Srinagar: He had a doctoral degree, a contractual job in the university and a bright future ahead in academics. He was married to a girl barely 20 years of age and was respected as a teacher.
“Soft spoken, humble and always ready to help,” was how he was described by his students in the Department of Sociology who said he never missed a class during his 18-month stint in college.
So how does a man like him go over to the dark side?
That’s the question that sociologists and politicians in Jammu and Kashmir are grappling with.
The death of 33-year-old Assistant Professor Muhammad Rafi Bhat in a gunfight between holed-up militants and security forces in Shopian district on Sunday defies logic.
Kashmir has seen any number of local youth being swayed by the cycle of violence. “But this is the case of a social scientist who is supposed to fully understand the dynamics of the society he lives in,” said a sociologist who did not want to be named. When something like this happens, it points to something seriously wrong with the society that we live in, the sociologist added.
Bhat came from a poor family in north Kashmir’s Chunduna village and going through his studies and getting a doctorate did not come easy to him. He served as a Class IV employee in the state’s Sheep Development Department to collect money for the books and journals he needed to complete his doctoral research.
Some 18 years ago he had made an attempt to join the militants, but was prevented by the secutiry forces from doing so. That must have been when he was a struggling teenager without too much of a direction in life. But what made him re-visit the folly of his younger days?
“A social scientist is the doctor to whom you take students and others to rationalise societal strains so that logical explanations are found to keep society in good health,” says Naeem Akhtar, senior ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader and minister. Yet, if such a man chooses to end his life the way Bhat did, “we all need to understand where we are headed”, he added.
Bhat disappeared last Friday and was killed within less than two days of joining the militant ranks.
Just a few days before going over he had sold his car.
In his last phone call to his mother on Friday afternoon, he told her he would be home and also asked her if she needed anything from the city. He also told her not to worry if he reached home late.
The last call he made was to his father when the gunfight was raging in the Badigam village of Shopian district where he was trapped inside with Hizbul commander Sadam Paddar and three other militants.
“Forgive me if I have hurt you. I am going to meet Allah,” he said and the conversation between Bhat and his father ended.
His death has brought Kashmir face to face with a reality which is both intriguing and worrying. No easy answers seem to be coming forth.