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Meet Master Ahsandar: Ex-school teacher, dreaded militant, alleged torturer

Chindu Sreedharan, lately in Srinagar

Master Ahsandar -- ex-school teacher, dreaded militant, alleged torturer and former Hizbul Mujahidin supremo -- welcomes you with open arms, literally, to his cell.

"Photograph? Sure, sure, why not?" the bearded face splits into an enormous grin, "Please come in!"

Playing the perfect host -- or as much of it as the cramped confines of a cell would permit him -- the man who is believed to have killed 'at least seven people', ordered the 'execution of many others' and send 'over 12,000' Kashmiri youths for arms training to Pakistan, ushers you in with the uttermost courtesy.

Seating himself opposite on the floor, he starts before you can ask him anything, "Yes, yes, I have been involved with the HM -- there is no doubt about that. I have been inside jail for four years now. "

How long more he expected to be inside?

"The police can tell you better about that," he guffaws, "They know better. But otherwise, I must say everything is fine here. No problems. My wife and kid visit me once in a while and, well, there are no problems!"

The police, you broach, are believed to use third-degree methods on captured militants.

"No, no, nothing like that. The interrogation was very friendly. No, torture." Again the guffaw, greater than before.

What does he plan to do when he gets out? Rejoin the HM? Or, maybe, start another organisation like he did when he split with the HM?

"I have been inside for too long," comes the evasive reply, "I don't know what's happening outside."

His laughter follows, as you walk away.

Photograph: Jewella C Miranda

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