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Appeal for life a son shut out

‘Human tragedy’ made cop want to cry during encounter

Srinagar: The 22-year-old militant was holed up in a house. Outside, soldiers and cops counted the minutes. Then the young man’s parents, sent in by the forces, stepped out of the house, despair on their faces.

No, they could not persuade their son to surrender.

“Seeing their faces, I wanted to cry…. It moved me to tears,” Anantnag police chief Altaf Khan, a seasoned counter-insurgent specialist, told on Monday.

“I was doing my professional duty but at the end of the day, it was a human tragedy.”

Thirteen militants, all local Kashmiris, died along with three soldiers and four civilians in three security operations on Sunday, the death count of 20 the worst in a single day in years.

Hidden in the stats was the heart-breaking ordeal of the parents of undergraduate student-turned-militant Rouf Bashir Khanday, as recounted by Khan.

The gunfight that killed Rouf took place in Peth-Dialgam, Anantnag. A second militant accompanying him surrendered, suggesting that although most rebels are ready to fight to the finish, a few can still be weaned away with some extra effort.

Khan said the forces had cordoned the village off around 11pm on Saturday. “Over the first 45 minutes, we persuaded one of the rebels to come out but the other wouldn’t,” he said.

By then, the forces had evacuated the family living in the house and their neighbours.

“I sent a boy from the family with a mobile to the militant who had locked himself in, telling him I wanted to talk to him. He (Rouf) let the boy in after satisfying himself that he was alone,” Khan said.

“I spoke to him for about 25 minutes. I tried everything to convince him that his life was important. But he said he wanted to be a ‘martyr’.”

Khan said he narrated to the militant a saying by Prophet Mohammad about the importance of life.

“I mentioned a Hadith (tradition) of the Prophet, delivered when he was out in a battle and one of his companions remarked that it was the day of bloodshed. The Prophet retorted that it was in fact the day of mercy. But he (Rouf) wouldn’t relent.”

Khan sent a team to fetch Rouf’s parents from their home, 8km away.

“When they arrived, they were dumbstruck. The mother was trembling. They were not in tears but in disarray,” Khan recalled.

“I urged them to persuade their son to come out. The mother was willing but the father said he wouldn’t – he was angry with his son (apparently for taking up arms). I told them it was a question of their son’s life, they should go and talk to him.”

Rouf spoke to his parents for half an hour inside the house. “Then they came out and told me he wouldn’t step out. I could see their faces, their pain. I wanted to cry but held my tears back,” Khan said.

The parents could not be reached for confirmation. The police took the parents home to Anantnag town in the dead of night and resumed the operation. “He (Rouf) lobbed a grenade and fired. The exchange lasted two hours,” Khan said.

Police sources said explosives were used to blow up the house and the militant’s half-burnt body was recovered in the early hours.

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