“Darkness of grief, melancholy and the jungle of loneliness, I am the abode of infinite desolation,” this was the last Facebook post of 24-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen militant Abdul Basit Parray.
Four days after Eid on 27 May, a student of Bachelors of Science in Information Technology, Basit left his home in south Kashmir’s Tral and without informing his parents joined the Hizb militant outfit.
One of Basit’s close relatives, who did not wish to be quoted, told The Quint that Basit left home to visit his maternal grandparents in Dadsara village, five kilometres from his home but instead joined the militancy.
“Once he left he did not look back and turned his phone off. We kept calling his number but it continuously remained switched off. When we failed to trace him we visited the nearest police station and registered a missing report. A month later we got a call he was trapped in a gunfight and within 14 hours he was killed,” said one of his uncles.
Within a month on 26 June, he was killed in a gunfight with security forces along with his two associates in Chewa Ullar, another village in Tral. The other two militants killed in the gun battle were civil engineer-turned-militant Muhammad Qasim Shah (25) of Midoora, Awantipora, and Harris Manzoor Bhat of Koil Shikargah, Tral.
‘Basit Was a Brilliant Student’
According to his relatives, Basit was shy and had never shown any indication about his plans of joining militancy.
“He was a sober boy, besides being a brilliant student. He never discussed politics or the Kashmir conflict with us. We never expected he will join militancy,” said one of Basit’s close relatives.
The health condition of his mother Muneera has degraded after her son left home and joined militancy.
Basit’s father Ghulam Muhammad Parray is a head clerk in Jammu and Kashmir Art Emporium. Besides his parents, Basit is survived by his elder brother, a PhD scholar, and a sister who is pursuing Islamic studies to become an Aalima (a female religious scholar).
Some years ago, Basit's family had migrated from the Laribal hamlet to the main town of Tral.
Basit is not the first one from the Parray family to join the militant ranks and be killed by forces in a gunfight.
Before Basit joined militancy, he lost his three paternal cousins to it within a span of six years.
“Basit carried the coffins of his three paternal brothers on his shoulders before he himself landed in militancy and was killed,” another close relative of Basit told The Quint.
Since the 1990s, restive Tral has remained a hotbed of militancy and is also the hometown of famous Hizb commander Burhan Wani. The town is ten kilometres away from Srinagar-Jammu national highway. It is covered with orchards giving way to forested hills and multiple streams.
The First Boy From Parray Family Joined Militancy in 2013
The first militant son from the Parray family was 25-year-old Tariq Ahmad Parray. On 19 June 2014, Tariq was killed along with his associates in a gun battle at the Buchoo village of Tral.
Tariq was pursuing postgraduate studies at the Institute of Kashmir Studies, University of Kashmir – a department established by former J&K Governor Lt Gen (retd) SK Sinha – and went missing in the summer of 2013.
Tariq was in the middle of exams when he suddenly disappeared from the university hostel. It was only days later that the family learnt that he had become a militant. Before joining militancy, Tariq was arrested twice by police and once even his laptop was confiscated.
The next one to join militancy from the Parray family was Ishaq Parray alias ‘Newton’–known by this name for his academic brilliance. Ishaq is an Arabic version of the famous scientist Isaac Newton’s name.
Twenty-one-year-old Ishaq became famous across Tral and particularly in his village after scoring 98.4 percent in Class 10, ninth position holder in the entire Kashmir valley, he followed it up by scoring 86.2 percent in his Class 12 exams.
One of Ishaq’s childhood friends from his native village Laribal told The Quint that Ishaq was preparing for a medical entrance exam before he joined Hizbul Mujahideen.
“He wanted to become a doctor but ended up becoming a militant. I never expected that my friend would soon leave me and become a militant.”Ishaq’s friend
In March 2015, he left his home to pay his fee at a computer centre and did not return – until his bullet-ridden body was brought home a year later.
In October 2017, 18 months after the killing of Ishaq Parray, his cousin Shakoor Parray joined the Hizb militant outfit.
As per his family, Shakoor, like his cousins, did not inform the family before joining militancy. In the 1990s, when militancy first started in Kashmir, Shakoor’s father was taken to jail where he remained for many years.
An undergraduate student, Shakoor was studying at Government Degree College in Tral before he took up arms in October 2017.
On 4 January 2019, Shakoor, along with his two other associates, was killed in a gunfight in the Gulshanpora forests of Tral.
In the village overlooking the lush Shikargah forests, the Parray family has buried three boys in a local graveyard. However, this time due to COVID-19, the body of the fourth boy Basit Parray was not handed over to the family.
For the first time in the history of the militancy, local families have been denied the body of their kin.
Earlier, the bodies of foreign militants were buried in a far off place in northern Kashmir but due to COVID-19, authorities are also discreetly burying the bodies of local militants at faraway places in unmarked graves to avoid crowding of people for funerals.
On Friday, when Basit and his two associates were killed in a gunfight in Tral, police issued a press release stating that the dead bodies of the killed militants have been sent to Handwara for their last rites after conducting medico-legal formalities, including collection of their DNA.
“In case any family claims the killed militants to be their kith or kin, they can come forward for their identification and participation in last rites at Handwara,” the statement read.
Since the COVID-19 lockdown, the anti-militancy operations have been intensified and at least 89 militants have been killed in gunfights, a majority of them in south Kashmir. In the month of June, only 12 gunfights erupted in South Kashmir and so far 33 militants have been killed.
Quoting J&K DGP Dilbag Singh The Indian Express reported that the decision of not handing over the bodies of local militants to their families had been taken by the Centre to ensure social distancing norms during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The last massive militant funeral was held in north Kashmir in April. Following it, the J&K Police had filed a case against people who assembled at the funeral.
The charges included violating an order banning gatherings to contain the spread of COVID-19. In at least one case, a civilian’s body was not handed over to the relatives either.