Chitragam: Faisal Gulzar, 14, had left his home only two days before he died. On Sunday evening, the teenager called his family while bleeding from a gunshot wound before he was killed in an encounter.
Within days, his entire neighbourhood had sunk into mourning. The village appeared deserted, with most shops shut, as mourners visited the slain militant’s home. Prayers were being held for the 14-year-old as his family and neighbours gathered in shock.
“There is too much grief to around to discuss anything. Death is not the end but the beginning of a long lasting pain here,” a shattered relative said.
Faisal’s father Gulzar Ahmad says he had no clue that his son would take such a step. “We were planning to till the land that day but due to overcast I told my son to wait,” Gulzar said.
On April 6, as Gulzar told his son to postpone the work, he thought Faisal was in the village taking a stroll. “When he did not return by the evening, he called Faisal but, after his phone rang once, the next time it was switched off,” he recalled.
Faisal was one of the five siblings and only son of Gulzar Ahmad Ganie, a farmer from Shopian’s Chitragam Kalan village, around 60 km from capital, Srinagar. He was killed along with two other suspected militants, including another boy from his neighbourhood, Asif Ahmad Ganie. The police said they were part of militant outfit, Al Badr.
The next morning, a missing report was filed in the nearby police station. But, it did not take the police and armed forces too long to close in on the two days’ old rebel teenager. At about 5 p.m on Saturday, the Shopian police had received inputs of the presence of militants in orchards of Reban Bandpawa area of Shopian following which a joint cordon and search operation was launched by Police, 34 RR and the 178 Bn CRPF.
“They were given an opportunity to surrender, however, they fired indiscriminately on the joint search party which retaliated leading to an encounter,” a police spokesperson said.
The bodies of the suspected militants were taken to Handwara area of North Kashmir, a village over 150 km far from here. Faisal’s close family was allowed to attend his last rites and are hopeful that his body will be returned to bury close to where thye could visit him.
One of Faisal’s family members said they were “humiliated” on their way to attend the last rites. “We were stopped at a check-post ahead of Handwara. “We were abused by the policemen. They broke the window
panes of our cars,” he said.
The teenager’s family asked him to give up the fight and surrender before the armed forces that had laid a siege around the class 9 student, but he refused. “I have accepted my fate and decided to die as a martyr,” he told his family on phone.
Faisal spoke to his parents and extended family members, who tried topersuade him to come out from the siege. “We told him that the police and armed forces will not harm him, but he replied he is not afraid of the either,” his uncle Shabir Ahmad told NewsClick.
In April, as many as 16 suspected militants have been killed in gunfights mostly in South Kashmir. The militants have assassinated a policeman, a soldier of the Territorial Army and a former policeman taking the total casualty to 18 persons in just 12 days. This year, over 40 militants have been killed in the region, according to official data.
The forces also brought the family members of Faisal to the encounter site to persuade him to surrender. But, to no avail.
“It looked like we were caught inside the encounter and Faisal spoke as if he was on the outside,” his cousin Aijaz said. After the encounter concluded, the police recovered one AK-56 rifle, 2 pistols from the spot.