Twelve days ago, a 24-year-old militant surrendered in the Valley after he was appealed by his father. In what could remind one of a Bollywood movie scene, Abdul Khaliq Mir appealed his son Umar Mir to lay down arms after the later was surrounded by security forces in a house next to his own in Sopore’s Tujjar Sharief village. After over five hours of beseeching, during which the forces held their fire, finally Umar decided to surrender.
An Indian Express report stated that Umar was put in police custody after he was taken away by a joint team of Army and police.
The next morning, Abdul and his wife were called to the 22 Rashtriya Rifles camp at Zaloora, 5 km away. “The officials asked us for details regarding Umar and took our photo, before letting us leave,” Abdul told IE.
Sixty-year-old Abdul said: “This is preferable to the pain of losing a son.” His other son, Mohammad Ashraf Mir, was killed in 2004 in an encounter. “After Ashraf, I also lost a nephew, Javid Manzoor, in crossfire in 2008. It could have been the third tragedy in the family in 12 years,” he said.
Superintendent of Police, Sopore, Harmeet Singh Mehta said everybody had the right to live. “We gave the holed-up militant a chance, which he accepted. It was his father and elders who motivated him not to open fire on troopers. It took us several hours,” he told IE.
An AK-rifle, three magazines, a wireless set, two grenades, one pouch and a matrix sheet were recovered from Umar.
The Mirs are a moderately well-off family. Their life changed after Ashraf joined militant ranks. Abdul said, “Ashraf was a student at Deoband. He was harassed by security forces personnel in the late ’90s when he had came home on a vacation. He crossed the LoC in 1999 and joined the Hizbul Mujahideen. He returned in 2003, but the next year he was dead. I didn’t see him after he had left, till he was killed fighting security forces in Lolab Kupwara. It was the police who informed me about his death in an encounter. I collected his body three days later and buried it in the village.’’
After Ashraf’s death, the security forces began harassing his other two sons, Nisar and Umar, he claimed. “The two had no affiliation with any militant group, but whenever anything happened in our village or neighbouring villages, my sons were an easy target.”
He said an angry Umar often talked about joining militancy, and the “turning point” came last year. “A policeman was killed and another injured when unidentified gunmen attacked them as they were guarding the shrine of Sheikh Hamza Makdhoomi. The shrine is located close to our house. The policeman detained Umar. During torture, he warned the police officer that they were forcing him to pick up the gun.”
Nissar, a father of three, who now oversees the family apple business, says the “harassment” made their lives miserable. “I was also harassed but since Umar was younger, he fared worse.” Umar left home in May. Police say he crossed over to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, was affiliated with the Lashkar-e-Toiba and came back last month.
The police decision to give Umar a chance to surrender followed an appeal by J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to police officers to try bring back the youth who had left home to join militants.