March 2018 News

A Day After, Anger Sweeps Shopian

5 March 2018
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Azhar Qadri

Srinagar: An Army chopper came minutes past noon and circled over a gathering of several thousand men, women and children who were waiting for the body of a militant at Rakh Kapran village of Shopian. On an unusually tense day, the chopper was the only sign of government's presence and its writ in the district, which is located on the southern edge of the Kashmir valley. As the chopper flew away after briefly circling in the air, the militant's body arrived in a procession at a ground where mourners had gathered for his funeral. Ashiq Hussain Bhat was one of the two militants killed overnight at a nearby Pahnoo village. Four civilians (termed overground workers by the Army) were also killed, making it one of the deadliest incident in the region in recent years. All four belonged to Shopian. 'It is incidents like these which are making this place a volcano,' said Mohammad Sadiq, a lecturer at a local college. 'At this age, when I see this, I feel like I should go home, lock the door and cry,' he said. Within minutes of the arrival of Bhat's body, several militants surfaced at the funeral ground, which was surrounded by orchards and a dry stream, and climbed a makeshift stage. They fired in the air from their assault rifles. The locals call it a 'gun-salute' - a new ritual at funerals of militants which reflects at least temporary control of militants over the situation and increasingly edgy writ of the government. 'This is how it gets romanticised,' said Arshad Ahmad, a post-graduate student. On Monday, funerals for the six men - two militants and four others - were held in their native villages located in Shopian. The district was completely shut with its shops and businesses closed and no traffic on the roads. Shopian is one of the most prosperous districts of the Kashmir valley. It produces tonnes of apples which have brought economic mobility in the district. It is also a gateway and a base for new and extreme ideologies. The quiet villages have been home to thinkers who shaped extreme ideologies, either political or religious, or both. The region's earliest leftist ideologue Abdul Sataar Ranjoor, politico-religious Jamaat-e-Islami's ideologue Ghulam Ahmad Ahrar and revivalist Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadees' founder Maulana Anwar were all from Shopian. 'If something comes here, it spreads and stays,' Mudasir Ahmad, who runs a shop in Shopian market, said. The first three months of the year have been exceptionally violent for Shopian as nine civilians have been killed, including the sister of a militant and a kid who was fiddling with an explosive at a site of gunfight in which two militants were killed in January. It has set a dangerous trend and marked a bloodied beginning of the year in the region. A local manager of a multi-national company said he had asked his staff to count the month as only 15 working days. 'Such is the situation that we are never sure about tomorrow here. We never plan for tomorrow,' he said.