Jan 6 1993: BSF men killed 75 civilians, burnt Sopore market

It was the chilly morning of 6th January 1993 when the residents of this north Kashmir town woke up without knowing what destiny had kept in store for them.
Jan 6 1993: BSF men killed 75 civilians, burnt Sopore market
People assemble near bodies of victims killed by BSF men in Sopore on January 6, 1993.

It was the chilly morning of 6th January 1993 when the residents of this north Kashmir town woke up without knowing what destiny had kept in store for them.

Around 9:30 am, a small group of 3-4 militants attacked a platoon of Border Security Force (BSF) at Baba Yousuf lane resulting in killing of one of their troopers. One of the militant's snatched a service rifle from a BSF trooper. It was at this time point of time that the security forces went berserk. "The people would have to pay for this", said many troopers in a very loud voice, an eyewitness recalled. What followed was the biggest massacre of innocent people that Kashmir witnessed since 1990, when the armed rebellion broke out in Kashmir. 

Around 9:55, the BSF men came out of their barracks to avenge the killing of the BSF man killed by militants. They resorted to indiscriminate firing upon the people in the most inhumane manner. The BSF jawans later sprinkled the gun powder on the entire Sopore market and set it ablaze around 120 houses and 350 shops, including Women's Degree College and famous Samad talkies, were gutted in the inferno. "We were held on gunpoint and not allowed to go further", said a group of fire fighters. "We had to wait for 3 hours to start rescue operations. The troopers left no stone unturned to ensure that maximum number of civilians are killed." 

"They (BSF men) fired upon SRTC bus,JKZ-1901 which was leaving from Sopore to Bandipora. They set ablaze the bus and the worst part was that they did not allow any of the passengers to come out the ill fated vehicle. Twenty five persons were charred to death. They also fired upon the father and son who were loading goods on a truck," witnesses recalled.

Many eyewitnesses, who survived this heinous massacre, went on to say that the security forces went from shop to shop, closing the shutters and spraying the gunpowder and left the people inside to be burnt alive. "I cannot forget the incident when a BSF man snatched a little baby from her mother's lap and threw her into the flames and when the mother begged for her baby, she also was shot dead. This incident will haunt me till I am alive", said an eyewitness. 

The time when the whole Kashmir was still unaware of the situation, Sopore was crying for help. It was only on account of some journalists that the news broke at 4 pm. People came out of their homes and began to search for their loved ones some calling their names with a hope that their kith and kin would be alive. Some quietly sat near the bodies of their relatives with fear writ on their faces. The identification was the worst part as the bodies were mutilated. It was impossible to recognize the dead. People came from Baramulla, Pattan, Bandipora and other areas to identify the victims. "The only portion that had survived was the arm of my father. We only recognized his mutilated body with a piece of jacket on his arm", said the son of one of the victims. 

The mutilated bodies were piled up as if it was garbage thrown on the roads. Defying curfew some 5,000 residents of Sopore and Baramulla took out processions. Similar demonstrations were held in all parts of Kashmir. Some 75 innocent civilians including women and children were massacred by the BSF men, while more than 300 people had suffered grievous injuries. Besides killing and maiming the people BSF men damaged the property worth crores in Sopore town.

The 'TIME MAGAZINE' had titled the news report on January 18, 1993 as "Blood Tide Rising : Indian forces carry out one of the worst massacres in Kashmir's history". The publication described the massacre, and the protest that ensued thus:"Perhaps there is a special corner in hell reserved for troopers who fire their weapons indiscriminately into a crowd of unarmed civilians.

That, at least must have been the hope of every resident who defied an Army enforced curfew in Sopore town to protest a massacre that left 55 people dead and scores injured". This is one of the worst massacre in the history of Kashmir, the Time Magazine reported.

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