Thousands stand in wet clothes and falling snow to honour Muza Molvi, killed by govt forces the night before
Sopore: In Sopore, where people were waking up to the memory of January 6, 1993, the day government troops killed 57 people in a bloody massacre, news came in the morning chill that government forces had killed Muza Molvi on Srinagar outskirts in the night. As if a raw wound had been pricked, the people of Sopore walked out in one bristling procession, stomping their feet on the piling snow, to Bhagat Batpora, where Mohd Muzaffar Naiko, son of Abdul Majeed Naiko, had left behind home, family, and village, nine years ago.
The 38-year-old Muza Molvi, as Mohd Muzaffar Naiko was better known, joined the Lashkar-e-Toiba in 2007 and became one of its top-ranking militant commanders. In 2015, the Lashkar disowned him, after which he became part of a new outfit, the Al-Badr. According to police, he was wanted for several crimes, including the killing of two sisters Akhtara and Arifa in Sopore in 2011.
In Sopore, though, Muza Molvi was a popular figure. If anyone had any doubts about this, then the massive gathering of mourners at his funeral, since early morning when people began arriving from every part of Sopore town and adjoining hamlets, is evidence enough.
As mourners started arriving at the Naiko house, Sopore town was quickly occupied by government troops. Numerous police vehicles were seen on the roads, guns and batons ready for the charge. Some of the mourners were seen thanking Allah for the snowfall, which hindered the movement both of police vehicles and police boots.
With the snow blocking all the roads, the feet were the only mode of transport. Thousands had gathered in a few hours at Molvi’s home, where women and children jostled with men for a glimpse of the militant’s body. When the body was lifted on shoulders to be taken for burial, women showered it with candy and flowers through the windows of their homes.
The funeral procession went through small lanes with youth crying, shouting and saluting the martyr. At Tawheed Bagh Batpora, police blocked the procession. When the people refused to step back, the police fired tear gas shells and pava shells at them.
Angry youth were about to fight the government forces but elders stopped them and diverted the way of the crowd. The procession went to another burial place, the private lawn of a resident of Batpora. Here the funeral prayers were said. The lawn was packed to the brim, the mourners standing in the intense cold and heavy snowfall in completely wet clothes.
The majority of the people reached Molvi’s home so early that it was unlikely they had had any breakfast. But it did not appear so from the loud energetic slogans they raised for Azadi and in honour of Molvi. Hundreds of people were trying to record the funeral on their mobile phones, though the heavy snowfall was clouding the picture.
Molvi’s younger brother Irshad Ahmad, 34, said that Molvi had joined Lashkar ranks in 2007. Several neighbours told Kashmir Reader that in his young age Molvi was an excellent football player who played in the Sopore team. He always regaled the crowds with his athleticism and good nature. Before taking the suicidal plunge into militancy, he worked as a tailor with his younger brother.
Molvi was one of the longest-surviving militant commanders in Kashmir. Government forces had been hunting him for the past several years. Popularly hailed as one of the most able commanders of Lashkar in north Kashmir, he had eluded dozens of raids and search operations.
According to his younger brother Irshad, Molvi was forced to pick up the gun. “They arrested my brother a number of times without his committing any offence. We had to get him released by paying a lot of cash. Once we even had to gift an expensive mobile phone to a police officer. The last time (before he went away) he was picked up by the army, but our day-long protest compelled them to release him. After some days he left home and did not come back. It was the summer of 2007. Since then we had not seen him. Today we received his dead body,” Irshad said.
“In his early age, he went to Muzaffar Nagar in Uttar Pradesh to do a Hafiz course in Quran-e-Majeed which he successfully completed in three years and then returned home. After that we started learning tailoring and finally set up our own tailoring shop. We both used to work the whole day, but he was not able to continue it because of continuous harassment by government forces,” Irshad said.
“After he left, government forces and the army raided our home so many times that I have lost count. They would harass our family and damage our property. Once even I was arrested under PSA and kept in jail for eight months. What was my mistake? That I am the brother of a militant? We will always be proud of him,” Irshad said in a fearless tone.
About the police accusation that Molvi had killed two sisters in Sopore in 2011, Irshad smiled and said, “How is it possible that in the past, Abdullah Uni, a foreign militant, was accused of the same crime? Now they are accusing my brother of the same. It is impossible.”
Ghulam Mohd Mir, an uncle of Molvi, said of him, “He was a very simple and helpful person. I can never forget his face, with a very long beard. Government forces wanted us to make him surrender and even offered us money, but how could we motivate a person who had not visited us for the past many years?”