Both were former militants; woman candidate in Dalgate immediately withdraws from polls
Srinagar: Two former militants turned National Conference workers were shot dead from point blank range by militants in the heart of Srinagar’s downtown on Friday, while another colleague of theirs survived the attack with a bullet injury to his wrist.
At about 11:30am, two bike-borne youths came riding through interiors of the winding, busy Karfali Mohalla lanes, which have old residential houses on both sides, and stopped by a mutton shop. There they took out an AK-47 rifle and fired a volley of bullets at the NC workers.
The gunshots, which rattled the neighbourhood, killed on the spot two political workers named Nazir Bhat and Mushtaq Wani. Their fellow, Shakeel Ahmad Zangoo, sustained a bullet injury.
Locals said that the assailants chased Zangoo, who worked as butcher at the mutton shop, and fired upon him when he jumped out to flee while the two others lay in a pool of blood.
The trio was taken to Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital where two of them, according to Medical Superintendent (MS) Dr Saleem Tak, arrived dead. The third one is now recuperating at Bone and Joints (B&J) Hospital in Barzulla.
“He (Shakeel) has a bullet injury in wrist. His condition is stable,” said MS of B&J Hospital, Dr Abdul Rashid Buddoo.
The slain, Nazir Bhat (aka Babloo) of Kani Kadal and Mushtaq Wani (aka Beta) of Palpora Idgah, were once formidable militants who had served multiple jail terms before becoming NC workers.
In the early ’90s, the duo was among the thousands of youth who crossed over to Pakistan to receive arms training. Bhat was a wanted militant commander in the downtown during the ’90s and his family had to bear the brunt of regular raids by government forces at their home.
“He (Bhat) commanded respect for his honesty and bravado those days,” recalled a tiny gathering of mourners outside his two-storey house on the banks of the now dried-up KutiKul, a navigational canal in olden days.
Bhat’s arrest in the second half of the ’90s resulted in a jail term for more than five years. Currently, he was a close confidante of NC legislator of Habba Kadal constituency, Shameema Firdous. Bhat’s Facebook page described him as the legislator’s personal assistant.
Bhat was married but had no children.
Mushtaq Wani, originally hailing from Shalla Kadal in the downtown, was a well-known activist affiliated with the now disbanded Students Liberation Front (SLF) since 1984. He was sent to Central Jail two years later for his activities and later was among the initial horde of youth ready to cross over to Pakistan.
After his return to the Valley as an insurgent, Wani was caught alive by government forces and served two years in jail, following which he again recycled into militancy before being picked up again in 1994. He was released almost six years later.
A bachelor, Mushtaq Wani was jailed again in 2004 and was released two years later after which he got politically transformed and ended up in the NC. Along with Bhat, he was a loyalist of Shameema and toiled hard to canvass for her in the 2014 legislative assembly elections.
Shameema, who also leads the NC’s women wing, was reportedly hospitalised after hearing news of the duo’s killing. “She is in trauma,” said a person who picked up Shameema’s phone when this reporter called her.
A small gathering of people offered funeral prayers for the slain in the old city.
Soon after the killings, rumours circulated that the slain duo had clandestinely filed nomination for the upcoming municipal polls, though the NC had announced boycott of the elections. National Conference spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar rubbished these rumours. “All such reports are false and are being circulated with malicious intent,” he said.
The audacious attack occurred amid a heightened security alert in Srinagar and other districts. Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, Central Kashmir, Vidhi Kumar Birdi told Kashmir Reader that police are investigating to ascertain the identity of the attackers. “The slain were not candidates for the polls,” he said.
The killings have instilled fresh insecurity and fear among candidates who have filed nominations for the civic body polls, despite the government providing them secure accommodations and free life insurance.
Moments after the killings, a woman candidate in Srinagar’s Dalgate ward withdrew her nomination and circulated the news on Facebook and WhatsApp.
Meanwhile, an unverified message circulated on social media attributed to Hizbul Mujahideeen warned that “guns will roar” against those who are standing in the elections.