January 6, 1993: When BSF butchered 57 innocent civilians in North Kashmir
Sopore, Jan 5, (Only Kashmir): Justice continues to elude to the victim families of gory Sopore Massacre from past 23 years whose near and dear ones lose their lives at the hands of Indian Border Security Forces personnel in Apple town Sopore in North Kashmir way back in January 6, 1993. At least 57 innocent civilians were put to death by BSF on that fateful day when they went on a rampage after a militant allegedly snatched a riffle from a trooper.
Shortly after the incident, BSF troopers from 94th Battalion butchered 57 civilians. People who are witness to that gruesome massacre still shiver while narrating the ordeal. They say marauding troopers dragged an SRTC bus (JKY-1901) driver out from the vehicle and pumped bullets into the bodies of passengers killing 20 of them on spot. “After killing the passengers, the troopers started spraying gun powder, petrol and kerosene on the surrounding buildings and then torched them.”
“Among the 57 dead civilians, 48 died due to bullet shots and 9 were burnt alive. More than 400 commercial establishments and 75 residential houses were set ablaze in five localities of Sopore- Armpora, Muslimpeer, Kralteng, Shallapora, Shahabad and Bobimir Sahab. Among the gutted buildings there were some landmark buildings like Women’s Degree College and Samad Talkies.”
“On that fateful day a blast rocked New Colony Sopore early morning. Everything was normal when we heard a single gunshot. When people started running for cover, more gunshots reverberated in atmosphere. We couldn’t comprehend anything when we watched BSF personnel targeting every civilian with bullets. Days after the gruesome massacre, we came to know that a militant had decamped the riffle of a BSF trooper and to avenge that incident, they targeted innocent civilians,” said eyewitnesses adding that casualties could have been in hundreds if Jammu Kashmir Police could not have intervened and stopped the marauding troopers. “A local police officer saved more than 20 civilians who were trapped in a gutted building,” they said.
Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society Chairman and renowned Human Rights activist Parviz Imroz told CNS that 24 days after the massacre government set up a one man Commission of Inquiry on 30 January 1993 comprising of Justice Amarjeet Choudhary. “Between, 30 January 1993 and 30 April 1994, the Commission visited Jammu and Kashmir only once. The government described the inquiry as a “farce” and chose not to extend the term of the Commission. No report was therefore submitted by the Commission. Simultaneously the CBI was tasked with the investigation in January 1993 itself and took 20 years (January 1993 to July 2013) to carry out investigations, only to seek closure of the case citing lack of evidence.”
Parviz Imroz added that the ‘farcical’ actions of the State are in contrast to the available evidence that could be used to prosecute personnel of the 94th Battalion, BSF. “The CBI record itself has names of ten BSF officers/personnel who could be indicted in this case, including the then DIG R.S. Jasrotia, Sector Headquarters, BSF, Baramulla and Commandant S. Thanggapan, 94th Battalion, BSF. Instead, the CBI has sought to rely on a BSF court-martial to close investigations (despite never seeing the court-martial file as the BSF refused to share the same).”
Imroz said that it was clear from the information gathered through RTI, that the court-martial process by the BSF was only an attempt to cover up the massacre as the seven BSF personnel prosecuted were ultimately found guilty of only “Mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy houses, etc”, and the maximum punishment awarded was “3 months rigorous imprisonment in force custody”.
The survivors of the Sopore massacre had contested the closure of the case, and the CBI was asked by the TADA court, Srinagar, to produce the entire investigation record on 20 January 2014.
“Despite earlier court orders to the same effect, the CBI deliberately refused to share the record, so as to further delay the proceedings. The survivors have sought to challenge the CBI before the court as this is a way to contest the lies of the State, and its attempt to cover up the Sopore massacre of 1993. After the massacre, which resulted into huge loss of life and property, the denial of justice is only an endorsement of the crime by the Indian State,” he said.