By Farooq Wani
Lance Naik Nazir Ahmad Wani who laid down his life while fighting heavily armed militants in Shopian area of south Kashmir has been honored posthumously with the country’s highest peacetime award Ashoka Chakra on 70th Republic Day for displaying conspicuous gallantry and unparalleled devotion to duty.
On 25 November last year, 38-year-old Wani, hailing from Cheki Ashmuji village in Kulgam district of Kashmir, attained martyrdom in a fierce gunfight with a group of six hardcore militants in Hirapur village near Batgund in Shopian. During this intense encounter, Wani who had single-handedly killed two militants was seriously injured by another militant but despite his grievous injuries, he refused to give up and shot his assailant dead before he himself succumbed to his injuries.
Wani was a fearless and upright soldier. He started off as a militant but soon got disillusioned and surrendered. He joined 162 Infantry Battalion (Territorial Army) where he displayed such valor and dedication that he was transferred to the elite Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry. Due to his exceptional military skills and raw courage he was specially deputed to assist units of Rashtriya Rifles employed for counter-militancy operations in Kashmir. Wani proved his mettle and had the rare honour of being awarded Sena Medal for gallantry twice! Those who served with Wani respectfully recall how he would always volunteer for challenging missions and display great daring under adverse conditions. He never hesitated in exposing himself to grave danger in the line of duty especially when it came to assisting or extricating his comrades during encounters.
A scrupulously honest and hard working person, Wani was a very helpful person who considered fighting the menace of militancy his moral duty as it has killed thousands and ruined the lives of so many. He would always advise young boys not to get carried away by emotions and pick up guns as militancy was harming the people of Kashmir. “He always had the interest of the Kashmiri people in his heart and he was ever helpful to everyone,” his neighbours recall. Besides being the epitome of courage and unflinching devotion to duty, he embodied and represented the idea of secular India where people of all faiths co-exist peacefully. Wani is no more with us today but due to these excellent personal qualities will continue to serve as an inspiration and role model for the people of India especially for Kashmiris
When it comes to issues related to Kashmir and the security forces, we tend to get emotional and stop thinking logically. While we readily believe the information we have been fed so far of atrocities committed by government forces in the valley, we refuse to accept the fact that militants are also guilty of killing and injuring innocent people. We observe a hartal even if a civilian gets accidentally killed by security forces but don’t even utter a word to condemn when militants abduct and kill innocent Kashmiris. From time to time there have been media reports of the army harassing civilians and creating a sense of fear in the state, but is it not a fact that there is some order in the region because of the security forces; otherwise there would be complete chaos.
The peace-loving, mild-mannered average Kashmiri is not an ‘army hater’ as the impression is often given out. There are plenty of Kashmiris who realize that they are safe because the army is around.What most of us fail to realize is that the soldiers who are doing their duty in difficult terrain and harsh climate are very much like us, they too have feelings and families! The only difference is that since they have taken up the job of safeguarding our country and its people they are duty-bound to take action against those who pick up arms against the state. However, even while confronting militants the security forces and police always try not to harm these armed persons by asking them to lay down their arms and surrender. Wani too had personally appealed to the militants hiding in a house in Cheki Ashmuji village to surrender and it was only when they refused to do so that Wani and his team had no other option but to use force against them. Wani’s death is an irreparable loss and a colossal personal tragedy foe his wife Mahajabeen and her two teenage sons. Yet, they would certainly be immensely proud that the nation has honoured Wani’s valour and sacrifice with the Ashoka Chakra and Mahajabeen’s calm composure during the award ceremony that the whole world watched on their TV screens has earned her accolades from all over for being the brave wife of a brave soldier!