The Real Gangland Story of Srinagar Overlooked by Jaffna Street

The Real Gangland Story of Srinagar Overlooked by Jaffna Street

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Rameez Makhdoomi
When a certain boy rushed inside Maisuma’s War Lane on 18 April 1989 to beckon his belligerent gang leader—who would prefer punch over pun while running a student cartel of sorts in Srinagar during late Eighties—a vicious street fight would soon rock South Asia’s Second Oldest City. The panting messenger informed the leader busy offering Zuhar Namaz at his residence in the month of Holy Ramadan how one of his boys “MAC” of Gowkadal had been assaulted by a rival student gang from Downtown near Regal Chowk. “He needs your help,” Bilal Mujahid the messenger, pleaded with the student leader. “Or, they’ll lynch him!”

Coming from the defiant Srinagar neighborhood, that student leader had a reputation of laying his hands on kith and kin of who’s who in town. He had previously thrashed late former Chief Minister’s only son and former Tourism Minister in state cabinet, Mr Tasaduk Mufti in S.P. School campus as student in the year 1989.

He even roughed up the incumbent Minister and M.LA, Javeed Mustafa Mir, twice over some dispute when the latter was his friend and son of a sitting MLA at that time who forced JK Police raid War residence in middle of night to arrest student leader in 1989 followed by to set secret Police after him .To evade arrest, the young student leader went underground for days.

The moment he resurfaced to continue his studies at SP School in 1989, the authorities rusticated him for his involvement in Pro-Freedom Activities. That teenage student leader ,son of a valley is Bablu War from Maisuma.

His rustication orders where rusticated only when late Molvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, a Shia Scholar and mainstream politician, interfered and gave a guarantee on his behalf.Molvi sahab took a promise from Bablu War that he wouldn’t do any mischief on the School Campus. “Do whatever you do outside the school, but not inside,” he said to him states Bablu War . At the same time, he entrusted his son Imran Ansari, who was also a student in SP School (now a Minister in PDP Government ) asked him to take care of Imran in School Campus. From that day Mr Imran became Bablu War’s good friend in the School.

One of the boys around those days was Ashraf Mir from Athwajan Srinagar (Now a PDP Ministser in Kashmir) who was one year senior to Bablu War. Mr Ashraf as well as his kith and kin are well known to Bablu War .Mr Ashraf Mir and his family were supporters of ongoing Resistance Movement then.

Back to MAC episode. Bablu War states – “When Bilal informed me about my protégé Mac’s Black and Blue Beating, I rushed out and found him profusely bleeding from his nose. The scene unsettled me. Then, I decided to do, what I did the best those days: mounting a counter offensive on the rival gang.

As War marched down with my gang boys to confront the rivals at Regal Chowk , some of my associates like Nisar Fighter, Saleem Ghosha , Irfan Wani,Adil Rahman,Suhail, Suja,Vicky and others also joined the Gang War. The rival gang was led by one Raja and Bita Loan of Gandhi College, Srinagar.

Earlier that year, Bablu War had stormed Gandhi College Campus, following a complaint about an indecent ragging done to a Kashmiri Muslim girl by a non-Kashmiri Hindu boy,Suman Malhotra. Bablu War retreated after delivering a fiery speech at Gandhi College, daring the rivals ‘to repeat the act and face the fury’.

As War arrived at Regal Chowk, all hell broke loose. The fight became so violent that the COPS had to fire a couple of rounds in the air to control the situation. By the time some street order was restored, many students were left with broken bones, torn muscles and open wounds. It was as if the two hostile nations were baying for each other’s blood on a street turned war theatre outside Srinagar’s Regal Cinema where some years ago the cine-goers had stormed out raising pro-freedom slogans after watching the revolutionary flick called Lion of the Desert. “

Pertinently, the following morning, the newspapers carried photographs of badly wounded downtown gang leader Raja being supported on shoulders by people. Later, an FIR of dated 18 April 1989,was registered in Kothi Bagh Police Station against the student gang leaders.

After done with pounding some dozens of rival students, Bablu War came to know how admission dispute in Gandhi College involving two sons of the owner of Shakti Sweets at Regal Chowk had created bad blood between the two gangs in the campus, which finally culminated in a violent gang war at Regal Cinema. The matter was rested after through Shabir Kotarbaaz and Jan Kandur at Saraibala.

Even as the street performance earned them bad press, but there was nothing criminal in their conduct. They would usually lock horns over campus disputes—like ragging—mostly with the notorious Dalgate Boys in whose ranks were some known street urchins of the day, like Raja Khota, Bita Bazaz, Hilal Kachur,Maqsood Gada and others.

Being a Ringleader of sorts who would love to take cudgels with rivals and ensure to watch back of my pack, Bablu would help organize college strikes and group clashes in the college campus in Civil Lines. His activism earned him regular detentions and police summons. Among the charges slapped on him were sponsoring student group clashes and College Strikes between 1987 and 1989.

While as in down town Srinagar Bablu War’s close associate Mia Muzaffar was active in student group clashes ,Stone Pelting and Strikes.The Srinagar Central Jail break in February 1990 was master planned and managed by Mia Muzafar in which Khursheed Chaklo along with others managed to escape. In fact, it was the second Jail Break after Maqbool Bhat’s Srinagar Central Jail Break in 1968, in which Bhat along with his two associates managed to Dig a tunnel under Srinagar Prison. Mia Muzafar was the same teen age boy who snatched Rifle from a CRPF man during stone pelting in Fatehkadal,Srinagar in 1986 and later he was arrested in Rifle snatching case. He was one of Ringleaders Youth and main supporter of Freedom of Kashmir in Down town Srinagar in late 80s. He and his associates like Noor Mohammad Katjoo of Malarata , Mohammad Amin Jan of Nowhatta, Shaheed Iftikhar Ahmad Waza of Saraf Kadal, Shaheed Mushtaq Ahmad of Saraf Kadal, Shaheed Raja of Fateh Kadal , Shaheed Syed Irfan ul Hassan of Bahawdin Sahab Nowhatta, Mushtaq Zargar (Latrum) ,Shabir Zargar and Iqbal Gandro were the most Prominent and Pillars of Resistance Movement in Downtown in late 80s.At present Muzzafar is representative of Jammu & Kashmir Peoples Political Party in Islamabad ,Pakistan.

Among those clashes, the one at Regal Chowk went down as one heck of a showdown in Srinagar where the massive anti-India rebellion was shaping up amid the intermittent Pro-freedom fireworks. Had that gang war happened somewhere in West, many Block buster Movies would’ve been made on it by now.

But after obscuring in Kashmir’s protracted political turbulence for years together, Bablu War never knew the historic episode will make a slapdash comeback in a book called Jaffna Street authored by one dentist-turned-writer, Mir Khalid.

Not only is the book a distortion of many historical facts of Kashmir, but it’s also a tad libel, especially a chapter called Ganglands, where the author narrates about Gow Kadal–Batamalu Axis, “Khatri Gang Boys”, a character called Mac, a violent gang clash at Regal Cinema and some gang boys’ militant forays in late ’80s.

Being a student leader and street fighter Bablu war during that period, knows, for sure, that there never existed any gang called Khatri Boys—neither in any college campuses, nor anywhere in Srinagar.

A fabricated character “Mac” in Mir Khalid’s Jaffna Street was his junior besides and his henchman. Like many others, Bablu introduced him in a Pro-freedom camp in 1988 and rescued him during that deadly Regal face-off.It’s laughable how the author has presented him some kind of ruthless gangster than a smalltime sidekick in his book. The distorted case of “Mac” makes one believe that the author has indeed resorted to some kind of make-believe imaginations to produce an account full of personal spin and fractional understanding of the events.

On page 105 of his book, Mir Khalid audaciously—and quite brazenly—writes that some of those gangsters were among the first insurgent batches to cross over the Line of Control for armed trainings. In his two-penny understanding of the insurgency and its dynamics, the author who claims his upbringing between City side and Downtown wants public to believe that the armed struggle in Kashmir had some gangster roots.

If so, then, is he trying to club the HAJY group, one of the pioneers of Kashmir insurgency, in some gang group of yore?

This assertion compels one to cast a shadow of doubt on the author’s intentions to write and publish such a distorted book. Equally scandalous is the spin given to Kashmir’s holy cause in a clear bid to defame the indigenous movement.

As a significant supporter of Islamic Students League,Muslim Students Federation and the Firebrand Campus rabble-rouser, Bablu War knows how the seeds of Freedom Movement of Jammu and Kashmir were sowed by valiant teenagers like Ashfaq Majeed Wani, Er Hilal Ahmad War, Mohamad Yasin Malik, Mustaq Ul Islam, Javed Mir, Fayaz Ahmad Gandroo,Firdous Ahmad Shah, Shahid ul Islam and others before the inception of armed struggle. He knows the pious and pure souls like Ashfaq Wani, Maqbool Elahi,Khalid Bangroo,Mehraj Uddin Khan@Cononel Haider and others sacrificed their lives for the liberation of Jammu & Kashmir.They had nothing to do with any student gangs as Mir Khalid tries to assert and argue in his book. Bablu War and Voices of Sanity have doubt on whose instructions and Payroll Mir Khalid,a bureaucratic family background has published a distorted history.

Some quality research would’ve enlightened him about Srinagar’s Gangland history, which was dominated by Mr Jameel War, Mr Farooq Khatara, Mr Hassan Pacha and Mr Saja Guru during the Eighties. But in his fictional curiosity to imagine some Khatri Gang,the author has conveniently sidelined that part.

This makes one highly suspicious about the Veracity of other events in Jaffna Street. Perhaps, more and more people must come forward with correct versions of the written accounts in the book to call Mir Khalid’s authorial bluff.

(The writer is a political analyst and freelance Journalist and can be reached at rameezh3@gmail.com)

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