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Sunday, 08 April 2018 12:12 Written by Qazi Shibli
Rouf Bashir Khanday was 20, when he was shot dead by a Joint team of 19RR, SOG of Jammu Kashmir Police and CRPF in Dialgam area of South Kashmir on the intervening night of 31st March and 1st of April.
Rouf hails from Dehruna village of Islamabad (Anantnag) District in South Kashmir which was once a nucleus of Pro Pakistan Militants in early 90’s. Last year a civilian named Mudasir Ahmed Chopan was killed in the village about 8 Kilometers distant from the District headquarters of Islamabad (Anantnag).
Post the Killing of Burhan Wani on 8th July in South Kashmir around 230 Local Boys have picked up arms. Security Agencies feel there is a difference between present day militants and those of the early 1990s. The ideological conviction of the present lot is stronger than that of the terror groups during the early days, they feel.
While a majority of the boys belong to the average middle class, militants like Rouf Bashir Khanday from Dehruna in south Kashmir show a trend that literate students from well-to-do families are also picking up arms. The young boys are opting for Militancy knowing full well that they are at the risk of being killed and the shelf life for a Militant as shown a great decline to 3-4 months. South Kashmir which has lately turned into a fertile ground for Militancy has seen a wave of local youth taking up Arms. The harrowing tales of the new age Militants- who hardly know each other but all risk their lives by siding against the Indian State.
One of the first youth to pick up Arms was Dawood Sheikh from Kulgam District, A Stone Pelter turned Militant who was shot dead in 201 at the age of 22. Dawood’s story is the story of most of the Youth who have picked up arms post 2010 in Kashmir, Profiled in the Police stations- Humiliated, Offended and then they take up arms.
Rouf was 16, when in August 2016 he was picked up by Government Forces while riding his two-wheeler in South Kashmir’s Islamabad (Anantnag) District. “Merely for having photos of Stone Throwing incidents and Local Militants, he was detained for nearly 45 Days wherein he was tortured too,” said his brother Ashiq Hussain Khanday. After his return from Jail, Rouf became almost mute and used to spend most of his time studying and praying. “He rarely used to speak to anyone post his release, he did not even speak of the torture he faced in the Joint Interrogation Center, his friends told us,” Ashiq said.
“He was constantly called by the Police Stations to keep a record of his activities since his release in October 2016,” his father said. In March he told his family that he was going to visit a friend in Jammu and a few days later his parents filed a Police complaint as there was no trace of Rouf.
On 27 March, a photo of Rouf holding a Gun became viral over social Networking after which his father spent many afternoons and evenings crouched over the phone screen, sending encrypted messages to friends and relatives, seeking help.
Four Days later, on April 01, a Cordon and Search Operation was launched in Verinag area, however soon gunshots were heard in another village, 12 Kilometers away from Verinag. The 19 Rashtriya Rifles of Indian Army, 40 Battalion of Central Reserve Police Force and Jammu Kashmir Police had specific information about Rouf being trapped in a residential house in Dialgam area.
The Senior Superintendent of Jammu Kashmir Police (SSP) for the Islamabad (Anantnag) district while speaking to a News channel called it one of the toughest operations of his life. Altaf Khan, the SSP also said that he tried his finest to convince Rouf to surrender, however he failed. His parents were also transported to the house, but they also could not make Rouf lay down his arms.
At least 16 militants, who have picked up arms in the last three months, when engaged with forces in an encounter and beseeched by their family members, have actually laid down their Arms.
Bashir Ahmed Khanday in conversation with The Kashmiriyat said that when they SSP was trying to convince him, Rouf responded, “I remember how Police tortured me in 2016, I do not want to face the torture yet again.” He also told the Senior Superintendent of Police that his life would be a misery when he has committed an offence, when he was tortured without committing an offence in 2016. The SSP however in conversation with The Kashmiriyat denied having any conversation as such with Rouf.
“We told him, your sister is getting married tomorrow, Do you not want to see her turning into a bride,” his brother said while they had a conversation with Rouf over the phone. The family claimed that they did not want Rouf to surrender for they did not want him to be in the Custody of Police or be tortured. In this last telephonic conversation his mother is also heard saying that the entire family is proud of him as he chose ‘the path of truth.’ She also advised Rouf to pray before his death.
The firing continued for nearly two hours and after 2 hours, the house was blasted turning it into garbage, mud and timber. Rouf had been killed. But his body was terribly disfigured. “We could not find the head and the portion underneath his abdomen,” his brother said. He also demanded an intervention of the international community into the alleged use of Chemical weapons. “Why is the world not heeding any ear to the usage of chemical weapons in Kashmir?” his brother asked. As of April 2018, 192 states including India have accepted the obligations of The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) that outlaws the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons and their precursors.
Thousands in all age groups turned up at his funeral and mourned his death. Women were wailing and the impression that one got after witnessing this was that a Young blooming boy had turned into a martyr. The crowds at the funerals of militants like in Rouf’s suggest a sense of defiance. There is a great deal of insecurity among the youth in particular who complain of being alienated. Such an existing scenario in Kashmir has led to this defiance and attending these funerals is nothing but an attempt to send a message out to the government. As per the intelligence wing, grand funerals motivate other youths of the state to join militant groups.
“We are in mourning, but we do not regret his death, this was God’s will, and I’m proud of it. Something has to happen in Kashmir. Something has to change,” his father said. He also feels that Rouf chose a brave death than dying in his bed many years from now. His brother also claimed that this was the first time in the history of Kashmir that it took them three days to bury Rouf. “The Locals of the Dialgam area recovered his arm from the debris of the house he was trapped in one day after his encounter and they brought it in a scarf, we buried his arm besides his grave,” his brother, Ashiq said. He also said that the very next day Rouf’s leg was recovered from the debris and they buried the legs on day three. “It took us three days to bury him completely,” his father, Bashir Ahmed Khanday said.
The Locals in the area also spoke of another boy from Srinagar Eisa Fazili who was killed in a gun battle in a nearby village Hakura. One of the Locals, Arif Rashid told, “He was often noticed in this area without any arms, but we hardly knew who he was.” Eisa was an engineering graduate before he picked up Arms in defiance of Indian State. He was from a well-to-do family and was a homely, docile boy, as per his family.
The New Age Militants have transgressed the spaces of economy and education. Educated and rich boys as well are taking up arms in defiance. Social Media posts have also been a cause of worry for Security agencies across Kashmir. “Viral videos that capture militants at play and leisure, shocking videos of alleged rights excesses committed by security forces on Kashmiri civilians has done a great damage,” a security official stated. Youth also notify their families through social networking sites that they have joined Militant Ranks.
Internet is often gagged in Kashmir valley as Indian Army has intensified operations against Militants. Official figures reveal that 59 Militants have been killed in the Anti Militancy Operations this year. However more youth are joining the militant ranks causing worry to the Security Agencies.
“India needs to stop pushing the youth to be violent, They have to sit on a dialogue table after confidence Building measures, which can only ensure peace in Jammu Kashmir and an end to the bloodshed.”
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