NATIONAL

Shopian grieves over youth's death

The funeral procession of a computer engineer, Mohammad Iqbal Wani, at Shopian in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday. Controversy surrounds his death in Mumbai on March 29. — Photo: Nissar Ahmad.  

SHOPIAN (KASHMIR) APRIL 9. Anger was the predominant emotion among the 15,000 people gathered in this south Kashmir town, 65 km from Srinagar, on Tuesday for the funeral of Mohammed Iqbal Wani who was killed in Mumbai on March 29. Iqbal, 27, had been in the Maharashtra capital to buy equipment for the computer-training institute he was running in Shopian.

The Mumbai police claimed to have shot dead three Lashkar-e-Taiba militants, including Iqbal, in an encounter near the Mahanadi dairy in Jogeshwari on March 29 and that the three `militants' planned to kill the Deputy Prime Minister, L. K. Advani, and others. Iqbal's family as also the entire town of Shopian strongly refuted the allegation saying, "it was a fake encounter". Even the Shopian sub-divisional police officer has vouched for Iqbal saying he had nothing to do with militancy.

And, the People's Democratic Party (PDP) vice-president, Mehbooba Mufti, met Mr. Advani and reportedly spoke of the threat to Kashmiris' lives outside the State.

The meeting is said to have followed the arrest of two Kashmiri students recently in Uttar Pradesh.

A certified Microsoft Professional, Iqbal left for Mumbai on March 11 and even visited Dubai along with some friends to buy some spares. He returned to Mumbai to make some more purchases. His last telephone call to his parents was on March 23.

It was through a Hindi daily that Iqbal's family recognised his picture and sent his brother, Ghulam Geelani Wani, to Mumbai to bring the body home.

During the funeral procession here, grieving youth shouted, "we want freedom, down with Indian democracy". "We have every reason to be against India. You have seen how this young boy, who tried to make his career and had gone to Mumbai on a routine business visit, was killed in cold blood," said Shaukat Ahmed, a mourner.

Shopian and adjacent towns wore a deserted look on Monday, when his body arrived, and during the funeral procession on Tuesday. Almost everyone in the procession was weeping and beating their chests. Shops and schools remained closed.

Iqbal's killing deals a blow to the PDP-Congress Government's healing touch policy, which among other things envisages room for dialogue and space for living in peace with dignity and honour.