Several rounds of prayers to accommodate throng; high emotion as bands of militants appear in all three southern districts
ZIA-UL-HAQ, RAASHID HASSAN & MIR LIYAQAT ALI
Khudwani/ SHOPIAN/ Pampore: More than twenty-thousand people turned up at Khudwani Kulgam to participate in the funeral of Lashkar-i-Toiba commander Junaid Mattoo. As masses of people continued to pour in till late afternoon at his native village, ten rounds of funeral prayers had to be held before the slain rebel was buried. Emotions rose high after a group of five militants appeared and offered gun salute to their slain commander. As the people jostled to hug and shake hands with them, the militants fled from the spot.
Mattoo’s body, along with those of two of his associates, was retrieved from the debris of the house in Arwani village of Bijbehara where government forces killed them in a daylong gunfight on Friday. The bodies of the three slain LeT militants were retrieved after midnight and handed over to their families for burial.
Amid a complete shutdown in Kulgam and Anantnag, people since early morning started rushing to Khudwani to attend Mattoo’s funeral and have his last glimpse. Emotional scenes were witnessed during the funeral as pro-Azadi and anti-India slogans reverberated in the air.
An estimated ten-thousand mourners gathered for the funeral of the second slain militant, Naseer Ahmad, at his native village of Heff in Shopian. Naseer was laid to rest amid pro-freedom slogans and several volleys of bullets fired as gun salute by fellow militants who came to his funeral. The militants were seen kissing Naseer and shouting pro-freedom slogans before they disappeared from the scene.
Eyewitness told Kashmir Reader that Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani addressed the gathering over phone. Seven rounds of funeral prayers were offered due to the continuous arrival of mourners from Shopian, Kulgam and Pulwama areas.
Naseer had been an active militant for the past one year. Family sources said that he had earned a BA degree from Kashmir University some years ago. He was from a well-off family of Heff village.
Three groups of militants appeared during his funeral prayers and all of them fired bullets in the air to pay him their respects. Two militants were the first to appear at the funeral. They fired gunshots in the air and locals identified them as LeT militants. Then two other groups appeared within a short interval. They included Saddam Padder, district commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, and Irfan Sheikh, Adil Malik and five other rebels. Eyewitnesses said that they fired several rounds of bullets in the air.
People were seen kissing, hugging the rebels, touching their clothes and hair to greet them and bless them.
The third militant slain at Arwani, 18-year-old Adil Manzoor Mir, was buried at his native village of Frestabal Pampore in Pulwama district, amid a gathering of thousands of mourners. Two militants appeared at his funeral and gave him the gun salute twice during the prayers.
Hundreds of people had already gathered when the slain militant’s body reached his native village in the morning. Militants offered the first gun salute at 11:30am during the first round of funeral prayers, and the second salute during the second round of funeral prayers when the body was being carried on shoulders to the grave at Adil’s ancestral graveyard.
According to Adil’s family and friends, he was in Class 12 when all of a sudden he went missing after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in July last year.
Adil’s family members told Kashmir Reader that it was the harassment from government forces and their assault on mourners during the funeral of his cousin, slain LeT commander Sajjad Ahmad Bhat, in Zewan area on January 13, 2016, that drove Adil to militancy.
“Though we never expected him to become a militant, it was the forces’ barbarity against mourners, including him, during Sajjad’s funeral that forced him to become so,” Mubeena, Adil’s mother, said.
She said Adil never returned home or met any of his family members since he left home on July 22last year. “Yesterday, he called me on phone after all these months to tell me that he was going to achieve martyrdom. He sought forgiveness for any mistake he may have committed,” said the bereaved mother.
“He requested me to not cry on his death. He said that forces had surrounded him and his fellows and they could not escape. He only requested for prayers that his shahadat (martyrdom) be accepted by Allah,” Mubeena said.
Mohamamd Amin Bhat, a close relative of Adil and father of slain LeT commander Sajjad Bhat, said that Adil was among the mourners at his son’s funeral who were beaten ruthlessly by government troops. “The troops fired teargas shells at the mourners and detained 5-6 of them. They were released after two days from police custody,” Bhat said.
Ghulam Mohammad Mir, grandfather of Adil, said that Adil had gone out to get bread in the morning on the day he went missing.
“We searched for him for a month. Then we were informed by a relative that he has joined militancy. We wanted him to come back as he was not in good health,” Mir said.
“We were worried for him, as it is not an easy life for a person who can’t run or walk fast due to being an asthma patient. Adil was taking medicines and using the inhaler pump regularly. We tried our best to get him back but it was he who wanted to achieve martyrdom,” Mir said.
Adil’s neighbours said that government forces used to raid his house regularly in the months since he disappeared.
Local youth took to the streets after Adil’s funeral and hurled stones at the troops deployed at Frestabal village. The troops have reportedly detained one youth during these clashes.
Those who saw Adil’s body said that it had no bullet marks. He apparently died when the forces blasted the house from within which he was fighting.