Militancy 'poster boy' worry

Srinagar: Kashmir's pro- azadi brigade seems to have gone into overdrive to project Fardeen Khanday, the 16-year-old militant who was killed during a suicide attack on a CRPF camp on Sunday, as the new poster boy of militancy.

The use of Fardeen, a local, pointed to a trend of Kashmiris enlisting as fidayeen (suicide attackers), and the efforts to portray him as a "hero" could be dangerous at a time Jammu and Kashmir is yet to recover from the aftermath of the 2016 violence that followed the death of militant poster boy Burhan Wani, many fear.

Fardeen, a Class X dropout, and two other militants - Manzoor Baba, a local, and a purported Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist from outside - were killed in the attack on the CRPF camp in south Kashmir's Pulwama district. The attack left four CRPF men, including an inspector, dead while another jawan died of cardiac arrest during the raid.

Pictures and videos of Fardeen have taken the Internet by storm, with many in the state hailing him as a hero. Many drew attention to his apparent "smiling face" as his body was carried on a stretcher for burial, suggesting he had a smile on his face before his death.

A video was doing the rounds in which Fardeen is seen urging Kashmiri youths to pick up guns and join the Jaish-e-Mohammad.

A police officer said cops had found 24 live grenades on his body, indicating that the militants had planned to prolong the gunfight for three to four days. The battle lasted for around 36 hours.

A group of masked youths carrying Islamic State flags gathered at the main market in Nowhatta in old Srinagar on Tuesday and offered funeral prayers for the deceased militants.

Thousands of people had joined Fardeen's funeral on Monday. He was the eldest son of police constable Ghulam Mohiuddin Khanday from Tral in south Kashmir, a hotbeat of militancy.

People from various places have since been thronging Fardeen's home to offer condolences.

Many expressed fear of the possibility of a situation similar to that in the aftermath of the death of Hizb commander Wani. His death in a gunfight with security forces had been followed by a months-long agitation and a spurt in militancy in which scores of youths picked up arms.

Kashmir High Court Bar Association general secretary Ghulam Nabi Shaheen apprehended that the death of Fardeen could add a dangerous new dimension to the azadi struggle.

"I worry the new year could be a year of (more) turbulence in the Valley. Unlike Burhan, who shot to fame, despite perhaps never firing a shot a young lad (Fardeen) here stormed into a camp to kill and die," Shaheen told The Telegraph.

Shaheen, who led a team of lawyers to Fardeen's house to offer condolences, said he feared more youths would follow in his footsteps.

"I see no difference in the public mood here (in Tral) today with that in the aftermath of Burhan Wani's death," he said.

Shaheen said Fardeen's family told him that he never showed any inclination towards militancy.

"He was a studious boy who never bunked school. Days after he joined militancy, (three months ago), an army officer raided his house and later his school and was surprised to find there were no signs (that could suggest his imminent joining of the militant ranks)," he said.

"That goes on to show that our kids may look like normal but there is something boiling inside," Shaheen added.


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