Bijbehara: On April 11 this year, after a gun battle during which four civilians were killed allegedly by government forces and an army man lost his life, Lashkar commander Azad Malik alias Daada escaped unhurt along with two of his associates, in Khodweni area of Kulgam district.
The “feat” was celebrated on the streets of Khodweni. Malik and the two other militants did rounds of the area on a motorbike as crowds cheered, raising pro-freedom and anti-India slogans.
In the past seven months, Malik managed to escape quite a few Cordon and Search Operations (CASOs) in Anantnag and Kulgam districts. Today, however, he ran out of luck.
Malik alias Daada, a resident of Arwini Bijbehara, was a most-wanted militant for government forces with a bounty on his head. He had joined militant ranks in December 2016, days after a local commander of the outfit, Majid Zargar, was killed.
“He was a Sumo (cab) driver by profession before joining the militants,” his father, Nazir Ahmad Malik, had told this reporter recently.
Fourth among 8 siblings, Daada worked hard to meet ends but he, or rather his family, had a past for which he was routinely targeted by the government forces.
Daada’s elder brother, Mubashir Malik, was a Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militant who was killed in a gunfight some years ago.
“Malik was often harassed by the forces, particularly the ones stationed at the Hassanpora SOG camp,” Nazir Ahmad alleged.
In 2015, Nazir Ahmad said, Daada was returning after a day of routine work when he was asked by some policemen from the Hassanpora SOG camp to drop them somewhere.
“They took him to Bijbehara and then to the Joint Interrogation Centre (JIC) in Khannabal. They booked him under the PSA (Public Safety Act). He served more than 4 months in Mattan central jail,” Nazir Ahmad said, adding that Daada fought the temptation of picking up arms even after being fraudulently booked under PSA.
Things changed in December 2016, when Daada was asked to ferry some militants in his vehicle.
“He did, not knowing that a gunfight will soon follow. The militants he ferried were killed and he was labelled as an informer by some ill-meaning people. He was very disturbed after that and soon after he left home one day, never to return,” Nazir Ahmad said.
The family had no clue of his whereabouts, until they were called by the police one day and told that Daada had joined militant ranks.
“We thought they had killed him in a fake encounter or something. But then a video appeared on social media and it was confirmed that he had joined militants,” Nazir Ahmad said.
Following his decision to take up arms, the Malik household was raided by government forces multiple times. “Many a time our house was vandalised and my other children beaten,” Nazir Ahmad said.
Nothing deterred Daada. He remained steadfast in the path he had chosen for himself. During his two years with militants, he visited his house only a couple of times – the last being on Eid-ul-Azha this year.
“He came for a few minutes but soon, more than 6,000 people thronged our house to meet him. He left in a hurry and did not visit ever since,” Nazir Ahmad said.
In the past two years Daada had a meteoric rise within Lashkar ranks. He became a close associate of Pakistani national and Lashkar commander, Naveed Jutt. Daada was accused along with Jutt of assassinating journalist Shujaat Bukhari in June this year.
He and Jutt recently appeared in a video, shot somewhere along the highly secure Khannabal-Pahalgam road in Anantnag. Daada could be seen flashing a pistol in the video as the two of them crisscrossed the double-lane road.
Daada was buried at the martyrs’ graveyard in his native Arwini village of Bijbehara, after multiple rounds of funeral prayers attended by thousands.