Sabzar's journey from 'hardworking farmer to tech-savvy fighter'

"I still remember the scene when Sabzar attacked a CRPF man and snatched a rifle from him. I never saw him again," said a childhood friend of Sabzar, requesting anonymity.

Sabzar Ahmad Bhat alias Soab Don, who succeeded slain Burhan Wani as the acting chief of Hizbul Mujahideen, is believed to have picked up arms when government forces killed Burhan’s brother Khalid Muzaffar Wani on April 13, 2015 in Kamla forest area of Tral.

Protests, which soon morphed into clashes with government forces, had erupted in Tral after Khalid’s killing. Sabzar had snatched a rifle from a CRPF soldier during a clash at Tral Payeen.

"I still remember the scene when Sabzar attacked a CRPF man and snatched a rifle from him. I never saw him again," said a childhood friend of Sabzar, requesting anonymity.

Sabzar, 30, was then seen in a series of videos featuring the iconic Burhan. Hizbul Mujahideen had appointed him as Burhan’s successor but he did not accept it, paving way for Zakir Moosa as the new commander for the outfit.

Sabzar did not cross over to Pakistan for arms training. He was locally trained. Because of his sturdy built and athleticism, he stood out among the fresh crop of militants, his native villagers said.

Boys with whom Sabzar grew up remember him as "a hardworking farmer who became a tech-savvy fighter".

Sabzar, whom the police had branded as ‘Category A’ militant carrying Rs 10 lakh on his head, had left schooling half-way and was working in orchards and agriculture fields to help his father. According to his neighbours, his father Ghulam Hassan Bhat is working as a daily wager in the Power Development Department.

In March this year, government forces had surrounded a place where he was hiding, in his hometown in Rathsuna, Tral. However, he escaped the following night under the cover of darkness.

During the gunfight today, local residents said, Sabzar made a farewell call to his parents and urged them to pray for his martyrdom, and not to weep after his death.

Defying restrictions, people from Srinagar, Shopian, Pulwama, Islamabad and Kulgam reached Sabzar’s native village. They arrived in cars, trucks and bikes and offered funeral prayers. Women were beating their chests and wailing. Local mosques were reverberating with pro-Pakistan, pro-Hizb, pro-Sabzar and pro-freedom slogans.Thousands of people offered last prayers for Sabzar twice at his native village in Rathsuna. 

Chairman J&K Liberation Front Mohammad Yasin Malik also participated in his funeral.  Malik had reached Tral early morning amid restrictions. He also visited families of Sabzar and Faizan, another militant who was killed during today’s gunfight.

By late evening, a few militants appeared at Sabzar’s funeral, delivering speeches before the gathering.

A bigger funeral prayer, scheduled for tomorrow morning, will be followed by the burial.

 

THOUSANDS JOIN YOUNG MILITANT FAIZAN’S FUNERAL

Thousands of people turned up at the funeral of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Faizan Ahmed Bhat alias Umair at his native place at Darul Uloom road in Tral.

Mourners drove in thousands to Tral to participate in the funeral and to have his last glimpse. Chairman J&K Liberation Front Mohammad Yasin Malik delivered a speech outside Faizan’s house in Darul Uloom campus, witnesses said.

Faizan (16) was buried next to Burhan’s grave in the Martyrs’ Graveyard at Eidgah Tral amid sobs and cries. 

 “It was an emotional moment when Burhan’s father stood near Burhan’s grave to bid final adieu to Faizan," said Abdul Samad, who participated in the funeral.

Meanwhile, a complete shutdown was observed in Tral town, Awantipora and adjoining areas to mourn the death of the militants. Shops, schools and offices remained closed while traffic was off the roads.

Defying restrictions, people from Srinagar, Shopian, Pulwama, Islamabad and Kulgam started arriving in Tral soon after the news about Sabzar and Faizan’s killing broke out Saturday afternoon. By late night, Tral-Awantipora and Tral-Kaigam and Tral-Lariyar roads and streets were flooded by the people.

A large number of people assembled outside Sabzar and Faizan’s house by late evening even as local mosques were reverberating with pro-Islam and pro-freedom slogans.

Faizan, before joining militant ranks, had snatched a service rifle from a CRPF man at the Bus Stand Tral. He, according to his relatives, was studying in class 10. He joined militancy in March 2017 soon after top Hizb commander Auqib Mulvi had been killed.

Faizan was the only son of his parents. He is survived by his parents and a sister. “He belongs to a poor family as his father is a labourer,” say his neighbors.

He was considered as a close associate of Sabzar Bhat.