CM’s hometown becomes Pakistan at militants’ funeral
Mufti’s house in Bijbehara attacked by demonstrators; Pak flag hoisted
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz________
SRINAGAR, Nov 24: Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s call for shutdown evoked a lukewarm response in Kashmir Valley on Tuesday even as his followers held a big pro-Pakistan show in Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s hometown of Bijbehara, in Anantnag district of South Kashmir, at the funeral of the three Hizbul Mujahideen militants.
Members of a guerrilla group constituted in the current year in Bijbehara, the three young militants---Aadil Ahmad Sheikh, Tanveer Ahmad Bhat and Sartaj Ahmad Lone----had been killed by Police and Army in a gunbattle in Tantraypora (Siligam), in Aeshmuqam area of Anantnag-Pahalgam belt, on Monday.
Business establishments, shops and passenger transport remained closed in some areas but many markets in Srinagar and other major towns in the Valley functioned as usual. With a partial shutdown, even the passenger transport operated in many areas, excluding in Anantnag, Kulgam, Bijbehara and Mattan where almost all the shops were shut and transport was off the road.
Independent sources, as also officials who insisted to go anonymous, told STATE TIMES that over 5,000 people attended Sartaj Lone’s funeral procession at Wopzan, on the outskirts of Bijbehara. The only brother of three sisters, Lone is said to have joined militancy just 10 days ago. The gathering shouted anti-India, pro-Azadi and pro-Pakistan slogans at the slain militant’s funeral.
Sources said that a bigger pro-militant, pro-Azadi, pro-Pakistan and anti-India show was held at Bijbehara. Tanveer Ahmad Bhat, who had joined militancy, allegedly with the killing of a civilian Javed Ahmad Sofi on March 22, 2015, was a resident of Baba Mohalla, where Chief Minister Mufti has his ancestral house. Mufti’s brother and other relatives continue to live in the same neighbourhood known for the revered shrine of Sheikhul Aalm Sheikh Nooruddin Noorani’s disciple Baba Naseebuddin.
Civil administration and Police had tried to manage all the three militants’ funeral late last night. Even the two Bijbehara militants’ bodies were carried for burial. However, sources revealed, some of the separatist leaders asked the families by telephone to conduct the funeral at 10.30 a.m. on Tuesday. Government’s political leadership asked the Police to allow the funeral with any peaceful demonstration and desired that no restrictions be enforced to prevent the peoples’ participation.
However, limited restrictions were put in place in some towns and villages in the adjoining Kulgam and Pulwama district to ensure that the separatists did not carry a big rally to Bijbehara.
Notwithstanding the tactical restrictions, sources said, around 10,000 people participated in the joint funeral of the two Bijbehara militants who were buried in a local ‘martyrs graveyard’. SSP Ananatng Abdul Jabbar said that around 7,000 people attended the funeral and about 10% of them as usual indulged in stone pelting. He claimed that nobody was injured in the clashes.
After the funeral concluded, demonstrators resorted to intense stone pelting on Police and paramilitary deployment. Some of them hoisted a Pakistani national flag on Mufti’s house followed by stone pelting on the premises. Even in the funeral procession earlier, participants carried pro-Pakistan flags and shouted pro-Pakistan, pro-Azadi, pro-militant and anti-India slogans.
Residents said that the Police guards fired some shots in the air and a reinforcement forced the demonstrators disperse. However, SSP Anantnag insisted that only a couple of the ‘stunt grenades’ were used and the guards did not fire a single gunshot. He said that the house on which some people installed a Pakistani flag was situated in the rear side of Mufti's house. Police brought it down and the crowd dispersed.
Traffic on Srinagar-Jammu highway remained disrupted and suspended for about three hours but restored in the afternoon.
A three-member delegation from Hurriyat (G), comprising Ghulam Nabi Sumji, Mir Hafizullah and Bashir Ahmad Qureishi, attended the funeral and addressed the gathering. Militant-turned-politician Zaffar Akbar Bhat too delivered a fiery speech, making frontal attacks on Chief Minister. “This is not the Mufti who has acquired a degree in Islamic jurisprudence from a Daar-ul-Uloom. He has a degree only from the RSS headquarters of Nagpur”, the Police-protected separatist Zaffar Bhat said.
The key address to the gathering was delivered by Geelani on telephone from his Hyderpora residence in Srinagar. “Our youth are sacrificing for a great cause so we need to protect their sacrifices. The pro-India politicians are only prolonging our way to freedom. The three martyred youth have sacrificed their lives for Islam and freedom from India. We must honour their sacrifices,” he said. “Rigid and stubborn policies of Indian rulers are forcing our beloved youths to abandon their colleges and universities and they are taking the path of armed struggle”, Geelani said.