It goes back to December 2014 when the profile of Mannan Wani surfaced on my Facebook timeline and we became friends.
Being associated with AMUSU Manan had facilitated the talk by Parveena Ahangar, Chairperson Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons at Aligarh Muslim University under the title “Convention Against State Excesses on Innocent Citizens”. At that time Student’s Union of AMU was under the presidentship of Abdullah Azzam and Mannan was one among the frontline campaigners for him.
Till Autumn of 2016, we used to comment and like each other’s Facebook posts, I found him to be an active, intelligent and daring pro-freedom Kashmiri. However, we never chatted in inbox. Only thing I knew till 2016 was that he is from the Lolab valley of Kupwara District and is studying at the Aligarh Muslim University. Lolab is a beautiful place. It is the birthplace of Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri and Allama Iqbal’s ancestors were also from the same place. The present chairman of Tehreek e Hurriyat Muhammad Ashraf Khan Sehrai is from the same place, in fact, Mannan and Sehrai were from the very same village Tikipora, Lolab. As days passed Mannan became a valuable Facebook friend with whom I shared ideology and politics and affairs of the Muslim Ummah.
In 2016 when I went to Aligarh, I remember, it was after Maghreb prayers when I met him for the first time. Though I did not recognize him but he did, he said, “Why didn’t you text on Facebook that you were coming here?” He seemed to be much older on Facebook pics than in real, he had just completed M Phil in Geology and was now admitted for Ph.D. We had dinner together, he insisted to stay with him for a night but I declined and he dropped me at my friend’s room. The next day again we met in a food stall and we chatted for some time on the 2016 uprising.
The next day I left for Kashmir, but we had exchanged phone numbers to keep in touch. One day when I was in Delhi, I came to know that he had come from Aligarh with friends to protest against the disappearance of Najeeb, a JNU student who had been made to disappear after a scuffle with ABVP, BJP students’ wing activists. I texted him and he said he would come in the next few days and introduce me with some important people in Delhi. However, that did not happen because I had to return back very soon.
In Feb 2017, we again met. He told me that he was unable to focus on studies due to issues in Kashmir. He even said that he wished that he had opted for some other subject preferably from humanities and not geology.
It was during those days that I came to know about his contesting the elections of Students’ Union for presidentship candidature. When I asked, he said, “Abu Ji is not agreeing.” Later on, I discussed with him the reservations of some Kashmiri students regarding this election, which would make him embrace the Indian Political ‘mainstream’ which has an Indian ultra-nationalist position vis a vis Kashmir. He said, “This is the reason I have not yet made a final decision.”
One day Mannan shared an article of 2016 in which the author had concluded that Burhan Wani was against Pakistan, Hurriyat, and the Hizb leadership. Mannan seemed to agree with the author. I did not argue, but deep down I felt he has fallen into the lure of the fringe elements who stand for anti-Geelani, anti-Hurriyat, anti-Pakistan rhetoric and are just active on social media and nowhere else. Sadly, I along with many friends felt that he was toeing some other line.
Earlier once, Manan had told me that he may join Tehreek-e-Hurriyat led by Syed Ali Geelani. He had told me that even his Abu Ji used to tell him if he plans to join any political organization he should join TeH. He even said that once he would be back to the home he will meet Sehrai Sahib and discuss with him about the organization and dead wood in it. He recalled the days when he used to win titles in JNV School in dance competitions. He told me that after leaving JNV and Sainink School Manasbal (both under the central govt). I asked my father why did he allow me to go to such schools where I was vulnerable to moral waywardness and deviation from Islam. To this, his father replied, “I did not force you because you were so adamant. But I saw that you were reading literature so I was sure one day you would be on the right track. Had I stopped you, you might have developed a rebellious character and would have drifted more towards such vulnerabilities.”
However, later I found him to be critical to TeH, especially when Zakir Moosa threatened Hurriyat Leaders and distanced himself from Hizb. Mannan was very vocal in support of Zakir Moosa. When Zakir Moosa formed his own outfit Ansar Ghazwat ul Hind, associating himself with Al Qaeda, Mannan got into bitter arguments with his friends over Moosa. But since he had jolly and social nature and used to influence people with his ideas and argumentation, he did not lose any of them.
In the summer of 2017, we again met. Riyaz Naikoo, a top HM Commander had released a video for his cadre to understand the Hizb and their affiliation with Pakistan, in light of Islamic principles. Mannan called me and said he may be visiting my place next day. I replied very humorously, “Why such a low tone? You are not able to utter words. Is it because of the video (of Riyaz Naikoo)?” He laughed and said, “I was expecting that you would say this.” The next day we met and talked at length. I felt he was convinced by Riyaz’s 45-minute-long video, I also got a notion that he is in contact with militants. In those days Eisa Fazili had also joined the militants, he said that he knew about Eisa and had access to him. Since Eisa had joined Tehreek ul Mujahideen that was inclined to ISIS so I asked him what his difference with the likes of Eisa was. He said, “I have differences, they read only religion and not the contemporary which narrows their vision”. We decided to meet in November at the marriage of his brother.
Again, one day we had a very heated argument on Pakistan. That day we almost broke up in our friendship. I replied very unethically and he was also provoked for the same. We stopped texting each other. He began to upload his pictures on Facebook in Nov 2017. When he came back home to attend the marriage of his brother, he was harassed by Indian troops over his long hair and shoes. He wrote about it on Facebook. It irked me. I thought he should not keep such an attire that would invite wrath, but I ignored the post.
In Jan 2018 his picture yielding a gun surfaced on social media. Now it was a shock but what was more shocking was his joining the Hizbul Mujahideen. His words with which he used to criticize Pakistan, Salahuddin and Geelani began reverberating. His leaving for the path of no return left me dumbfounded equally. However, I respected his decision and thought that whatever he has done was right. After a few days, I became desperate to meet him. But it was impossible. However, my gut feeling said that he would contact me someday.
Not a single day passed without me remembering him. One day I got a message from a fake ID asking to download an application to get into the conversation. I ignored initially. Then the profile sent me a pic which was Mannan’s last WhatsApp status. I talked to the person and he introduced himself as OGW of Mannan Wani. I was filled with joy and with tearful eyes. Mannan and I talked in the afternoon, I apologized for my previous comments on FB, he said, “It is Ok.” Then I asked about his militant days, he said, “Better than civilian life.” I told him though your choice of this path was shocking but I still respected your decision. Then he asked about friends and family. He said he could not contact his friends as he apprehended to be under surveillance.
When I asked, “Why HM and not Zakir Moosa?” He said, he was with HM from the last two years as OGW and was supposed to meet Burhan Wani on 10 July 2016 but he achieved martyrdom on 8 July. I told him few of his university mates had written an article appealing him to return, he said, “When I read that I laughed much.” Then he told me that when he left Aligarh to join militancy he took only two things with him, a shawl given to him by his sister and a belonging of mine that I had left there at his place some months back and later I had asked him to keep it as a memory. I was touched by this.
Though we knew each other for just a couple of years but our bond was deep. He asked me three favors; find some points in his area where he could stay; to see if any journalist can interview him, he said they wanted to address the foreign audience; and asked me to confirm their financial background of a list of martyred militants of HM.
To his second demand, I said that was impossible, instead, I suggested to him that he should write. He agreed but I was not sure if any local daily would publish his piece nor was he.
To his third demand, I told him not to get into this and just concentrate on the fighting. He said that no one helps the families and that this is also part of Jihad. I was reluctant, I discussed it with his OGW, he also agreed with me, however, Mannan was adamant and said he will find other channels to help them but I need to only confirm.
To his first demand, I told him better to stay in the South with top Hizb cadre for some time. I was of the thought that he might deviate from the core ideology of Hizb. I had this apprehension though he had told me that all his pro-Zakir Moosa stand was just a drama, which he did to penetrate into the rows of his handlers so that he would get to know the real facts, but HM called him and asked to join as soon as possible. He said that he already paid a visit to the Lolab valley twice and surveillance cameras were installed even in the forests but he knows about them. He said, he wants to live for 6 or 7 years for which he needed an undisclosed and safe point, and over Pakistan’s role and support, he said, “No they are doing best and that it’s an unfortunate situation that the efforts are unsuccessful.” He said that the stand of Zakir Moosa and his outfit is very dangerous for the cause. He said, ‘We just wish martyrdom for him otherwise he would do damage and he does not listen to any of us.’ The conversation lasted for a few days and was amanah with me till now. I was content with it. However, he stopped texting in the first week of April 2018 when he escaped from a CASO in Shopian District. Till now I was hopeful that he might contact me but he did not. Instead he wrote two articles which would be treasure for Kashmir nation. It is these two articles which reveal his ideological position, determination and love for the fight against Indian Occupation. We are spellbound by the articulation which he hid from all of us. And now he has hid himself from us forever – may the angels be his companions.
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