Srinagar: Shakeel Wani, one of the five militants killed in a gunfight with the army in Shopian district on Thursday, had been a promising journalist at one time, so much so that after covering the aftermath of 1999 Kargil war, then Union Information Minister Sushma Swaraj had lauded him in a letter of appreciation
Coming from a reputed family in Pakherpora, Budgam, Shakeel joined the state-run Doordarshan a year after the Kargil War.
Shakeel, who had a diploma in editing from an institute in Noida, worked as stringer for the DD and covered the post-war situation along the Line of Control. A retired DD official who had worked with him said that Shakeel was hurt in 2001 when a Pakistani Ranger fired at him while working on a story in Teetwal with DD correspondent B Meera.
“He suffered injuries in the forehead and was hospitalized for some time,” the official told Kashmir Reader. For his performance, then news director at DD personally delivered Swaraj’s letter and a bouquet at Shakeel’s Bagh-e-Mehtab residence.
The official described Shakeel as a very intelligent and quick learner who was good at news editing besides videography. Shakeel had edited evening news in Kashmiri and Urdu for several years, and also filmed and edited a programme named AajKal.
“He was not an approved stringer. However, his dedication and hardwork made him special. He was a down to earth person. And that’s why he could work in DD for more than eight years,” he added.
Irshad Ahmad, a close friend of Shakeel, told Kashmir Reader that Shakeel had postgraduate degrees in mass communication and journalism, and an MA in history from Indira Gandhi National Open University while working with DD. He had also completed BEd from Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad, through correspondence.
In 2005, he was appointed as Rehbar-e-Taleem teacher and posted at a government primary school. Five years later, he was regularised, Ahmed said.
Two years later, Shakeel got married to a woman from Karpora. From her, he has three children—Abdullah, Zainab and Kulsum. Abdullah is the youngest, while Kulsum, the eldest, is just seven.
“Before going missing in June last year, Shakeel was working as cluster resource person (CRP) in Pakherpora zone. He was drawing a handsome salary. He had every luxury which people dream of. Even then, he chose a difficult path,” Ahmed said.
Earlier in 1997, police arrested him and claimed to have recovered grenades from his possession, said one of his friends, requesting anonymity.
“His brother who went to the police to enquire about the charges was beaten up at the Special Task Force camp. Somehow, he managed to secure Shakeel’s release,” the friend said.
After the release, Shakeel spent the next two years in Noida where he trained in editing.
Shakeel, he said, came closer to religion in 2010 after his association with Tableeghi Jamaat. He was also running the affairs of a local darasgah.
“He would devout most of his time in reading and studying Islamic literature. He was a disciplined man. He would greet everyone with a smile and salaams,” the friend said.
A police official told Kashmir Reader that Shakeel and another youth Tamheed Andrabi had looted 3 rifles, 3 magazines and 60 rounds of ammunition after attacking and injuring a police constable at Pakherpora, last year.
“On the same night, Shakeel joined Hizbul Mujahideen. Later, he joined Jaish-e-Muhammad outfit. He was an ‘A’ category militant,” the official added.