SRINAGAR: A Kashmiri scholar at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), who was on vacation at his home in Kupwara district, has joined the Hizbul Mujahideen outfit, apparently after facing harassment at the hands of government forces.

Mannan Bashir, 25, a resident of Takipora village in Lolab valley was scheduled to return home from the AMU where he was a research scholar at the Department of Geology. Instead, his family was shocked to see a photo, which had gone viral on social media, announcing their son’s entry into militant ranks.

According to the photo, Mannan joined the Hizb on January 5 with codename ‘Hamza Bhai'. The description mentions that Mannan has PhD in Applied Geology from the AMU but his family said he has not received the degree so far. The news has shocked the family who have approached the police for help.

“We have taken cognizance of the case and a missing case has been registered after the family lodged a complaint. This is a cause of concern but we will use all our resources to get him back to mainstream so that he can continue his studies and also contribute meaningfully to the society,” Munir Khan, IGP Kashmir, said.

A Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya student till Class 10, Mannan was studying at the AMU from the last more than four years. Last November, when he was on way to Srinagar from his home, the passenger vehicle he was traveling in got stopped at four places and the passengers had to get down every time and prove their identity.

“The most disgusting thing was when an ordinary SOG personnel donning black uniform posed questions like, why had I grown such long hair, why didn't I trim my beard if intend to look smart, why do I wear long boots, why do I wear a shawl in such a young age?” Mannan wrote in one of his last Facebook update.

In the chilling post, the young scholar mentions a lady sitting next to him who likened their situation to those of slaves, “On this disgusting day, the best moment happened when I got a compliment from the Indian Army officer (who also checked my identity card, but spared me from getting down from the car) about my looks resembling the famous Commander, who has given them sleepless nights, and me passing a gentle smile without uttering a single word,” he said in his Facebook post.

His Facebook account is presently disabled but his Twitter handle @mannanwani14 is active. His Twitter bio reads: ‘Prisoner of the Paradise', mentioning the address of his blog where he has written, among other pieces related to politics, a long letter to moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq after his controversial 'Who the hell is Geelani’ remarks while describing Mirwaiz as an 'accidental leader’.

According to his friends and relatives, Mannan comes from a well-off family with his father, Bashir Ahmed, reportedly working as a lecturer while his other brother is working as a junior engineer in the state government.

A news update on the official website of the AMU states that Manaan was awarded 'Best Paper Presentation Award' in an international conference on 'Water, Environment, Energy and Society (ICWEES) held at AISECT University, Bhopal, for his paper ‘Flood Risk Assessment of Lolab Valley from Watershed Analysis' using remote sensing and GIS techniques.

According to the update, around 400 delegates from 20 countries, including China, US and the UK, participated in the conference. His blog post entry in November reveals that he had also come to Delhi from his university to lend support to the campaign for seeking whereabouts of JNU student Najeeb Ahmed, who has been missing from more than a year.

“And also I believe, protest March or Sit-ins are only successful when all forms of protest are made simultaneously by people in their own capacities. We can neither expect everyone to come on roads and walk three or four kilometers on foot or lay on ground for days nor can we expect everyone to write long pieces, but, we can at least expect it from everyone to remain protesting for any genuine cause, until the justice is not delivered, in any form which he/she deems suitable and possible,” he wrote in the post.

Mannan has become the first youth to join militancy in Kashmir this year. Last year, close to 150 locals youth joined different militant groups while over 210 militants, including foreigners, were killed in encounters with the government forces across the state. According to a senior police officer, at least 75 youth who were on the verge of joining or had already joined militancy, were returned to their families.

The trend of local youth joining militancy, which picked up after the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani in 2016, has opened a new front for the security agencies who are dealing with new, evolving trends in the three-decade old militancy in Kashmir. Last week, two local fidayeens, accompanied by a foreigner, killed five CRPF personnel before being gunned down in south Kashmir.