Recalling my JNU ‘Dhaba’ Chat with Dr. Mohammad Rafi Bhat, the professor who joined militancy and died
By Muzafar Ahmad Dar
It was on 20 February, 2018, when I got a call from one of my friends, that Mohd. Rafi Bhat had come to Jawaharlal Nehru University (henceforth JNU), New Delhi, to visit him. I was in my hostel taking rest after having dinner. My friend told me that if I had time, then we could meet somewhere in the campus. So we decided to meet at Sabarmati Dhaba, a revolutionary meeting point, which is famous for its debates and discussions in JNU. Around 9 pm, we met each other. After having Islamic greetings, we hugged and our common friend introduced us to each other. It was the first time when I met Mohd Rafi: a man wearing glasses, with a normal physique, and a sharp intellect (which I came to know after having a long discussion). Meanwhile, we had tea and pakoda sitting at the Dhaba. While telling each other briefly about our background and education, we started having a discussion on various issues, pertaining to research, the overall environment of JNU, about the various anomalies of the contemporary world generally, and particularly about the problems of Muslim ummah. We talked of Kashmir issue, Rohingya crisis, the Syrian conflict, the Egyptian conundrum, the Palestinian movements, and also various problems in the Arab world. While talking to each other, I could sense his vast knowledge related to various contemporary issues, apart from his subject of specialization. He was much worried about the present situation in Kashmir as well as the broader Shia-Sunni conflict in the Arab world. He was a person with a humble nature and attitude. The discussion went on till around 2 am, as we agreed and disagreed with each other. Since he was elder to me and had more experience in research, I learnt a lot from him.
Mohd Rafi belonged to Chunduna, a village in the district Ganderbal, Jammu and Kashmir. He had completed his doctorate at the Department of Sociology, University of Kashmir. The title of his dissertation was, “Globalization and Emerging Trends in Consumerism: A Comparative Study of Rural and Urban Kashmir”. He got his degree on 16 November, 2017. Apart from this, he had qualified National Eligibility Test (NET) twice and once he qualified for Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) exam. He was currently teaching in his own department on a contract basis. Recently, he was shortlisted for the post of Assistant Professor, at the University of Hyderabad. Since 4 April (Friday), he has been missing from the university. When the students of the university came to know about this, they protested in the campus. Later on, the university authorities assured them of launching a search with the help of the local police. However, on Sunday, when I opened the Greater Kashmir (a local newspaper), I was shocked to know that he has been trapped along with other Hizbul Mujahideen militants, including the top Commander, Saddam Hussein Padder, in the Badigam village of Distrct Shopian. When the J&K Police came to know about the presence of Mohd Rafi, they immediately sent a police team to his father, Fayaz Ahmad Bhat, to convince his son to surrender. Within no time, his father, accompanied with his mother, wife, and sister, started their journey to the encounter site at Badigam village. However, after traveling for hardly 14 kms from their home, to a place called Bota Kadal, they came to know about the news of Mohd. Rafi’s death. Around fifteen other scholars from the University of Kashmir also rushed to the encounter site, but they couldn’t reach before his death. Initially, I too couldn’t believe it; later the news spread like fire. I was totally heart-broken. In his last call to his father, he said, “Forgive me, if I have hurt you. I am going to meet Allah.”
Mohd. Rafi was a beloved teacher in his department. His students adored him so much. On 4 May, he shared a post on his Facebook wall about the gifts (like wristwatch) he received from his students. The post read: “Gift from my students. I will remember your love and respect. Allah bless you all.” After knowing about his death, one of his friends expressed grief on his Facebook wall: “Extremely sad to hear my friend Mohammad Rafi, who was an Assistant Professor at Kashmir University, got killed by Indian occupational forces in Kashmir. I feel extremely bad because I too have this blood on my hand; we Indians have the blood of thousands of Kashmiris on our hand that will never go.” On social media, we saw the expression of immense love from his students. One of his students wrote: “How could we forget a single moment shared and spent in your company? I dare not believe that you left for heavenly abode! How could we compensate your absence? Who could afford to occupy your space in the department? Where would we get such a loving and generous concern? Where could we get such a noble soul? Where could we get such a legendary mentor? We’re shattered! We’re missing you more and more every passing moment! We’re collapsed! We’re numb! We would never dare say that you are not with us. We ascertain you that you’re alive here in our hearts. Your way of smiling and way of communicating still hovering in front of my eyes. We’ll miss you every moment.” Another student reflects his love for his beloved teacher in these words, “And my sir, Muhammad Rafi, left for heavenly abode. I am in shock and can’t believe that you are no more. I remember your hugs, greetings, your words, jokes, and lectures. You promised me sir, you will give me a book on ‘post modernism’; who will lend me the book?” One of his close relatives mentioned that Rafi often talked about atrocities and oppression. However, he did well in his studies simultaneously. He never deviated from the educational track. After knowing about his demise, the Kashmir University Teachers’ Association said, it was alarming that “highly educated and employed youth too are resorting to guns for expressing their sentiments and seeking justice.” A spokesman said that the reason for educated youth turning to militancy is “[d]iminishing faith in the State and its political establishments.” They emphasized the fact that the Kashmir problem is a political issue which needs a political solution. They denied the fact that employment and the economic packages would solve it.
Mohd. Rafi is the most educated person to join militancy so far. One of his posts on social media says, “Human being first then a Muslim.” This post reflected his concern for whole humanity. At another place, he posted: “By blocking all peaceful means of expressing dissent, what remains is self-defense against the armed forces. Existing circumstances are fueling student protests. The way forward is change in the status quo, where power won’t be exercised for the sake of power.” After decimating Mohd. Rafi, Director General of Police (DGP) of Jammu and Kashmir, gave a statement in which he said that Mohd. Rafi’s family background compelled him to join militancy. In the 1990s, two of his relatives were killed too. However, the DGP neglects the contemporary structural dynamics of oppression which are really of grave concern. The attitude of central and state governments towards the people of Jammu and Kashmir is turning from bad to worse, as none of them are really trying to solve the issue. The recent statement from the Army Chief, Bipin Rawat, shows the gravity of the situation: “Neither forces nor terrorists in Kashmir will be able to achieve their goal.”
In conclusion, I would like to put across a question. What motivates scholars like Mohd. Rafi, Mannan Wani (a Ph. D. Scholar from AMU, who recently joined militancy), and other educated youth to take up weapons and leave behind their bright careers? This question is itself an answer to all those who characterize Kashmiris as terrorists.
Muzafar Ahmad Dar is a Ph. D. scholar at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Email id: email@example.com
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