A teenager who ignored his family's emotive plea and joined militancy a fortnight ago and a 22-year-old youth who had blamed police atrocities for picking up the gun were among eight militants killed in Kashmir on Friday.
Seventeen-year-old Sharik Shah had joined militancy 15 days ago, refusing to heed to his family's passionate video appeal to return for the sake of his aged parents.
The family had even requested militant organisations to dissuade him from joining militancy, considering he was suffering from a kidney ailment, a video purportedly put in a form of an appeal on social media and shared widely had mentioned.
Shakir, a college dropout had disappeared from his Nazneenpora village, arousing suspicion that he might have joined militancy. The family’s fears came true three days later when, in a fresh video, he was exhorting militants to provide him with a weapon to fight along with them.
“It is different to find a weapon. Either I will have to snatch it from the forces or you will have to provide me one,” he said in the video.
Zakir Shafi, his elder brother, told News18 that Shakir went missing on June 5 while he was playing cricket with his friends in the village. “His friends told me he was supposed to bat after fielding, but left without informing anyone. Later, as inquiries revealed nothing, we lodged a missing person’s report with the local police station,” he said.
“We did not hear anything after that,” he said.
According to his family members, Shakir was buried late on Friday evening in Baramulla.
Shakir, sources say, was the cousin of militant commander Naveed Babu who was arrested with police officer Davinder Singh on the Srinagar-Jammu highway. Last year, one of his cousins, Syed Ruban, was killed in an encounter with government forces.
“We are shocked because Shakir never made us believe that he was inclined towards militancy. He had a modern outlook to life though lately he was inclined to religion,” the family member told News18.
Shakir was not the only one who lay dead in the apple orchards of Shopian after a 24-hour encounter, but there were four others, including Jehangir Malik, a close aide of Dr Saifullah, chief commander of Hizbul Mujahideen. He was into militancy for two-and-a-half years.
Another militant who joined barely a month ago was Nadeem Zaman Malik, a 22-year-old youth from Heff Khuri, Zainpora. Last month, Nadeem had circulated a video on social media, alleging he was forced to join militancy due to atrocities committed by a deputy superintendent of police.
“I am joining militancy because DSP Wajahat Hussian had made my life miserable. He would torture me regularly and harass my family. Many youth in Shopian are facing his harassment. Civil authorities are in the know but they prefer to keep quiet,” he said in the video.
Towards the end, he said “The DSP should get ready to pay for targetting him.”
Kashmir's Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar had told mediapersons during a press briefing that if Nadeem's family would bring up the issue with him, he will get it investigated.
Both Shakir and Nadeem joined the Hizbul Mujahideen within a month's time. On Friday morning, both were killed along with three local militants in Bandapow village of Shopian.
Three Lashkar-e-Toiba militants were killed in a separate encounter at Meej village of Pulwama. The encounter prolonged for two days after two of the three militants snuck into a mosque.
Jammu and Kashmir Police Director General Dilbag Singh said due care was taken to maintain the sanctity of the mosque. “Security forces exhibited patience. Before using smoke shells, terrorists in hiding were asked to surrender and they didn't. Eventually, they were neutralised,” a police handout said.
Singh told media over 100 militants have been killed out of whom 50 belonged to the Hizbul Mujahideen. Twenty each were from Jaish and Lashkar. He said security forces were not successful in persuading militants to surrender in encounters despite making announcements at every encounter spot. He said 49 youths joined militancy out of whom 27 were already killed.