Participation in the agitation against “transferring” land to the Amarnath shrine board in 2008 changed the life of Manzoor Ahmad, who died in a gunbattle with the security forces here last Thursday.
“The 2008 agitation changed him completely,” said Manzoor’s father, Ghulam Rasool Bhat, who works as a domestic help in Sopore, 50 km north of Srinagar.
Manzoor (21) did not sport a beard, neither was he seen to be wearing an overall of the Pathan variety. Rather, his
hairstyle resembled that of an upwardly mobile young man.
He painted. A resident of Paeth Seer, 2 km from Sopore town, Manzoor was not motivated by an ideologue or Islamic theology. He was opposed to the Jammu & Kashmir government's decision to hand over land for those going to Amarnath, a Hindu pilgrimage.
The decision misfired and the agitation started, leading to the resignation of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Police firing during the Muzaffarabad (in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) march on August 11, 2008, was the watershed event. The Hurriyat
gave the call for the march, opposing the “economic blockade” of the Kashmir region by pro-Amarnath activists in Jammu, after the state government’s decision was annulled.
“Manzoor (participated in the march) and got stranded at a mosque for two days after the march. He returned a changed man,” Bhat said.
Manzoor’s relatives said he would talk about the firing, in which senior Hurriyat leader Sheikh Aziz was killed.
“He was perturbed by the excesses meted out to people during the agitation,” said the militant’s uncle, also called Manzoor Ahmad.
Manzoor was second among four siblings. A Class IX dropout, he left home to join militancy in September last year in the month of Ramazan (holy month of the Islamic calendar).
“(During the month) he told his mother that he was going ‘for work and it would take him some days to finish it’,” said Bhat, sitting in his two-storeyed mud-and-brick house.
The family filed a case with the Sopore police station. Later, the family learnt that Manzoor had joined some militant group.
Just four days before his militant act near Lal Chowk on Wednesday, Ahmad went to see his parents. “He asked us to pray for him and said he was going to renovate a house and it will take him some time,” said Bhat.