By AFZAL SOFI
Sopore: When they heard screams and gun shots, no one suspected that Border Security Forces troopers were coming to kill them.
Mohammad Ramzan Beigh, then 17, and five others had hid themselves in a shop at Main Chowk, Sopore, when they became the victim of one of the bloodiest massacres of recent history of Kashmir.
On January 6 1993, BSF personnel found them in the shop and dragged them out before showering bullets on them.
But few second before the shooting, Ramzan attempted to run from the spot realizing that he was going to die either way. He, however, fell down only few meters away when his knee received a burst of bullets.
“They did not shoot at me again, perhaps they thought that I was dead,” Ramzan told Kashmir Reader, 20 years after the incident.
After some time, he said, the troopers threw the bodies of five persons, who were his neighbouring shopkeepers, into a shop and torched the whole building.
“Throwing me into the building also did not strike their mind. Perhaps I was lucky to survive,” said Ramzan.
Earlier on that day, militants attacked the BSF bunker in this Apple Town, killing two BSF men.
Immediately after the attack, a group of BSF personnel stationed in nearby State Bank of India building rushed out to fire indiscriminately on whosoever came into their way, killing 54 civilians and injuring scores others. They also fired on an SRTC bus killing 15 passengers on the board.
According to eyewitnesses, including Ramzan, BSF sprinkled paraffin on the buildings and torched around 250 shops and many other structures, inside which several shopkeepers were roasted alive.
“I was hiding inside my shop when I found the building on fire. I escaped from the rare door of the building. But there were few neighbouring shopkeepers who were burned alive, only their skeletons were retrieved later,” Mohammad Shafi, who owns a shop in town, told Kashmir Reader.
Meanwhile, Ramzan recalls that after the firing stopped and feeling himself safe, he moved a bit to see his leg hanging from the knee and bleeding profusely. He said he looked around for help, but there was no one.
“It was snowing that day and I put some snow into the wound which froze the blood to some extent. I was lying there up to 5 pm when somebody spotted me and removed me to a Srinagar hospital,” said Ramzan.
However, two months of medical treatment could not save him from amputation, “which was something I could not bear and will haunt me through rest of my life.”
Ramzan, now 37, did not see any hope in the life after that and decided to remain bachelor to avoid familial responsibilities.
“My life rests on crutches now. I have become a big burden on myself and don’t want to take extra onus of having wife and children in life. I can earn myself by working as tailor during remaining part of my life,” said Ramzan who lives with his parents.
The Sopore massacre, as it’s known, was widely condemned across the world which forced the then Governor Garish Saxena to set up an inquiry commission headed by Justice Amarjeet Choudary, the then sitting judge of Haryana and Punjab High Court.
In 2012, in response to an RTI application, it was revealed that Department of Law, Government of Jammu and Kashmir declined the existence of the enquiry commission after Amarjeet Choudary refused to come to Srinagar and could not prepare any report within the stipulated time.
“The state government is of the opinion that the purpose for which the commission has been set up has not been achieved and its continued existence is unnecessary and should therefore be wound up,” reads the RTI reply.
After declining its existence, the government did not order fresh inquiry commission but pushed the whole matter into oblivion.
According to Ramzan, BSF conducted court martial of the involved battalion and the survivors were summoned by BSF at Singpora, Baramulla camp for giving their accounts.
“We were called only once and they recorded our account. What happened after that nobody knows,” Ramzan added.
Published: Sun, 06 January 2013 Kashmir Reader