Jamaat-Hurriyat functionary gunned down in Sopore
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR: A prominent separatist activist, who belonged to a Jamaat-e-Islami family and held a position in Syed Ali Shah Geelani-led Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Kashmir valley’s hub of the militancy in Sopore on Tuesday.
Informed sources told State Times that in the afternoon, when 45-year-old Sheikh Altaf-ur-Rehman of Iqbal Nagar, Sopore, was returning from Sub District Hospital (SDH) Sopore, he was ambushed by unidentified gunmen on Noorbagh Road. He was critically hit in his head and chest. Residents rushed him to the nearby SDH where doctors declared him “brought dead”. He seemed to have died on the spot.
Deputy Inspector General of Police in North Kashmir, Gareeb Das told State Times that Police Station of Sopore registered a murder case and started the investigation even as Sheikh’s funeral rites were conducted amid pro-Azadi slogans. He said that around 800 people participated in the Namaaz-e-Janazah. DIG said that five 0.9mm shots had been fired upon Sheikh but it was not immediately clear whether the assassins used an automatic pistol or a higher calibre gun. He said that 0.9mm rounds could be fired from different makes of the weapons.
It is four years after the Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadith chief Maulana Showkat’s assassination in an IED blast in Maisuma area of Srinagar that a prominent separatist activist has been eliminated in a guerrilla action in Kashmir valley. Sheikh’s death in the broad daylight shootout came after a chain of guerrilla strikes which left two civilians dead and five more injured in Sopore.
Working as Medical Assistant, Sheikh was a regular State government employee. Coming from a prominent Jamaat-e-Islami family, Sheikh was a member of the ‘Shoora’ (Executive Committee) of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat which has Geelani as its founder-Chairman. His father Mohammad Yousuf Sheikh is Ameer-e-Halqa of Jamaat-e-Islami in Sopore.Sheikh Altaf-ur-Rehman’s elder brother Sheikh Abdul Rauf had died in an incident of cross-firing after an IED blast outside Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar in 1995. He was a Ph. D. scholar with Aligarh Muslim University. Sheikh Altaf was one of the most prominent separatist activists, owing allegiance to Geelani’s organisation, in Sopore. He had been arrested, detained and released over a dozen times in the last 20 years. He had been also detained under Public Safety Act as many as four times.
Sheikh’s assassination is remarkable in the sense that it is for the first time in the last over 10 years that a prominent anti-Indian and pro-Pakistan separatist functionary has been shot dead by the unidentified gunmen.
While as no militant outfit claimed responsibility, Hizbul Mujahideen “Supreme Commander” and United Jihad Council chief Syed Salah-ud-din and Chairman of the radical faction of Hurriyat Conference and Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, condemned Sheikh’s killing in separate statements. Both alleged that it was a handiwork of the “Indian secret agencies”. They paid tributes to Sheikh and asserted that his assassination would not deter the separatist leaders from pursuing the goal of “freedom from India”.
Geelani attributed Sheikh’s assassination directly to the “counter-terrorists” proposed by the Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar last month. He reminded that Parrikar had spoken of India’s plan to neutralise terrorism with terrorism. He called for a protest shutdown in Baramulla district on Wednesday.
Security forces and Jammu and Kashmir Police did not issue any statement on Sheikh’s killing or in reaction to Geelani’s allegation. However, DGP K.Rajendra Kumar was quoted by a local news agency to have said that the Police would unravel the truth. DIG Das refused to comment on Geelani’s allegation.