Nine months after he quit a PhD at the Aligarh Muslim University to join militant ranks, scholar-turned-militant Mannan Wani was killed in a pre-dawn operation by the J-K Police and Army in north Kashmir’s Handwara on Thursday.
The killing of Wani, a close aide of Hizbul Mujahideen’s operations chief Riyaz Naikoo, is a setback to Hizbul as the security establishment in the Valley feared he could attract more educated youngsters to the militancy with his writings.
Despite severe restrictions on civilian movement, thousands of people participated in his funeral on Thursday evening.
“See, he was a militant like all others. The only difference was that he was a well-educated militant,” J-K’s ADGP (Law and Order) Muneer Khan said. “He was not a top commander.”
Another top police officer said that they “don’t want to glorify him”.
The joint team had launched a cordon and search operation in Shatgund village of Langate on Wednesday night. Police sources said that the operation was launched by the special counter insurgency unit of J-K Police based in Srinagar after receiving specific input about Wani’s presence.
Wani managed to escape along with his associate Ashiq Hussain, a resident of Langate, after a brief exchange of fire during the night. They were killed on Thursday as a fresh gunfight started in the morning, lasting for several hours.
Fearing a Burhan Wani-like funeral, all the roads leading to Tikkipora village in Lolab were sealed and civilian movement in Kupwara was restricted. Wani’s body was handed over to his family in the afternoon. Police barred mediapersons from covering the funeral. At least two mediapersons were beaten when they tried to move to Lolab. Colleges and higher secondary schools in the Valley were also shut fearing protests.
Wani was based in south Kashmir and had recently moved to north Kashmir to recruit youngsters, police sources said.
Wani left his doctorate to join militant ranks in January. A resident of Tikkipora in Kupwara, Wani was pursuing his doctorate in applied geology at the AMU. He pursued a Bachelors in Geology and Earth Sciences degree from University of Kashmir. He then moved to AMU and completed his MA and M Phil courses. A “bright” student, Wani had chosen the ‘structural and geo-morphological study of Lolab valley’ as the research topic for his PhD.
Before joining militancy, Wani actively participated in the 2017 student elections at AMU and penned down several articles on student politics.
“For us, he was more dangerous than other militants,” said a senior police officer. “He was educated and his writings could well have attracted more educated boys towards militancy.”
The joint separatist leadership has called for a shutdown on Friday against Wani’s killing.
Former CM Mehbooba Mufti said that Wani’s killing has again underlined the need for dialogue to resolve the Kashmir issue. “His death is entirely our loss as we are losing young educated boys every day,” Mufti tweeted. “It is high time that all the political parties in the country realise the gravity of this situation and try to facilitate a solution through dialogue…”