Remembering the Brutal History: Memories of a Massacre

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mass graves

Twenty-six-year old Asif Ahmad Ganie still wonders how he survived the massacre that took away more than forty lives on this day, twenty years ago, in Bijbehara, the Chinar town of Islamabad district. The Border Security Force (BSF) men are accused of killing 43 civilians here on October 22, 1993. That day people were peacefully protesting against the army siege of Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar when the BSF men suddenly opened fire. Asif, a 5th standard student then, was present among the people who had gathered on the street after offering Friday prayers. Asif was hit thrice. When he received bullets in his arms and legs, he fell on the street. He could only see blood. He thought he was dead.

Asif survived to tell the tale, but he still carries the scars on his body. And the unhealed wound is fresh in his mind. Even twenty years after the massacre, he is haunted by the blood, the cries of people as they were hit by the bullets. He saw dead bodies around him. The gory scenes refuse to leave his thoughts. He is still haunted by them. His right arm, fractured by a bullet that day, was recently operated on. A bullet had also broken through the bones of his right leg. The third bullet hit him near his crotch. After that he had fallen on the roadside, unconscious. He woke up in the hospital.

One of his cousins, a 5th standard student like him, received bullets in his face. One side of his face was blown away. He died on the spot.

Asif remembers the BSF troops who trained guns in his direction. “One BSF trooper aimed his big LMG and he opened direct fire in my direction,” he recalls, imitating the action of the BSF trooper with his hands. “I had never seen such a big gun in my life,” he says. The BSF troops had lined up their guns on the streets, he adds, all of them facing the people. Then he remembers seeing people falling around him, like a pack of cards, and cold blood coagulating on the street. “Whosoever was in the front rows, they died on the spot,” he says. “There was blood all over the street and people were shouting and running for help.”
“Those who will forget that massacre,” Asif says in an emphatic tone, “I don’t think they are human beings.”

Abdul Rasheed Shergujri, a middle aged man, was also part of the procession that came down on the main street that day after people offered Friday prayers in the Jamia Masjid. “When we reached near the highway, BSF started firing from all sides,” he recalls in his shop in the Bijbehara town market. Rasheed was shot in his leg. He lay in a pool of blood and he was crying for help. His brother Muhammad Shafi had received bullets in his head, he later found out, and died on the spot. Rasheed was later picked by one of his elder brother who took him to the hospital.

Rasheed was in the hospital for four months, recovering from his bullet injuries. He still limps and has not recovered fully from his bullet injuries. The deep scars left by the bullets are still visible on his legs. “We even filed cases against the BSF for killing our brother,” he says. “We won one case about compensation but even that was never given, leave alone punishing the killers.”
Mukhtar Ahmad Ganie, a 19-year-old vegetable seller, had tried to run into a by lane when BSF men opened fire on the procession he was part of that day. He received a bullet in his spinal cord and succumbed on the way to the hospital.

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