Remembering Bijbehara Massacre

  • Aamir Ali Bhat
  • Publish Date: Nov 4 2017 9:27PM
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  • Updated Date: Nov 4 2017 9:27PM
Remembering Bijbehara Massacre

The story of two young friends who perished that day 24 years ago and the ordeal of a man who lived to tell the tale

 

It was Friday, October 22,1993. Just after noon, Sheikh Shabir Ahmad, 17, of Bijbehara, changed his clothes and left to offer prayers. On the way, Shabir called his neighbour and best friend Javiad Ahmad Waza, 15, and they walked together to the local Jamia Masjid.

“Shabir called out to Javiad from the main gate. Javaid was ready. He had taken a bath and worn a white shalwar kameez. He promised me he would return in a few hours,” Javaid’s mother Fateh Begum, 75, recalls. “He didn’t, neither of them did.”

After the Friday prayers, Shabir and Javaid joined several thousand people in the courtyard of the mosque to protest against the Indian military’s siege of the Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar. “It was the eighth day of the siege. From the mosque, people took out a peaceful procession through the town and both our boys went along,” Shabir’s mother Hajra Begum, 55, says.

When the procession reached Goriwan, near Arwani Curve on the Srinagar-Jammu highway, it was fired upon indiscriminately by the 47th battalion of the Border Security Forces. As many as 43 people were killed and more than 200 were wounded, many of them crippled for life. “Most of those killed were teenagers, including Javaid and Shabir,” Fateh says. It was Bijbehara’s darkest day in recent memory.

Since hundreds of people were hit by bullets and there were not many vehicles available, the dead and the injured were ferried in pushcarts. “Javiad and Shabir were taken to Bijbehara hospital first, from there to Anantnag and eventually to SKIMS, Srinagar. Shabir succumbed on the way, near Pampore, and Javaid died at the doorstep of the hospital,” Hajra says.

Both friends were hit in the chest, suggesting the BSF had fired to kill.

Shabir and Javaid’s killing left their families broken. “When I received my son’s body, I grew numb,” says Fateh. “He was my first son. We had seen so many dreams for him, they were all shattered.”

Hajra says, “There is no heartache like losing a child.”

As compensation, the government gave Rs one lakh and a job each to the families of the people killed in the Bijbehara massacre. Javaid’s older sister and Shabir’s younger brother were both appointed clerks in the state education department. In 2016, the families received additional ex-gratia of Rs 3.5 lakh each. “But there has been no justice. They substituted justice with jobs and compensation,” says Fateh.

Ali Mohammad Tak, 80, of Pazalpora, is a survivor of the Bijbehara massacre. “Our town was turned into pool of blood that day,” he says. “I was in the middle of the procession. I remember people around me falling likes animals at a slaughter when the firing started. Those who rushed to picked up the injured were also shot by forces. I threw myself into a drain but my right leg remained outside. Before I could squeeze it in, a volley of bullets struck my leg leg. Then I fell unconscious state.”

The damage to his leg was too great and it had to be amputated. Ali now wears a prosthetic leg and walks on crutches. He makes a living running a grocery in Bab Mohalla, Bijbehara.

Like the other injured, Ali was provided Rs 25,000 as compensation by the state government in 1994. It didn’t even cover the cost of his treatment. “I had saved 80,000 rupees for building a new house and that too went for my treatment,” he says.

The prosthetic leg he got six years ago. “One day in 2011, I was called to Khanabal Police Station where the military gave me this leg,” he says. “They took away my real leg and gave me this fake leg.”