Many injured during clashes, militants offer gun salute
Sugan (Shopian): Just a few yards away from the April 1, 2018 gunfight site where Zeenat-ul-Islam escaped, the famous Kashmiri militant was buried on Sunday by tens of thousands of people. Despite blockaded roads and government forces surrounding the funeral ground, several militants came and offered multiple rounds of gun salute to the Al-Badr commander who was earlier one of Hizbul Mujahideen’s top commanders in south Kashmir.
Zeenat-ul-Islam, according to his father Ghulam Hassan Shah, was an active militant since 2005 when he was a college student. Speaking at the funeral gathering, Shah said he was proud of his son for the way he fought oppression with daring and never bowing down.
More than a dozen rounds of funeral prayers were offered to Zeenat by tens of thousands of people including women and children. Several militants including Saju Tiger and Rubani, both Hizb militants, offered gun salute.
Family sources said that Zeenat’s face was disfigured and his eye removed when his body was handed over.
The morning snowfall had made roads slippery. There was ankle-high mud on the streets and inches of snow when people began walking to Sugan, Zeenat’s native village in Shopian district. People crossed orchards fenced with barbed wires, hillocks, and fields to reach Sugan to offer a hero’s farewell to their beloved militant.
Zeenat is survived by a little daughter, wife, younger brother, sister and parents who live a prosperous life from apple farming.
A drone equipped with a camera was making rounds in the area for more than two hours before the funeral and was flying over the funeral ground continuously when the funeral was being held.
Zeenat-ul-Islam was killed on Saturday evening in a brief gunfight at a Kulgam village along with an associate, Shakeel Ahmad Dar. People in south Kashmir said Zeenat was the most daring and most loved militant in the region. They said he was a close associate of slain Hizb commander Saddam Padder and instrumental in the revival of militancy in south Kashmir.
Family member said that Zeenat was first arrested in 2008 on allegations of links with militancy and was released after two years of imprisonment under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA). “After he was released in 2010, he got married and had a six-year-old daughter,” one of the relatives said.
The relative said that Zeenat was a famous cordon breaker who escaped many gunfight sites even after the killing of his associates. Villagers from Sugan said that last year on April 1, Zeenat escaped from the gunfight site at Dragad, and today his funeral was conducted at the same place where he escaped the site where his seven associates where killed.
Locals said that when Zeenat-ul-Islam was made operational commander by the end of 2016, he made several attacks on forces including the one at Chitragam village where four army men were killed. They said that he gave a huge headache to the forces since he became operational commander.
“After released from jail, he first joined LeT in 2015 and later Hizb and was made district commander after the killing of Saddam Padder,” one of the relatives present at funeral of Zeenat said.
But Zeenat’s father said his son was an active militant since 2005 but was arrested in 2008 and later he joined militant ranks in 2015, but during this period he was working for militants.
Family sources said that after Zeenat joined militant ranks he developed a kindney ailment and later the disease turned serious. They said they believe that on Saturday a group of his associates was taking him to a doctor or hospital when government forces intercepted them on pin-point information. They said that Zeenat several times fell unconscious during the funerals of other militants due to his kidney ailment.
“We saw him in a dying state at funerals but later he looked even fresher than his associates. He never compromised on the safety of his fellows. He spent hundreds of nights in the open but never forced anyone to give him shelter,” said one of the village friends of Zeenat, adding that Zeenat’s house was vandalised and raided by forces several times by government forces.
Another relative said that despite having long hair, Zeenat was always well-hidden when he came to the funeral of any associate. “I once asked him how he hid his hair. He replied he didn’t want to scare anyone with his looks.”
In 2018, when Zeenat was district commander of Hizb, he realeased a video on social media and announced that on the orders of the leadership he was given the charge to head Al-Badr militant outfit.
Zeenat-ul-Islam escaped from a gunfight at his in-laws’ home in Turkwangam village where two residential houses were razed to ground and a Class 9 student was killed in clashes with forces. He also escaped an encounter in Badigam last year after a long exchange of gunfire. Zeenat, according to police sources, escaped from the Daramdoor gunfight site last year and also the gunfight site at his native village in Dragad locality.
Thousands of women also made it to Sugan to attend the funeral. Eyewitnesses said that two forces’ vehicles that entered the funeral ground to disrupt the funeral were stoned by the mourners. They said that forces opened fire, fired pellets and tear smoke shells on the mourners and later left the ground. In clashes several people sustained bullet and pellet injures, including a female, Shoky Jan, who was run over by an army Casspir vehicle.
Doctors at Shopian district hospital said that two persons were brought to the hospital among whom one had bullet injury in left leg. They said an injured woman hit by a vehicle was also brought to the hospital.
Doctors at district hospital Pulwama said that six persons were brought to the hospital among whom three had bullet injures while three had pellet injures. They said that three among the injured were reffered to SMHS Hospital in Srinagar.
Four pellet injured were brought to Primary Health Centre Zainpora, from where one person with pellet injuries in right eye was shifted to Srinagar.
Shakeel Ahmad Dar, the associate who was killed along with Zeenat, was laid to rest at his native village Chilipora. Chilipora is a small village comprising around 15 households. An army camp was established here in 2017 and the house of Dar is situated right beside the army camp.
Cashes near the house of Dar and the army camp lasted for the entire day with several persons reportedly injured. Locals informed that more forces, including police, were called on Saturday night and Sugan village was besieged by Saturday evening after news of killing of Zeenat spread in the area. Chilipora and Sugan are two neighbouring villages some 400 meters apart.
Shakeel, according to locals, joined militiant ranks in July 2018. He was a BSc student at government degree college Pulwama when he did so. He was also affiliated with Al-Badr and four rounds of funeral prayers were offered for him in the local graveyard near the Rambiara rovulet.
Locals said he was a famous cricketer and wicket keeper in the region. He wad the son of Abdul Rasheed Dar and the youngest among five brothers and a sister.