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Militant for a day, Kashmir professor leaves friends and family shocked

32-year-old Mohammad Rafi Bhat is believed to have joined the Hizbul Mujahideen on Friday afternoon. He was killed in an encounter in Shopian along with four other militants on Sunday morning.

india Updated: May 07, 2018 11:20 IST
Ashiq Hussain
Ashiq Hussain
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Shopian encounter,Kashmir,Kashmir professor
Villagers carry the body of deceased Mohammad Rafi Bhat an assistant professor during his funeral procession at his home district of Ganderbal in central Kashmir. (Waseem Andrabi / Hindustan Times)

The death of Kashmir University teacher Mohammad Rafi Bhat in a gunfight with security forces on Sunday has left his family, friends and students shocked and at a loss to explain his decision to join militant ranks.

The 32-year-old’s stint with militancy was perhaps the shortest in the Valley – he is believed to have joined the Hizbul Mujahideen Friday afternoon and was dead early Sunday.

The assistant professor of sociology was among the five militants killed in a fierce gun battle fire in Badigam in south Kashmir’s Shopian. “It was a shock. He never discussed militancy with us nor did he show any inclination towards it,” said Mudasir Rasool Mir, who is pursuing a PhD in social work at Kashmir University in Srinagar.

A resident of Chundina area in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, Bhat, who was married, went missing around 3.30pm on Friday. He had spoken to his mother but betrayed no signs of taking the path to violence.

His family informed the university authorities about his disappearance on Saturday morning, which sparked off protests on the campus. The vice -chancellor informed police about Bhat and assured students that all efforts would be made to trace him.

Police got to know that the teacher was among the five men holed up in Badigam when he called his father on Sunday morning. “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, who recounted the conversation to the police.

People look on the damaged house where top militant commanders, including Sadaam Padar and assistant professor of Kashmir University turned militant Mohamaad Raafi, and three other militants were hiding before they were killed during an encounter, at Badigam in Shopian district of south Kashmir on Sunday. (PTI)

The officers, who were monitoring all calls, sent a team to Bhat’s father, asking him to convince his son to surrender. They made repeated attempts to persuade Bhat to surrender, but to no avail, Kashmir IGP SP Pani said. “After receiving the input about his presence, we brought his family from Ganderbal to persuade him to surrender,” Pani said.

The family is at a loss to explain his decision. So are his friends who described him as a wonderful human being, a good student and “best teacher”.

Bhat was active on social media and recently shared on Facebook a poem penned for him by his outgoing students, saying, “Gift from my students. I will remember your love and respect”.

Bhat’s death had proved that providing jobs and ensuring development were not the solution to end “violence and alienation” in Kashmir, former chief minister Omar Abdullah said.

“This is another tragic development in steady stream of tragedies in Kashmir,” he tweeted.

In April, 28-year-old Aitmad Hussain Dar, who was doing an MPhil, was killed with four other militants in Shopian, almost six months after he joined militancy.

There are concerns about Kupwara resident Mannan Bashir Wani as well. A researcher at Aligarh Muslim University, Wani went missing in January and is believed to have joined Hizbul Mujahideen, a militant outfit that draws local youth and has suffered big losses in recent months.

(With PTI inputs)

First Published: May 06, 2018 22:46 IST