Local militant killed fighting alongside; government clamps restrictions, media not allowed to cover funeral
HANDWARA: Mannan Bashir Wani, who left doctoral research in geology to pick up the gun and fight for Kashmir’s freedom, was killed by government forces in a gunfight that started in the pre-dawn hours of Thursday in Handwara area of north Kashmir. Mannan had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen nine months ago.
Along with Mannan was killed a local, three-month-old militant, Ashiq Hussain Zargar, son of Gulam Mohiudin Zargar, resident of Tulwari Langate in Handwara.
A top police officer, requesting anonymity, told Kashmir Reader that soldiers of 30 Rashtriya Rifles and policemen laid siege around Shotgund village in the middle of the night after receiving “specific input” about presence of militants. In the initial round of firing, the militants tried to break the cordon in a bid to escape.
The firing resumed in the morning and it was then that Mannan and his associate were killed, he said.
As the forces went to pick up the bodies, they found one of them to be of Mannan Wani.
In the morning, dozens of people moved towards Shotgund and its adjoining areas, where they held street protests and hurled stones at government forces. The forces fired dozens of tear smoke shells and pellets to disperse the protestors, leaving at least three of them injured. Medical Superintendent of District Hospital Handwara, Dr Ajaz, told Kashmir Reader that three persons were bought to the hospital of whom two had pellets injuries and one had bullet injury in his leg. He said that two of the injured were shifted to a Srinagar hospital for specialised treatment while one is still in the Handwara hospital under treatment.
As soon as the news of Mannan’s killing reached his native village of Takipora in Kupwara district, people rushed towards his home. Some people hurled stones and rocks at the nearby army camp of 28 RR, but were chased away soon after.
Shotgund village, where both the militants were killed, is about 40 to 50 kilometres from Takipora village. In the afternoon police handed over the body of Mannan to his family. Thousands of people were already gathered to receive the body.
Funeral prayers were held at 6pm in Takipora village, in which thousands of people from across the Lolab valley region participated. When this report was filed late in the evening, people had begun to carry the body to the graveyard.
A relative of the family said that Mannan had never visited home nor contacted anyone through phone or other means ever since he joined militant ranks.
In the morning, the government had announced closure of all colleges and higher secondary schools in Handwara, Kupwara, Sopore, Pattan, Baramulla and Bandipora areas to maintain law and order. Internet was also snapped in these and other areas of north Kashmir.
When local media persons tried to reach Shotgund village when the encounter was underway, they were stopped by government forces well before the village. Throughout the day, police and army officials did not disclose the identity of the killed militants.
A journalist said that media persons were not allowed to cover the funeral of Mannan Wani by restricting them from reaching his native village.