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#2: How My Two Brothers Were Forced Into Terrorism In Kashmir

( words)
*For representational purpose only.

As we pen it down as a revolution or pain, the outcomes are slated.

My beloved friend and cousin Syed Naveed, a policeman, was investigated by JKP’s Cargo wing, SIT (Special investigation team Rajbagh) and Distt police Shopian for four months continuously. Naveed was accused of being in touch with Waseem Malla (District commander of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen), Zahid Ahmad (commander Hizb-ul-Mujahideen), and the main source of Farooq Ahmad Hurra and Farooq Ahmad Sheikh.

Following a trail of harassment, Naveed was transferred to Ladakh, where the concerned SP Police made him a ‘drill instructor’. At the same time, he was ‘disarmed’. Perhaps in the story of Naveed and other rare breeds of few cops, they joined the police to create an honest society but soon they got the taste of troubled waters and felt that rebellion was the only way left to shake the fabric of this corrupt system. Naveed did exactly the same. He is currently District commander of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. Naveed is one among those boys of our village who feel proud in helping one another. He is brave, smart, sexy as well as energetic. He has a heart of gold and was the most comical character in our village.

Amidst all this, I was, as usual, lost in my own world of dreams. I was eagerly looking forward to having a whole lot of fun. I am always busy dreaming about how we would all have a fabulous time. In order to make my dreams come true I had left home in 2011 for higher studies and my career.

Since then, my younger brother Rubaan (now 20) was left with my parents and was closer to everyone in the extended family. He was very dear and in fact, clearly the closest to my mother's heart. 

Rubaan had a very compassionate exterior and his heart was filled with kindness. He used to participate in marriages of poor people without any invitation and when asked as to why he did so, he used to reply saying, "I feel good seeing their children happy and I like to participate in their happiness. It gives me satisfaction."

A few months ago a newspaper came with a story of a slain militant commander’s daughter, who was suffering from a lungs disease. That very day Rubaan came to Srinagar and requested me and my other friends to do something for her. As I saw Rubaan crying, moved by his tears and the story of that girl, I felt broken. So, I requested my friends and took him along. We succeeded in helping the family with some money.

Rubaan was emotional at his core. The pain and aura of conflict that has shrouded the entire south of Kashmir could not keep him away from the storm. He was always sentimental when it came to the plight of people in the conflict-hit Kashmir. On June 17, 2018, at 11:30 pm, an army party came to our village and surrounded it from all sides. Then they entered our house and assembled us all in a room. They accused us of harboring militants in our houses. Then after three hours of search, in which they searched all three houses - ours and our uncle's, they found nothing. Then, to everyone’s surprise, one of the army personnel slung his AK47 over Rubaan’s shoulder and started clicking his pictures. That very moment I feared I would lose him. When my mother and other family members intervened, they started abusing them all.

In the meanwhile, I confronted the army officer and asked him why they were harassing us. But one of his guards started beating me ruthlessly. At this point, Rubaan asked them not to harm my brother as he knew nothing.“He stays outside Kashmir. He has been out of home for the last seven years,” Rubaan told them. But this was not the first time when Rubaan had been harassed.

It all started in September 2016, after Farooq Hurra and Naveed Bhaiya joined militancy as Hurra was a close friend of Rubaan and Naveed, our cousin. Later I came to know that Rubaan, who had ironically studied in Army Goodwill School, was picked by JKP on the direction of DSP Operation Shopian Ashiq Tak in January 2018. As usual, I was outside the state. But when I came to know that Rubaan was detained, I became restless. After four nights and five days, with the intervention of some friends of mine in the police, as well as a few politicians, I succeeded in getting Rubaan out. He had been beaten up ruthlessly and was not able to walk for a month.

The same day I talked to my MAA and somehow convinced her to send Rubaan outside Kashmir. Finally, Rubaan came to Chandigarh, where I was studying as well as doing a job. Once in Chandigarh, Rubaan showed me his deep wounds on his left leg as well as on his back. He stayed with me for 23 days, but during that period the army from Ahagam camp visited our home looking for him. One day they asked my father to tell him (Rubaan) to come back.

With no option left, I left my job and came back with him to Kashmir. I just wanted to keep my brother out of any harm.

I was told that apart from DySP operation Shopian, an army man namely Shair Khan, who lives somewhere in Rajori, in Ahagam camp, apparently an officer, had abused and beaten up Rubaan on a number of occasions earlier. That night when I was beaten up too, it was the same Shair Khan who abused him and my other family members. It was he who put his AK47 around Rubaan’s shoulder and took pictures. I remember the officer telling Rubaan, "You have a beard, a cap on your head and you pray five times a day. Then why don’t you join your (militant) cousin Naveed?"

Perhaps tragically my brother would have got writing on the wall as ammunition was hung over him that he could very well be cannon and fodder for any future fake encounter. These continuous harassments had not only shattered our family but pained Rubaan too. Before his ordeal began, Rubaan was a well-known cricket face around south of Kashmir, he had played good as well as bad cricket from police tournaments to army tournaments to local tournaments in Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam, Islamabad, Srinagar and other parts of J&K. I remember, in 2016, post Commander Burhan Wani’s killing, the army forced a lot of boys, especially from south Kashmir, to come and play in their organized tournaments, Rubaan was among them. He was taken by the same army camp and was asked to play with other team members and was also given a deadline.

If he did not come, ‘anything’ could happen. That day I was also at home.

Finally, he went along with other boys to Ahagam Goodwill (Army) school in order to play the tournament in which they had least interest. However, to everyone’s surprise, Rubaan’s team won the trophy and after taking the pictures of Rubaan receiving the winner’s trophy, the army captain asked Rubaan to put back the Trophy as they had to organize another tournament and they didn’t have the funds to get a new trophy. That evening, we all laughed for the “request”.

Rubaan is the only kid in our family who knows everything about our property, land and other things. He never left the parents for more than 30 days. At Chandigarh, with me after three weeks he often used to ask, "Byraj! I want to go home, I miss Baba and Maa. Please send me back." But I was aware of his wounds so I stopped him from visiting home. When the army asked BABA that they needed his presence with no option left, I came with him so that I could rescue him but I failed. Just like my cousin Naveed, who couldn’t bear unending scrutiny by his own police department, Rubaan too had had enough and decided to take the extreme step and join militancy. On July 18, 2018, after offering evening prayers, Rubaan came home, took a bath and once again left for Isha (night) prayers. This was his routine. So nobody suspected anything unusual. Since he was first harassed, he used to stay at a friend's house quite often. So when that evening, Rubaan didn’t come home, we thought he might have stayed at some friend’s home for the night. But that was not the case.

My mother, who saw Rubaan leaving, sensed something suspicious in his behavior as he wore a new pair of shoes for prayers. The next day when he didn’t come and his phone was switched off, we thought he might have been arrested again. As the news of Rubaan’s disappearance spread in the area, people started pouring in at our house.

Two days later, I came across Rubaan’s picture on facebook where he was holding a gun in his hand. The writing attached suggested that he had joined a little known militant outfit called 'Al Badr'. I was instantly shattered. I now knew for sure that we had lost Rubaan forever.

Still, I didn’t want to give up hope. Since that day everyone in the family is trying their best to get Rubaan back. We know it is an impossible task, but we have no option but to try. All we have is hope. I, at this moment, stand distraught and shattered to hilt along with my family. We are very worrisome about Naveed as well as Rubaan. Both of them are close to our hearts via bond of a million feelings. The weak like us can never dictate the peace. As Gandhi had said 'peace is made by the strong', I say 'leave ideologies for a minute to silent mode the state of India as the strong need to show that compassion to save the young buds from getting annihilated even before blooming'.

The pain of our parents and myself is immeasurable as we are dying a new death every second in his absence fearing the worst case scenario.

We are aware of the thousands and thousands of households of Kashmir that have lost their near and dear ones to this brutal and bloody conflict. How long will tears be the only expressions of parents and how long brothers and sisters will lose their siblings? I do not know what this storm has in store for us at this time. I do not know right from wrong but I do not know the world of ideologies and counter ideologies. What I know is that life is filled with pain in Kashmir, that taste of life is nowhere.

The cricketer that Rubaan aspired to be with his all-round skills could have easily made it to the league level but he was born in an unfortunate land called 'Kashmir' where the situation forces and deprives you of everything. His room, his cricket bat, his uniform seems to have developed pain as they call him back. We never knew suppression had brewed such lava in his heart.

We in Kashmir celebrate martyrs in funerals only but are by and large hypocrites. Since the day my brother became a militant, eighty percent of my known acquaintances left contacting me and we all know how stone pelters are denied marriage matches just because they are on the police record. Facebook status for likes, shares and shouting in funerals is no parameter for resistance but often personal portfolio building. Like others in Kashmir, whenever the three of us got together, we would have great fun together.

Our family members considered the three of us as the ultimate gang who believed in having a gala time all the time. We loved one another and both my brothers pampered me a lot because I was physically weaker than both of them. But suddenly everything is over – in a jiffy. I would always hang out with them during my vacations. I was just a kid to them; they would always pamper me and treat me like a cricket ball. They'd always make me laugh and now I miss them a lot. Never before in my life had I felt so lost and lonely.

In conclusion, I say,

Dear Beloved Brothers,

My eyes yearn for you and there are a billion stabs in our heart and younger sister awaits your loving calls and yells to her. Tears, misfortunes, sadness, loneliness and above all frustration define our life now. May God bless humanity.

(Click here to read the first part of the story)

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