by Hilal Shah
SRINAGAR: The Sopore encounter marked the end of a widow’s long search for her son. Ghulam Mustafa Sheikh, one of the young men who had gone missing from his home on June 24, was one of the three militants killed in Sopore gunfight.
A resident of Tekipora village, Mustafa was an orphan. His father Abdul Ahad had died almost 16 years back.
Mustafa’s flight from his home was dramatic. On June 24, he left home after telling his mother that he has an appointment with a doctor in Kupwara. He never returned home.
Mustafa had been booked under the Public Safety Act at the peak of 2016 unrest triggered by the killing of Burhan Wani. His detention order was quashed after nine months of detention. However, in 2018, the Jammu and Kashmir Police arrested him in a raid, this time after the killing of Manan Wani.
In 2021, he went missing. The family desperately pleaded with him to return. His mother and two younger siblings were solely relying on him because he was the lone breadwinner. They had informed the police as well.
Within two months after his disappearance, the police rang up the family on August 24, asking them to report to the site of an encounter.
During the intervening night of August 23-24, based on specific intelligence generated by police regarding the presence of militants in Pethseer area of Sopore, a joint posse of Sopore police, army (52RR) and CRPF enforced a cordon and search operation. During the operation, police said, was established. They said the holed up militants were given an opportunity to surrender but they avoided availing.
Due to darkness at night the operation was suspended, while the cordon was kept intact. In the wee hours repeated announcements were again made to the hiding militants to surrender, but the militants again fired on the joint search party and the fire was retaliated.
Later three militants were killed and their bodies were retrieved from the site. Apart from Mustafa, the two others were identified as Faisal Fayaz son of Fayaz Ahmad Thokar, resident of Kapran Shopian and Rameez Ahmad Ganie, a resident of Zipor Dharamati Shopian.