23-years on, Sopore massacre still haunts survivors

It all began with a single shot and story of Sopore massacre beings thus. On January 6, 1993, unidentified militants killed a BSF personnel at Sopore’s main market, snatched his service rifle and esca

GHULAM MUHAMMAD/ SHABIR IBN YUSUF
Sopore, Publish Date: Jan 5 2016 10:38PM | Updated Date: Jan 5 2016 10:38PM
23-years on, Sopore massacre still haunts survivorsFile Photo
It was on this day 23 years ago, when paramilitary BSF killed 55 civilians here in north Kashmir and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was asked to investigate the incident.
 
It all began with a single shot and story of Sopore massacre beings thus. On January 6, 1993, unidentified militants killed a BSF personnel at Sopore’s main market, snatched his service rifle and escaped. An hour later, a group of irate BSF personnel turned up in the market, firing indiscriminately and sprinkling kerosene and gun powder on shops and houses.
 
This is the story of Sopore’s infamous massacre which left 55 civilians dead and more than 350 shops and houses razed in just five hours. 
 
Twenty three years down the file pertaining to the massacre is lying with the (CBI) and no one has been found guilty or punished. But in apple town Sopore, memories of the massacre are still afresh. 
 
A day after the massacre, advocate Syed Illyas, the then chairman of Anjuman Moin-ul-Islam Sopore, lodged an FIR against the 94 battalion BSF. The following day, the BSF lodged a counter FIR. After 23 years the case has not seen any progress and the only evidence with the police are two moth-eaten papers— the two FIRs.
 
In the FIR report lodged by Syed IIyas, he said BSF personnel opened fire on innocent civilians without any provocation. The complainant in his report termed this massacre as planned with a motto to teach a “lesson of revenge” to the residents of Sopore. 
 
In defence, the BSF lodged a counter FIR against the unidentified militants. The report further says the militants hiding in houses opened fire on troops and the forces retaliated in self-defence. In the cross-fire, a number of people were killed.
 
Life in Kashmir came to a grinding halt for weeks after the Sopore massacre. There was a complete shutdown for 10 days. Residents of the town were so frightened that they migrated to neighboring villages and towns. To pacify an angry Kashmir, a CBI investigation was ordered. But, in these 23 years the CBI or the enquiry commission has never visited the town or the police station.
 
The case file pertaining to the massacre says that on January 6, 1993, militants killed a BSF trooper at Sopore’s main market. In the retaliatory fire, about 43 persons were reportedly killed .The case was handed over to the CBI but eyewitnesses and families of victims complain no one has recorded their statement yet.
 ‘‘To take revenge of a single killing, dozens of innocents were charred alive in their shops and house,’’ a Sopore resident told Greater Kashmir. He added that he can never forget the tragedy, which left many children orphaned and young girls widows.
 
 ‘‘My five shops were set on fire by the BSF. Nobody, either from CBI or police has so far recorded our statements.’’ In fact, it took many shopkeepers more than three years to settle their insurance claims and that too only after they compromised. ‘‘The scars of Sopore massacre will remain fresh in our minds until the guilty are not punished.’’
 
CASE CLOSED
The CBI took more than 20 years to investigate the case and closed it in December 2013. In June 2014 the survivors of the massacre filed a protest petition against the closure report filed by the CBI. The protest petition – seeking further investigations in the case.
However, following numerous delays, often due to the non-appearance of the CBI, the matter now stands completely suspended following the replacement of the earlier TADA court judge in July 2015. As of the last date of hearing, the new judge has yet to be formally assigned the powers to proceed with matters before him.
LEGAL PROCEEDINGS SUSPENDED:JKCCS
Twenty three years after the Sopore massacre on January 6, 1993, the legal proceedings stand suspended as there exists no will to allow processes of justice to proceed despite overwhelming evidence indicting personnel of the BSF, Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) said Tuesday.
“The CBI took more than 20 years to investigate the case, only to seek closure of investigations on 4 December 2013,” said Khurram Parvez, JKCCS spokesperson in a statement. “The case was listed before the TADA court. On 28 June 2014 the survivors of the massacre filed a protest petition against the closure report filed by the CBI. The protest petition – seeking further investigations in the case – was a contestation of the States lies and attempts to cover up the massacre. Following numerous delays, often due to the non-appearance of the CBI, the matter now stands completely suspended following the replacement of the earlier TADA court judge in July 2015. As of the last date of hearing, the new judge has yet to be formally assigned the powers to proceed with matters before him.”
Therefore, he said, 23 years after the massacre, the entire investigation record is now finally before a court. “But, the judge has yet to be formally empowered to deal with the case. Separately, the CBI has repeatedly sought to delay proceedings and has taken the position, contrary to law, that the survivors do not have any right to access court documents or participate in the proceedings before the court.”
The proceedings in the Sopore case once again remind us, the JKCCS spokesperson said, that there exists no will to provide justice in Jammu and Kashmir for crimes committed by State forces. “Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Government of India and various functionaries, such as the CBI, collude to delay proceedings, obfuscate the truth, frustrate survivors and victim families and ensure impunity.”
 
 

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