AMU Scholar Chooses Gun Over PhD, Family Requests Him to Return

“Our blood and sweat has gone into bringing him up; I appeal everyone to bring my son back,” said Wani’s mother.

Updated
Politics
5 min read
<span style="white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">Mannan Wani had been studying at the Aligarh Muslim University where he was pursuing a PhD after completing his MPhil</span>
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Mannan Wani was pursuing a doctorate in Geology at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and was scheduled to return home last Saturday but failed to turn up.

Instead, a photo of him holding an AK-47 went viral on social media. For the last five years, Mannan had been studying at the Aligarh Muslim University where he was pursuing a PhD after completing his MPhil.

Family in State of Shock

A wooden cabinet with several trophies and medals on display bear testimony to Mannan’s meritorious past. His sudden disappearance has left behind several unanswered questions.

Through media, his mother Shameema Begum made a fervent appeal, urging her son to return:

I am waiting for him. I want him to return home. Our blood and sweat has gone into bringing him up; I appeal everyone to bring my son back.
Mannan Wani’s sister (second from left) mourning the news of her brother joining the Hizbul Mujahidden group.
Mannan Wani’s sister (second from left) mourning the news of her brother joining the Hizbul Mujahidden group.
(Photo courtesy: Danish Mushtaq)

His father Bashir Ahmed is in a state of shock as he never expected his son to take up arms. Bashir Ahmed, a lecturer in Kupwara, came to know about his son joining the Hizbul Mujahideen through one of his relatives, who had seen Mannan’s picture with a gun in his hands on Facebook. Mannan has a brother who is an engineer employed by the Jammu and Kashmir government, and a sister, both of whom are unmarried.

I have not only lost my precious son but have also lost a friend and a confidant. All I have now is a faint ray of hope that he might return.
Bashir Ahmed, Mannan Wani’s father
He is a mature person and I never expected this from him. If he had any issues, they could have been addressed in some way. I have no words to express what we are going through right now.
Bashir Ahmed, Mannan Wani’s father

Mannan Recently Got the ‘Best Presentation Award’

Mannan was recently awarded the ‘Best Paper Presentation Award’ organised by the International Conference on Water, Environment, Energy and Society (ICWEES) for his paper titled, ‘Flood Risk Assessment of Lolab Valley from watershed analysis using remote sensing and GIS Techniques’, held at Bhopal’s AISECT (All India Society for Electronics & Computer Technology) University.

His friend from AMU says he was quite well-known and a respected figure among students. “He was not only intelligent but often highlighted several issues being faced by the students inside the varsity,” said one of his friends on condition of anonymity.

Trophies won by Mannan Wani adorn a cabinet at his house in Kupwara.
Trophies won by Mannan Wani adorn a cabinet at his house in Kupwara.
(Photo courtesy: Danish Mushtaq)

Though his friends say they can’t figure out what prompted Mannan to choose this path, they do admit that he had concerns regarding the situation in his homeland.

Following news reports about Mannan joining the Hizbul the concerned authorities at the AMU have expelled him and set up an inquiry commission. His hostel room has also been sealed.

Had Shared His Agony in a FB Post

Mannan’s brother Mubashir Ahmad Wani believes that he was pushed to militancy by an event last year when he was harassed and heckled by the personnel of the SOG (Special Operations Group) while he was on his way to Srinagar.

Mannan Wani’s mother (extreme right) has made an appeal to his son to return home.
Mannan Wani’s mother (extreme right) has made an appeal to his son to return home.
(Photo courtesy: Danish Mushtaq)
When he returned home, he had trimmed his long hair and seemed very disturbed. When we asked him he narrated the whole incident about how he was harassed by the security forces.
Mubashir Ahmad Wani, Mannan’s brother

Mannan had described the incident in a Facebook post, as he described how his car was stopped four times and he had to prove his identity every time.

The most disgusting thing was when ordinary SOG personnel, donning a black uniform posed questions like, why I had such long hair? Why didn’t I trim my beard if I intend to look smart? Why I wore long boots and why I was wearing a shawl at such a young age?
Mannan Wani in a Facebook post in 2017

Security Concerns After Mannan’s Announcement

Analysts see the incident as a major setback for the security forces as it indicates their failure in trying to dissuade the youth from joining hands with militants.

There are concerns among security agencies that Mannan might recruit more youth into the terror group.

Some youth may follow his footsteps but we are trying our best to trace him, and hand him over to his parents. Let us hope for the best.
Police official (on condition of anonymity)

Additional Director of Police, Sardar Muneer Khan said:

We have a standing offer for those militants who want to come back and chase their dreams that we will not file any case against them if they want to come back. They will be welcomed. Mannan is an educated guy. He knows what is right and wrong, he should reconsider his decision.

Denying allegations of harassment by security forces, Muneer Khan further said:

It is all nonsense and a bundle of lies. This is just a justification for his joining militancy by his family members.

Why Educated Youngsters Are Taking Up Arms

File photo of AMU scholar, Mannan Wani.
File photo of AMU scholar, Mannan Wani.
(Photo courtesy: Danish Mushtaq)

On 16 November, when Majid Khan, a young footballer-turned-militant, had surrendered before the army following passionate appeals by his family, the move was seen as a positive step that would encourage more local militants to return.

Mehak Touyba, a student of Kashmir University, considers it to be the failure of Kashmir’s political leadership.

It is due to the failure of the political leadership that youth are joining the militancy. I also believe that shrinking of the political space at universities and colleges is another reason why so many educated youngsters are turning towards militancy.
Mehak Touyba, Student, Kashmir University

Sheikh Showkat, Kashmir-based political analyst, on the other hand, says that educated youth have been joining militancy ranks since the 90s and the phenomenon isn’t anything new. However, he agrees that such incidents put a huge question mark over the statements of various political leaders who claim that the situation in the Valley is improving.

The Jammu and Kashmir Police are yet to issue any statement on the number of such youths joining militancy. However, in a statement to local news agency, Hizbul Mujahideen has confirmed that Mannan has joined the militant ranks.

(The author is a Srinagar-based journalist and he can be reached at @AuqibBinJavaad. )

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