Terrorists or Rebels? Here’s What Kashmiri Militants’ Families Say

A militant or a freedom fighter? Here is what the families of the youths who joined Hizbul Mujahideen say.

3 min read

The Quint travelled into the interiors of Shopian district in Kashmir to speak to families of two Kashmiri youths who joined the Hizbul Mujahideen.

Ek do baar mila mujhse, bahar mila. Maine use ghar wapas bulane ki koshish ki, maine bola 5 lakh rupaye dunga. Lekin wo bola yaha shakti hai police ki, yaha Islam ki koi baat nahi karta hai. Maine use bola mein tumhe 5 lakh dunga tum ghar aao. Uske liye factory bhi dali thi. Usne kaha mujhe koi zaroorat nahi hai. Yahi marna hai mujhe...(I met him once or twice after he joined militancy. I tried to call him back home. I even offered to give him Rs 5 lakh. But he said that police atrocities have increased and nobody cares for Islam. I even offered to set up a factory for him, but he refused.)
Abdul Hamid Sheikh, Irshad’s Father

So says Abdul Hamid Sheikh, a father who lost his 22-year-old son, Irshad. Irshad joined Hizbul Mujahideen in April 2015 and within seven months, he had been killed in an encounter.


“Irshad Is a Martyr”

A militant or a freedom fighter? Here is what the families of the youths who joined  Hizbul Mujahideen say.
Irshad Sheikh (Photo: Poonam Agarwal/The Quint)

Irshad’s father claims that repeated instances of harassment by security forces in the Valley are pushing Kashmiris towards militancy. Though he says he rejects violence, he nevertheless calls his son a martyr.

Afsos hua. Baccha khona maa baap ke liye choti baat nahi hai. Usne shahadat payi yeh bhi bada mukaam hai. Isse main khush hu. (I do regret it. Losing a child is not a small matter for parents. But he achieved martyrdom, for which I am happy.)
Abdul Hamid Sheikh, Irshad’s Father

Irshad was pursuing his PhD, and his father had desperately wanted him to continue his higher studies.


“Irfan Will Never Return Home”

A few kilometres from Irshad’s home, I met another family in Shopian district. Gulam Mohammad Sheikh, 22-year-old Irfan’s ailing father, welcomes me into his home. He has had two heart attacks ever since his son left home in February 2016 to join the Hizbul Mujahideen, and never came back.

Ab mujhe baar baar, fauj, SHO, security wale bulate hain. Mera jeena mushkil ho gaya hai. (The Army, SHO, and security forces keep calling me again and again. Life has become miserable.)
Gulam Mohammad Sheikh, Irfan’s Father
A militant or a freedom fighter? Here is what the families of the youths who joined  Hizbul Mujahideen say.
Irfan Sheikh joined the Hizbul Mujahideen when he was just 22 years old. (Photo: Poonam Agarwal/The Quint)

Irfan hasn’t contacted his family even once since he left home. Now his family lost hope for his return.

Main chahta hu ki mera beta wapas ghar aa jaye. Lekin in halato mein uska aana muskhil hai. (I want my son to come back home. But it is difficult for him to do that.)
Gulam Mohammad Sheikh, Irfan’s Father

Irfan’s family claims that harassment by the police personnel forced him to join militancy. The police claimed that Irfan had links to Hizbul Mujahideen, and repeatedly targeted and questioned him, pushing him to choose militancy over his studies.

Irfan was a bright student, a few of his friends said. He was pursuing M Tech and his family wanted him to excel in his career before he joined Hizbul.

Prominent Kashmir's human rights defendant Khurram Parvez in his interview to The Quint said that the reason behind stone-pelting and violent protests in the wake of Burhan Wani’s death was the lack of space for peaceful protests. He further added that the government of Jammu and Kashmir has failed to engage the youth in dialogue at the grassroots level.

If they (Indian government) could have done that (engage youth in dialogue), the situation this time would have been different.
Khurram Pervez, Chairperson, Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)

Intelligence Bureau sources have claimed that over 100 Kashmiri youth took up militancy after Burhan Wani’s death. While many label them terrorists, some think of them as rebels with a cause.

Cameraperson: Poonam Agarwal

Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam

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