When Ajaz Ahmad Dar chose an ‘unusual path’ after completing his post-graduation in mid 1980s, his friends and family were worried. A lone man with a gun could not lead ‘society from darkness to light’. But, Ajaz, who came from an affluent family, had no confusion, his kin say.
He was clear in his mind. “May be others could follow him. May be he could pave the way for liberation,” says his sister. Her recall sets an introspection of sorts and silence grips the room.
On this day in 1988, Ajaz was killed in an exchange of fire when he attacked the house of Kashmir police chief Ali Mohammad Watali who lived close to his Raj Bagh house.
The gun found near his body had surprised the Kashmir establishment. “He carried an AK 47 and police had no idea about the gun. They had to bring people from outside to check the weapon,” says Ajaz’s close friend, who wishes anonymity.
Ajaz was the first militant killed after the outbreak of a insurgency in the Himalayan region.
His sister says: “one day, while he was hiding at a friend’s home, the mother of his friend asked him why he had taken up gun.”
The woman had pointed that he was alone. Ajaz had crossed over to Pakistan side of Kashmir much before the rigging in 1987 elections.
The woman had noted that his ‘unusual’ path would him to nowhere. His sister says Ajaz had replied: “One has to start the armed struggle, and who knows, after me, more people would take the path of gun.”
His prediction came right.
Born in 1960, his family says he was a deeply religious and sensitive man. They quote him saying: “Jihad is like Nimaz, can you leave it? And if you could, then I will also leave Jihad.”
A meritorious student, he completed his schooling from DAV School in uptown Jawahar Nagar and completed his post-graduation in commerce from the University of Kashmir.
It was at the varsity his political thoughts shaped up, says his friend, and adds: he couldn’t overlook the injustice Kashmir people were subjected to.
He was first detained for anti-India activities in the region in 1985, but he gave a slip to the police. “He ran away from Shergari police station and hid near gate number 7 of the Bakshi Stadium till night,” he father remembers.
He says then ‘arrests and sedition charges became a norm’ and his resolve hardened.
For Kashmir people he was an icon of bravery, says a senior resistance leader. He points out that Kashmir people were quite skeptical about the use of gun when Ajaz professed its role. “He believed in defeating a military might with military not by elections and peaceful struggle. He took to the path of armed struggle even before mass rigging of elections in Kashmir and this shows the practicality of his resolve and ideology,” he adds.
“Those days people were afraid of state which had unleashed a reign of terror through police, but he challenged and targeted state, its institutes and its icons even in those days and paved way for the armed resistance,” he says.
His family recalls they weren’t allowed to hold his funeral in the day. “The reign of terror was unleashed by Allah Baksh – a notorious police officer who forced people to stay away from his funeral,” they say.
The government asked us to perform his last rites in the darkness of night, they add. Ajaz was buried at Padshahi Bagh.
A friend recalls some pro-Indian people went to his home during the mourning period and a day after ‘police detained them on the crime of visiting his house’.