The Wanis had braced themselves to receive bad news ever since their middle son, then 15, picked up the gun and joined the Hizbul Mujahideen in 2010. They never imagined that when death came knocking, it would take away their eldest son, 25, instead, who was shot dead last week by the Army in Tral.
Khalid Muzaffar Wani, his family and neighbours say, was far removed from brother Burhan Muzaffar Wani, who quickly rose to become the Hizbul Mujahideen commander in south Kashmir.
Father Muzaffar Ahmad Wani gives the example of the incident, also in Tral, that allegedly pushed Burhan down the path of militancy. It was a summer evening in 2010 and Khalid, who liked driving fast, had taken his motorcycle, a red-and-white Yamaha FZ, out for a run with Burhan and a friend. They were stopped by the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the J&K Police.
According to Muzaffar, the personnel asked the boys to fetch cigarettes for them, and when they returned, the SOG men and the paramilitary personnel with them beat them up badly. Khalid fell unconscious but Burhan managed to free himself. Running away from the spot, he reportedly vowed, “I will take revenge for this.”
Khalid’s friend Anayat Ahmad, who was with Khalid and Burhan that day, remembers how he loved his motorcycle.
Khalid and he had gone to nearby Dadsara to fetch meat and vegetables, Khalid adds. “There was a curfew. We passed through the market and policemen didn’t stop us. While returning, we had Burhan with us. This time the policemen stopped us and asked us to fetch cigarettes. Khalid got the cigarettes but when we started to leave, they pounced on us and started to beat us. Burhan and I managed to jump from the bike and escape but Khalid couldn’t.”
Khalid’s death on April 13 was the first casualty at the hands of security forces in J&K since Chief Minister Mufti Mohd Sayeed took over.
“Since Burhan left home, whenever I left home, I would imagine a procession walking towards our house carrying the body of my son. I had been mentally prepared for it,” says Muzaffar, a tall, greying mathematics teacher who is also principal at the Government Higher Secondary School at Lorigram. “I never thought it would be Khalid’s body that would come home.”
Tral, a cluster of 109 villages surrounded by high mountains and dense forests, is a traditional militant stronghold. The Dachigam National Park lies on its one side and the Pahalgam tourist resort on the other. The Wanis have a home in Shareefabad.
Burhan, who police describe as a “hardcore” militant, has a bounty of Rs 10 lakh on his head. “He has been involved in killings in Tral and adjoining villages,” says a police officer involved in counter-insurgency operations. “He was behind the beheading of three soldiers in 2013. He and his associates later released a video of that.”
Khalid had gone into the forest to meet Burhan with three of his friends when the alleged encounter in which he was killed took place.
The J&K Police seconds the Army version on Khalid’s killing. “Our investigations reveal that while Khalid and his friends were with Burhan and his associates, they saw an approaching Army patrol. There was an exchange of fire,” says Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kashmir, Javid Mujtaba Gilani.
According to him, Khalid too was “involved in overground (militant) activities”.
Muzaffar says he can accept the government targeting Burhan. “He has chosen a path for himself. They have a huge Army. If they could, let them kill him. But what had Khalid done to them? He was killed just because he was Burhan’s brother.”
Of his three sons, only Naveed Alam is now left at home. A Class X student, the 16-year-old, the father says, doesn’t keep well. “He is almost always bedridden.”
Muzaffar also has a daughter, Iram Muzaffar (18), who studies in Class XII. Like her mother Maimoona Muzaffar, she now stays confined to the house. A science graduate, Maimoona teaches the Quran to women of the village on Sundays.