I met him for the first time, when he had come to say adieu to my predecessor. He was introduced to me as the father of one of the jawans hailing from Kashmir and working in the office. He was an old man, wizened by toil and the weather. He sat down for a few minutes, politely refused a cup of tea and said his thanks to my predecessor. After a hug and a goodbye, he left. That was ten months ago.
Since that day, every Thursday I received a telephone call from him. His tele-conversation was limited to three sentences;'Aap thik thak hain' (Are you all right)?, 'Aap ki family thik thak hai' (Is your family all right)? and 'Rizwan (his son) thik thak hai' (Is Rizwan all right)? I always replied in affirmative.But something within told me that he wanted to ask me something. I called Rizwan, his son, and inquired about his family. He told me that besides the parents, they were two sisters and four brothers. The sisters were happily married in the nearby villages. The eldest brother had recently asked for voluntary retirement from the Army due to his son's medical problems. Younger to him was Rizwan and the either two were studying in 10th and 12th classes respectively. They were a poor farming family living in the rural area of North Kashmir. I also came to know that with the eldest brother having separated, Rizwan was the only earning member in the family.
As the days went by and summers gave way to winters, one day, I received a phone call from the gate that an old man wanted to speak to me. As I said hello, on the other side was the familiar voice. He repeated the same three sentences and on my giving usual replies, he continued and said that he was visiting Srinagar and had brought some walnuts from his orchard for me. I told him that there was no need for this and I would not take it. He insisted that I would have to take and eat them as they were good for my health. Not wanting to argue with the old man on the phone, I replied in the affirmative and told him to give it to Rizwan, who would deliver it to me.
With the winter at its peak, on one of the Thursdays, I got a call from him stating that there was a recruitment drive for the locals in clerk and fireman categories in an Army run depot. He asked me in his usual tone to help his younger son for the clerk's and elder one for the fireman's job. I assured him of my assistance.
I called Rizwan and asked him as to why his father did not want the younger son to study and gain more education qualifications.He told me that in their area, there were numerous cases of abduction of young boys by the terrorists, therefore, his father wanted to ensure that his sons did not fall victim to this menace. Infact, his father had received numerous threats to give one or two sons for 'Jihad'. Then he narrated the incident of his abduction by a terrorist group and thereafter his escape from their captivity. On his escape, the very next day, his father had taken him for enrolment into the Army.
I started to visualize the problems of parents in the Valley as the mercenaries and their mentors, wanting to swell their ranks and show the world, this voluntary 'Jihad', abducted teenagers and then ensured they could not leave due to the crimes committed by them during their tenure in terrorism. Isn't this a style of the mafia. As is well known, the average life of a terrorist is two years and only a few have remained alive beyond five years.
A few days ago on a Thursday, he spoke to me again and asked for my advice for his youngest son, who had not been able to pass 10th class exams. To me, it appeared that I had graduated in his eyes from an officer, where his son worked, to that of a person in the old man's inner coterie. It gave me a sense of happiness. It was a pleasure to see how a father was involved in ensuring that his flock did not get effected by the prevailing environment and were suitably employed and well settled in their life. A wish which every parent has for their children.
Last Sunday, while I was working, my subordinate officer came to inform me that there has been a killing near Bandipur and the name of the person is similar to that of Rizwan's father. I told him to check again as within me I felt weak thinking of the possibility. I thought, can anyone kill such a good human being who in his life time always had good intentions and had never have harmed anyone. But, while these thoughts were lingering in my mind, I received a call from a friend of Rizwan stating the reality. I could not think of what to say or ask as I immediately replaced the receiver not wanting to hear how it had happened.
After sending Rizwan on some pretext to his house, I received a phone call from the owner of the place where from the old man used to give me a call every Thursday. Finding a bond, we introduced ourselves and I asked him about the incident.
He informed me that on Saturday night while the family was having their food someone knocked on the door. On hearing the sound, Rizwan's mother opened the door.
Two Pakistani terrorists asked in 'Urdu' the whereabouts of a place. As Rizwan's mother did not understand 'Urdu', his father came to the door to answer the query. After a brief conversation, the two Pakistanis demanded that someone from the family accompany them.
Fearing that, if any of the two sons, present in the house, were taken, they may not come back, the old man volunteered, despite objections from the terrorists to send one of the sons, and led them to a place up to the hills. Not needing him any more and wanting to send a message to the Kashmiri fathers to deliver their sons for 'Jihad', the terrorists shot him dead.
Yet another father had been killed for protecting his flock, inimical to the aims of the 'Jehadis' and their mentors. None of the self acclaimed representatives of Kashmir have given their sons or their own blood for Kashmir, but for their vested interests a poor man must offer his son(s) or his own blood; a reality in Kashmir.
Today, sons, normally considered a support for the father in the family affairs, have become a burden for the families in Kashmir. This is another saga of 'Jihad' in Kashmir.
Published in armyinkashmir.com