When Mohammad Shafi Mir, a businessman from this north Kashmir town, left for work as usual from his home on March 21, it was not in his wildest dreams that he will come back only to see his minor son killed by Lashkar-e-Taiba militants from Pakistan.
12-year-old Aatif Mir, a Class VI student of Army Goodwill School, Hajin was held hostage in his own home by two LeT militants and then killed by them even as security forces tried to secure his release.
“When I came to know that my son has been taken hostage by those whom we fed for three days, I didn’t believe. But the reality is that my innocent son was killed only by those, whom we consider our protectors and liberators,” Mir told Deccan Herald as mourners in large numbers kept on visiting.
A three-storey house which the family had built after a lot of hard work was also destroyed in the encounter. “I can again construct a house, but I lost my only son forever. Can somebody tell me why the murderers killed him,” he said amid sobs.
“The militants deliberately held my son hostage. Requests were made by local people, security forces and officials to free him but they didn’t allow him to leave the house. Even my wife made several requests to those beasts to leave Atif, but they didn’t respond,” inconsolable Mir rued.
Aatif’s uncle Abdul Hameed, who was also held hostage but fled when the militants were injured in the gunfight and were ultimately killed, said, “As the firing was going on, I put several blankets around him to keep him safe.”
“The militants heard the announcements, but they were unmoved. I pleaded with them to free the child, even if that meant I would be killed, but they wouldn’t listen. They opened fire on me, but it was my luck I survived,” he said.
Anger was palpable on the streets of Hajin against one of the two slain militants – identified as Ali Bhai – who was active in the area for over the last four years.
A neighbour of Mir, who wished anonymity said that one of the slain militants – identified as Ali Bhai – was pressurising the family to get Atif’s sister married to him. “Ali was in the area for the past several months and after he started pressurising Mir to get the daughter married to him, the family sent her to some relatives home in Sopore town. This infuriated Ali and he started beating the family frequently,” he revealed.
“Some neighbours and relatives of Mir were aware of this fact and someone among them might have tipped off security forces about the presence of Ali in the house. Ali had warned the family that he will kill them all if they don’t get their daughter back and marry her with him,” the neighbour claimed.
Senior superintendent of police (SSP) Bandipore Rahul Malik confirmed that some of Aatif’s family members revealed that the militants, both of whom were killed, had been beating them up.
“There was this theory that Ali wanted to marry some girl in the family and that the family members sent the girl to some other place, so he was demanding that she should be brought back if he were to allow the others (including Aatif) to go out. Basically, he wanted the girl to be brought back,” the SSP said.
However, Mir rebutted the claims that Ali was forcing him to marry his daughter with him. “No, it is not true. These are rumours,” he said.