On Friday morning, 3 May, the restive south Kashmir’s Shopian was rattled by the sound of gunshots and explosions.Lateef Tiger, the longest surviving recruit in Kashmir’s ‘new age militancy’, was trapped in a firefight with security forces in Imam Saheb area of Shopian along with two associates.By 11 am, all the three militants were gunned down and their bodies lay in the army trucks making their way out of the area. By then, intense stone-pelting and clashes had broken out, which left at least two dozen protesters wounded, three of them serious injured.Will South Kashmir’s Destroyed Houses Matter This Election? The news of the killing of Lateef, a close associate of former Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani who glamourised Kashmir militancy, overshadowed the details of other militants killed in the encounter.Tariq Shamim Sheikh alias Tariq Molvi alias Mufti Saheb, an Islamic scholar who had earned several degrees from Kashmir’s largest Islamic seminary in north Kashmir, Dar-ul-Uloom Raheemiya, had a lower stature in Hizb ranks than Lateef Tiger.Having survived more than five years, Lateef was an A+ category militant in the books of security agencies, much senior to the ‘A’ category Tariq, who joined the outfit in 2017.But Tariq’s killing, according to security forces, is a “bigger setback” to the Hizb than Lateef Tiger’s.From Islamic Seminary to MilitancyAccording to his family, Tariq, a 25-year-old tall, lanky bespectacled youth with bushy beard, was formally educated till seventh grade. He was admitted to a local seminary in Shopian’s Moolu Chittergam village at a young age. When he did well there, his family enrolled him at the north Kashmir seminary.“He made one or two brief visits to home in a month. After finishing Mufti degree (equivalent of PhD), he started teaching students there. Later, he was employed at a mosque in Tangmarg (of north Kashmir) for leading the prayers.”Nazir saidMehbooba Mufti Asks Centre, Militants to Announce Ramzan CeasefireIn 2016, as Kashmir erupted in a mad fury, Tariq and his father Nazir Ahmad were among dozens of protesters picked from Moolu Chittrergam and its adjoining villages.The J&K police booked the father-son duo in at least one case of ‘arson’ and ‘riots’.“We were lodged at Jammu’s Kot Bhalwal jail. I was the first to be released in March of 2017. Tariq was set free some days later.” Nazir Ahmad, a government employee, told The Quint.Within days after his release, Tariq delivered his final Friday sermon at a neighbouring mosque and disappeared. “We later came to know that he had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen,” Nazir added.Inheritance of LossThe family lives in Moolu Chittergam village of Shopian where the recently banned Jamaat-e-Islami enjoys widespread support.The village was once razed to ground along with at least three neighbouring villages in reprisal attacks against Jamaat members in Kashmir following the 1979 execution of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in Pakistan. The attacks are believed to be orchestrated by the National Conference.Tariq’s real father, Shamim Sheikh, was killed in an encounter on 14 January 1994, at the same age as his son – 25 years. Tariq was born two months after the killing of his father. In Moolu Chittergam’s martyrs graveyard, the father-son duo are today separated by three graves – all of them militants like them.“I married my widowed sister-in-law two years ago,” Nazir, who works in the state government, said.A ‘master orator’ with several degrees like ‘Hafiz-e-Quran’ and ‘Mufti’, Nazir said Tariq was harassed by the army on several occasions because he was open about his political views.“During 2016, he expressed his views on the unfolding turmoil in Kashmir openly, especially in Friday sermons. I will be lying if I say he didn’t make speeches. But while others were let go, he was hounded consistently which forced him to join militancy,” Nazir said.Climbing the Hizb LadderTariq Molvi rose in the ranks of Hizb quickly by sheer power of his oratory. That his real father, Shamim Sheikh, a Pakistan-trained militant, was already killed in the combat, gave him the much needed leverage over other newcomers in the world of Kashmir militancy.In a video that went viral on social media last year, Tariq is seen delivering a fiery speech at the funeral of Umar Khubaib, a Hizb militant, to denounce the ‘informers’ who tip-off security forces about the presence of militants.“It takes huge efforts to convince a youth to join militancy. But you don’t let him survive even for a day. Why are you doing this? If you feel what we are doing is wrong, tell us and we will leave this path,” he tell the crowd.“He was the backbone of Hizbul Mujahideen’s recruitment wing. At least a dozen youth from Pulwama, Kulgam and Shopian joined militancy who were either inspired by his speeches or after he brainwashed them,” a senior J&K Police officer said.“To borrow an Urdu phrase, his speeches could melt even mountains. With him gone, Hizb has suffered a massive setback,” the officer, who didn’t want to be named, added.Expanding GraveyardsWhen Tariq’s body was brought home on Friday, there was not a shred of remorse in his mother, Fatima’s eyes, according to a video that has gone viral on social media.“I am happy that you have achieved martyrdom, my son. May God accept your sacrifice,” Fatima said to a room packed with men and woman at their Shopian home.During his militancy years, Tariq would make brief visits to home. Once he escaped from an encounter site and landed at his home. His mother offered him water while his father Nazir discussed the prospects of him giving up arms.“He told me, ‘I will prefer to live a dignified life, even if it lasts for just an hour. But I will never surrender.’ He was a changed man,” Tariq told his father.On Tuesday, curious children milled around the martyrs graveyard of Moolu Chittergam as the smell of freshly-dug earth wafts in the air. Tariq’s grave is draped by a Pakistani flag emblazoned with white text: ‘Jihad will continue until the day of judgement’.But Nazir, who seems privy to the importance and stature of Tariq in Hizb ranks, sounds less optimistic. “It’s over,” he said, with a dejected face, “I don’t know how they (Hizb) are going to recover from this.”Last Surviving Militant of Burhan Wani’s Troupe Killed in Shopian We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated. The Quint is now available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, Click here to join.