A nerve-wracking wait recently ended for a Srinagar family when they received the last call of their son’s fateful moment. What happened before and after that is perhaps the silent suffering faced by those whose sons suddenly disappear and appear one last time at the encounter sites.
AT around 5 on the morning of June 21, Farooq Ahmad Langoo woke up to the call he was expecting for a year now. His pulse shot up, as he stared at his phone screen flashing a known number.
Is it finally about him, he thought, before anxiously answering the call.
“Come to the station immediately along with your wife,” the caller, a cop from a local police station in Qamarwari, made it curt.
As soon as he hung up, the couple cried, knowing the possible fate of their son who had suddenly left home a year back without giving them any whiff of his intentions.
Since then, the couple who aged swiftly in one last year dusted miles to bring their insurgent son back home, but nothing helped.
But now, the cop caller informed them that their son might be one of the militants trapped inside a residential house at Zoonimar, Srinagar.
“Zane dich mae dilan gawahi (As if my heart confirmed it),” Langoo told Kashmir Observer, two days after his son was killed in an encounter with armed forces, along with his two associates.
The state intelligence grid had traced Farooq’s insurgent son in a residential house on the evening of June 20.
Shakoor Farooq, 18, was accompanied by Shahid Ahmad Bhat of Semthan Bijbehara and Mohsin Aslam of Anchar Soura, Srinagar.
Along with his wailing wife and grief-stricken elder brother, anxious Farooq reached the police station—where an armoured vehicle was waiting for them. They were to be ferried to the soon-to-be explosive site.
Driven in the wee hours towards the sieged site on the deserted streets of Srinagar, the couple held hands throughout that short tormenting journey from Qamarwari to Zonimar. They were beseeching Almighty for their son’s safety.
By the time the vehicle came to a halt, the parents stepped out on the street filled with a battery of counterinsurgents.
They were soon asked to try to save their son’s life one last time.
Sobbing, the parents shortly raised a heartbreaking cry, which resounded in the sieged neighbourhood nestled on the banks of Kushalsar wetland.
“We took desperate turns to plead with our son to drop the weapon and surrender but there was no response,” Farooq said.
The helpless parents were repeatedly breaking down, with their throats turning parched with each unheeded appeal. But for the sake of their son, they kept trying.
In Kashmir’s strife-torn landscape, parents exhorting their insurgent sons to drop weapon and surrender is nothing new. Such appeals have become one last ditch-effort to save the lives of the armed Kashmiris. But mostly, they go unnoticed.
A year ago
It was a routine sunny day of June 2019 when Farooq’s son suddenly left home. After failing to find him, the family filed a missing report with police. A search spanning over a month ended when the father was called by cops and shown a picture.
“I fell on the floor seeing my son brandishing a pistol in the photo,” Farooq recalled. “I was told he has become a militant.”
Later he would drag his feet from the police station and took what he recalled the long, arduous walk back home, where he first broke down, before informing his wife about their son’s insurgent path.
After wailing, came the haunting realization making the parents of insurgents mentally prepare for the day when they receive the final call.
But one question was still unanswered: What pushed their 2002-born son to an extreme path?
“I don’t know why he decided to pick up the gun,” the father said. “It was his decision.”
Shakoor was studying in Class10 at the time of his joining. Among Farooq’s two sons, he was the youngest and the family’s apple of an eye.
“He wasn’t a stone pelter, neither had he any bothered past,” the father continued. “But yes, the ongoing situation and uncertainty in Kashmir would deeply disturb him.”
Whenever he would raise questions, Farooq, a shopkeeper, used to divert the attention of his son by advising him to pray.
At Encounter Site
Already two hours had passed, but Farooq and his wife were still invoking their oceanic love for their son, their dreams associated with him and their plight ever since he left them.
But after their son stood silent and unmoved, the parents were told to stop pleading.
They soon walked out of the lanes, holding hands, as if consoling each other for the obvious fate of their son now. The farewell moment was captured, fared online and became yet another strife-torn image of the valley.
Soon the final assault was launched and Farooq’s son along with his associates was retrieved dead from the residential house.
As part of new strategy, the dead bodies of the three young militants were taken to Rajpora, Handwara, some 60 kilometres away from his home in Srinagar.
“We didn’t meet or talk to him after he went missing, but luckily, I could see his face and participate in his funeral prayers at Handwara,” the father said.
“But I wish I could bury him close to our home. We thought at least he would come to talk to us one day but he didn’t even return dead to us! And this will haunt me and my wife throughout our lives now.”
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