‘Even after 22 years, I feel it happened five minutes ago’
Saderkoot, Bandipora: Dismayed and beaten by the “political and police backing” to the accused, the struggle for justice of the Saderkoot massacre victims in north Kashmir’s Bandipora continues into the 22nd year of the incident. On October 5, 1996, seven people, four from the same family, including women, were allegedly killed by men from the dreaded counterinsurgent group Ikhwan.
The Ikhwan had turned into a political party, Awami League, and its candidate had been declared victorious the previous day. The killings were according to victim families, carried out for casting votes against the group.
Gulam Qadir, now 72, who lost his wife, daughter, son and a nephew in the firing says that their struggle for the justice still ‘continues” even after the killing of the main accused, Abdul Rashid Parray alias Rashid Billa, last year by unknown gunmen at his home in Hajin town.
Billa had been proclaimed by police as “absconding” at the time of his killing in the house, which had been declared as seized.
“We demand justice as the police which was acting on the orders from the top brass are not arresting the other two main accused, even after court directives which ordered their arrest and seizure of property,” Qadir said.
“They are living normally in their homes and roaming around freely without any fear. One of them has a hotel business in Ganderbal and other served in the Territorial
Army and is now back home. They are Wali Mohammad Mir and Mohammad Ayub Dar.”
“Police don’t do anything. I have approached top police officials in the district but nothing has happened. I get shivers after seeing them roaming around freely,” he said.
Qadir has been haunted by nightmares after the massacre.
“A loud sound would wake me up every now and then in the night. The sound of those bullets, I still hear, echoing all the time. Tomorrow even it being the 22nd anniversary, I feel it happened only five minutes ago”.
He said that there were others involved in carrying out the massacre who were not named in the FIR.
“The man who came shouting my name is from Bandipora, it was he who came knocking after which my family pleaded me to hide in the attic. He is not named in the FIR,” Qadir said.
At least 30-40 Ikhwanis, he said, entered his compound at around 7:30 pm, after bolting the doors of neighbouring houses. They barged in firing their rifles, leaving four of his family members dead.
The bullets killed his wife Hajra, daughter Jawa, 18, elder son Abdul Salaam Dar, 25, and nephew Abdul Rasheed Dar, 22.
From Qadir’s house, the assailants went to another house, that of his neighbour Saif-Ud-Din Dar. He, too, had voted against Mohammad Yousuf Parray alias Kuka Parray, the chief commander of the Ikhwan. After calling him out he was shot in the chest.
The killing spree did not end there. Two more men, Ghulam Nabi Dar and Ghulam Rasool Dar, were killed in front of their families the same evening.
Ghulam Qadir, who was hiding in the attic had recognised Abdul Rashid Parray alias Rashid Billa, Mohammad Ayoob Dar, Wali Mohammad Mir, Nazir Ahmad Wani, Bashir Ahmad Pehlu alias Band, Nazir Ahmad Parrey alias Fauji, Bashir Ahmad Parray alias Bilal, Manzoor Ahmad Reshi, and Manzoor Ahmad Parray [a cousin of Kuka Parray], all from villages close to Saderkoot. Among the nine, seven including Billa have already died.
The two accused who are still living, Mohammad Ayub Dar and Wali Mohammad Mir, are according to Qadir roaming free and living a normal life.
“To remember the martyrs we have organised special prayers tomorrow” Qadir said.