March 2017 News

Crowds At Militants' Burials A Worrying Trend

6 March 2017
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Majid Jahangir

Srinagar: On Monday, thousands of people thronged Tral to attend the funeral prayers of Burhan Wani's aide and top militant commander Aqib Ahmad Bhat, who was eliminated along with a foreign militant during a gunfight on Sunday. A cop of the elite counter-insurgency group of the J&K Police was also killed in the encounter. The J&K Police had handed over Aqib's body to his family on Sunday. Thousands of people, especially youth, today followed the militant's coffin amid 'anti-India, pro-Pakistan and pro-azadi' slogans as funeral prayers were offered four times at his native village Hayena, some 45 km from Srinagar. The town also observed a shutdown. For the past two years, the Valley has been witnessing large gatherings at funerals for militants. The swelling crowds at such funerals are not only a headache for the security agencies but also a matter of concern. Last year, the tipping point came when over two lakh people attended Burhan's funeral in Tral. 'These huge funerals depict the support for militants and the brewing anger, especially in south Kashmir,' said a Tral resident, who attended Aqib's funeral. 'After the gunfight broke on Saturday evening, people tried to save the militants but were not successful. However, a large number of people who attended the funeral today showed their support for the militants.' The local militants who have been killed this year have invariably been accorded such burials. At least 11 local militants have been killed this year in anti-militancy operations. 'These funerals are a worrying factor and at times influence youth to pick up arms,' a police officer said. Incidentally, after a huge funeral for top Pakistani militant commander Abu Qasim in 2015, the J&K Government had decided against handing over the bodies of Pakistani militants to locals. And this time, too, the body of Pakistani militant Saifullah, alias Osama, who was killed with Aqib in Tral, was not handed over to locals. The Pakistani militant, sources said, would be buried in the Valley after medico-legal formalities. A senior security official in Kashmir said huge funerals were a matter of concern for the security agencies. 'It is a worry for us. We will face this situation till militancy exists here. It is also a cultural issue as people want to attend funerals,' the senior official said, adding that not every militant's funeral, however, was attended by a large number of locals.

Line