In an apparent change in militancy in North Kashmir, dozens of Pakistan flags were today lowered down during a militant’s funeral at Kachloo Qaziabad in Handwara after the body of the slain Hizbul Mujahideen District Commander reached his native village of Kachloo. As soon as the body reached the village, thousands of people gathered to have a last glimpse of Shahid ul Islam Sheikh who was killed in an encounter with government forces at Reban village on the outskirts of Sopore this morning.
“Jaana (nick name of Shahid ul Islam) had wished that no Pakistani flag should be hoisted at his funeral. Only the flag of ‘Tawheed’ should be hoisted,” announced a masked man on a loudspeaker.
Earlier, in parts of South Kashmir, following a call from Zakir Musa group, funeral processions saw use of the Islamic flags instead of Pakistan flags.
A few youth who were part of the procession lowered down dozens of Pakistan flags immediately after the announcement. The sea of people, gathered to pay their respects, chanted pro-Islamic, pro-freedom and anti-India slogans. The massive crowd of both men and women had assembled from across dozens of villages and towns for the funeral of militant commander
While talking to The Varmul Post, Abdul Rashid Sheikh father of the slain Hizb commander said, “Shahid called me at 3 in the morning just to inform me that he was surrounded by government forces and it could be his last day.”
“He told me he was trapped and it was impossible to break out today. He also advised me to convey it to his friends and relatives that it was his last day,” said Abdul Rashid Sheikh sitting on a tractor trolley, which had been converted to a stage for the slain militant’s body.
A student from Azamgarh Uttar Pradesh, Shahid was active for a period of 1 year and a few months. Shahid, according to his family, had left home after the killing of popular Hizb commander Burhan Wani last year.
His family says that they had no clue when he joined the militant ranks. It is only after he left home and never returned that they came to know about his ‘change of path’.
The Hizb commander was killed in a day-long gunfight that started early Saturday morning after 22 RR and Sopore SOG and CRPF launched a cordon and search operation in the Reban village.
Senior Superintendent of Police Sopore, Harmeet Singh Mehta told The Varmul Post, “We launched the search operation during night in the house of Fehmeeda Bano after an Intel about the presence of some militants. The militant inside the house fired on the search party resulting in the gunfight. In the ensuing gunfight, the militant, who was district commander of HM has been killed”.
“We recovered one AK 47 rifle and some other ammunition from the gunfight site”, the officer added
Youth from surrounding villages near the gunfight site had pitched battles with security forces. Many stone throwing clashes were reported from the area. Security forces had to resort to tear smoke shelling to disperse the protesting crowd.
Authorities early morning decided to shut all educational institutions in the town besides snapping mobile telephony and data services. Only government run BSNL was working in the district.