Slain professor left behind wife of three years, grieving community of students

Shocked at his death just 40 hours after he went underground, Dr Mohammad Rafi Bhat’s students remember their beloved teacher with fondest memories.
Slain professor left behind wife of three years, grieving community of students
Habib Naqash/GK

Shocked at his death just 40 hours after he went underground, Dr Mohammad Rafi Bhat's students remember their beloved teacher with fondest memories.

Bhat was a favourite of his sociology students at the University of Kashmir where he taught the subject for 18 months. They recall him as for his jolly nature, a unique style of teaching and a habit of exchanging ideas, gifts and books.

The 30 year old assistant professor, a resident of Chunduna village of Ganderbal district won his doctorate degree in sociology in November 2017 and soon started teaching. 

A close relative of Bhat said he would talk about the Kashmir dispute since his childhood and stand up against "oppression and atrocities" but never compromised on his studies earning a junior research fellowship with good marks and qualified NET required for teaching higher studies.  

On Friday Dr Bhat delivered his last lecture at the sociology department in the Naseem Bagh campus of the university and before heading out took a selfie with some of his students before exchanging gifts with them.

"He accepted a wrist watch as a gift from one of the students and (said in) a message that he loves every student from the heart," said a student of sociology wishing not to be named.

 "He was our favourite. He was a power house of knowledge, rather an encyclopedia. Rafi Sir, would often gift books on sociology and literature to students," the student said.    

None of his students suspected their favourite teacher would not return to embrace them again. 

Dr Bhat's family waited until late Friday for him to return from the university.

"We became worried and informed police," said a cousin of the professor, declining to be identified.  

"He would always talk about innocent killings and express his anger. Something was cooking in his mind for a long and perhaps that made him to take this extreme step. I could sense for a few days that he had chosen his path but was waiting for an opportunity."  

Student's love for Dr Rafi reflected on the social media after the news of his death spread across Kashmir. 

"And my Sir Muhammad Rafi, left for heavenly abode, I am in shock and can't believe that you are no more. I remember your hugs, greetings, your words, jokes and lectures. You promised to me sir, you will give me book on 'post modernism', who will lend me the book," one of his students wrote of his Facebook wall.

"Miss you Sir so much, and it's my word that I will curse the killers always." 

After he was trapped inside a military cordon in Badigam village of Shopian, along with four militants, Dr Rafi made one last call to his father, a retired government employee, asking for forgiveness. 

"Forgive me, if I have hurt you. I am going to meet Allah," he told his father in the last call early on Sunday morning. 

Before all the five were killed the rebel professor had spent just 40 hours with the militants— from Friday 3 pm to 8 am on Sunday.

Director General of Police Shesh Paul Vaid said that it seems that Rafi's family background was the reason that pushed him to militancy. 

"We came to know that his two cousins were killed in the past. That could also be the reason for him to join militancy. Besides, radicalisation seems to be another cause for Rafi to join militancy," he said.

Rafi left behind his wife of three years and a grieving community of students. 

According to police, Dr Rafi is the first professor to join the new age militancy in Kashmir. Before him, Abdul Manan Wani, a PhD scholar from Aligarh Muslim University joined Hizbul Mujahideen early this year.

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