My son said his sole motive was martyrdom: Father of slain Kashmiri militant
Hizbul Mujahideen militant Rouf Khanday, 18, and one of the 13 suspected insurgents gunned down by security forces in Kashmir on Sunday, had two last wishes: one, that his father lead his funeral prayer and second, that his parents repay the Rs 150 he owed to the shopkeeper who sold mobile recharge coupons in his village.
Khanday voiced these two wishes when he met his parents for the last time in a house in Dialgam village in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district where he was holed up after the area had been cordoned off by security forces late on Saturday night.
In what is being hailed as an extraordinary gesture in a counter-insurgency operation in the Valley, Anantnag senior superintendent of police (SSP) Altaf Khan sent for Rouf’s parents, urged them go inside the house and convince him to surrender.
Khan also spoke to Rouf himself over a mobile phone – which he sent inside – for at least half-an-hour, urging him to surrender. It proved to be in vain.
Rouf’s accomplice — a local Kashmiri militant of the Hizbul Mujahideen— did surrender, leaving Rouf alone inside the house. Police has not revealed the identity of the militant who surrendered.
In the family’s two-storey house in a small village called Dehruna — around 8km away from the site of encounter in Dialgam — Rouf’s father Bashir Ahmed Khanday recounted the 10-15-minute-long conversation he and his wife Hajira Bano had with their son a few hours before he was gunned down.
“Rouf was holed up on the first floor of the house. When we entered, he came down at the door and took us upstairs. His mother hugged him for a long time and I asked him what he intended to do,” said Bashir.
“My son said his sole motive was martyrdom. I told him that he did not have much ammunition. He replied that whatever ammunition he had was enough and that would last him for the night.”
Rouf, certain of his eventual death, told his father that no one but him should lead the funeral prayer. “I just kept staring at him. I could not reply,” said Bashir.
Bashir said that when he and his wife left home to meet their son at the gunbattle site, they knew that he would not agree to surrender. “We thought if God has willed this last meeting, then we should go.”
According to Bashir, his son’s decision to join the militants was caused by his arrest and alleged harassment by security forces during the summer unrest of 2016 that left around 100 civilians dead and thousands injured in clashes. “Because Rouf had two-three photos of Burhan Wani (Hizbul commander whose killing led to the unrest) in his mobile, he was arrested and kept in jail for 45-odd days,” Bashir said.
Coincidentally, the Nikah ceremony of Rouf’s elder sister was scheduled on Sunday.
“Mother told Rouf that his sister’s hands were already adorned with mehendi. Rouf replied that Allah will take care of her,” added Ayoub Khanday, Rouf’s brother.
SSP Khan said that when he saw the couple walk out of house after the conversation, he was emotionally moved.
“I was moved to tears when I saw that heaviness in their feet as they walked out of that house. So many things must have been in their minds at that point,” he said.
Khan said he tried his best with the resources at hand to convince the Rouf to give up arms even as the gunbattle was raging.
Recounting the 30-minute-long phone conversation with Rouf, Khan said, “I told him that the path he has taken is not a good path. I urged him to throw away the gun. I invoked Islam and talked about peace. But nothing yielded any result. Rouf refused to surrender.”
Khan said that after the conversation Rouf wanted to talk to his family. “I told him to call them from the phone I sent over to him.”
Rouf then called his home, while Khan sent for his parents, thinking that a face-to-face conversation with them might encourage the young man to surrender. Rouf’s brother Ashiq Khanday received the call and put it on speakerphone .
“At first, Rouf asked for forgiveness for any wrong he may have done to anyone. We then asked him if he would surrender. He told us not to even mention surrender. He said “martyrdom” was his path,” said Ashiq.
Rouf added in that call that a part of the house he was in had already been damaged and that one of hands was badly injured.
The family acknowledged SSP Khan’s efforts, but also added on the phone that Rouf had rebuked the SSP, saying that “it was the police who forced him to become a militant and now they were putting on a show of caring”.
At a press conference on Sunday, director general of state police SP Vaid made a special mention of Khan’s efforts, saying that such a measure was “unheard of in any part of the world”.
“Anantnag SSP tried to convince him (Rouf). But he did not listen and instead opened fire. The police and forces had no option but to retaliate and Rouf was killed,” Vaid said.
Rouf, who was an under graduate of arts, left home on February 3 on the pretext of travelling to Jammu. He was killed two months later.