Amid the ongoing protests after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s death, his purported successor requested migrant Kashmiri Pandits to return to the Valley and offered them protection.
In his second video address after Wani’s killing on July 8, Zakir Rashid Bhat, 22, tried to reason with the Pandits who left Kashmir after militancy erupted in the state in 1989.
“We request Kashmiri Pandits to return to their homes. We take the responsibility of their protection,” said Bhat, who was wearing a camouflage uniform with a grenade in his hand and two rifles on either side. “They should look at those Pandits who have been living in the Valley. Did they face any problems here?”
Bhat, a former engineering student, has emerged as Wani’s successor after he released his first video in August asking the people of Kashmir to continue the agitation till the region achieves its goal of “azadi”.
The second video, which was carried by many local news websites on Tuesday, comes as the unrest in Kashmir crossed the 100-day mark.
As many as 90 people have lost their lives and thousands injured in security forces action during the clampdown on protesters.
The militant commander claimed that they have also been approached by Sikhs to join the outfit. He said they are planning to float Hizb’s Sikh regiment.
“More than 12,000 Sikhs were killed in Punjab during operation Blue Star by General KS Gill in collaboration with RAW. Our Sikh brothers want to take revenge from India. We are receiving many requests from Sikh brothers that they want to join us, we are always with them. We will try to form a group of Sikh brothers,” Bhat said.
The Hizbul Mujahideen had earlier named Mehmood Ghaznavi as Wani’s successor but not much is known about him, it is believed to be Bhat’s alias.
Bhat was a student of civil engineering in Chandigarh before he returned to his ancestral village Noorpura in Pulwama in 2013 and joined the Hizbul Mujahideen, the only surviving Kashmir-based militant group.
He claimed that India tried to do the same in Kashmir as they did in Punjab. “Like the operation in Punjab, India wanted to do the same in Kashmir. They forced Pandits to migrate so that they could kill Muslims easily here. But they were not successful,” he said.
The young militant leader also asked the Kashmiri youth to snatch weapons from government forces to join the militant outfit.
“Many brothers have taken to the way of jihad. They have snatched weapons (from government forces) and joined us. And any brother who wants to join us, they should snatch weapons. We welcome them,” Bhat said.
There have been a number of weapon-snatching incidents in Kashmir in the past three months, with around 30 weapons stolen from government forces.