Reyaz Rashid

PhD scholar Manan Wani among two Hizb militants killed in Handwara

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Amid violent clashes, thousands participate in their funeral

Handwara, Oct 11: Two Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militants including top commander Manan Bashir Wani, a PhD scholar-turned-militant and his associate Ashiq Hussain Zargar was killed in a fierce gunfight at Shatgund Handwara in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district on Thursday.

Residents of the Shatgund and Qalambad - nestled among the walnut and pine trees - woke up to the sound of gunshots today morning as government forces had laid a three-tier siege overnight around the area and started searches in the morning following specific inputs about the presence of militants there, police and local residents told ‘Kashmir Images’.

“Following specific intelligence inputs, a joint team of Army’s 30 RR, 92 Battalion CRPF and SOG cordoned off Shatgund Baala area in the dead of night,” an Army officer said.

“We fired some warning shots towards the suspected spot, however, there was no retaliation immediately,” he said.

“As forces intensified search operation by going for house to house searches and zeroed in on the target house, the hiding militants fired at the search party, triggering an encounter,” the Army official said.

He said government forces offered the militants to surrender but they didn’t heed.

A police official said government forces’ personnel were fired upon by the holed up militants resulting in exchange of fire which continued until 11 AM.

“The police made repeated announcements through public address system appealing the militants to surrender,” he said.

There was a lull in firing at around 9 AM, prompting the police to initiate search operation at the encounter site, but it had to be suspended after firing resumed 15 minutes later, the official said.

Two militants were killed in the gunfight who were later identified as PhD scholar-turned-militant and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Manan Bashir Wani, son of Bashir Ahmed Wani, resident of Tikipora, Sogam, Kupwara, and his associate, a newly-recruited militant Ashiq Hussain Zargar, son of Ghulam Mohi-ud-din Zargar, resident of Tulwari Langate.

Violent clashes also broke out near the encounter site as groups of youth resorted to stone-pelting on the government forces, who retaliated with aerial firing and tear-smoke shells to disperse the mob.

“The bodies of the two slain militants were taken away by the forces from the site of the gunfight and later handed over to their families by the police,” said a police officer.

As the news about the death of two militants spread in the area, violent clashes erupted in parts of Kupwara and Handwara.

The 27-year-old Manan Wani, who quit PhD studies in Applied Geology at the Aligarh Muslim University, had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen earlier this year. He had gone missing from the Uttar Pradesh university and few days later his photograph, holding an AK assault rifle, appeared on the social media here.

His decision to join the militancy had shocked many of his friends. One of them wrote on social media how he had always expected Manan to make it to the civil services, while another referred to a paper that had won him the first prize at an international conference in Bhopal in 2016.

Even after joining Hizbul Mujahideen, Manan Wani continued writing on the social media justifying his decision to join militancy.

Outstanding in studies, Wani, who got his basic education in Jawahar Navodya Vidyalay and Sainik School Manasbal, was considered to be a very important member and the “chief recruiter” for militants in north Kashmir area following killing of some of the top militants in the region over the past two years.

After the due legal process, Wani's body was handed over to his family for last rites and over 20,000 people participated in his funeral at his native village at Tekipora in Lolab area of Kupwara district.

Authorities shut down schools and other educational institutions in north Kashmir as a precautionary measure for maintaining law and order.

Internet services were also snapped in the region while many areas observed a spontaneous shutdown.

From Sainik School to Hizb – Wani’s journey

Srinagar, Oct 11 (PTI) From being an outstanding student to one of the most wanted militants in Kashmir, Manan Bashir Wani, a former PhD scholar at Aligarh Muslim University, was among a stream of educated youths who have joined militancy since the 2016 unrest in the Valley.

A profile of 27-year-old Wani as sketched by security agencies shows Wani was a brilliant student from the beginning and after his initial education, he went to prestigious Sainik School at Manasbal for completing his 11th and 12th class.

Wani received several awards during his academic years and had also remained indifferent to mass protests that broke out in the Valley in 2010 and 2016 after the death of Burhan Wani, a poster boy of Hizbul Mujahideen militant group.

His joining of militancy came at a time when other youth like Esa Fazli, a B.Tech student from Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah Univeristy, had joined militant ranks.

After his joining, an MBA student Junaid Ashraf Sehrai, son of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chairman Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, also disappeared to join the militant groups.

Wani was attached to his family a lot especially with his father, Bashir Ahmed Wani, who was a lecturer in college.

From a well-to-do family, Wani remained busy with his studies at Aligarh Muslim University from 2011 where he completed his M.Phil and followed by Ph.D in allied geology.

His name still figures on the official website of Aligarh Muslim University where it is mentioned that Wani, who was a research scholar at Department of Geology, has been awarded the 'Best Paper Presentation Award' in an International Conference on 'Water, Environment, Energy and Society' (ICWEES) held at AISECT University, Bhopal.

The award was conferred to Wani for his paper 'Flood Risk Assessment of Lolab Valley from Watershed Analysis Using Remote Sensing and GIS Techniques'.

Quoting from his last article that appeared in social media in June this year, a police official said Wani had quoted American human rights activist Maclom X "be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to cemetery".

"We did the same thing to Wani. We gave him ample chance to surrender and obey the law but apparently he went against his own ideology," the police officer, who was engaged in the operations this morning in which Wani was killed, said.

During his days in school, Wani participated actively in sports like kabbadi across north India. As part of the National Cadet Corps, he participated in Republic Day and Independence Day parades.

Wani's journey to militancy began sometime in late 2017 when he came in contact with students from south Kashmir. He left Aligarh on January 03 this year to join the militant ranks, only to return home dead.

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