Ishfaq Reshi/ Muheet Ul Islam
Budgam/Srinagar: Thousands of people on Wednesday attended the funeral prayers of Tafeez Ul Islam, popularly known as Javid Ahmad, in Churpoora village of central Kashmir’s Budgam district. Three rounds of funerals were held in which nearly fifteen thousand people participated.
Islam was killed, along with two local militants, after a long gunfight with government forces at Radbugh village in Budgam.
Following the killing of the three Hizb militants, Budgam and its adjoining areas observed a complete shutdown.
At Islam’s funeral, banners were waved by people in praise of Burhan Wani and pro-freedom, anti-India slogans were shouted.
Before joining militant ranks, Islam had a chequered history with the Special Operations Group of Police and the Army’s Rashtriya Rifles. He was named in the burning of two vehicles on September 7, 2013 in Chadoora. His family claims that the vehicles – an SUV (Tavera) and a small car (Maruti 800) – were provided by police to a group for collecting information about militants in Budgam district.
Tafeez-ul-Islam, after completing his graduation in 2012, married in the same year. He lived in a joint family with three brothers, two sisters, father Wali Mohammad Sheikh, mother Jawihera, wife Maryama, and 5-year-old daughter Zahra.
“Tafeezul had joined militancy in the past as well, in 2010. This was his second joining. In 2010, his family somehow managed to bring him back,” Irshad, a local, said.
“Since he returned in 2010, Islam had become a target for government agencies and had to visit the army camp and police stations at frequent intervals,” he added.
“After the 2016 turmoil, Islam was severally victimised by the forces. One day before the parliamentary by-elections, he was called by the Budgam police. When he returned he told that he was harassed by police and his innocent kid was also abused by the police,” Irshad said.
“On March 15 this year, Tafeezul left home as routine. We didn’t know he was leaving to never return,” people close to his family said. They said the continuous harassment by forces had “pushed him to join militant ranks”.
The funeral of 22-year-old Mohammad Aqib Gul was held at his residence in Goripora Hyderpora, Srinagar, and was attended by thousands of people. Gul had joined militant ranks two weeks ago.
Men, women and children thronged Gul’s residence soon after the news of his death. “People raised slogans such as, We Want Freedom, Shohda Ke Waris Zinda Hai, Long Live Pakistan, through the night,” one of the neighbours told Kashmir Reader.
Emotions ran high when Gul’s body was brought by his relatives in the morning at 7. People from far and near had come to Goripora to get a glimpse of his face and to express their sympathies with the bereaved family. “Gul’s relatives had to nudge their way through the crowd to take his body inside,” said a teenager who was present there.
Gul’s funeral prayers were held outside a local mosque near his colony, in which more than 2,000 people participated despite roadblocks placed by police and paramilitary forces at all lanes leading to his residence.
“Police and Central Reserve Police Force personnel are not allowing mourners to enter the colony. They are waiting on the main road,” one of Gul’s relatives told Kashmir Reader on phone.
People also tried to take out a protest march while carrying Gul’s body on their shoulders, towards the nearby Hurriyat (G) headquarters in Hyderpora. They were stopped by contingents of police and CRPF troopers deployed at Hyderpora Chowk.
Angry youth resorted to stone pelting and the protest snowballed into a street fight within no time. Government forces used tear smoke shells, stun grenades and chilli gas to disperse protesters. They also used drones to monitor the situation and to know the positions of stone pelters.
Gul was laid to rest at his ancestral graveyard in Gooripora with moist eyes. People tossed fistfuls of soil inside his grave.
All roads and alleys leading to the residence of Sajad Gilkar in Nowhatta were blocked by concertina wires, large deployment of government forces, and armed vehicles on Wednesday to prevent mass gathering of people on his funeral. Yet, thousands of people made it. (Pellet-riddled body, bruised father, ransacked home)
Sajad is the first militant from Srinagar’s downtown to be killed in the past 12 years. Before he joined militancy, he had been known for years as a fierce stone-fighter.
At about 3pm, more than 12 hours after he was killed, his body was allowed to reach his home. It had been kept at Police Control Room till then. A relative of Sajad told Kashmir Reader that the police first said that the body will be handed over at 11am, a time that was deferred to 1pm and then to 3pm.
The government’s clampdown on mobile internet services and strict restrictions on roads were meant to prevent mourners from coming to the locality of Malaratta, in Nowhatta. And yet, thousands of people had been waiting for hours when the body arrived amid pro-freedom, pro-insurgency, and anti-India slogans. When a sloganeer became exhausted, another picked up from where he left.
Sajad’s friends held the body on their shoulders for nearly an hour. His body was covered with a black cloth on which was inscribed in Arabic language, ‘There is no God but Allah’. His body was not covered by the Pakistani flag which has mostly been used as shroud on dead bodies of militants.
Just a few feet away from Sajad’s body, two of his friends, his uncle, and his brothers had fainted. A group of youngsters was trying to help them recover their senses. When one of his friends, a bespectacled, studious-looking boy with a stubble on his face, recovered his senses, he cried, “Sajad Bilyoo (nickname of Sajad), Kambar ha Furoowtham! (Your death has broken our spine).”
A group of gathered women were singing eulogies. “Qoam kay Bohdooro, Karyo goor gooro (Bravehearts of the nation, let me sing you a lullaby).”
The family had decided to bury Sajad in his own graveyard though his friends were reluctant, wanting to take his bier to the Martyrs’ Graveyard, some three kilometres away. But all the routes leading to the graveyard were blocked. More than two-thousand people, including women, made four unsuccessful attempts to cross the barrier at Nowhatta Chowk. They failed because the forces fired a few cartridges of pellets, and teargas shells. They injured many, including a journalist. Nazir’s father, bare-footed, walked towards the battleground and requested his friend to allow burial in the local graveyard. His will prevailed.
A long queue made it through small alleys to reach the Raitaing ground where the funeral was held. The ground that can accommodate 30,000 people at a time was filled more than a third. A clerk in his broken words recited verses and offered the funeral prayers. Sajad’s friends lifted the body again on their shoulders and carried it to the graveyard, where he was lowered into the ground with moist eyes.
Earlier in the morning, two of Sajad’s colleagues, Aqib Gul of Goripora Sanat Nagar, and Javid Ahmad Sheikh of Churpora Beerwah, were lowered into earth with the same farewell at their respective places.
According to friends and relatives, the police was after Sajad for many years. He had been booked under the draconian Public Safety Act many times. One of his friends said that Sajad had been in police custody for so much time that he did not pay the meal charges to police when he was released. His home was raided no sooner than an untoward incident was reported in the area. Many times his father and mother had been beaten by police. His home had been ransacked, too, said his relative.