Fifteen-year-old Mudasir Rashid left home on August 31 telling his mother that he is going to the local playground. When Mudasir did not return that evening, his worried parents started looking for him. Last week, they saw him for the first time in four months — in a photograph on social media. He was holding a gun. Then, just a couple of days later, on Sunday morning, they lost him again, this time forever. Mudasir was among the three militants killed in an 18-hour gunbattle on Srinagar outskirts.
On Monday, the family of the minor boy had no clear answers what made him join militancy. But they have happily accepted Mudasir’s decision to pick up the gun and die as a “martyr”.
At their home in Mir Mohalla in Hajin town in North Kashmir’s Bandipore district, Mudasir’s mother Fareeda is sitting in the corner in a tent put up for mourners. She is surrounded by other women, and can barely speak.
“My child was very young to do this. I don’t know what was running in his mind when he decided to take this step. But, now I am happy with his decision. He wanted to be a martyr and he has now succeeded in his mission,” Fareeda told The Indian Express on Monday. “That day(On Aug 31) he left home to visit the playground…but he didn’t return.”
Mudasir is survived by his parents and two siblings. His elder brother is mentally challenged.
On Monday, thousands of people including women and children participated in his funeral- which was held twice in Hajin of North Kashmir. It was one of the biggest funerals in Hajin, and belied the town’s past as a hub of the dreaded counter-insurgent Ikhwan force. Hajin was the hometown of Mohammad Yousuf “Kuka” Parray, the founder of Ikhwan.
Another teenaged resident of Hajin, 17-year-old Saqib Bilal, was also killed along with Mudasir in Sunday’s encounter at Mujgund on the outskirts of Srinagar. To his family, Saqib’s big interest lay in acting and theatre, and he had even snagged a bit role in the Bollywood film Haider that was shot entirely on location in Kashmir. Mudsir and Saqib both went missing together, a day after three militants were killed in their area on August 30 this year.
The family of Mudasir lives in a small tin shed in the village. The father is a daily wage worker, and the family has little money.
A few months before Mudasir went missing, the family says he was detained by local police. “We don’t know why he was picked. But, he was released after eight days,” says Tariq Ahmad, Mudasir’s maternal uncle. After his photo went viral on social media, the family had appealed to him to return home.
The family says that was the first they knew of him becoming a militant.
“For all these months, we visited several places to find him…but didn’t find him anywhere. When the encounter started at Mujgund on Saturday evening, his same picture (released earlier) went viral on social media and it was said that he is trapped…” said Tariq. “But we didn’t believe that he could be trapped there, because it was far away from here.”
He said he visited police station Parimpora in Srinagar on Sunday afternoon. “When we reached the police station, we were told to visit the police control room (PCR) where the bodies were kept…we found that it was Mudasir who was martyred. They(police) later delayed handing over his body to us for no reasons.”
On Monday morning after Mudasir was buried, and people were visiting his home, a police party entered the village and began tear-gassing stone throwers.
“We are not allowed to mourn. This is the reason, why our youth are picking up guns,” said Mohammed Shafat, uncle of Mudasir. “There are so many elderly people here. See how the tear gas is causing breathing problems. They should allow us to mourn.”
On Monday, clashes between the stone throwing youth and security forces continued in Hajin area till evening.
When the village first heard of Mudasir’s killing in the encounter, they still had no idea that another local boy, Saqib Bilal, a resident of Parray Mohalla. was also among the militants killed in the Mujgund encounter.
“It was in the afternoon when we came to know that Mudasir has achieved martyrdom. I thought to finish my prayers quickly and then visit their house,” says Saqib’s mother Mehmooda. “Within no time, I heard that my son was also killed with Mudasir…”
At the two storey house of Saqib, relatives and villagers were visiting in large numbers. Everyone remembers Saqib as an “intelligent”, and a “humble” boy. The room of Saqib is locked and the family members say they don’t want to open his room again, as it will bring back all his old memories.
“That day I sent him to market to get some something. But he didn’t return…later we came to know that he has joined militancy,” says the mother Mehmooda, recalling the day when his son went missing.
His mother recalls a conversation with Saqib before he left home. “He once told me innocent boys and scholars are getting killed. I told him to focus on studies and then I stopped the discussion,” she said, adding that Saqib was studying in XI class.
The family says they accepted their son’s choice. “Initially, I tried to bring him back…but then he sent me a message that he will not come back. But, today I am a proud mother and he has achieved in his mission,” she said.
His father Bilal Ahmad says his son was “brilliant” in studies. “He was a distinction holder. He wanted to be an engineer. I really don’t know why he joined the militants…but I support his decision for what he chose,” says Bilal, who had to identify Saqib’s body at Police Control room in Srinagar.
Mehmooda says his son fulfilled a promise he recently made to her. “He sent a message through someone that he would return and spend a full night at home. Yesterday evening he was brought home. I spent a complete night with him. He fulfilled his promise,” she says.