Muheet ul Islam
Budgam: On the afternoon of June 27, Mohammad Aqib Gul, a 22-year-old, informed his mother Mubeena that he was going to buy an ice-cream for himself. He said he would get the ice-cream at the local parlour in Sanat Nagar, Srinagar.
A couple of hours later, when Aqib did not return, Mubeena began to worry and asked her husband, Ghulam-ud-Din Dar, to call his son. Dar called his son countless times but his number was switched off.
The Gul family says that Aqib was not one of those who would stay at some relative’s place without informing. Nevertheless, they did call up every relative to ask about him, but could not trace him. No first information report was filed because they the family decided to look for him by seeking help from people through social media posts and advertisements.
“We had an apprehension that he might have joined militant ranks, because he carried strong pro-freedom sentiments. We came to know about the reality after four days, when a police party from Chadoora visited his home,” said a middle-aged relative of Aqib Gul, wishing anonymity.
Aqib, according to his relatives and friends, was a gentleman. He had his primary education at Oak Hill School of Education at Padshahi Bagh, Srinagar. He was studying engineering at a university in Pune when he dropped out. He set up his own hardware store in Nagam area of Chadoora in district Budgam.
“He usually seemed calm. No one knew what was going on in his mind. He had a limited number of friends. We never could have imagined that he would join militancy,” the relative said, adding, “For the past many months he had attended the funerals of many civilians killed by government forces. He was also seen near an encounter site in Chadoora, where three unarmed protesters were shot dead.”
Amir Fayaz, Aqib’s cousin, said that Aqib had no record of being a stone pelter. However, he was once detained by a local police party of Humhama police station in Sanat Nagar, days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetisation.
“He was coming out of an ATM when he was detained. He was forced to spend a night at the police station. Although the police did not torture him, as other victims claim, there was general harassment and it may have changed his mind,” said Amir.
Amir did not get chance to speak to Aqib when the encounter broke out Tuesday night in Rudbugh, Budgam. Mubeena, Ghulam-ud-Din Dar and Amir’s mother were the only ones to speak with him. “My mother said Aqib did seem worried at the last stage of his life, but he was firm,” Amir said.
Amir alleged that police and army did not provide Aqib’s parents a chance to convince their son to surrender, despite being present at the encounter site.
“Police recently announced that they will provide every militant a chance to surrender. But Aqib was not given a single change. I believe he may have surrendered because he carried no weapon,” Amir said, adding, “Only one of the three men (Aqib Gul, Javaid Ahmad Shiekh and Sajad Ahmad Gilkar) trapped inside the house carried an assault rifle.”
Aqib was the youngest among three siblings, including a sister. His elder brother is still unaware of his death as he is working abroad as an engineer.