They were born in the same town, but hardly traversed the same paths until one day they both disappeared from their homes and ended up meeting the same fate four months later. As Hajin continues to mourn its two teen insurgent sons, their transformation has left most of them startled.
On 26th January 2014, when the rest of India celebrated the Republic Day, Kashmir, like every year, was put under curfew. From the far south to the north, including JK’s summer capital Srinagar remained shut with heavy deployment of the forces.
The valley was already seething as just a week back the Indian Army had given itself a clean chit in Pathribal fake encounter case, where five unarmed locals, dubbed as “foreign militants”, were accused of killing 36 Sikh men – infamously known as Chattisinghpora massacre –in the year 2000.
In the backdrop of already growing tension, “black day” was being observed in the valley, in both violent and non-violent forms.
That very day, a 10-year-old boy from northern belt’s Hajin town, for the “first time ever”, marched towards the site where his hometown boys were indulged in a heavy stone-pelting clash with the forces. He did not throw stones, but, raised the flag as a mark of protest.
That boy was Mudasir Ahmad Parray, “Hajin’s darling” – as his maternal uncle, Tariq Ahmad Mir, recalls.
The family was unaware of the 10-year-old’s flag-raising stunt until they got a call from the local police to present Mudasir at the station.
Soon Tariq along with Mudasir and his father Abdul Rasheed reported at the Hajin Police Station.
Narrating the incident, Tariq, sitting with mourners in Hajin, says: “The SHO asked us to wait outside, while he privately confronted Mudasir inside his office room for a good five minutes. Then, his father Abdul Rasheed was asked to come in. Still, I had no idea what exactly the matter was.”
After a minute or two, Tariq recalls, Rasheed came out with an uneasy face. “He told me about Mudasir’s flag-raising activity and for that, the SHO had ordered his men to put Rasheed in the lock-up.”
When Tariq tried convincing the officer to let the matter go, he claims: “The SHO lost it and abused me and Rasheed right in front of little Mudasir, who stood there silently with his head down.”
For the next three days, Mudasir’s father, who suffers from a slipped disc, was put inside the lockup to make up for the “petty crime” his son had committed.
Back home, Mudasir did not talk to anyone, Tariq remembers. “Every time I lectured him about the incident, his only answer was: Sorry maamu agli baar nahi hoga(Sorry uncle, this won’t happen again).”
For the next four years, Mudasir lived up to his words.
Along with managing his studies, he worked at a nearby meat shop as a helper during his free time. At a very early stage, the little kid had understood his responsibilities towards his family.
Besides his father’s chronic backache, Mudasir’s mother is a heart patient, while his 18-year-old elder brother is mentally unsound.
Everything was just going fine for the family, until another summon came.
It was Friday, May 2018, Tariq recalls: “Mudasir was picked up by the police under the charges of stone-pelting. For one straight week, he was put in the lockup and was discharged next Friday.”
Right after his release, Tariq decided to take Mudasir to Sopore, an apple town in northern Kashmir, where he resides and carries out his business. For the next one and a half month, Mudasir stayed with his uncle and prepared for his upcoming school test.
“Mudasir was decent at studies,” his uncle says. “In mid-July he came back to his hometown Hajin and appeared for the exams.”
Meanwhile, Tariq got busy with his business and Mudasir, too, post-exams, got himself engaged in a local football tournament, which he had been eyeing to participate in.
The family was relieved, and so was Tariq.
But August 31, 2018 was going to change it again.
At around 11:00 am that day, Mudasir, like his everyday routine, proceeded to a nearby sports ground to play football, a game he had been really fond of. The entire day passed by, but the blond boy had yet not returned home.
The same day, another teenager from Hajin had gone missing. He was Saqib Bilal, a 17-year-old, who had left his house to buy groceries from a nearby market.
Their families searched every nook and corner of Hajin, but the boys were nowhere to be found.
With time, speculations started among the residents regarding their mysterious disappearance. While some suspected army’s role, few considered they must have just “notoriously” run away from their families. However, no one could ascertain the reality, not even their families.
A missing report was filed at the local police station. Through social media, both the families appealed their sons to return home, however, it only fell on deaf ears.
“Dekh kya halat hogayi hai Mumma ki tere bina? Ek request hai Saqib, tu jaha bhi hai wapas ghar aaja yaar (Look what has happened to Mumma without you. I have only one request Saqib, please return back home),” the 17-year-old’s elder brother, Aquib Bilal, said in an appeal video that had been widely circulated across social media.
But, he never returned.
“Saqib wasn’t any ordinary kid,” Aquib says, while talking to this reporter at his residence on Wednesday.
He was a bright student having scored a distinction in class 10 boards. He played Taekwondo at district level and was also a Kabaddi aficionado. He also used to play football for his local team, Shalimar Football Club, as a defender.
Being a theatre enthusiast, Saqib had once played a protagonist in a stage show called Weathchi Yeahi (This is river) in which he was a poor kid who wanted to study, but his father forcefully made him work. He had won an award for this act and even went to Odisha to repeat the performance.
“He was a funny guy,” Aquib recalls, suppressing the smile on his sad face.
“Saqib always fought with his younger sister to sleep besides Mumma. He used to ask me tricky math questions and when I couldn’t solve, he would laugh at me. He was really smart. I still wonder from where he used to get those questions.”
With his sudden militant move, Saqib lived up to his reputation, leaving his elder brother once again in a tricky question that he couldn’t solve — until, after a month and a half, the police revealed: Mudasir and Saqib have joined the Lashkar-e-Taiba militants.
“It was unbelievable,” Mudasir’s uncle, Tariq continues. “I could just not imagine my 14-year-old little nephew with a gun.”
Tariq’s wildest fear came alive on December 5, when a photo of Mudasir holding an AK-47 in one hand, and a knife in the other, went viral on social media.
In no time, Hajin’s Muda Buil became the talk of the town.
“I was in Mohali on a business trip when I saw Mudasir’s gun-wielding picture,” the anguished uncle recalls.
And in a matter of three days, on December 8, at around 6:00 in the evening Tariq read the news about both the boys being trapped in Srinagar outskirts.
Wasting no time, Tariq took the night flight back to Srinagar. He reached the Airport next morning and made his way towards the gunfight site at Mujgund in Srinagar outskirts, where his little nephew, along with Saqib and a Pakistani militant Ali Bhai were engaged in an 18-hour-long gunfight.
However, the gunfight was over by the time Tariq reached the site. A police official told him that three dead bodies have been taken to Srinagar’s Police Control Room for inspection. “He still hadn’t confirmed if Mudasir was one among the slain,” he says.
Tariq then went to the PCR, where, he saw Saqib’s father, Bilal Ahmad, waiting outside the room.
“I couldn’t verify my son at first,” Bilal says, sitting sullen among the mourners at his Hajin home. “He looked older, mature. He was not how I saw him, when he had last left home.”
But, the “blood-spoilt” face was indeed of Bilal’s youngest son, who had left home to buy groceries four months back, only to end up dead and unrecognisable.
Next to him, lay Mudasir, who had gone to play football, only to end up on a different turf.
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