‘BSF Troops Also Burnt Down 400 Shops And 75 Residential Houses’
On Saturday, Sopore will observe the anniversary of one of the worst massacres in Kashmir when Border Security Force soldiers massacre 57 civilians and set the main town on fire. The survivors still recall how many injured civilians who took shelter inside shops were burnt alive.
Locals said the massacre took place after militants attacked BSF men of 94 battalion at Baba Yousuf Gali near women’s college main chowk and snatched gun of a BSF personnel. After the incident BSF went berserk, opening indiscriminate fire on unarmed civilians and setting ablaze the markets.
Ghulam Rasool Ganai, who witnessed the massacre and arson, said the marauding troopers dragged out the driver of an SRTC bus (JKY-1901) from the vehicle and fired into the passengers, killing 20 of them.
“The troopers then set shops and buildings on fire after sprinkling gun powder. About 400 shops and buildings including 75 residential houses were gutted in Shalpora, Shahabad, Muslimpeer, Kraltang and Arampora areas of the town.”
Among the gutted buildings were Women’s Degree College and Samad Talkies.
The family which suffered the highest number of casualties was the Shalla family of Shalpora. Four of its men were killed.
Mohammad Shafi Shalla, a member of the family, said, “We had fruit business. A day before the massacre one of our fruit-laden trucks had got stuck in a drain. Four members of our family who were retrieving the truck on the day of the massacre had taken shelter in a shop when the BSF started firing at people. The BSF men entered the shop and killed them all.”
The deceased Shallas were Mohammad Ashraf Shalla (a class 8 student aged 14), Ghulam Rasool Shalla, Sajad Ahmad Shalla and Bashir Ahmad Shalla.
Tariq Ahmad Kanjawal, 25, a survivor and eyewitness of the massacre, was 20 then.
“The image of a burning shopkeeper emerging out of his shop and shouting hysterically has stayed with me all these years. His head was in flames. I remember a BSF officer telling his colleagues not to shoot him as he will be dead soon,” said Tariq.
Tariq also remembers how Shaheen, the owner of Shaheen Studio, a photo shop, and his assistant, were burnt alive in the shop. The charred bodies of the duo were found hugging each other and they were buried in a single grave, hugging.
Human rights organizations like Amnesty International had condemned the killings and demanded justice for the victims. The Sopore massacre also got published in the Time magazine under the heading ‘BLOOD TIDE RISING.’ According to the magazine 55 persons were killed in the massacre.