Sirhama’s unforgetable Massacre | 16 years on, Horror remians

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Every year, Tabassum (16) wears a mournful look on June 16, as 16 years back on this day she lost her mother while she was sonorously suckling in her lap. She does not remember the horror of the day being a kid then, but getting motherless haunts her every moment.
 It was a sunny day on June 16, 1995 when troopers of 9 SIKHLI assembled in habitants of Sirhama village in Islamabad district for identification parade in the premises of a school. Fearing that some youth may be lifted by the soldiers, women of the village also gathered at an elevated place, watching the parade with apprehensions.
“At around 12 noon, troopers started firing bullets; many of them aimed at people and several thousand shots here, there and everywhere. It looked as if doomsday had arrived. There was a deafening noise of the crying and firing blended together to create a horrific scene”, recounts Abdul Rashid, a businessman of the village.
 The firing continued for about half an hour and then suddenly everything fell dead silent. There was blood and footwear littered at every inch of the school premises. Seven persons including two women and two children were dead and scores others wounded.
 Tabassum’s mother Azi was lying outside the premises in a pool of blood with her six year old daughter Shazia and three year old son Sareer beside her.
 “It was a horrendous sight for me to see my two children wailing helplessly beside their dead mother when everybody was running helter skelter. I will never forget the scene when I separated Tabassum from her mother as she was still suckling her breast”, says Ghulam Muhammad Dar, father of Tabassum.
 “I shouted and abused a soldier standing nearby, but he contemptuously laughed at me and went by. Then one, Ghulam Hassan Rather came to render me helping hand in that hour of complete chaos”, bemoans Dar.
 Like Dar, this tragedy changed the course of life for Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din, a fruit grower. His 9-year old son Jowhar Mohi-ud-Din breathed his last in father’s lap, just uttering “Papa” and shedding tears before closing his eyes forever.
 “For a father to carry his son’s coffin is the worst misfortune that can befall him. My son was just a 2nd primary student and I had to bury him because he was murdered by soldiers without any fault of his. They must have been punished but nothing of that sort happened. It aggravates my pain”, says Mohi-ud-Din with moist eyes.
 That day left behind vacuum in the lives of many people. For Abdul Rashid Rather and his wife Shareefa, the word ‘Gulzar’ triggers the heart-wrenching memories of the day when their son Gulzar Ahmad (8) received a volley of bullets on his body.
 “The irony is that next day after the massacre when DC (Islamabad) Anantnag visited the village, he was quite helpless and consoled us by saying situation is like that, so bear with the losses. One wonders to see the killers roaming around with impunity. Can anything except justice heal our wounds?” questions Rather.
 Today the school premises is neat and devoid of the imprints that the tragic scene scripted on it 16 years ago. “When the firing took place, people licked the ground and dust smeared on their bodies and clothes making ghosts out of them who were wildly running here and there. We still are unable to understand why army sprayed bullets upon us without any provocation”, questions Ali Muhammad, a local fruit grower.
 “Although, Tabassum was a baby then but on this day she remains quite melancholic and repeatedly ask me why her mother was killed”, says Tabassum’s friend and classmate Saima.
 At their home as well, all the family members remain silent on this day and in their silence, they hide the enactment of the tragedy.
 Sixteen years is a long time to forget about ugly happenings but Sirhama has imprinted the tragedy too deep to efface. “We won’t forget the tragedy as we lost the best teacher, Abdul Aziz in an incident akin to the circumstances of June 16. We lost a polished businessman, Amin, too”, says Gull Muhammad a teacher.
 Zeba, mother of three, remained glued to the site outside the school premises to watch her two sons return home unharmed, but her sons had to carry her home dead. “Bullets pierced her body, bleeding her to death. She had many dreams which were buried under the soil, leaving unseen scars in me, which refuse to heal up till this day”, says her son Abdul Rashid.

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