Srinagar: The news that Dr Mohammad Rafi Bhat, sociology teacher at Kashmir University, was killed along with Hizb militants in Shopian was met with shock by his students, friends and colleagues. Prof Dibyesh Anand, who teaches at London’s University of Westminster and had met the young scholar some years ago while visiting Kashmir, recalled: “He came across as a soft spoken and humble person who didn’t subscribe to the idea of violence in a political struggle. He advocated peace always while talking with me about Kashmir.”
“I didn’t find a religious hardliner in him,” said Umesh Unni, a research scholar from Kerala who had bonded well with Rafi during his visit to the University of Kashmir last December. “He always talked about human rights violations by Indian forces. He was worried by the ongoing bloodshed and its impact on Kashmir’s younger generation. He often spoke about how India has been targeting Kashmiri identity by creating divisions in the society.”
One friend posted on his Facebook timeline: “How could we forget a single moment shared and spent in your company? I dare not believe that you left for heavenly abode! How could we compensate your absence? Who could afford to occupy your space in the department? Where would get such a loving and generous concern? Where we could get such a noble soul? Where we could get such a legendary mentor? We’re shattered! We’re missing you more and more by every passing moment! We’re collapsed! We’re numb! We would never dare to say you are not along with us. We ascertain that you’re alive here in our hearts. Your way of smiling and way of communicating still hovering in front of my eyes. We’ll miss you every moment, Shaheed Dr Rafi Bhai!”
Bhat was given a hero’s farewell at his native area of Chandina in Ganderbal district. His funeral prayers on Sunday evening were led by Bashir Ahmad Lone, a senior leader of Jama’at-i-Islami Jammu Kashmir who is also the Jama’at’s district chief for Srinagar. The funeral procession was taken out from Chandina to the local graveyard amid pro-freedom and pro-Islam slogans.
Sources said that the body of Bhat was taken from Shopian to his native village through an odd route, via Shalteng-Shadipora road instead of the Srinagar-Ganderbal road, to avoid any trouble. Crowds who had gathered at different places on the Srinagar-Ganderbal-Chandina road were left disappointed in their wish to have a glimpse of the scholar-turned-militant.
Residents of Chandina said that Bhat had passed the Class 12 exams from Govt Higher Secondary School Ganderbal and completed his graduation at Islamia College of Science and Commerce Srinagar.
Bhat initially worked as stock assistant in the government’s veterinary department. After completing his PhD in November last year, he was recruited as contractual assistant professor in sociology at KU.
Bhat stayed in the staff hostel at KU and went missing from there on Friday. His last communication with his family took place on Sunday morning, when security forces had laid siege to a residential house in Badigam village in which he was trapped along with Hizb militants.
“Please forgive me if I have let you down. I am trapped in an encounter,” he told his father, Abdul Rahim Bhat, on phone.