They were my colleagues and friends I remember them all and I deeply miss them

I met Parvez Ahmad and Zakir Musa in boarding school. Parvez and I enrolled in the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Pulwama – now called JNV Shopian – in 2000. Zakir came only in 2009, joining a class junior to us. 

Parvez was quite vocal, always arguing with older schoolmates, teachers and other staff over something or the other.

“Never give them a chance to exploit you,”

He would advise us about senior students and staff. It wasn’t a surprise that he was captain of our class as well as of the school sports team. He was as good in studies as in painting, sketching, and terracotta work. 

A student enrolled in any JNV gets a chance to visit other JNVs, meet students and even study for a few years there, under a student exchange program. I was transferred from JNV Shopian to JNV Ganderbal for classes 11 and 12. It was there I met Mannan Wani, who migrated from JNV Kupwara, the following year. 

Mannan was good in studies and excelled in sports. He represented Jammu and Kashmir in Kabbadi tournaments across North India and participated in Republic Day and Independence Day parades as a National Cadet Corps Cadet.

The JNV Samiti organizes sports competitions and academic and arts events all year round. Students from various JNVs participate in them. It was at such an event that I met Ummer Fayaz at JNV Anantnag. He was one of the very brilliant students of our school and equally good sportsman. After the studies he was commissioned as a lieutenant in 2nd Battalion, the Rajputana Rifles of Indian Army on December 10, 2016. We all felt very envious of him and held him very high regards.

 How our paths diverged after we finished the school! They all took up arms for different reasons. Parvez was one of the rebels who was slain alongside Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in July 2016. Zakir Musa is now a poster boy of the new wave of militancy in Kashmir as is Mannan Wani, who recently quit his doctoral studies at the Aligarh Muslim University and became a militant. Ummer, who had joined the Indian army, was at a relative’s wedding in Shopian when he was kidnapped and killed. 

In December, a few days before Mannan picked up the gun, JNVs across India celebrated Alumni Day. On the occasion, Mannan made a speech at JNV Kupwara, his alma mater.

“I celebrated Alumni Day at JNV Ganderbal. My old mates and I spoke about Parvez and Ummer and prayed for both of them. It didn’t matter what they had chosen to die for, they both were our colleagues and our friends. They both left a void in our lives.”

Loss of these valuable lives forces me to think- will there ever be a solution to Kashmir?

07 Mar 2018/Wednesday.