Ishrat Muneer’s Murder By J&K Militants Lays Bare Intricacies Of Conflict In Valley, Reminder Of Families Devastated By Fighting
Pulwama: On Thursday morning, Ishrat Muneer left home for a computer institute located in the main town of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district where she had taken up a training programme. When she failed to return in the afternoon, her family went into panic mode and started frantically looking for her.
According to police, Ishrat was kidnapped by militants and taken to an orchard in Dragad area of Shopian district. Her father Muneer Ahmad Dar is a policeman and the family lives in Dangerpora area of Pulwama.
“She left at 9:45 am but when she failed to return at 2:45 pm, her usual time, we became worried and started searching for her,” said Arifat Jan, Ishrat’s elder sister. “This never happened before. She would always return on time,” Rihana, her second sister, said.
As the family searched the neighborhood and made frantic calls, a teenager came running towards her uncle Mohammad Ameen. He showed Mohammad the brutal execution of his niece: hands folded as she silently begged the gunmen to let her go.
Ishrat was pursuing a degree through Indira Gandhi National Open University. Her family described her as “chatty” and someone who “made people laugh”. She was the cousin of a recently killed militant Zeenat-ul-Islam — one of the most wanted in south Kashmir — who was gunned down by government forces on 13 January. “Militants recorded the incident while perpetrating this gruesome act and circulated it on social media. Police has registered a case,” a police spokesman said in a statement.
In south Kashmir, rumours are that Ishrat “might have been an informer”, but no one is sure. In fact, people say Ishrat even may have led forces to Zeenat. But security forces aren’t claiming her as their own. “This isn’t the way to teach someone a lesson,” Bilal, watching the mourners take Ishrat’s body for the last rites, said. He would only give his first name.
However, Ishrat’s funeral symbolises the least discussed intricacies of Kashmir’s conflict and how families are being devastated in this internecine war. The funeral prayers were led by Ghulam Hassan Shah, the father of Zeenat. As he recited the Qur’anic verses, Ghulam broke down, asking God for forgiveness for his son and Ishrat. No one knows why Ishrat was killed. But there are rumours. Even those who attended her funeral whispered that her death had something to do with the killing of the militant commander, but no one is sure.
“The families of those that are killed have to search for answers and connect the dots, but those who don’t know can only guess and cast aspersions,” Mohammad said. “Someone on social media is saying she was an informer, but why would she get her own brother killed?” Last year, at least 250 Kashmiri militants were killed, the highest toll in a decade in the Valley. People say most were killed by locals providing information to government forces. That militants have been killed in such huge numbers shows that the conflict is taking an increasingly dangerous turn.
On Friday, two Jaish-e-Muhammad militants were killed in an encounter in Drabgam village of Shopian. Police said 19 were killed in January, including two civilians and a policeman. Ishrat’s house was also raided by security forces and searches carried out when Zeenat was alive. His house is barely 15 kilometers away. As the pallbearers carried Ishrat’s coffin, most mourners said they were disgusted by the way the militants filmed the video and uploaded it on social media. But no one seemed to want to comment on Ishrat’s murder. “I don’t want to say anything,” Ghulam said. “We have all become numb to each others’ killings and nothing seems to be coming out of it.”