Like many in Kashmir and elsewhere, Rafi’s posts are an indication of his thinking about the dynamics of oppression and possible ways to resist. On March 4, he reposted Howard Zinn’s following words, originally posted on the same date in 2015:

Civil disobedience is not a problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… (and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.

Rafi was clearly very well read, but that was no reason for arrogance. His kindness and humility, which his friends and family have been reporting, are also evident in the following lines posted on March 22, originally posted in 2016:

Agar haadi-saati tour par apne do chaar kitabein zyada padhli hain, tou dosroon ka jeena tou haram na karein.

If you have accidentally read a few more books, that should not make you rub it on others.

MONTH BEFORE THE LAST

On Sunday April 1, when 13 rebels were killed in three separate encounters in South Kashmir, Rafi posted the following status on his timeline:

Every day people die but never Kashmir is interested who and how many. But few die and whole Valley cry. May Allah be pleased with them.

On April 14, the Professor reminisced about his own teachers who influenced and inspired him, right from his primary school to the university. He mentions some favorites and ends with a thanks and a wish: “I am indebted to all my teachers whose names I have not mentioned. May Allah bless all of my teachers.”

On April 18, he wrote a post in response to the “Enforced closure of educational institutes” by the government in order to contain widespread students’ protests against ongoing killings in Kashmir:

Onus lies with the men/women in power who are hell bent to exercise the power to remain in power. Alas this power game is putting students on trial who are now scared and unsafe even in the places where they should be at least safe and secure. By blocking all the peaceful means of expressing dissent what remains there is self defense against armed insecurity forces. It is existing circumstances which is fuelling student protests. The way forward is change in status quo. Where power won’t be exercised for the sake of power.

On April 25, he dedicated a post to his students. Signed in as ‘Feeling Proud’ he wrote:

As a teacher if you have such students to whom you really mean much more than mere something what else may you ask for. I am proud of you my dear students. I cannot forget your batch. You will be with me with utmost loving memories. May Allah bless you all. Today I really feel proud of being a teacher. (Sociology PG students (supplementary) University of Kashmir Batch 2016-17-18).

On April 29, seemingly troubled by the recent protests by the Hazara community in Pakistan’s Quetta city, Rafi posted a picture

and a video lecture of Mufti Muhammad Ishaq Madni, a Pakistani scholar who stresses the need for unity among the Muslim communities. A portion of the highlighted text in the picture translates as: “Those who make Shia and Sunni fight among themselves in the name of the companions, are ignorant clerics who worship nothing else but their own desires.”

On April 30, Rafi updated his final profile picture.

On May 1, he shared his final news post, a Washington Post article about the killing of two rebels, Sameer Tiger and Auqib Ahmad Khan, in Drabgam village in South Kashmir. At least fourteen other people were also injured on the same day.

*

Even from a distance, Rafi’s story and thoughts can be gleaned from his Facebook profile and the news reports that have been published exclusively about him. A greater attention to detail about his story also comes from the fact that he was known among university circles which many more people might identify with. The stories of others killed along with him—rebels as well as civilians—perhaps may not be written with such description. Yet, they are no less adored, mourned and remembered by the people.

As it rained on Sunday, thousands of people rushed towards Heff village in Shopian to have a last glimpse of the thirty-two-year old Saddam Padder, and forty-one-year old Bilal Moulvi who last came home to see his parents, wife and two daughters on Saturday night. Fifteen rounds of funeral prayers were not enough to accommodate everyone, and the burial was delayed by a day. The rains intensified by early morning on Monday, yet people continued to jostle for space as the nearby Eidgah grounds were filled to capacity. Some climbed the surrounding walls and poplar trees. The duo was finally buried after five more rounds of funeral prayers, but not before the thirty-two-year-old Saddam’s mother, Firdausa, participated in the gun-salute, the second time in two days, as she fired three shots in the air while standing on the terrace of a house overlooking the burial ground. His sister and brother also participated in the gun-salutes. A total of a hundred thousand people are reported to have participated in the duo’s funeral prayers, the largest since Burhan Wani’s in July 2016. In a separate burial in Malikgund village of Shopian, Adil Thokar was buried after six back to back funerals.

Saddam belonged to a well-off family involved in timber trade who witnessed his transition from a participant in street protests a decade ago, which often landed him in jail, to becoming one of the top rebel commanders in South Kashmir. While he had been active for more than four years, the most senior among the group was Tauseef Sheikh, who joined in 2013 as a sixteen-year-old. He was also the sixteenth member of his family to have joined the rebels since the 1990’s, and the fifteenth to be killed.

Early morning on Sunday, Tauseef’s mother, Naseema Bano, picked the call from an unknown number in excitement. She had guessed the person right, but did not expect his words: “I am trapped in a cordon. There are no chances of escape…I had promised to meet you but that might not happen now. We will meet in the hereafter. Pray for me.” As the weight of her son’s final words dawned upon her, Naseema responded: “Allah is with you. Be steadfast on your path.” When Tauseef’s bullet ridden body was brought home in the afternoon, people who started assembling to pay their last respects, walked through the village road decorated with a collage of top rebels including many from his family. Naseema spoke of her son proudly: “He was their commander in the entire district and that I why at least 12 militants came in the groups of fours to offer him gun salute. He was a different militant, a thinking one.” She added: “There will be no one like him now…there is no purpose to this life now.” His sister, Rafeeqa, added: “Our sons and brother have given their blood for this movement.”

Rafi, Saddam, Bilal, Adil, and Tauseef, all were buried amidst the mournful, yet musical chants of pro-freedom slogans and songs.

*

How does one end the mourning? How does one conclude the mourning? Perhaps by going back to the words of those who no longer need to mourn.

One of Rafi’s cover pictures, uploaded on November 10, 2013, notes the following verse:

Jahaan me ahl-e-imaan soorat-e-khurshid jeetay hain
Idhar doobey, udhar nikley, udhar doobey, idhar niklay

In this world, the people of faith live like the sun
They set here to rise there, set there to rise somewhere else

Another one, uploaded on March 2 2017, has the following lines:

Daayim abaad rahegi duniya,
Hum na hongey, koyi humsa hoga

The world shall always continue to exist
We won’t be around, someone like us will

Rafi had left his home possibly to join the rebels. Whether he formally joined remains unknown. He did not upload the signature picture with a rifle in his hand to announce his decision. But what remains certain is that the Professor did not leave them when the first shots were fired. Perhaps, he had foreseen this. One of his other cover pictures, uploaded on December 7 2017, reads as follows:

Hum dosti me darakhtoun ki tarah hain sahib!
Jahaan lag jaayein, wahin mudattoun khade rehtey hain.

In friendship, we are like trees, Saheb.
We stay put for ages wherever we find root.