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In terror icon's neighbourhood, new son rises

For years, Kukka Parray, former militant and government-backed militia chief, ruled with the gun. Now his son is running for elections and dismisses the gun. Peerzada Ashiq reports.

india Updated: Nov 18, 2008 01:03 IST
Peerzada Ashiq

The huge multi-coloured iron-gate entrance was once the pathway to terror, home of the militant-turned-renegade-turned-politician Muhammad Yusuf Parray alias Kukka Parray.

He now rests in a grave dug in the lawn in front of his home.

Parray was accused of killing dozens of Hizbul Mujahideen men, Jamaat-e-Islami activists and hundreds of civilians, and torturing local residents in public. His 26-year-old son Imtiyaz Yusuf Parray is running for the assembly elections for the first time from his Hajan village in the Sonawari constituency.

The son believes that members of his father's militia – government-backed counterinsurgents, often referred to as Ikhwan -- brutalized people, and that the days of the gun are over in Kashmir.

"Ikhwan was an outlaw and did commit atrocities on people. Many of Ikhwan workers were illiterate and were carrying guns. So there were some incidents," said Yusuf Parray, squatting on a sofa as he faced his father's grave.

A few metres away to his left, a cat nibbled on rice placed by the family members next to the grave.

Parray --- who was a member of the Students Liberation Front militant outfit and worked with security agencies later --- was killed in a landmine blast in 2003 near Hajan market. He had founded a counter-insurgency group called Ikhwanul Muslimeen of more than 250 militants in 2005 and fought elections in 1996 under the banner of Awami League.

Yusuf Parray, a cricket lover, faces a tough fight from National Conference's Akbar Lone. He said he chose the election symbol of his party because of "Boom boom Afridi," a reference to Pakistani cricket Shahid Afridi.

"People don't have energy to lift plough now," said Yususf while referring to NC's election symbol plough. "We are going to go for sixes and PDP's (People's Democratoc Party) pen and inkpot will just keep writing our score."

Though his father was always on the militants' hit-list, the son is not afraid of militant attacks this time.

"The gun culture is over. It is the turn of people's voices now. You won't find the gun now," he said. The neighbour's house was empty; they had all gone to vote.

Yusuf is banking on ex-Ikhwan cadre, which have been absorbed in the Territorial Army. "My father rehabilitated Ikhwan cadre from our area…got them jobs in the Army. They are now drawing more than Rs 12,000 as salary."

With Kukka Parray's death, something else died in Hajan as well: fear.

Unlike in the past when people would not dare raise their voice against the Kukka Parray family, student Javeed Ahmad stopped the HT journalists' car as they left the home and said: "You have heard them, now hear us."

"This is a farce election. We are for a boycott," said Ahmad, while Kukka Parray's elder son Khursheed Parray listened with folded hands.

And the dissent did not have to be punished with the gun.

"They are lying," Khursheed Parray simply said, before melting into the crowd with his supporters.