Srinagar , September ,19 :

On a hot July morning in 2022, Uzair Bashir Khan, 28, left his home in south Kashmir’s Nagam village, telling one of his uncles and paternal grandmother that he was going to strike a deal for electrical works of an under-construction building in Sonamarg.

“He told us that he may have to spend the night there. He worked very hard and was confident that the builder would agree to his offer. That was the last time he spoke to anyone in the family,” his aunt Maisoora Jan said, recalling Uzair’s last conversation.

With his phone dead, Uzair didn’t return home the next day or the day after, prompting the family to file a ‘missing person’ complaint at a local police station in south Kashmir on July 26, 2022.

Unlike new-age militants of the Burhan Wani era who announced their embrace of the gun on social media, Maisoora said it was security agencies who told the family that Uzair had joined militants.

According to the J&K Police, Uzair is among a group of militants who launched a deadly attack on a joint team of J&K Police and the Army in Gadol village on September 12, killing two senior officers of the Army and one J&K police officer.

“We were all shocked when we came to know about it,” Maisoora told The Wire at the family’s small, double-storied, pink-distempered house in Nagam village.

Uzair’s paternal grandmother lives in the double-storied house along with her four sons and their wives and children, while his father Bashir Ahmad Khan and stepmother Farida Jan live in a different house in another corner of the village, which has a flourishing network of

house where Uzair Khan lived with his grandmother and uncles. Photo: Jehangir Ali

Several social media posts suggest that Uzair has joined The Resistance Front (TRF) under the alias ‘Usman Ghazi’. The Wire couldn’t independently confirm these claims. The TRF, officials believe, is an offshoot of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba.

In his normal life, Uzair had showed no inclination towards violence. A class 12 dropout, he pursued a diploma in electrical works from a local polytechnic college in south Kashmir some years ago

“After passing out from the college,” Saira, Uzair’s youngest aunt, chipped in inside a dimly lit room on the ground floor of their residence, “he was focused on the work and was one of the most sought after electricians in Nagam and other villages of Kokernag.”

From Uzair’s cupboard, Saira brought out two worn-out backpacks filled with screwdrivers, pliers, hammers, drills and other electrical tools of all sizes and shapes, a testament perhaps to the seriousness with which Uzair pursued his life as an electrician.

Uzair’s aunt showing the tools which were used by him during his days as an electrician before joining militancy. Photo: Jehangir Ali

Armed with the latest tools and gadgets that have been lying unused for the last more than one year, Uzair worked diligently on the job, Saira said, earning ‘both fame and money’. His family said that he was hired for electrical works at the township constructed in the adjoining Vessu village of Kokernag for Kashmiri Pandits also.

“He was very hard-working and often worked overtime to earn quick bucks. But he usually kept to himself. No one had even an inkling of what was going on in his mind,” an elderly shopkeeper in Nagam, who knew Uzair as one of the village lads before he joined militancy, told The Wire.

The road to Nagam village branches out from Srinagar-Kokernag national highway at Hangalgund. The village is situated some three kilometres from Kokernag and has a low literacy rate of 44% against J&K’s 67%. With a population of around 3,000, according to Census 2011, most people in Nagam live in old houses and depend on agriculture for sustenance.

Most residents of Nagam seem to know the way to the two houses where Uzair grew up before joining the militancy. Even though his financial life was apparently stable – Uzair had also roped in his brother to cope with the growing work orders – his personal life had been deeply troubled since childhood, they said.

A few years into their marriage, Bashir Ahmad Khan, Uzair’s father, divorced his first wife who passed away later. At the time of their separation, Uzair was barely a few months old. Khan, who works in J&K’s Jal Shakti department, married for the second time some years later and fathered two more sons and a daughter.

“In the initial years, the two brothers were living with their father and stepmother. However, problems started when the two brothers grew up and their step-siblings were born,” said a neighbour in Nagam village, who didn’t want to be named.

Mohamed Yusuf Khan alleged that Farida Jan, Uzair’s stepmother, “poisoned” his brother Bashir’s mind against his own teenage sons by accusing them of being drug addicts, vagabonds and womanisers.

“Bashir threw Uzair out of his home some years ago after which he had no permanent place for living. He was randomly putting up with relatives and friends. But his stepmother and father continued spreading scandalous canards about him, forcing some of his close friends to snap ties with him,” said Saira, his aunt.

Farida, Uzair’s stepmother, however, rejected the allegations, “Even though I took care of him in childhood and raised him like my own sons, I was always accused by his uncles of treating him badly and also held responsible for his fate. They didn’t even give my husband his share of property only because of Uzair.”

“Had he lived under his father’s watch, the situation would not have come to this,” she added. Bashir and Uzair’s brother are presently being questioned by security agencies in connection with the attack in Kokernag.

Some years ago, Saira said, Uzair’s grandmother, who is deaf, learnt from the neighbours that her grandson had gone without food for many days. “It was the day of Eid,” recalled Saira, “She couldn’t hold herself back. Although she is old, she went out and got him into the house. Since then, he was living with us until he disappeared last year.”

A thick cordon has been thrown by security forces and aerial surveillance has been stepped up around the steep mountain in Gadol village of Kokernag where Uzair and his associates disappeared after launching the deadly attack on a joint team of J&K Police and the Army last week.

Over the last six days, the mountain has been pounded with hundreds of shells and rockets besides gunfire and other explosives. Locals who spoke with The Wire said that the mountain has natural caves beneath the forest cover and dense vegetation.

It is also believed to be home to many wild animals such as bears.

“No one has ever ventured there as far as I can remember. The mountain has dangerous cliffs and, barring firewood, it serves no one’s needs,” said a resident of Dodkol village, which is some three kilometres from the mountain in Gadol.

Security forces believe that the Kokernag attack illustrates, yet again, a lethal militant tactic in vogue since 2021 which entails luring security forces into dense forests where militants have the advantages of taking up strategic locations and

In Kashmir’s recent past, militants were trapped in residential houses and blown apart by IED explosions which were triggered by security forces to avoid the risks associated with eye-to-eye combats. Now, with militancy at its lowest ebb, the violence seems to be shifting to the rugged mountains where militants have struck with deadly precision in recent years.

In this dangerous and lethal shift, Uzair emerged as a key local figure. What motivated him to walk the path of violence remains shrouded under a veil of mystery. What is certain is that he invited death by becoming the face of one of the deadliest attacks on security forces in Kashmir in terms of the ranks of the slain security personnel.

Some names have been changed to protect people’s identities.(The Wire In)


Shaharbeen News Service Kashmir is a news service which covers, gathers, writes, and distributes news to newspapers, periodicals, radio and television broadcasters, government agencies, and other users. We at SNS Kashmir believe in fair and independent journalism to inform our masses or subscribers and readers about the happenings around the world. The prime focus of the news gathering and reporting is focused on Jammu and Kashmir state.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.