowk to Tehsil office.
“It is hard to forget the horrific incident,” he recalls.
“Among the 57 dead civilians, scores were burnt alive,” he said, adding that marauding troopers dragged SRTC bus bearing registration no. (JKY-1901) driver out from the bus and showered bullets on the passengers, resulting in on the spot death of 20 passengers.
“The troopers later started spraying gun powder, petrol on the surrounding buildings, shops and houses and set these establishments ablaze in which more than 400 establishments and 75 residential houses in and around five localities including Shalpora, Shahabad, Muslimpeer, Kraltang and Arampora, were turned into ashes. The buildings include some landmarks like Women’s Degree College and Samad talkies,” he said.
Besides eye-witness, the families who lost their beloved ones on this day are still in utter shock as one among the family lost four of its members in the episode.
The Shalla family at Shalpora who lost their four family members identified as 15-year-old Mohammad Ashraf Shalla, Ghulam Rasool Shalla, Sajad Ahmad Shalla and Bashir Ahmad Shalla said that their fruit laden truck got stuck in the drain at the spot where the massacre took place.
“The members of our family went out to push the fruit laden truck. However, the forces went berserk there and attacked the unarmed civilians there which also resulted into the killing of our beloved ones,” Muhammad Shafi Shalla, one among the family members said.
The survivors of the massacre also recount the story, saying they can’t forget the day when he saw a shopkeeper crying for the help as he was burnt alive.
“After 25 years, I still hear the cries of shopkeeper who was craving of help during the incident. His head was in flames and he ran out of his shop,” 45-year-old, Tariq Ahmad Kanjwal said.
Kanjwal said that the Shaheen studio, a shop located in the area was also set on fire. “The photographer and his associate could not come out from their shop and were burnt alive in the shop,” he recalled, adding that their bodies were later found and were buried together in one grave.
Pertinently, human rights organizations including Amnesty international had also condemned the killings and demanded justice for the victims.
Chairman of Human Rights Forum, Mohammad Ahsan Untoo said that the culprits are still roaming freely.
Recently, Central Bureau Investigation (CBI) has confirmed the identity of only 33 civilians killed on the day.
The report confirmed the identification of 33 persons killed in Sopore massacre on Jan 06, 1993.