Tales from the Woods

Syed Tajamul Imran;

On 8 July 2016 after the Indian armed forces gunned down Burhan Wani, a charismatic 22-year-old militant commander of the Hizb -ul Mujahideen – which is designated as a ‘terrorist organisation’ by India – having grown alarmed by his success in recruiting fighters.
Wani’s killing sparked a straight month of mass protests, and a heavy Indian crackdown.
Thousands of protesters were arrested, at least 100 civilians were killed, and many more disfigured and blinded by the use of pellet guns. Schools, colleges and businesses all closed. Mobile internet were suspended and broadband was cut off affecting the local press. Post this all, a friend of my brother Farooq Hurra joined Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and my brother started getting calls from different agencies including CID, Army and police. With all this in the back of my mind and seeing my brother getting beaten to pulp over his friend’s decision to join rebels, I took it upon myself to find about the psychology of young boys who were taking up guns to fight Indian rule.
= After some two years, like many who couldn’t bear the torture by Indian forces, my brother left for woods. I diligently followed the armed resistance part of Kashmir conflict and the trail of ‘young boys leaving for woods and coming home dead.’ A year after, when I received my brothers dead body some 9 months after he left for woods, I found it natural to conclude at the end that in conflicts like Kashmir and in such a situation and circumstances, things only tend to worsen for future. Mothers losing their beloved sons, fathers- stick of an old age, sisters a part of soul and brothers a part of heart.
Like us there are hundreds of such families who went through the same pain among them some cases touched my heart and mind. In order to find the reasons like “How, when and why” I went to such a same place.
= MUDASIR RASHID PARRAY Alias MUDASIR BILLA – Youngest ever Rebel of Kashmir-Age 13 years 4 months (As per his mother) became a popular name when he was gunned down in an encounter back in Dec 2018. As in Kashmir, in order to become a hero, one has only two options: die as a Martyr or become a jail bird. The pictures which then surfaced on social media raised a many questions about his joining. Some observers were of the belief that the Militant organisation Hizb-Ul-Mujahideen must would have done some research before activating such a low aged boy. Post his joining, As Manan wani’s joining was also the topic youth used to discuss and became the headlines of Top news outlets, Hizb’s chief Syed Salah-Ud-Din, for the first time in the three decade militancy in Kashmir made a statement , asking boys studying in colleges and schools to ‘stay away’ from armed struggle and concentrate on studies.
“Under international law, no side can use minors during any military or militant operations, be it as informers or as militants. However some introspection needs to take place at each and every level of society.” Khurram Parvaiz; Convener of the J&K Coalition of Civil Society was quoted by a news agency then.
But even after issuing the statement Mudasir didn’t came back ‘nor was he sent back’. In order to find the story How and why he left for woods I traveled to Mudasir’s native village Hajan – a small town in Bandipora district surrounded by Indian army camps and the Jehlim river which flows to Pakistan.
As I opened the main gate of the house looking for Mudasirs family his Cousin opened her silence after a pause, “They don’t live here anymore. Since Mudasir achieved martyrdom his parents were not feeling good. So they thought it is better to run away from the things which makes them remembers their martyr son.” A few yards away Mudasir rests in a grave at a martyrs Graveyard of Hajan.
= After getting the phone numbers of the family I left Hajan with a thought that I am not the only man who have lost someone beloved in the bloody conflict. While travelling back to Srinagar – capital city of Indian Administrated Kashmir, I searched about Mudasir and found that Pakistani ISPR’s another youtube channel ‘Pak Cyber Army’ has dedicated a song “14 saalaa.. mudasir hum…” Since then, I hum this song once in a day.
A Day after I called on the number provided by the cousin of Mudasir and found that the person on the other side of the call is Mudasir’s lone ‘Elder Brother’ Raja. As I started the conversation with my name and the reason I have called, he responded in a good way and requested to call him after a day as he is not well. Later I came to know that on the day he lost his Brother he got injured by getting unconscious repeatedly that day and due to the head injuries, he often remains in hospital. Raja is the only bread earner of his family most important only hope of his parents as well.
Next day I was checking my whatsaap account and found a reply from Raja on a Picture of my Brother ‘Ruban’ “Sir, Who is this.” After a pause I replied “He is my brother and I lost him in a same way like yours.”, “Then we share a same bond” Raja replied.

A Day after as the conversation became personal now, I asked Raja to share the experience of Living your life without your brother and the things which made him a Rebel. Raja was admitted at SKIMS Bemina in ward 9.
Few days later I again called Raja and he still was in the same ward of SKIMS Bemina. Hearing the background cries of his Mother I asked a friend of mine to accompany me and we went to SKIMS Bemina.

Lost in their own world, Raja along with his parents were waiting for doctors to check the medicines they had brought from outside. Suddenly Raja caught me, and said are you ‘Tajamul’? – ‘Yes, I am Tajamul.’ He then introduced me with his parents.
“Zani sui yas yie tengul aasi paumout – (Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches.)” Fareeda – Mother of Mudasir & Raja, Living in her 40’s opened the conversation with this phrase. “He was a part of my soul, with him I lost everything.” She further stated.
‘That year like others we celebrated Eid-Ul-Azha at home and after some 10 days he went missing. Then after some 20 days we came to know that he has joined LeT.’ Raja Intervened in order to hold her mother as she was crying. Mudasir had gone missing from his home on August 31, after an encounter took place at nearby Parray Mohalla in which three Lashkar-e-Toiba militants were gunned down. His picture surfaced on the internet with a gun: the Post-Burhan style of announcing entry into rebel brotherhood. This picture not only testifies the present status of Kashmir but also the vulnerability of yet another generation ready to get consumed in the never-ending cycle of bloodshed.
Before his ordeal began Mudasir was summoned by JKP a many times. “In Jan 2018 after ‘India’s independence day celebrations’ local boys in Hajan raised the flag of Pakistan in order to irritate army and police. Next day persons from police came during the night and took Mudasir. With the intervention of local Awqaf-body after few days he was released. “Staying in prison for some 14 days changed his mind once for all” Fareeda his mother, told this reporter.

“That day as I went to Police station with food, Mudasir saw me and cried, once I was supposed to leave he acted like he is fine and laughed, Deep inside I was known about his scare.” Fareeda said. Mudasir was released after some 14 days then.
This was not the first time nor was it the last time when Mudasir was called or taken by police or army. “Young boys remain in the limelight of Police everywhere in Kashmir, Mudasir was one such case.” Raja said.
“In another such incident Mudasir who was studying in Govt Middle school Hajan was beaten and dragged in school premises by police back in 2016 which became the turning point of his life.” Raja said. Since then we tried to convince him to stay back but he was looking for the way to leave woods as that incident police beating him and dragging him in the premises of school had touched his mind and heart. He carried this scare in his heart.” His Mother Fareeda, is still in grief and Shock that her son has been killed.

In another world, a boy like him would be living in a world of fantasy and idealism, surrounded by friends and family, dreaming about making it big in life. But Like many such Mudasir was unfortunately born in Kashmir, a place ridden by bloodshed and uncertainty since last three decades. How could a 14-year-old understand the complexities of conflict? Isn’t it the collective duty of the society to counsel such kids so that they see hope in life, and not wish for death, as is the case with Mudasir. With almost 250 militant were gunned-down in 2018, that year had been the bloodiest in last one decade.

When asked once he left for woods did the family ever met and tried to council him in order to shun the path he has chosen. Fareeda while wailing said “Post his joining, he once came to home, I tried to convince him and even cried, with no option left I told him I will call police you just surrender. But he was firm on his cause and asked me to be humble and have faith on Almighty.” Mudasir’s mother narrated while talking with me.
“That day it was very hard to say goodbye to him, Wish he would have stayed for more time.” As per family that was the only time when Mudasir visited his loved ones with his ‘Beloved AK-47’. Young Boys in kashmir feel dying with what they believe “Dignity” is better then a normal death. But Life is a bigger blessing which nobody till date is able to put in their minds.
“I still remember, It was Thursday, 3 Rebels were martyred but police recovered only two bodies, As third one was missing and Mudasir along with his friend Saqib who too joined LET came home, Both were in hurry. I sensed something is wrong but this is the last time I am seeing my son was not in my mind. Later I got that The body of 3rd Rebel was with both of them and the AK-47 which we saw on pictures which went viral once they joined were of the same rebel.” his father told TKL.

“We did not want people to run over the blood of our son, who sacrificed his life for the people of Kashmir, he was young, he was hopeful and had dreams, ours ended with him,” his father said.

“The path he chose is not wrong but we personally feel he was too young to shoulder the choice he made and he made his own choice. We respect that.” The family later added.

Mudasir’s Family lives in a single room in sopore now with heart patient mother Fareeda and father a chronic patient, and a brother and a little sister. When asked the reasons of shifting from Hajan Fareeda said, “We often saw raja at his brothers grave, Crying. Due to which Raja got more involved same is the condition of his sister. So we thought it is batter to leave Hajan.”

In Sopore Raja works at a manufacturing unit of his uncles furniture Shop in order to run his family. Raja is still 18 but the responsibilities have made him ‘Head Man’ of his family.
“Mudasir was not my son only, but a hope, Lone bread earner who would also work as a labourer on part time basis to help the family financially as my son Raja is handicapped,” Fareeda said.
As I was supposed to leave, Muadsir’s Father opened, “The SSP Bandhipora Zulufkar Sahab was eager to get Mudasir back, he often called me for the same but when Mudasir was Martyred Nobody from Police or Army called us as they do.”
“Wish they could’ve called us I would have asked my son to leave the Gun, I could have saved my son.” Fareda said.
Mudasir’s Brother Raja seemed disturbed with this as he argued with his mother. “Sir, There was a quarrel between Police and army, Police wanted Mudasir to surrender but Army didn’t wanted that.”

Regarding the same and in order to get the picture of the other side I talked to the then SSP Bandhipora Mr. Zulufkar Ali. “I tried my best even called his parents a many times so that they can counsel him, But the destiny had something else for him.” When asked about not calling family during the gunfight Zulufar Ali said, “The encounter site didn’t belong to my jurisdiction, still I talked to the concerned army officer then as per him he had talked to family.”
“I am not supposed to talk on that as of now.” Zulufar Ali said when asked about any ‘Qurrel’ between JKP and Army during the encounter in order to get Mudasir alive.
Like many others on the same path, his life was cut shot. Mudasir Billa, who was the youngest Militant in the history of Armed struggle in Jammu Kashmir and was killed during an encounter in Mujgund belt of Srinagar on a cold December night in year 2018.
“Doudh haa cheey wyn praaczan lour’uy, waey, Baa karay ghoor ghooro. The milk is still on your lips, Let me cradle you, You are yet to drink my milk, Let me cradle you.” On the funeral, Mudasir’s mother then was quoted by a news agency.
Seeing the health condition of Raja, His mother said, “I was so happy that Mudasir will afford all the expenses of her sister and will fulfil her all dreams as Raja is handicapped, but all dreams crashed the day when Mudasir’s bullet ridden body reached her courtyard.”

As my Brother Ruban used to say, “Some wounds don’t heal.” ‘Time heals every wound’ I would often reply .. Time is proving him Right with every such family I visit. At Mudasir’s home seeing Raja, his family and the pain they carries makes me think that I am not the only brother who have lost someone precious then everything/one else. The conflict is brutal.

To be continue…..

(Syed Tajamul Imran is a Kashmir-based story teller, an ace Columnist, writing for many coveted media houses of South Asia. He can be reached at [email protected] )


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