Last Thursday, on the chaharum of the slain 14-year-old militant Mudasir Parrey, a group of residents, both young and old had assembled in a makeshift tent in Hajin town of Bandipora district.
One man in the funeral gathering said, “Today’s Hajin is altogether different from that of 1990s.”
Everyone in the tent appeared to agree and approve the emphatic statement.
Once known as a bastion of pro-government militia and the horror of their atrocities in Kashmir, Hajin has made a slow but steady turn towards pro-Azadi and militant activism.
Residents of the area most Kashmiris would dread until about early 2000s say the shift began discernibly sometime after the hanging of Afzal Guru in 2013, but acquired a pronounced direction during the mass agitation of 2008 that rocked the entire state.
A decade later in 2018, Hajin is transformed into an alcove of resistance politics having turned its back to pro-India parties as Ikhwan remains in the memory of its residents as a long nightmare.
“Things changed dramatically since 2008 agitation when two local youth of Hajin were killed in (government) forces’ firing while many sustained bullet injuries with dozens facing detention of years together,” said Altaf Ahmed, a university student and resident of Mir Mohalla, a hub of Ikhwan in Hajin.
“Since the killing of two local militants Nasrullah Mir and Abid Hamid Mir in 2017, a new wave gripped the area with youth showing inclination towards street protests and other means of resistance.”
Abdul Ahad Parrey, 60, of Mir Mohalla says his neighbourhood was known only for Ikhwan up until late 1990s.
“But since 2008 when Amarnath land row agitation broke out in the valley, Hajin stepped into a change,” Parrey said.
The long gone Ikhwan chief Muhammad Yousuf Parray aka Kuka Parray, once the dreaded face of the area who led the militia and later became a lawmaker, is now a hated figure Hajin was known for.
But the area now resembles nothing of its earlier image and reputation.
Mudasir Parrey and another 17-year-old militant Saqib Bilal Sheikh who were killed last week in the area not far from their homes, has added a fresh dimension to the change in political climate of Hajin.
The change was also marked by the killing of two local youth, Shahid-ul-Islam and Bashir Ahmad on a single day in August 2008 during pro-Azadi protests in Hajin.
Locals remember it as a turning point.
Danish Ahmad , a local youth says that month Hajin gradually began removing the tag of being a hub of Ikhwan.
“Today’s generation has not seen the Ikhwan period and they are not aware of what atrocities they perpetrated on common people.”
But what is fresh in the minds of the youth here is “harassment by forces over the years”, and a feeling of being ignored by successive governments on every front.
“This is the reason new generation here is more inclined towards Azadi movement of Kashmir,” said Arshid Rasool, another resident of Hajin.
Many local youth and elderly people who are were seen as associated with the freedom movement began being sent to jails since the 2008 uprising.
“Juveniles are being harassed, tortured and detained without caring for the dignity of their life. Youth are being forced to pick up stones and guns which is the reason Hajin has seen a shift,” said 95-year-old Muhammad Ahsan Parrey.
He said, Ali Mohammad, his son had crossed over the Line of Control in 1990 and was killed in 1992 near the border in Chowkibal area of Kupwara.
“His body was never handed over to us, even as we approached the concerned authorities but to no avail. I have seen everything in my life including the Ikhwan period,” said the old man with a wrinkled face and flowing grey beard.
Youth of the area also say a gradual shift in the political climate of Hajin started in 2008, but militant activities started in 2013 with the hanging of Afzal Guru.
They emphasise that Hajin changed course completely in 2016 following the killing of militant leader Burhan Wani when like elsewhere in Kashmir many youth were either detained or blinded by pellets during wide scale anti-India protests.
“Forces have been terrorising the local youth since several years. Last year two local youth joined militant ranks as militant activities had increased in the town and with their killing many youth got inspired after forces started harassing them on mere suspicion. Juveniles are being detained as the forces don’t care about their dignity,” said a young man, angrily.
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