Niloofar Qureshi

Of Pens and Swords!

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Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) militant Manan Wani is no more. A promising scholar pursuing his PhD from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Manan shocked everyone when he decided to quit studies and become a militant in January this year. In an emotional letter his AMU colleagues implored him to reconsider his decision of giving up the pen and instead picking up the gun. In this letter his well wishers reminded Manan that “Political struggles in different parts of the world were mostly taken to their logical ends through non-violent means.” Mentioning how “the circle of violence revolves around its own axis (and) it has no open end,” they had highlighted the fact that “it is only through the process of dialogue that complex problems have been solved throughout the history of human evolution and conflict.”

There is no doubt that Manan had exceptional reasoning skills and a flair for oratory. His friends clearly mentioned this when they wrote that “all of us know very well how you used to register your dissent against the State excesses in Kashmir. That was already the best possible way for people like you to contribute your part.” In fact his associates even saw an appropriate assignment for him and they wrote, “Your befitting virtues of oratory, presentation, and debating were already apparent to us than what you presented to us now. You could be an inspiration to our youth. You could participate in the reformation of our society. You could fill the lacuna in leadership that we always claim to face. You could directly address the people if you choose a non-violent path over the violent one, without burdening your conscience. You could be a valuable asset for all of us.”

Unfortunately, this earnest appeal and sound advice given by his well-wishers, friends and colleagues was quickly drowned in the cacophony of emotional rhetoric celebrating a scholar’s entry into militancy. Consequently, the self determination movement which is already suffering from an ‘intellect deficit’ was further deprived of a much needed voice that could revitalized and internationalise the Kashmir issue. Thus a creative mind that could better serve the ‘K’ cause by aggressively wielding the pen took to militancy which Manan’s friends rightly termed to as the “extreme side of our collective misfortune.” Yet neither did the separatist or militant leadership request Manan to reconsider his decision of becoming a militant and instead use his remarkable skills to give the ‘self determination’ struggle a more incisive ideological edge.

Instead, the separatists and militants seemed more eager to pursue their myopic aims of promoting militancy by making Manan its poster boy and this increased his vulnerability as it is not at all easy for an academician to wield a gun with the same skill as a pen. Moreover, it is also humanly impossible for an ideologue who is living in constant danger of being tracked down and killed to fully exploit his mental potential and those who have read Manan’s open letter which he wrote in June giving reasons for joining militancy will agree that it lacks the unique eloquence which was the characteristic hallmark of this AMU scholar. The sad part is that though everyone knew that Manan had become a ‘marked man’ the day joined militancy, no one seemed to care!

However, after Manan’s death suddenly everyone seemed to be missing this scholar turned militant. While Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani expressed his grief by saying that “pro-freedom people will always miss the sharp, focused and fertile brains like that of Manan,” Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farook tweeted how he was “deeply pained that we lost a budding intellectual and writer” and JKLF chairman Muhammad Yasin Malik said “though the loss of such a scholar is too painful for Kashmiri nation but a matter of pride too.” And this is the tragedy of Kashmir- instead of preserving and promoting our assets we tend to squander them for inconsequential gains and then complain about the sorry state of affairs. Manan had all the qualities of an ideologue and if given an opportunity could have further strengthened our arguments on the Kashmir issue. In fact, his colleagues and associates at AMU precisely hinted at this when they appealed to Manan that “people like us, who know you well and trust that your talent could be channelised in a constructive manner.”

Instead of gainfully using his exceptional intelligence, Manan was ‘sacrificed’ just for the sake of trying to get the international community to accept the weak argument that educated youth picking up the gun automatically accords legitimacy to militancy. And even after his death, militant groups haven’t stopped trying to sell this obtuse idea. While HM supremo Syed Salahuddin has stated that “Hizb was fortunate enough to have the association of a man of great intellect like Manan Wani,” the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) said that “His sacrifice proves that the highly educated youth of Jammu and Kashmir have decided to strive for their birth right.” While such praises reflect the immense respect and gratitude of separatists and militant groups for the deceased AMU scholar, they also raise the disturbing question of whether the resistance camp’s refusal to insist that Manan to work as an ideologue rather than as a gunman was morally correct!

The writer is a Delhi based columnist and can be mailed at

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