SRINAGAR: Nine months after joining militancy, the PhD scholar-turned-Hizbul Mujahideen militant Mannan Wani along with his associate was killed in a gunfight with security forces at Handwara in border district of Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday.
A police official said police, CRPF and army men launched a joint search operation at Shatgund village of Handwara in Kupwara district in the early morning today after receiving inputs about presence of two militants including Manan Wani there.
He said as the security forces were conducting searches, they came under fire from militants hiding in the besieged area.
"The fire was returned by troops and the firing continued till 9 am. At 9 am the firing stopped for some time. As security personnel tried to move in, they again came under heavy fire from the hiding militants. The fire was retaliated and in the ensuing gunfight, which continued till afternoon, two Hizb militants were killed," the official said.
The deceased militants were identified as top Hizb commander Mannan Wani and his associate Ashiq Hussain.
The official said two security personnel sustained injuries during the gunfight and have been hospitalised.
Belonging to well off and well educated family, 27-year-old Mannan, a PhD scholar from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), joined the militancy in January this year.
He had quit PhD studies in Allied Geology and joined Hizb. In July this year, Mannan had defended his joining militancy saying, "The militants don't fight to die but to win and they don't feel dignity in death but feel dignity in fighting Indian military might. When we die while fighting, we do feel dignity in that death".
A police official termed Mannan's death as a major jolt to Hizb saying he had lured many youth to militants."He had taken the role of militant recruiter and had lured many educated boys to militancy," he said.
Mannan is the second PhD scholar to be killed in gunfight this year. Earlier, in May this year, a PhD scholar and Kashmir University professor Mohammad Rafi Bhat was killed in a gunfight in Shopian a day after joining militancy.
Many highly educated young boys have joined militancy this year.
The New Indian Express recently published two-part series on the trend of highly educated young men joining the militant in Valley after killing of Burhan Wani in July 2016.
As the news about Mannan Wani's death spread, people near the encounter site and many other parts of Kashmir including Srinagar and south Kashmir took to roads and clashed with security men.
The separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik called for shutdown in Kashmir tomorrow against killing of Mannan Wani and his associate. "It is an immense tragedy of Kashmir that our budding youth, professors and engineers, intellectuals and writers like Manan are paying the price of the greed and follies of those, who since 1947 misled the people through deceit," they said.
They said forced by broken promises of India, non implementation of UN resolutions, deployment of lakhs of military troops to control their land and the resultant severe repression and human rights abuses of its people, hundreds of bright and budding youth take to arms and in the process "sacrifice their precious lives to break the shackles of occupation".
Former Chief Minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted, "Today a PhD scholar chose death over life and was killed in an encounter. His death is entirely our loss as we are losing young educated boys everyday."
"It is high time that all political parties in the country realise the gravity of this situation and try to facilitate a solution through dialogue with all stakeholders including Pakistan to end this bloodshed," she added.