In an overnight encounter at Noorpora, Tral, the residential neighbourhood of the most prominent neutralised militants Zakir Musa and Burhan Wani, one unidentified militant was killed late in the night on October 26.
His associate, Saquib Akbar Waza (21) of Gulshanpora, listened to the appeals from the officers of Rashtriya Rifles 42 battalion and the Senior Superintendent of Police of Awantipora, Tahir Saleem. He laid down his arms and came out.
South Kashmir has been a hub of militancy after Burhan Wani`s emergence as Hizbul Mujahideen’s poster boy and his killing in an encounter in July 2016.
Saquib`s surrender before the security forces was in sharp contrast to the videos that went viral in social media in the last three years.
Those videos, showing the holed up militants turn down passionate appeals from their parents? and in some cases mothers themselves praying `martyrdom` for their militant sons and boosting their morale ? made hundreds pick arms and stones. Many of them died in encounters and clashes between stone-pelting crowds and security forces.
The video that went viral on October 27 made many Kashmiris cry. It showed the bearded young guerrilla being taken into custody affectionately by the Army and the police officers. They arranged Saquib`s reunion with his family.
“Oh Saquib, what the hell you had pulled down on your family! Oh my Saquib, may I die for your life! My God, I salute your greatness that you gave me back my son. Saquib, do you know how much I have suffered for you guys? I had no clothes to wear but I arranged for your studies,” Ghulam Rasool Waza (60) asked his son.
In his hysterical outburst, Waza broke and wept bitterly. It was unbelievable for him and his family to get his son back alive.
In August this year, Saquib had left his B. Tech course unfinished in the third year in Patiala, Punjab. He returned to Kashmir, went underground and joined the militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen.
Everybody around the encounter site believed that Saquib, like his associate, would come out dead, only to be buried at the terrorists` cemetery 90 km away in Handwara in Baramulla.
According to Waza, Saquib`s mother fell unconscious immediately after hearing that her son had got trapped in the encounter. She has now fully recovered from trauma. She looks relieved, watching her son in the video dismissing militancy as “devastation” and beseeching the youths to stay away from violence and pursue their studies and careers.
For fear of reprisal from his organisation, Saquib has been kept in protective custody for some time. Those angry at his act of surrender call him a “traitor” but many more in the social media appreciate his return. They are all praise for the youth as well as the Army and the police who gave him the second life.
In October, Saquib was the fourth militant recruit to come alive from an encounter?but the first in South Kashmir after a long time.
On October 16, the Army and the Police convinced a militant recruit, Jehangir, to come out and surrender at Hadipora, Chadoura, in Budgam district. He too was passionately handed over to his family.
On October 22, two Al-badar recruits, Abid Mushtaq Dar and Merajuddin Dar, both residents of Wadoora Payeen (Bomai) Sopore, surrendered after paying heed to their families` passionate appeals over the public address system.
With the security forces celebrating the Infantry Day?74th anniversary of the Indian Army`s first landing in Kashmir? the General Officer Commanding Srinagar-based 15 Corps, Lt Gen B.S. Raju, said that the security forces would accept the surrender of any militant.
“I have a message for the newly recruited militants. Posing for a photograph while holding a gun in hand and releasing a video won`t make you a militant. You can still come back and join your families,” Gen Raju said.
He said that even before the four terror recruits this month, a number of the militants had silently surrendered but the security forces had kept it low key.
The Army is known to have lately proposed a fresh surrender policy that is reportedly under the consideration of the Government of India.
If approved, it is expected to stimulate the surrender of more militants in the valley where the total number of active militants is estimated between 200 and 250.
Around 200 militants have been killed in the last 10 months of this year even as around 50 are believed to have surrendered silently.
Inspector-General of Police, Vijay Kumar, insisted that eight militants had actually surrendered during different encounters in Kashmir this year?5 in October alone.
“I once again urge the youths who have picked up arms to return back to the mainstream and live with their families,” he said in his appeal.
In contrast to the current scenario, almost all the militants, who got trapped during cordon-and-search operations, were killed in gun-battles. Images of their mutilated bodies and blood-splattered clothes, coupled with funeral processions and gun salutes at the graves by their associates, which have stopped after August 2019, are believed to have driven hundreds of fresh recruits to join militancy.
Official sources revealed that the security forces had, of late, submitted a draft surrender policy for rehabilitation of the surrendered militants which was currently under consideration in the Union Ministry of Defence and the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.