File photo of Hizbul operational commander Riyaz Naikoo | @PawanDurani/Twitter
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Beighpora (Pulwama): Riyaz Naikoo, the dreaded Hizbul Mujahideen commander killed in an encounter Wednesday, was a mathematics graduate once known to offer free tuitions to poor students.

The son of a farmer family, the 35-year-old’s first brush with militancy is said to have come after 2010, when Kashmir witnessed large-scale protests after a civilian was killed during clashes with security forces.

His rise through the ranks was quick. By 2017, he had become the top commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, the militant outfit headed by Pakistan-based Syed Salahuddin, and is known to have kept it together amid a rebellion that threatened to split it. 

His death is seen by security forces as a major blow to local militancy, with sources telling ThePrint that it might help reduce recruitment. However, they admitted that the death of the “last popular face” may reduce militancy to being a faceless threat that could prove dangerous if not kept in check. 

Naikoo’s killing Wednesday sparked protests across Kashmir, especially in its southern parts. Sources said the protests had resulted in at least 12 people getting injured. 

Internet service was suspended across the Valley. Voice calls were suspended as well, except for BSNL subscribers.


Also Read: Why Kashmir’s new militant outfit, ‘Lashkar offshoot’, signals possible escalation of violence


Son of farmers

Naikoo was born in Beighpora village of Awantipora tehsil in Pulwama district in April 1985. His father Asadullah Naikoo, 60, also set up a tailoring shop in their locality while his mother Zeba worked the family fields.

He is the second eldest among four siblings, which includes Naikoo’s sister and two brothers.

He pursued his initial studies at the government school in the neighbouring village of Gulzarpora, before being enrolled at the higher secondary school in Noorpora. Both are in Pulwama.

Naikoo then went on to pursue his graduation, with Mathematics as his major, and began teaching at a local school. It is during this time that he offered free tuitions to children from economically weaker families.

Sometime between 2010 and 2012, police officers say, Naikoo came in touch with local militants and became an overground worker (OGW) responsible for providing logistical support to militant groups.

On 21 May 2012, Naikoo joined the Hizbul Mujahideen.

According to local police officers, Naikoo spent the years between 2012 and 2017 strengthening the group and building his profile, by being a part of attacks as well as bringing in fresh recruits. 

Naikoo’s background as a teacher, seen as a “respectable profession”, earned him much admiration among his fellow militants, a senior police officer said.

In 2016, the Hizbul Mujahideen suffered a major blow as one of its most high-profile members, commander Burhan Wani, was killed in an encounter. 

The next year, the outfit found itself in an existential crisis as Wani’s successor Zakir Musa aka Zakir Rashid Bhat split in the pursuit of a global caliphate, an idea promoted by the likes of al Qaeda and the Islamic State, as opposed to the Hizbul’s pro-Pakistan stance.

Musa, who was killed last year, formed his own outfit, the Ansar ul Gazwat ul Hind (AGH), bringing the three-decade-old Hizbul Mujahideen on the verge of a split. However, Naikoo, then a senior in the outfit and close to Salahuddin, managed to prevent members from breaking away.

“Naikoo brought the Hizb closer to its pro-Pakistan stance at a time when pan-Islamist ideologies were taking over several of its cadres. Naikoo ensured that he reached out to almost all militants of his outfit,” said a senior police officer posted in south Kashmir. “As a result, the AGH never grew as a force and has since stayed a fringe militant outfit.” 

Within 2017, Naikoo had been given the reins of the Hizbul Mujahideen in Kashmir.

During his time as the top local commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, Naikoo oversaw some major violent campaigns. One of the senior police officers who spoke to ThePrint for this report said Naiko’s “major successes” included the series of abductions of some police personnel and their families in 2018, which came after the relatives of the Hizbul Mujahideen’s Tral commander Hammad Khan were taken into custody. Naikoo’s own father, who has been detained on multiple occasions, was also detained at the time.

“Police were ordered to release the families of the militants by then DGP (S.P. Vaid). A Twitter handle we long suspected was used by Naikoo even wrote ‘well done boys’, a line used by Vaid after encounters,” said the officer.

Another officer said Naikoo brought a “certain ruthlessness” into the outfit, something earlier associated with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), two Pakistan-based terrorist outfits also involved in fuelling the local militancy. 

In 2018, for example, Naikoo is believed to have sanctioned the killing of civilians suspected to be informers, and even encouraged the group to target policemen, including personnel of a junior rank. Through all of this, Naikoo’s popularity did not take a hit.

In a press release issued after his killing, J&K Police said Naikoo used to upload audio and video clips on social media to “motivate youth to join militancy”. “He looted orchard owners and farmers to collect funds for his outfit,” the added, claiming that he had “also has been collecting booty from the illicit cultivation of opium and bhang in south Kashmir”.  


Also Read: Intruders, a house besieged, gunfire — 12-hour J&K encounter that killed Indian Army colonel


‘He made Hizbul stronger’

As the Hizbul Mujahideen chief, senior police officers said, Naikoo not only ensured the militant group did not lose focus after Wani’s killing, but also helped it grow stronger than the LeT and the JeM. 

“The killing of Naikoo is a major blow to not only the Hizbul Mujahideen but also the morale of militants in other groups. Undoubtedly, Naikoo was one of the most effective militant commanders we have seen in since the 1990s (the peak of Kashmir militancy),” said another senior police officer.

“He was a good a strategist and his killing will affect recruitment and the attack capacities of the Hizbul Mujahideen.” 

According to police data, 54 local residents joined militant ranks in 2010, with the next three years — 2011, 2012 and 2013 — registering a steep decline, at 23, 21 and 6, respectively. The numbers reached 126 in 2017, the year after Wani was killed and Naikoo took over, and 200 in 2018.

Naikoo was killed in a gun-battle at a house in Beighpora, along with another militant named Adil Bhat. Sources in the security establishment hinted that the Hizbul Mujahideen might appoint a militant named Saifullah Mir as his successor.


Also Read: Pakistan using Covid window for cross-border militancy in Kashmir, weaponising social media


 

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39 Comments Share Your Views

39 COMMENTS

  1. whole Kashmir are crying..but indian govt.disconncted internet and mobile Phones in Kashmir…we miss you brother Riyaz bro..May almighty grant u highest place in Jannah…Apki qurabani ek din rang layegu inshallah.

  2. This is pathetic. Reading about a hero who fought for the freedom of his people. Yes you can call him terrorist because he strived for hi people for freedom against your fucking hindu majority country and you call it a liberal state. Even Pakistan is an islamic country But her attitude towards minorities is a role model to this failed state India

  3. Print you are such a disgrace to media, you people have not used terrorist word for that terrorist even once in the whole article.You people are simply encouraging terrorism by showing love by saying mathematician ,son of a farmer freely giving tuition to poor student.

  4. This is pathethic, felt like i am reading about a hero. The jingoism of journalism by the print has gone too far.

    Really get a life, and start reporting rather than giving a biography of a terrorist.

    Should we now start calling osama an engineer??

  5. All the articles of the print is anti india, why is indian government not taking any action……..if a journalist can be questioned for 12 hours for calling someone by thier real name why not interogate these anti national elements (so called journalists) whose only aim is to spread their fake propaganda………same on you……

    • Are you eh loser
      Writing about someone
      Don’t make you eh terrorist
      WRITING ABOUT MODI GASSE BYPASS MAY CONSIDER BIAS

  6. Naikoo and company are freedom fighters or better still mujahideen. In Islam – death is a form shifting process and a metaphysical evolution.

    Some muhaids killed a Colonel with his platoon in force – inspite of that ! This is not an IED or Sniper shot . It is a face up encounter – WHICH THE INDIANS LOST TO KASHMIRIIS who had a few months training !

    Naikoo – assuming he was killed – was KILLED NBY PERHAPS DOZENS OF SOLDIERS ! AT LEAST 12 :1 !

    WHO IS THE DUD ?

    WHO IS THE COWARD ?

    It is the Indians – dud s – as they are killed by boys trained for a few months with no sat or e-cover !
    :
    It is the Indian – cowards – in a 1 to 1 or 2 to 1 – they lose – as they are cowards and impotent wimps .

    The Mongols lost many wars with the Vietnamese . Y ? Mongols were the invaders – FIGHTING a war on Viet land ! The Mongols tool THE RISK and lost some lives.

    In the end Mongols won and annihilated th e Vietnamese .The Mongolls were a superior race and the Viets were SAIVA WORSHIPPERS who prayed to shiva lingas !

    The Kashmiris are in Indian occupied soil and THEY ARE ALREADY WINNING ! – inspite of a million armed men in Kashmir !

    KASHMIR is a lost case for INDIA – with AI/ROBOTS/DRONES/NANO TECH/MINITIATURISATION – doom lies ahead for the Indian limpets in Khaki

    • I think you live in pakistan that’s why you have the wrong education and information
      Shows why you admire raiz niku whatever the fuck
      Just wait when pakistan breaks into pieces

  7. Hi Print very much eager to read your next article ” From Charismatic Saudi Engineer to Ramming Planes in World Trade Center “. Your patrons will be delighted too.

  8. Anti india propaganda machinery is print…you cannot dis lodge Modi nor you can breaknj and K from india under modi

  9. one’s man terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Be it burhan wani or riyaz naikoo both has a history of harassment and beaten up by police. The govt really need to retrospect itself. Something is structurally very wrong with the govt system of approach. LET’S BE REAL.

  10. Dreaded militant who looted farmers….. This is the real face of these criminals.
    Advice to The Print – stop the whitewashing and glamourizing of these criminals and anti-national traitors like Naikoo and Burhaan Wani.

  11. Why are you calling terrorist (Wani) a commander? They are cowards, who look good on camera. Don’t glorify terrorists please in the name of free speech

  12. Shame on the print who discovered entire story of dreaded terrorist but never utter a word our martyred soldiers. Shameless media.

  13. Shame on the print who discovered entire story of dreaded terrorist but never utter a word our martyred soldiers. Shameless media

  14. The kind of glorification that The Print doing is unimaginable. He was son of farmer/tailor etc.etc. it seems the team of The Print has all access to terrorists’ Aadhar Cards, Ration Cards, Matriculation Degree, Graduation Degrees. Alas, best wishes to our security forces. Eid Mubarak.

  15. Is providing support to freedom fighters is justify for all. ?
    “India had sympathy with the freedom fighters of East Pakistan and helped them by providing assistance / shelter in India & training including providing full support of Indian Army forces to fight & liberate from Pakistan as Bangladesh.”
    (This business of arming and training whatever you want to call them, terrorists, freedom fighters, or militants, every country in this region has been involved with it.)

    • Your country pakistan have one policy . And policy is keep pushing the terror in kashmir , afaganistan ,iran.pakistan offical bussesnes is terror export

    • As far as I know, Bangladesh is also an islamic country and genocide happened there long before the rise of Mukti Bahni. When a choose PM by the public is killed, theres every right of big brother to bring peace in the neighborhood.

    • Except, the Indian armed forces did not commit a genocide and ethnic cleansing of 3 million people in Bangladesh and create an international tragedy by creating more and more refugees that forced the hand of a government of a nearby nation to act.
      Was the Indian government complicit in trying to create a pro-Indian government and thereby trying to suppress democracy? Yes. But that was back in 1986.
      Since then, Kashmiri Pandits were thrown out of their land. Kashmiri Hindus have been killed in what can only be termed as an ethnic cleansing which would have continued unabated, if it werent for the Indian Armed Forces. And 70,000 people are dead, in what can only be described as a deadly melee between the Indian armed forces and Pakistan.
      What you very conveniently fail to appreciate is that these same “freedom fighters” and Pakistani terrorists are responsible for that figure. They have done more harm to the rights of self determination of the Kashmiri people than India could ever hope to do.

      Kashmir might be a Muslim majority land, but that doesn’t make it a Muslim land destined to be an Islamic Caliphate. It is, has and always has been Indian land.
      So the freedom fight you’re talking about, is a fight in support of ethnic cleansing of minorities and dissenters akin to what the Islamic State did in Iraq and Syria.

  16. No condemnation of this terrorist I the entire article. Eulogizing him fo being a teacher, a math genius …. but not that he killed mercilessly n spread terror, did not allow peace a chance in wake of revocation of 370. Whose side are you. With peoe like you who needs enemies. You are in plain sight. Shameful

  17. Tell those pigs, this is India, not Iraq or Syria. You take up weapons against the government you’ll be killed. Doesn’t matter if you’re a maths teacher or a son of a fruit seller. Also those celebrating the death of our 5 soldiers, get ready to be punished.

    • Are you eh loser
      Writing about someone
      Don’t make you eh terrorist
      WRITING ABOUT MODI GASSE BYPASS MAY CONSIDER BIAS

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