‘He was just a child’: Kin of 14-year-old militant killed in Shopian encounter
One of the three people killed in the encounter with security forces in south Kashmir’s Shopian district was a minor and had gone missing last week, his family said. Son of a farmer and vehicle dealer from a village of Shopian, he was the only brother of four sisters and was studying in class 10th. The boy’s family said that he left home on Tuesday.
“He left home last week and we thought he was playing cricket with his friends. When he did not return till evening we called his phone which was switched off,” said his distraught grandfather who is in his 80s.
The boy and two other militants, including one Aasif Ahmad Ganai, were trapped on Saturday evening and killed in an overnight encounter with a joint party of police, army and CRPF in the orchards of Reban Bandpawa area of Shopian. Police said an AK-56 rifle, two pistols and other ‘incriminating’ materials were recovered from the site of encounter.
“We knew nothing about him going with militants. He was just 14. He used to be with his books and was in class 10. When out he would be playing cricket,” he said.
The grandfather said that they received a call from the boy on Saturday which shocked them all.
“He said that he is trapped in an encounter and we should forgive him. I told the child to raise his hands and come out to surrender. He answered that he would think about it and dropped the phone,” he said.
The grandfather said that the authorities gave them the chance to surrender.
“The security forces suspended the operation for the night. We all went to the site and made appeals on the public address system but there was no response,” he said. “In the morning he came out with his other colleague who was firing, then they were killed,” he said.
“What can be done now? We only want his dead body returned to us. He was just a child,” he said.
Police said that they made sincere efforts to make him surrender. “Police and security forces made sincere efforts to take the surrender of newly recruited terrorist. Parents also made appeals but other terrorists didn’t allow him to surrender,” said Kashmir inspector general of police, Vijay Kumar.
Station House Officer Khalid Ahmad said the boy’s family had filed a missing report on April 6. He said that the boy must be around 15-16 year old.
“Another militant, Asif, 19, was his friend. That is why he went into militancy,” Ahmad said.
The death has prompted anger against the militants for accepting children in their ranks as well as against the authorities for killing children and calling them terrorists.
Author Gowhar Geelani posted on Twitter: “Smallest coffins are the heaviest. Children die like children. How can a child be killed? Or, recruited? No side can claim a moral high in this case”.
“Killing of 12 militants in 4 encounters in 2 days denotes a robust CI (counter insurgency) grid but also the existence of a robust network of indoctrination and recruitment of even 14-year-olds in Kashmir. Spare children from this indoctrination & recruitment. Don’t kill and count them as terrorists,” said senior journalist Ahmad Ali Fayaz.
This is not the first time that a minor ‘militant’ was killed in an encounter in Kashmir.
Three militants, including a juvenile, were killed in a gunfight with security forces in Srinagar on December 9, 2018.