Zakir Rashid, alias Commander Musa, the face and voice of a resurgent Islamic jihad in Kashmir who defied the entire separatist and militant leadership in the Valley, is a 23-year-old middle-class boy who flunked his exams at a private engineering college in Chandigarh before taking to militancy.
In Kashmir, militants are often mythologised in the local lore. Hizbul commander Burhan Wani, for example, was projected as highly educated even though he was a school dropout. Like Wani, his successor Musa, too, is a dropout.
He quit Ram Dev Jindal College, Chandigarh, after he failed his B.Tech exams in 2013, police sources said. Born Zakir Rashid Bhat on July 25, 1994 to Abdul Rashid Bhat, a resident of Noorpora in Awantipora, Musa was raised in comfort.
Musa’s father is a government employee in the irrigation department, while Musa’s siblings were studious and went on to do well in life. His brother Shakir became a doctor in Srinagar, while sister Shaheena is an employee of J&KBank.
Even though Musa got admission to class 9th at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya in Pulwama in 2008, he continued his studies at Noor Public School in his village and scored 65.4% marks in Class 10 exams.
He then went to the government higher secondary institution at Noorpora and passed his 12th in 2011 with 64.8% marks.
After dropping out of college, Musa joined the banned Hizbul Mujahideen terror group in the autumn of 2013 at the behest of his close friend, Idrees.
Musa rose to ranks in the group led by Burhan Wani after Idrees was killed by security forces in an encounter in 2015. Several FIRs have been registered against Musa for grenade attacks and killings.
Police said Musa’s defiance of Hizbul on Saturday and his declaration to go alone with his band of indigenous militants in Kashmir was an indication that he and his group were self-reliant.
“They have been looting banks and stealing weapons from the forces… They do not really need help from the Hizbul Mujahideen in Pakistan.
They can operate autonomously,” a police officer said. Another police source, however, said, “They are loosely structured. So we do not know what his dissociation will mean on the ground.”
However Indian Army is on serious hunt for Musa and said two months back that 2017 should be his last summer.