An unknown ‘militant’ showed up in the local graveyard of Ratsuna in south Kashmir’s Tral during the burial of Hizbul Mujahideen’s Sabzar Ahmad Bhat on Sunday morning.
He did not have a gun but appeared to carry a grenade in a pouch. His appearance triggered commotion among the mourners in and outside the graveyard.
Locals said he escaped from the encounter on Saturday in which 29-year-old Sabzar and another teenaged militant Faizaan were killed. HT could not independently verify the claims of the locals.
People jostled to touch him and made way for him to reach the grave which was being dug for the slain militant.
Dressed in black, tears rolled down his face as people swarmed around him to touch his face and beard. Some even kissed him and at one moment people carried him on their shoulders.
Just when he reached the grave, he shouted loudly: Hum Kya Chahte (What do we want) and people responded with ‘Azadi’ in unison.
No one seemed sure about his name, though. ‘Adil’, ‘Shakir’ and ‘Azaan’ were the names bandied about. Eyewitnesses said that the militant had also addressed people on Saturday when they had gathered around Sabzar’s body. “We will take revenge,” he reportedly told the gathering.
Deputy inspector general of police, South Kashmir SP Pani and superintendent of police (SP) Awantipora (Tral) Mohammad Zaid were not available for comment.
The funeral prayer of Sabzar was scheduled at 11 am but was offered in an orchard near his home at Ratsuna at 9 am and then taken to the Martyrs’ Graveyard for burial.
Slain Hizbul commander Burhan Wani’s father Muzaffar Wani was among the thousands of mourners, including slogan-shouting women, who defied curfew to attend the funeral.
People continued coming till 12 in noon and funeral prayers in absentia were offered multiple times.
Unlike the May 7 incident when a group of militants fired a volley in the air in a gun salute to a slain militant in Kulgam, local said there was no such show at the funeral of Sabzar.
Locals also claimed that some other militants including Zakir Musa had also appeared to bid farewell to Sabzar on Saturday evening. The appearances of militants in the funerals of slain comrades are now becoming common in Kashmir.
MUSA BREAKS DOWN
Today, a group of five militants, including Hizb commander Zakir Musa, surfaced during the funeral prayers that were led by senior resistance leader Raja Mehraj-ud-din.
“Zakir broke down and people consoled him. Shakir (a militant who also belongs to Rathsuna) was also present,” said Shakeel Ahmad, a resident of Tral.
Another Hizb militant, believed to be Azaan from Shopian, also appeared on the graveyard twice. People hugged him and kissed his face.
Many of the mourners visited Sabzar’s home to express solidarity with his family.
“Burhan Wani’s father Muzaffar Wani and father of another local militant Muhammad Younis Ganaie were among the mourners, many of whom were elderly men and women, who defied restrictions to attend the funeral in Rathsuna village,” local residents said.
People who missed Sabzar’s funeral prayers—as they were held two hours earlier than the scheduled time of 11 am—offered these prayers after his burial in the premises of the local Jamia Masjid.
Sabzar was laid to rest in the Martyrs Graveyard at Rathsun.
Last year tens of thousands of people—more than two lakh by one estimate—had attended the funeral of Burhan Wani, whose killing sparked months’ long protests across the Valley.
This time around, government forces had sealed all entry and exit points to Tral with barbed wire and deployed armoured vehicles to prevent a bigger gathering.
People from Srinagar, Shopian, Pulwama, Anantnag (Islamabad) and Kulgam started arriving in Tral soon after the word about Sabzar’s killing spread on Saturday afternoon. People came in cars, trucks and bikes to offer funeral prayers.
“I was dying to see the face of our hero,” said Rafiq (requesting only his first name should be mentioned), who had come from Kulgam.