A photograph showing a Kashmiri youth holding an assault rifle went viral on social networking site Facebook on Sunday. While netizens instantly started discussing and circulating the picture, little did Wani family from Tikipora area from far-off Lolab Valley in Kupwara district know that the photograph was of their son Abdul Mannan—a PhD scholar at the Aligarh Muslim University—who had reportedly joined the militant organisationHizbulMujahideen. The photograph left the family shell-shocked.
“We couldn’t believe our eyes even after seeing Mannan along with a gun in a picture on Facebook. We had never imagined that he would join militancy because there was no apparent reason for him to do so,” Mannan’s elder brother Muddasir told Greater Kashmir on Monday, day after the Facebook picture sent the police into a tizzy.
Mannan did his schooling at JawaharNavodyaVidalya at Ganderbal—an institution working under the aegis of ministry of human resource development, government of India—and then went to Amar Singh College for his graduation. He then did his masters from the University of Kashmir.
“At present, he was pursuing doctorate in structural geology from the AMU,” Muddasir said.
On November 5, Mannan had come home to attend his brother Muddasir’s wedding.
“All was fine and he stayed here for a month and left for Aligarh on December 5 last year. We were in touch with him till January 4. I kept on calling on his cell number but it was switched off,” Muddasir said. “I contacted his friend in the university hostel. He told me that Mannan left the hostel saying someone in his family was unwell. Since this was not the case, we became worried for him and approached the police to file a missing report.”
The police reportedly told Mannan’s family not to worry as “he might have lost his phone.”
“A pall of gloom descended on us after we came to know that Mannan has posted a picture on social networking site along with a gun. We want him to return to his family,” said Muddasir.
Mannan, whose father Bashir Ahmed is a lecturer, has an elder brother, mother and a younger sister in his family.
Muddasir said that his brother has no case against him in any police station in Kashmir.
“He has never been part of any protest or indulged in stone-pelting,” he said.
In his last conversation with his brother on January 4, Mannan had inquired about his father’s health and the wellbeing of other family members.
“It was a routine conversation and all seemed absolutely fine with him,” Muddasir said.
While the police say that they are ascertaining whether Mannan has “really” joined the militant ranks, the HizbulMujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin in a statement on Monday confirmed that Mannan has joined the outfit. He termed it a “good sign for the ongoing freedom struggle.”
“Claims of the government and the police that youth are joining militancy due to unemployment and other domestic issues stand punctured after a Ph.D scholar from AMU joined the Hizb,” local news agency CNS quoted Salahuddin as saying in the statement.
Addressing a high-level command council meeting, Salahuddin said that the entry of MananWani of TikiporaLolab “exposes the Indian propaganda that youth of Kashmir are joining militant ranks due to unemployment and economic distress”, the statement read.
“For years, educated and qualified youth of Kashmir have been joining HizbulMujahideen to take this ongoing freedom movement to its logical conclusion. This spirit of youth is laudable,” Salahuddin said, and paid rich tributes to slain civilians and militants.
‘COME BACK, MY SON’
Shell-shocked to hear that her son has joined HizbulMujahideen, Mannan’s mother Shameema has made an appeal to her son to return home.
“Come back my son. I won’t force you for further studies and will keep you at home only. Please return to your parents, I am waiting for you,” she is heard saying in a video message, amid wails.
Mannan has joined the militant ranks at a time when the police have urged local boys who have picked up arms to return home and start their lives afresh.
A senior police officer, wishing not to be named because he wasn’t authorised to speak with media, said that efforts are on to reach out to Mannan and “bring him back.”
“Let’s see how far we succeed,” he said.
VERIFYING FACTS: KHAN
Additional director general of police Muneer Khan said that the police are verifying as to whether Mannan has “actually” joined Hizb. “We are collecting evidences including when he spoke to his family last, when he left the AMU, what was he doing in Delhi. It could be like someone might have photo-shopped his photograph and posted it on the social networking site,” he said.
“Once we complete the investigations, only then we will be able to say with authenticity whether he has joined militancy or not,” he said.