The “Unknown Gun” In Kashmir

Syed Tajamul Imran

The killings by “unknown gunmen” or “unidentified gunmen” is not a new thing in Kashmir. I was born in early 1990s and have heard these words thousands of times but what turned my mind to write about this is a recent killing of a 3-years old boy, Burhan Bashir, who was killed by an unknown killer in the lap of his father (who was a former militant). The question is who is behind these killings? Who are these unidentified gunmen and on whose behest are they committing such a heinous crime and what is their objective?

There are no easy answers as the truth remains a closely guarded secret and no one wants to disclose the reality. Before the killing of Burhan, many activists and sympathisers of Gilani faction of Hurriyat Conference, Jamaat-e-Islami activists, including a few former militants became the victim of unknown gunmen’. And the recent statement of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar that he would prefer the use of terrorists to kill terrorists as a strategy to fight terrorism. After the statement of Manohar Parrikar the process of mysterious killings started in the northern Kashmir which suggests that he has something to do with these killings.

Three young men, identified as Mohammad Amir Reshi,19, from Sopore, Ashiq Hussain, a law graduate from Pattan and Naveed Khan, an engineering student, also from Sopore disappeared at different times before Burhan’s killing. Reshi had been missing for the past two months, Naveed for the past 10 months and Wani for the past year. Their bullet-riddled bodies were found in an orchard in North Kashmir’s Pattan area.

Among these recent killings was Sheikh Altaf Rehman’s, 45, who was shot dead on 9 June while returning home after night duty from hospital. He was a member of the Hurriyat faction led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani. It is pertinent to mention that Altaf had been jailed several times under the Public Safety Act, once for allegedly plotting an attack on the former union Health Minister as well as former J&K Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad . After Altaf three more killings took place 13 June onward. Khursheed Bhat, 35, a stone thrower, as per police records; Mehraj Din, 37, Ajaz Reshi, 36, both former militants. They too fell to unknown gunmen. Garib Dass, DIG North Kashmir, said the killings are the handiwork of Lashkar-e-Islam which, according to him, is a breakaway group of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. On the other side, both Hurriyat factions, United Jihad Council and the Lashkar-e-Toiba, dissociated from the outfit, said in unison that the group was floated by Indian agencies. And in response to this statement Lashkar-e-Islam said that they were genuine mujahedeen and urged Salahuddin “to probe their credentials properly”. Not only that, even the Lashkar-i-Islam blamed Geelani for the killings and in response Geelani blamed them and the blame game is going on. People are yet to know who killed whom.

It is also worth mention here that many sarpanchs ( village heads ) were killed by the unidentified gunmen . I remember the killing of my village’s sarpanch, a father of three daughters and husband of two wives. He was killed while returning home (Nazneenpora) from the main market (Shopian). What surprised me was that the night he was killed while Rashtriya Rifles (RR) and SOG were present in the village according to villagers . When I visited the house of the sarpanch one of his wives said, “I have an impression that Waseem Mallah (the distt commander of HM) killed my husband but he personally visited our house two days earlier and took oath on the Qur’an that neither he and nor any militant Organisation killed my husband.”

The assassination of Mirwaiz Maulvi Muhammad Farooq, (father of APHC chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq) on May 21,1990 was the first killing by unknown gunmen. Dr. Qazi Nisar , Dr. Abdul Ahad Guru, Dr. Ghulam Qadir Wani, Dr. Jallal-ud-Din, Molvi Mushtaq (uncle of Mirwaiz) etc. were prominent persons to become the victims of  unknown gunmen. Abdul Gani Lone was gunned down by unidentified gunmen on May 21, 2002 at Eidgah Srinagar in a public rally on the death anniversary of Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq, JKLF ideologue Prof. Abdul Ahad Wani ( strategic advisor to JKLF ) , who was killed on December 31, 1993 by unknown gunmen. A twist came in the story when Abdul Gani Bhat , former chairman, APHC declared in a seminar on “Role of intellectuals in the Kashmir movement” organised by JKLF chief, Yasin Malik,  that political killings were “an insider’s job” (yeh andar ka kaam hai). But Prof. Bhat did not disclose the identity of the unknown killers.

After the assassination of Dr. Qazi Nisar, another religious scholar,  Maulvi Showkat, president of the Jamiat-e-Ahli- Hadees (JAH), was killed by “unknown persons”. Before his murder, he was widely criticised by many separatist leaders for meeting the controversial state governor, SK Sinha, seeking permission to establish JAH’s Islamic university in Kashmir. He had termed stone pelting as an un-Islamic act. After his killing, the police investigations blamed the assassination on a politico-religious organisation, Sout-ul-Haq, linked with the Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen (TuM). The TuM in turn blamed Indian agencies for such killings.

Common people in Kashmir are talking about the return of the “Ikhwan Raj”. The Ikhwans (government-sponsored militants) were doing the same thing inthe1990s, on orders of Indian agencies and political experts to crush the armed struggle in Kashmir. While commenting on these mysterious killings , Omar Abdullah recently said “the defence minister (Manohar Parrikar) says militants will be used to kill militants. Does it mean that they will give rebirth to Ikhwan?”

Such killings are on the rise since last six months. The people are living in fear. Nobody knows when, how and where he/she will be killed. An assassin is lurking in shadows everywhere. He is likely to be a Kashmiri, a hired gun on the pay roll of some mysterious private or government organisations. Kashmiris must be delivered from him. Sooner than later.

The author is an adviser at the pro-freedom Peoples Political Party. He may be reached At

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 November 2015 on page no. 2

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