It was an offer they could not refuse.
Poorest of the poor – children of vegetable vendors – Rs. 500 meant a lot to them.
So when the man handed them two Rs. 500 notes, just for lobbing a few bombs, the two boys just could not say no.
The rest was history.
Caught on CCTV cameras, the incident of August 2 gained notoriety overnight — two teenage boys lobbing grenades at a police post in Sopore town. They were pushing a handcart. They took cover while throwing a grenade and then melted away into a narrow lane.It gave nightmares to security agencies in the Valley. This was the first time Lashkar-e-Taiba used children for terror acts, they said. And the fact that the boys were paid for it – something that has come to light now -- has only made matters worse.
"Children from weaker sections can be easily influenced this way," said Imtiaz Ahmad, superintendent of police, Sopore, who investigated the case and caught the boys.
A few other boys have been identified who are hired stone pelters, he said. In time, they can even take up militancy as a livelihood.
"Children are very vulnerable," agreed BN Ramesh, inspector general of CRPF based in Srinagar. "There are around 2,000 children in Sopore area alone."
The boys involved in the Sopore attack were barely in their teens -- one of them was 12 years old, the other 13. Sons of vegetable vendors, they never went to school. The two were released after their families gave personal bonds.
"We gave them counselling too," said Ahmed.
But the bigger question of dealing with children like them, remain.
"We are taking steps. The local police are getting in touch with parents and NGOs are helping us," said Ramesh.