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Militant for 36 Hours: Has Kashmir Professor's Encounter Started a New Chapter in Militancy?

A resident of relatively calmer central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, Rafi had gone missing around 3:30 pm on Friday. He had spoken to his mother before leaving the house. After he didn’t come back home that day, his family informed the university authorities about his disappearance.

News18.com

Updated:May 7, 2018, 8:52 AM IST
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Militant for 36 Hours: Has Kashmir Professor's Encounter Started a New Chapter in Militancy?
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Srinagar: On Friday, Muhammad Rafi Bhat, an assistant professor of Sociology at Kashmir University, shared on Facebook a poem penned for him by his outgoing students. The poem was written in Urdu.

One of the couplets from the poem read: Dhoop mein chaaon sa, thandi thandi hawaaon sa. Aapka har lafz lagta hai duaaon sa. (Like shade in summer's heat, like a cool breeze of air; your every word is like a prayer.)

Bhat shared the poem on his Facebook and wrote: “Gift from my students. I will remember your love and respect. Allah bless you all.”

Two days later, Rafi, along with his four associates, was killed in a gunfight with government forces.

The 32-year-old’s militant journey – perhaps, the shortest recent stint in the valley — came as a shock to many.

“I never thought Rafi would join militancy. He was so well settled and had a great job – something all of his friends were envious of. We are yet to recover from the shock,” one of Rafi’s friends said over the phone.

The assistant professor of sociology was among the five militants killed in a fierce gun battle in Badigam in south Kashmir’s Shopian district.

A resident of relatively calmer central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, Rafi had gone missing around 3:30 pm on Friday. He had spoken to his mother before leaving the house. After he didn’t come back home that day, his family informed the university authorities about his disappearance.

When, on Saturday, news spread about Rafi’s disappearance in Kashmir University, students protested on campus. The vice-chancellor informed police about Bhat and assured students that all efforts would be made to trace him.

But it was only on Sunday morning, when Rafi’s father got a call from his son, that people knew what had really happened.

“I am sorry if I have hurt you and this is my last call as I am going to meet Allah,” Bhat told his father over the phone.

According to a senior police official, who is privy to the Sunday’s operation, Rafi had gone to meet Saddam Padder and his associates of Hizbul Mujahideen to get formally inducted.

“The group of militants was there to receive Rafi. We got a tip-off of the meeting early on Sunday,” the police officer said.

As news of Rafi’s death spread, his friends took to social media.

“My memories associated with him are persistently flashing in my mind, whether that be a discussion on Marx's perspective on religion or playing cricket with him in the university. His martyrdom has set a new precedent for the youth of Kashmir (sic),” wrote a netizen on Rafi’s Facebook wall.

A look at Rafi’s Facebook, however, reflects the desperation that the professor was going through during his last few days.

“Enforced closure of educational institutes. Onus lies with the men/women in power who are hell bent to exercise the power to remain in power. Alas this power game is putting students on trial who are now scared and unsafe even in the places where they should be at least safe and secure. By blocking all the peaceful means of expressing dissent what remains there is self defence against armed insecurity forces. It is existing circumstances, which is fuelling student protests. The way forward is change in status quo. Where power won't be exercised for the sake of power (sic),” he wrote on April 18.

In the post, Rafi was referring to the continued shutdown of schools by the authorities in response to various civilian killings in Kashmir.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, also write about Rafi’s death.

“Sadly this is also an answer to those who claim jobs & development are the solution to the violence & alienation in Kashmir. This is another tragic development in a steady stream of tragedies in Kashmir,” Omar wrote on Twitter.

With the death of Rafi, many in Kashmir are worried that more and more educated youth will be drawn towards the gun.

“Rafi was a scholar, an educated man who knew what was right and wrong. If he could think that gun is the only solution then we seriously need to ask ourselves if the gun is really the only solution. Will it draw more youngsters to militancy? I fear it will. But I hope I am wrong,” a netizen wrote on Facebook.

Earlier, Mannan Wani, a resident of North Kashmir’s Kupwara district and a researcher at Aligarh Muslim University, went missing in January. He later joined Hizbul Mujahideen and was one of the militants who trapped in an encounter last week in which the outfit’s top commander Saddam Padder was killed.
| Edited by: Aditya Nair
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