The Sopore Massacre refers to the shooting of at least 57 civilians (according to some reports 45 civilians) in Kashmir, in the town of Sopore on 6 January 1993 by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF). The BSF 94 Battalion set five Sopore neighborhoods on fire in broad daylight while opening fire from all directions. 48 people died from gunshot wounds, nine people were burned alive, and hundreds more were hurt, leaving them as the only witnesses to the horrifying, inhumane massacre. The Sopore town, then known as the “militancy capital,” experienced numerous killings and arsons in the 1990s.
However, January 1993 massacre carried out by the BSF scarred the town painfully after coffins of burned citizens were lowered into graves, numerous others were injured, and residential houses and business units burned down and destroyed.
Justice has eluded the relatives of the victims of the brutal Sopore Massacre for the past 30 years now. The loved ones of the people in Sopore were shot at and burned indiscriminately in Apple Town Sopore in North Kashmir at the hands of the troops of the BSF. On that tragic day, the BSF went on a rampage after a militant allegedly stole a rifle from a trooper, after which they killed at least 57 innocent Kashmiri civilians.
While Gawkadal, Handwara, Kunan Poshpora, Kupwara, and Bijbehara are only a few of the numerous bloody atrocities that have happened in Kashmir. The Sopore massacre is one of the uncommon handful that has also been recognized by the Government of India. The first sign of acknowledgment was the approval of a First Information Report submitted in Sopore in 1993 by Muhammad Ilyas, president of Anjaman-i-Munir-ul-Islam and registered as “FIR Number 8/1993.” The BSF was charged in the FIR with burning down 400 homes and businesses in addition to killing 57 civilians.
Read here, The Forgotten Jammu Massacre
Survivors Recount the Horrors of the Sopore Massacre
An eyewitness on the condition of anonymity told The Kashmiriyat, “I spotted the BSF Soldiers at a distance who stopped an SRTC Bus (JKY-1901) and pulled out the driver and went inside the bus, then the BSF men fired bullets mercilessly at 20 people, killing them all on the spot. “After the bus was filled with a pool of blood, the troopers started spraying gunpowder, kerosene, and petrol on the surrounding buildings and torched them.”
After a militant allegedly snatched a riffle from a BSF trooper, the soldiers from the 94th Battalion slaughtered innocent Kashmiris shortly after the incident. Even today, while recounting that horrific carnage, many who witnessed it shudder.
“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.” Said the witnesses.
“I still have the haunting images in my mind, there was a shopkeeper who rushed out of his shop in flames and shouting for help, but there was no help on offer,” said the survivor of the massacre.
A 57-year-old witness said that it was only after Sopore had buried its people that the BSF came up with a theory that a local Militant had decamped with a rifle, somewhere in the township.
What led to the Massacre?
Despite 30 years having passed by, nobody quite still understands nor has there been any official record of what caused the BSF men to carry out such a heinous crime and kill people indiscriminately on that chilly January morning of 1993. There were only two options available to helpless people trapped in the horrible event, and both decisions ultimately proved to be very costly. Stepping outside of their shops meant being immediately shot at. While those who took refuge in their shops were burned to death. Many of the victims who died on January 6, 1993, were buried without their loved ones having the chance to bid farewell to them or participate in the funeral rites.
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.”
The “farcical” actions of the State, continued Parviz Imroz, are in contrast to the evidence that is readily available and might be utilised to bring charges against troops 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.”
The CBI purposefully withheld providing the record despite earlier court orders to that effect in order to prolong the proceedings.
No Closure for the Victims and their Family Members
Imroz claimed that the evidence obtained through RTI made it abundantly evident that the BSF’s court-martial process was just an attempt to obscure the killings, as the seven BSF men accused were ultimately convicted only guilty of one charge. “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 Sopore massacre survivors had opposed the case’s closure, and on January 20, 2014, the TADA court in Srinagar was ordered by the CBI to provide over the entirety of the investigation’s file.
“Massacres like the Sopore one continues to haunt Kashmiris because there has been no closure. No one has been punished and the case has been hanging since 30 years. If a young Kashmiri child reads about it today, he will be provoked,” said a Srinagar-based senior journalist Sheikh Mushtaq. The Valley was hit after the incident, said observers.
The case was handed over to the CBI, who sought a closure on the investigations in December 2013. In order to refute the State’s lies and attempts to cover up the Sopore massacre of 1993, the survivors sought to challenge the CBI in the court.