Awantipora: For 45 days Muhammad Sultan Dar and his wife Jana begum yearned to see the face and hear the voice of their beloved son, 17-year-old Irshad Ahmad Dar. On Wednesday evening, the old, ailing parents finally heard the voice of their youngest son – saying farewell. The next morning, his body arrived, “or that’s what we have been told,” they said of the charred skeleton that came.
“I wish no parent gets to see what I saw this morning,” the tearful father lamented.
Irshad’s funeral had to be hurried, for what lay in the coffin was a ghastly remainder of a brutal gunfight.
Irshad was a militant. He was killed Wednesday evening after a several-hour gunfight with government forces in Kakapora area of Pulwama district.
Hours after burying Irshad, Dar sat surrounded by friends and family and narrated his ordeal to them, inside the small, smelly room of his dilapidated one-storey house in Aghanjipora village of Awantipora.
“What I don’t understand is how my son, a hard-working sand digger, became a militant. I fail to understand what led him (to militancy),” said the frail Dar, who has worked all his life as a labourer.
Dar’s eldest son is a teacher. His two other sons work as sand diggers on the banks of the nearby Jhelum River.
After dropping out of school some six years ago, Irshad joined his brothers last year in the work of digging sand, to support his family.
“He was a happy, hardworking boy,” Dar said. “I still do not understand what prompted him to pick up arms.”
Dar cursed the day, May 6, when he went to police station Awantipora to secure the release of a local youth detained by the police. That was when a policeman at the station asked Dar about his children.
No sooner did he provide the policeman the names and other details of his children, he was detained.
“Police asked me to phone my children and tell them to visit the police station,” recalled Dar. He said that all his sons, barring Irshad, visited the police station, after which he was let go.
Before they let him go, the police asked him to produce Irshad before them the next morning.
The next morning, however, Irshad was not at home. He had left the same night, hurriedly it seemed, for he had left his mobile phone behind.
Since then, it was a hard-fought, futile struggle by the Dar family to locate Irshad. “His mother had been dying to see him,” Dar said as she entered the room.
On Wednesday evening, Jana Begum for a moment thought her prayers had been answered. Irshad’s own mobile phone, which his sister had been using since he left, came to life with a call from an unknown number.
“We were on cloud nine. After 45 days of crying my heart out, my prayers were finally answered. Irshad had called and I couldn’t believe my ears,” Jana Begum told Kashmir Reader.
The family was overjoyed, but the joy was short lived. As everybody assembled to talk to Irshad, he let the cat out of the bag. He told his family that he was a militant and that he had been trapped in a cordon.
“The chances of survival are bleak,” Jana recalled Irshad saying these words. “They still echo in my ears. I still do not know what to make of those words. I do not know if the call and his voice were for real or not.”
Jana and the entire Dar family began to mourn and wail. So much were they engrossed in their grief that they did not realise nobody was now talking to the one they were grieving for. Irshad’s mobile phone fell somewhere between the feet of the wailing, mourning family, probably the same time that the house Irshad was fighting from was crumbling under a fire.