Kupwara: The village of Tikipora in Kupwara’s Sogam is in a state of shock. One of their brightest sons, Manan Bashir Wani, 26, a PhD scholar at Aligarh Muslim University, joined militant ranks a few days ago. Many here are surprised at how a “timid” boy who never thought beyond academics has so transformed.
In Tikipora, located 125km from Srinagar, it is not difficult to find the two-storey house of Manan. Villagers accompany you to the house which is overcrowded with people who have come to console, sympathise and support the family. Manan has become a well-known figure not only in the village, but in entire Kashmir.
Manan comes from well-to-do family. His father Bashir Ahmad Wani is an Urdu lecturer. His elder brother is a junior engineer.
Sitting in a corner of a room, Bashir is surrounded by people who are listening to him. He talks about the incidents of harassment that Manan faced at the hands of government forces. But he also says that “everyone has faced such harassments here, in one way or the other.”
This reporter was taken to another room on the second floor, where the wailing of a woman from within the house could be clearly heard.
Mubashir Bashir Wani, 28, elder brother of Manan, told Kashmir Reader that he is “shocked”.
“We were more of friends than brothers. It was not possible that he would do anything without sharing it with me. But he never shared with me his decision to pick up the gun,” Mubashir said. “I don’t think we will be able to overcome the trauma of him joining the side where the only expected result is death.”
Manan had been a meritorious student since school. He studied at Navodaya Vidyalaya in Kupwara and Ganderbal, and later secured admission in an engineering college, which he left after a few days to pursue Bachelors in Science at Amar Singh College Srinagar. It was while there, Mubashir said, that Manan faced the first harassment at the hands of government forces. It was the year 2010.
“Manan told me he was coming back after attending the NCC parade when government forces grabbed him in Batamaloo area, taking him for a stone-pelter. Even after repeating that ‘I am not a stone pelter’, they didn’t listen to him and beat him,” Mubashir recalled.
Mubashir said that Manan would take his decisions himself but he would first share it with family members. If they were not convinced, he would give strong and logical reasons to support his decision and the family would end up agreeing with him “every time”.
“That’s why, even after being selected for MSc Geology in Kashmir University, he turned it down after a few months and went to AMU in 2011, where he completed his PG as well as MPhil. He was now pursuing PhD in Structural Morphology (Geology),” Mubashir said.
Mubashir recalled an incident of harassment at home, when Manan had come on a holiday.
“It was Eid. We two were sitting in our lawn in the late afternoon when the army came and asked, ‘Who is this boy?’ I told them he is my younger brother and studies outside the state. He was asked to visit the army camp the next day, which he did. He was released after half an hour of investigation,” Mubashir said.
Because of spending most of his life studying away from home, Mubashir said, Manan had a different lifestyle, and an appearance that would often land him in trouble. “He would sport long hair with a small beard, a shawl around his neck and wear long boots,” Mubashir said. In November 2017, he said, Manan had visited home to attend his elder brother’s marriage. One day he travelled to Srinagar for some work and when he returned, the family was surprised to see that he had cut his hair.
“When we asked the reason, he recounted the extreme level of humiliation he had faced while travelling to Srinagar,” Mubashir said. “He said he was made to get down from the Sumo taxi five times, just to prove his identity and justify his looks. He was even tagged as a militant commander at one place in Baramulla district, because of his looks. So, after reaching Srinagar, the first thing he did was to have his hair cut,” Mubashir recounted.
“He was furious and depressed. It was at that time that Manan posted on his Facebook wall, ‘Worst kind of Slavery’,” Mubashir said.
Manan had gone back to AMU last month. On January 4 he sent pictures of the convocation ceremony. After that, Mubashir said, his phone became switched off.
“I tried calling the next day but it was still off. I checked his Facebook but the account was closed. I was worried. I sent a text to his friend to get me in touch with Manan but he said that Manan had left for J&K to visit his ailing grandfather. But our grandfather was fine,” Mubashir said.
“We immediately lodged a complaint on the student association’s cell in Delhi. On January 7 morning, we lodged a missing complaint at the police station. On the evening of the same day, news was all around that Manan had become a militant. His photo with an automatic gun had appeared on social media,” Mubashir said. “The news struck us like a thunderbolt.”
“His decision has hurt us,” Mubashir continued, while his uncle sitting nearby broke down in tears.
“He has taken this decision to fight for the Kashmir cause but there are other non-violent means to do so. As we say, ‘pen is mightier than sword’. He was strong in handling the pen, not the gun. He has written many journals, papers, and presented them in many international conferences,” Mubashir lamented.
The family was hoping for Manan to plan a career abroad once he finished his doctorate, a dream that has suddenly crashed. All they want now is for Manan to return.