6 August 1990: When troops killed 9 innocent people, molested women in Srinagar

SRINAGAR – Family members of nine innocent people who were gunned down by Indian Border Security Force personnel in 1990 (August 6) at Mashali Mohalla Srinagar staged a peaceful sit-in at Press Enclave here seeking stringent punishment for the guilty responsible for the innocent killings.

August 6, 1990 night turned out to be an unforgettable horrible night for the Mir, Magloo and Beigh families families of Mashali Mohalla Hawal. The BSF men from 75 Battalion that night not only murdered 9 innocent people but also molested women folk. Even E. N. Rammohan, who served IG BSF from 1993 to 1996 in Kashmir, said that he was ashamed of the incident and his head is down with shame.

“Aag lagao. Mere ko dead body chahiye”. This is how J K Sharma, then Additional Deputy Inspector General Commandant of Border Security Force’s 75th battalion, told his men before they shot nine innocent civilians in cold blood in Mashali Mohalla Hawal in Old City of Srinagar on August 6, 1990.

Besides DIG Sharma, the other BSF personnel accused were Deputy Commandant R P Bhukal; Head Constable Gajjan Singh and Constable Uttam Singh. All four were initially suspended from service and subsequently given “routine” postings.

“Court Martial was ordered against the DIG Sharma but till date nobody knows about the status of that case,” Human Rights activist Muhamamd Ahsan Untoo who was leading the protest said adding that thousands of Kashmiri people have been languishing in the jail for none of their fault while the guilty troopers are roaming free.

As per available data, the court of inquiry charged Sharma with “omission of effective command and control over his troops which led to uncontrolled firing which led to the death of civilians.” The other charges are culpable homicide (not amounting to murder) and causing grievous injuries. Sharma has also been charged with committing an outrage on the modesty of a woman.

The three BSF personnel also face similar charges. Evidence recorded by the BSF shows that the party led by Sharma let loose a nightmare on the residents of Mashali Mohalla at 8:50 PM on the fateful night. Houses were set on fire, ammunition and arms were “planted” in the homes of the victims and one woman, who had minutes ago seen her husband being shot down by the BSF men, molested. Two other women, living in houses nearby, were also molested.

According to BSF records, there are eyewitness accounts of BSF personnel confessing that it was the DIG himself who gave the chilling command “Aag lagao. Mere ko dead body chahiye”, ordered to his men. Further eyewitness accounts claim that after issuing this order, DIG Sharma left the spot.

Five minutes later, Mashali Mohalla was resounding with the wails of hysterical women and children. Mehbooba, one of the widows of Mashali Mohalla, told the court of inquiry that she first heard the sound of vehicles screeching at her door and some men shouting, “Pakistani Kutto, Bahar ajayo” (Pakistani dogs, come out). After this she heard sounds of rapid-fire and the shattering of windowpanes. Her husband, Bashir Ahmed Baig, 60, was sleeping by her side. Within minutes, the door was broken down and the BSF men stormed in. They pulled off her clothes. In the meantime, she heard shots in the other room.

Her youngest son, Ajaz, had hidden himself under a table and was dragged out. One of the BSF men shot him too. Mehbooba ran to other room to find her husband, older son Muzzafar and a guest Abdul Rehman, all bleeding from bullet-injuries.

Ten minutes later, a turbaned BSF officer returned. Seeing a new face in uniform, Mehbooba ran wailing to him, only to be shot at on the left side of her chest. She wrapped a quilt around herself and lay near the body of her husband. Her youngest son died on the way to the hospital.

Abdul Rehman lived to tell the tale though he lost his left eye. The house was then set on fire. Tasleema, the other Mashali Mohalla widow, has also given a graphic account of the massacre at the hands of the BSF. She has stated that the BSF personnel came to the first floor of her house and opened fire. She hid under the bed when she was pulled out by a BSF jawan, who ripped her cloths and tried to force himself on her. It was the whistle from DIG Sharma a signal to end the “operation” which Tasleema says she herself heard, that saved her from further humiliation. She stepped out only after the firing stopped to see the bodies of her father, Ghulam Qadir Magloo, and her two brothers, Mushtaq and Ahmed Magloo, lying on the ground, riddled with bullets. By their side was their neighbour, Farooq Baig. All of them were dead.

The youngest witness for the BSF’s court of inquiry was Baby Jaan, Farooq Baig’s 15 year old daughter. She told the court of inquiry how the Jjwans attempted to molest her when she was covering under the bed. A BSF officer pulled her out but disgusted with her hysterical screaming, cut open her right cheek with a knife, spat on her and left.

When CNS contacted former IG BSF E. N. Rammohan, he told over phone from New Delhi that innocent civilians were killed and there was no question of the perpetrators of the crime being spared. “The accused confessed their crime during court martial and as far my knowledge goes, some of the accused were sentenced for seven years,” he said.

He said that in his final noting on the Mashali Mohalla incident, he had stated: “It is clear that the BSF entered the houses of innocent people and shot at totally innocent civilians, killing nine men and injuring two others. Shooting a defense-less lady was a particular cowardly act. The weapons and empties claimed to be recovered from the houses of the civilians were planted by Sharma and the others. A ballistic examination of the weapons seized from the BSF showed that these weapons to have been issued to these people.”

The relatives of the slain people questioned that how and why the killers of the innocent people are not hanged when Indian Constitution claims that nobody is above law.