Last meeting with son

'Rouf feared being jailed for life'

By Muzaffar Raina
  • Published 5.04.18
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Hajira Begum

Dehruna (Anantnag): Hajira Begum had been praying all the time for a glimpse of her son ever since he disappeared last month to join militants. Her prayers were answered on Sunday - but only for one last time.

Her son, Rouf Khanday, 21, an undergraduate student who had joined militancy three weeks earlier, died moments after he met his parents on Sunday night. The house where he had been hiding was razed to the ground by security forces.

State police chief S.P. Vaid said they did everything to save Rouf's life, even bringing his parents to convince the youth he would not be harmed if he laid down arms. Anantnag police chief Altaf Khan told The Telegraph on Monday he cried at their helplessness when their son did not relent.

This correspondent could not reach Rouf's family on Monday but travelled to their village in Anantnag, 65km from Srinagar, on Wednesday amid a complete shutdown to meet them.

The parents, both in their 60s, said the police had indeed made efforts to save their son, but added they were not sure if the forces would have kept their promise of not harming him.

Rouf's parents spoke also of police harassment that had allegedly forced him to pick up arms.

Bashir Ahmad Khanday, the father, said Rouf had been arrested during the 2016 unrest and detained for 45 days after the police found related pictures in his mobile phone. "Even after that (the end of the detention) he was summoned by the police," he said.

A police officer claimed Rouf had been detained for his alleged links with militants.

"He disappeared on March 8 and we later learnt he had joined them (the militants). We had not seen him since," the father said.

Bashir Ahmad, a carpenter, said they received a call on Sunday night from Rouf, informing them that he was trapped in a security force cordon.

Anantnag police chief Altaf Khan had dropped a cellphone at Rouf's hideout to talk to him and persuade him to surrender. Rouf had called his family from that phone.

In a telephone conversation between Rouf and his parents before they left to pacify him, he is heard telling his family how life would be hell for him if he surrendered.

Bashir Ahmad Khanday

"I will be jailed for life. It is far better to die as a martyr," Rouf is heard telling his family, who asked him to be steadfast and offer prayers for forgiveness from God.

As Hajira broke down, Rouf told her it was a sin to cry. "Do not weep over my death. I am satisfied (with my fate)," he said.

Bashir Ahmad said that while they were talking to Rouf, policemen knocked at the door and asked them to accompany them. "We were reluctant but they were insistent," Bashir Ahmad said.

Anantnag police chief Khan had dispatched a police team to bring Rouf's parents to beseech their son to relent.

"When we reached the place I told him (Khan) that I would not meet my son because I knew that he would never surrender. But he said I should," Bashir Ahmed said.

Bashir Ahmed said he and his wife spoke to Rouf for 15 minutes but he never asked the young militant to surrender. Hajira, however, said she wanted her son to live.

"I asked him (Rouf) what he was up to. He replied he never joined it (militancy) to give it up. I told him his sister had applied henna on her hands (a reference to her impending marriage and how desperately the family needed him). He said let her lead her life her way and he would lead his his way.... Once we came out I realised it was all over and I prayed to God to accept his sacrifice," Hajira said.

The family said Rouf had a pistol and a couple of grenades when he was trapped. The police strapped the house with explosives and blew it up.

The incident has triggered a debate after Jammu and Kashmir police chief Vaid claimed the forces did everything to save Rouf's life.

Rouf was one of 13 militants who were killed along with four civilians and three armymen during three gunfights with security forces on Sunday.

Many are questioning the police claim, with former Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries president Mubeen Shah claiming that people like Khan should be sent to a "war crime tribunal" for alleged human rights violations in Kashmir instead of being portrayed as a hero.