43 killed in BSF firing; boys buried in parks Justice eludes families
BIJBEHARA MASSACRE ANNIVERSARY
Bijbehara, Oct 21: Never ever would have the boys massacred on the fateful day of October, 22, 1993 thought that the same public park they had been playing in since their childhood would turn out to be their graveyard.
About 25 students fell to the bullets of Border Security Force men in this Chinar town of South Kashmir when they were part of a procession, protesting against the Hazratbal shrine siege by the army. Forty-three innocents lost their lives while more than 200 were injured among whom many were rendered physically challenged while those who survived are yet to forget the horrific incident.
The deceased included 16-year-old orphan, Muhammad Shafi Hamdani son of Late Abdul Rashid Hamdani. Later, his mother also died leaving behind three daughters.
“Unable to bear the loss of his only son, Shafi’s mother died of cardiac arrest the very next year and her daughters had to face problems to eke out their living,” their neighbors said.
Another 16-year-old orphan and the only son of his parents, Manzoor Ahmad Bader son of Late Ghulam Qadir Badroo also lost his life, leaving behind his ailing mother and five daughters. His mother, Fazi Begum according to the neighbors had developed multiple psycho-social problems and remains confined to her home only.
Afroz Ahmad, 11, son of Abdul Rashid Zargar and a student of 5th standard also was one of the victims.
“Most of these boys were good cricketers and used to play in the public park in the New colony, Bijbehara as the sports ground was used by the elderly youth. But on the fateful day when there was no space left in the local graveyard as well as the martyrs’ graveyard, we buried these boys in the same public park they used to play,” said Abdul Rasheed Waza, a resident who lost his nephew, Javaid Ahmad.
Another resident Muhammad Shafi said, “The troopers were even firing bullets on the funeral procession and the movement of the people was curtailed as a result of which they were forced to use the parks as graveyards”.
Though an enquiry was initiated into the incident, but it remained inconclusive and 16 years down the line, the families of victims are still waiting for justice.
The massacre carried out by the BSF’s 74 Battalion was allegedly initiated and directed by its second most senior officer, Deputy Commandant JK Radola, who according to the witnesses fired the first shot in the crowd followed by the indiscriminate firing by his men.
Though seventeen years have passed, but the memories are still fresh in the peoples’ minds as well as the witnesses and continue to haunt them.
Noor Muhammad, an elderly person who was witness to the incident said “After the Friday prayers, around 10,000 to 15,000 people gathered in the court yard of the local Jamia Masjid to register protest against the siege. As the procession reached Gooriwan locality the BSF men closed in on them from three sides and opened fire indiscriminately, killing at least 32 people on the spot and injuring more than 200 others. Later 11 more later succumbed to the injuries taking the toll to 43. The firing continued for nearly ten minutes with the troops targeting the crowd and those who injured.”
According to the doctors, most people could have been saved had the ambulances and medical aid been allowed to reach the victims. “The BSF men even fired at the wounded inside the hospital complex, killing and injuring more.”
According to another witness, Showkat Ahmad one of the youth, Muhammad Shafi Wagay, whose house was few yards away from the site some how managed to take his grievously wounded brother Abdur Rashid to the hospital. But when he reached the hospital lawn, the BSF men allegedly fired at him killing him on the spot. Though, his injured brother survived the carnage, spending about a month in the hospital.
“Two days after the carnage, the BSF Commandant responsible for the massacre, SC Kokereti, claimed that 17 of the slain were found to be militants. According to these claims one of the deceased, 15-year-old Abdur Rashid Vaid, son of Abdul Hamid Vaid was a JKSLF militant responsible for an earlier militant action in which an army Major, R S George, was killed. However, the killing of the Major was carried out by Hizbul Mujahideen as earlier claimed by the army itself belying the BSF claims,” said a rights activist wishing anonymity.
He said the BSF also blamed another dead, 11-year-old student of 7th class Muhammad Iqbal Ganaie, as one of the ‘leading figures of JKLF who was involved in many acts of militancy and extortion’. In yet another example, he said, BSF blamed that “the deceased 16-year-old Kamal Ji, was also a militant.” “However, when they came to know that the deceased was a Pandit, the accusation was dropped. Kamal Ji Tikoo was a young member of the only Pandit family that was living in Bijbehara,” he added.
The government ordered a magisterial inquiry into the killings and the BSF unit posted at Bijbehara was withdrawn. Moreover, it was the then BSF Director, General Prakash Singh, who instituted a Commissioner to probe the incident.
The enquiry report, (No. EN/BFC/93/23-24), prepared by the Enquiry Magistrate Bijbehara and submitted to the government on November 13, 1993 concluded that ‘firing on the procession is absolutely unprovoked and the BSF claim that they were forced to retaliate the firing of militants for self-defence is baseless and concocted’. It said ‘The security men have committed offence out of vengeance and their barbarous act was deliberate and well planned’. The report indicts Deputy Commandant of the BSF, JK Radola, for ‘tacit approval given by him to the indiscriminate and un-provoked firing’.
The report recommended ‘immediate dismissal of the accused persons’. It recommended that ‘this should be further followed up with the initiation of criminal proceedings against them and every effort should be made to ensure that justice is done and maximum possible punishment under the law of the land is awarded to the culprits.
After orders passed by the National Human Rights Commission, 13 BSF men were charged with murder, but the subsequent General Security Force Court (GSFC) trial led to their acquittal.
When NHRC sought the transcripts of the trials for examination to satisfy itself that the BSF had made a genuine attempt to secure convictions, the then BJP government, headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, refused.
On November 1, 1993 the NHRC sent notices to the Ministry of Home Affairs, which controls the BSF. The Ministry subsequently sent to the NHRC a report on the incident based on the magisterial inquiry ordered by the state government as well as one based on the Staff Court of Inquiry ordered by the BSF, which claimed that disciplinary proceedings had been initiated against 14 BSF officials, but no details were provided.
On January 17 1994, the Commission, based on the government report, made recommendations that included immediate interim compensation to the victims’ families and that, apart from disciplinary proceedings under the Border Security Force Act, there should be parallel criminal prosecution proceedings based on the magisterial inquiry.
However, the Government of India did not respond positively to these recommendations.
Nearly three years after the NHRC had called for an action and on November 12, 1996, A K Tandon, then Director General of the BSF, informed the NHRC that “a General Security Force Court trial was conducted in respect of 12 BSF men involved in the incident,” but that results of the trial were “being withheld for the time being.” The BSF had initially claimed that it had acted against the accused, but the only available information available about this is that a sub-inspector who the BSF told the NHRC had been found not guilty. According to press reports, all those charged with murder were acquitted by the General Security Force Court.
The Home and Defense Ministries refused access to the case files of the Court Martial to NHRC. In September 2000 the NHRC finally dismissed the case without dispensing justice to the victims and their families.
Lastupdate on : Thu, 21 Oct 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 21 Oct 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 22 Oct 2010 00:00:00 IST
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