When Bijbehara turned red

Two decades past, memories of gore and blood are still fresh

Dr. Reyaz Ahmad Ganaie
Srinagar, Publish Date: Oct 21 2017 11:21PM | Updated Date: Oct 21 2017 11:21PM
When Bijbehara turned redFile Photo

It was Friday 22 October 1993, the 8th day of the siege laid by the Indian security forces around the Holy Shrine at Hazratbal Srinagar. As the whole valley was observing protest strike on massive peaceful demonstrations were being held throughout the valley against the siege. The people of Bijbehara town were no exception. On this fateful day the people of the town offered the Friday Congregational Prayers in Jamia Masjid Bijbehara where from a long, but peaceful, procession started marching through the streets of the town. When the procession reached the main road (Srinagar-Jammu national highway), the security personal allowed the whole procession to come out on the National Highway. Then the BSF personal stared indiscriminate firing on the procession from all sides, emptied their magazines and killed 40 persons on the spot, injuring 300. 

At the time of incident I was 13. I was one among the thousands in the procession. I got many bullets in my chest and my both hands got critically injuries. It was a day when people drove dead bodies on hand carts. The scene of my mother beating her chest and pulling her hair is still fresh in my mind. I was lifted by one of my neighbors, Gulab Khan and Mohammad Ramzan Ganaie, and they tried to approach towards the hospital. On the way several people came out of their houses to inquire about the firing including my mother. When she saw me in blood, she cried. I only told her that I got bullets on my whole body & I will not survive now. When we tried to enter the hospital premises the BSF personals at the hospital gate did not allow us to do so, but my mother shouted at them, “kill me or allow us to enter the hospital”. After witnessing this the BSF personals left the place and allowed us to enter the hospital but there was no facility available and we were asked to go to the district hospital, Islamabad. On our way to the district hospital we were stopped by the security forces at the Padshahi Bagh, Bijbehara, just 300 meters away from the site of incident. They started asking what happened as if they were unaware of the incident. They even asked all the injured to come out of the vehicle but the people who were accompanying us agitated and started sloganeering which infuriated the security forces and they started firing on the vehicle carrying the injured. Some how we left the place. At Khannabal, we were again stopped by the Army asking for our identity, and when they saw the injured in the vehicle they started asking about the incident and wasted our time. Finally we reached the district hospital wherefrom  we were moved to Srinagar in a truck. After reaching back to Bijbehara, few more people accompanied us, and we started approaching towards Srinagar. At Sangam bridge we were again stopped by the security forces for few minutes and this process continued till we reached Srinagar. When we reached SMHS hospital all the injured persons were taken to the operation theatre except me as the doctors found least chances of my survival. I was crying, asking doctors to remove the bullets from my chest but all in vain. Finally, I was the last one to be operated upon. All these memories are still fresh in my mind. After a few days many of the injured, who were operated before me, and had better chances of survival, died. Amongst the killed was a 13 year old local Kashmiri Pandit boy namely Kamal Ji Koul who had also joined the peaceful procession. However, after the death of the Pandit boy his family left the valley & migrated to Jammu.

On the next day authorities imposed curfew in Bijbehara for several days. Thousands of troops were deployed in the town. Even photo journalists was not allowed in the town. The town is unable to forget the 22 October incident despite the passage of two decades. Today is the 24th anniversary of the Bijbehara massacre. After the incident the government as routine ordered a magisterial enquiry, but justice still eludes the victims.

 

Dr. Reyaz Ahmad Ganaie, survival of the Bijbehara massacre, is Ph.D. from Pondicherry Central University.