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While the slain Hizbul operatives included Kashmir University (KU) assistant professor Mohd Rafi Bhat and the outfit’s top commander Sadam Padder, the civilians who lost their lives were part of a crowd that obstructed the anti-terror operation.
The KU assistant professor had gone missing on Friday. Students and teachers of the varsity had been holding protests over Dr Bhat’s disappearance. They were, however, blaming the authorities for his going missing.
The slain professor-turned-terrorist had done a doctorate in sociology. He had also cleared the UGC’s prestigious junior research fellowship (JRF) competition, which allows one to directly pursue doctoral research, skipping the MPhil degree.
As it became clear that Dr Bhat was one among the holed-up terrorists, the police roped in his family members from Chunduna in Ganderbal to persuade him to surrender, family sources said.
“We contacted his family at Chunduna village after coming to know that Dr Bhat was with other terrorists at Budigam,” a police officer told TOI. Dr Bhat’s brother Imtiyaz Ahmad also confirmed that the family went to the site of the encounter to persuade him to surrender but he refused.
However, in an early Sunday morning call to his father Fayaz Ahmed Bhat, the professor-turned-terrorist said, “I am sorry if I have hurt you and this is my last call as I am going to meet Allah”, the bereaved father later told the police.
Dr Bhat’s mother, wife and brother tried hard to persuade the holed-up university teacher, who was a contractual assistant professor in KU’s department of sociology, but they failed, the police said.
Not just his family members, at least 15 KU scholars had also reached Budigam to persuade Dr Bhat to surrender, but he never heeded their appeals, reports said.
As per Dr Bhat’s family members, he had gone missing on Friday and they had no clue about him joining the Hizbul. The family had then approached KU authorities, who had lodged a missing report with the police.
A joint team of army’s 44 RR, the special operations group (SOG) of the J&K police and CRPF had rushed to Budigam when gunfight intensified, police sources said.
Director General of Police (DGP) SP Vaid confirmed the killing of five militants, including Sadam, who was one of the close associates of Burhan Wani, the Hizbul poster boy whose killing in 2016 had triggered a massive unrest across the Kashmir Valley.
Besides Dr Bhat and Sadam, the other three slain terrorists have been identified as Bilal Ahmad Mohand, Adil Ahmad Malik and Tauseef Ahmad Sheikh, the police said. While Sadam, Bilal and Adil hailed from Shopian, Tauseef came from Quimoh, they added.
The civilians who were killed during the encounter have been identified as Asif Ahmad Mir, a resident of Rahomo village in neighbouring Pulwama district, Sajad Ahmad Rather of Sehpora in Dooru of Anantnag district, Zubair Ahmad of Rajpora in Pulwama district, Yasir of Shopian and Adil Bashir Ganie of Kulgam. All of them had gotten injured during the encounter and were shifted to various hospitals where they died.
A policeman and a soldier of 44 RR were also injured in the initial exchange of fire with the militants, reports said. They were shifted to 92 base military hospital in Badami Bagh, Srinagar.
Former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah termed the killing of Dr Bhat as “an answer to those who claim jobs and development are the solution to the violence & alienation in Kashmir”.
The former CM tweeted: “Sadly this is also an answer to those who claim jobs & development are the solutions to the violence & alienation in Kashmir. This is another tragic development in a steady stream of tragedies in Kashmir.”
Sadly this is also an answer to those who claim jobs & development are the solution to the violence & alienation in… https://t.co/ZAxxaQ0U71
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) 1525592062000