Hizb militants laid to rest amid pro-freedom slogans

Slain commander Gulzar Ahmad Lone and his associate Basit are given hero’s farewell amid heavy rainfall

Sopore: It was raining in the night, it was raining in the morning, it was raining all day in Sopore and yet everyone was outdoors. From the time they woke up before dawn to have their Sehri meal ahead of the Ramzan fast, people in Gund Brath, Brath Kalan, Seelu and other adjoining villages of Sopore began leaving home to reach Pazalpora village in Rafiabad, where they heard a gunfight had started between government forces and two local militants, one of them Gulzar Ahmad Lone, alias Ibrahim alias Master, a famous commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen.
Gulzar Lone, a resident of Brath Kalan, and Basit Ahmad Mir alias Afaaq, a resident of Andergam village in Pattan, were trapped in a house in Pazalpora since Tuesday evening, when troops of the army’s 22 RR, the CRPF’s 179, 177, 92 Bn and North Range QRT, and policemen from the special operations group (SOG) laid a cordon around the village. A massive search operation was launched, concertina wires laid on roads and generators installed to power searchlights. Mobile phone services were snapped in areas of Baramulla and Sopore. At about 3am Wednesday, “contact” was established and the gunfight started. Both militants were killed within a few hours.
People who were trying to reach Pazalpora to help the militants escape were stopped by government troops who fired at them teargas shells, pellets and stun grenades. The people fought the troops with stones but were thwarted in their attempt to reach the encounter site.
Sopore Superintendent of Police Harmeet Singh Mehta told the media that the operation was launched on the basis of information of presence of militants in Pazalpora village. “We identified the house in which they were holed up. We sent locals to ask the militants to surrender but they didn’t and fired upon us and lobbed grenades, too. In retaliation, both militants were killed and they have been identified as Gulzar Ahmad Lone, who was active for the past four years, a divisional commander of Hizbul Mujahedeen and in the category of A+, and Basit Ahmad, who was active for the past one year, who belongs to C-category militant rank and was a cadre of HM,” the police officer said.
He added that 2 AK 47 Rifles, 5 AK Magazines, 124 AK rounds, 2 pouches and a grenade were recovered from the encounter site.
The bodies of both the militants were handed over to their families by the army after a while. As soon as the body of Gulzar Ahmad was received from Seelu army camp, people started shouting anti-India and pro-freedom slogans and some youths hurled stones at the army soldiers. Teargas shells and pellets were again fired to disperse the protestors, and more than three persons were injured, an old man from Brath hit by pellets on his face.
As mourners started arriving at Gund Brath for Gulzar Ahmad’s funeral, the roads and lanes were quickly occupied by government troops. Numerous police vehicles were seen on the roads, guns and batons ready for the charge.
Amid the heavy rain and all the roadblocks, mourners from all parts of Sopore continued to make their way towards Gund Brath to have a last glimpse of their hero. Thousands had gathered in a few hours at Gulzar’s home, where women and children jostled with men for a glimpse of the militant’s body. When Gulzar’s body arrived at his home, a couple of militants came there to offer a gun salute. But before they could give the gun salute, they were mobbed by the youths present there who wanted to touch them and hug them. In the chaos, the militants had to leave the place without giving the gun salute.
Women applied henna on the hair of the slain militant, sang dirges, and showered his funeral procession with flowers. Hundreds of people recorded the funeral on their mobile phones.
The funeral procession went through small lanes of Gund Brath with youth crying, shouting and saluting the martyr. The woman sang, “Musalmano Bozu Sa, Ye Che Matam Ja Baja”. The men shouted slogans, “Police Banoge? Na Bhai Na. STF Banoge? Na Bhai Na. Mujahid Banoge? Haan Bhai Haan. Gulzar Banoge? Haan Bhai Haan.”
The ground where funeral prayers were held was packed to the brim, the mourners standing in the heavy rain in completely wet clothes.
Men and women wept bitterly as the body was carried towards its final resting place. Gulzar was buried in the martyrs’ graveyard of Gund Brath village.
Meanwhile, the district authorities ordered suspension of classes in government higher secondary schools in Bomai, Seelu and Sopore on Thursday.