Line of mourners stretch out of door of Ghulam Muhammad Sheikh near a hillock of orchards in Maldaira, some 13 kilometers from district headquarter of Shopian. The scene in the courtyard surrounded by dense apple and walnut orchards is mix of pro-resistance speeches, wails and words of comfort to face the tragedy.
Sheikh a week ago lost his youngest son, Irfan-ul-Haq to a 20-hour gun battle at Awneera Shopian.
Irfan was one among the three slain militants. Other two were Mohammad Yasin Itoo alias Mahmud Ghaznavi from Nagam Budgam and Umar Majeed from Kattpora Kulgam.
Father of eight, Sheikh a retired employee of horticulture department is a well-to-do man. Managing his children single handedly after the demise of his wife 23 years ago, Sheikh married off his five daughters and son to well off families.
Now surrounded by a group of mourners at his modest single storey house, Sheikh is heartbroken. While talking about his slain son whom he says was “creative, innovative and energetic”, Sheikh blames government forces for compelling his son to join the rebel ranks.
“They (SOG) first arrested him 2011 when he was a class 12 student on allegations of being sympathizer of militants which was baseless. Since that day police arrests and tortures continued,” he said and added that “compelled an M.Tech of Shoolni University of Shimla, Himachal Pradesh to pick up the gun.”
He refused the version of his son being indoctrinated by someone to join the ranks, but alleged “constant torture was the only reason.”
Recalling what happened the day Irfan left home for the last time, his younger sister Uzma said that he left home to play cricket on February 14, 2016. The venue was Batnoora village of Pulwama. The day was over, but Irfan did not return. “We called him over phone but his phone was switched off and we thought he might have stayed at friends home for night.”
Next day the call returned, this time from police station Zainapora, “your son has joined the rebel ranks.” Uzma says the family was shocked and initially refused the police claim.
Relatives of Irfan narrating many incidents alleged that he was “brutally tortured.”
“After his release from 20 days police detention at Imam Sahib SOG camp, Irfan was not able to walk or move on his own,” said Yasir Ahmad, his paternal cousin and adds that “those torture marks were visible on his body even after death.”
Aabid Rasheed, his village friend says there were enough evidences of Irfan being fed up with “arrests”.
“He was a brilliant sportsman and has led his team to semi-finals of ‘3rd All India National T20 Cricket Champion’ at Agra, but he used to tell me that there had remained no normal life for him because of these arrests and tortures.”
B.Tech in food technology from of Islamic University of Science & Technology Awantipora , Irfan his relatives alleged was in police custody on the day of entrance examination. “I requested the police official to allow him which he acceded on condition to get him back.”
Tech freak, Irfan his friends say was in love with I phones and it is believed that he used to run the social networking for his group in the area.
Sheikh has no regrets of losing his son but wants end to this bloodshed. “I have no regrets for being my son martyred, I am happy that he choose right path. Today my son got killed, yesterday it was my neighbor’s or friend’s and tomorrow it will be my another son or relative but who are killing them is only one, that is India.”
He wants talks. “There should be talks between India and Pakistan taking Kashmiris on board to settle down the long going bloodbath, dispute so that no father would shoulder his son’s coffin.”