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  India   All India  17 Dec 2018  A promising actor who died a ‘martyr’ for his people and a ‘terrorist’ for forces

A promising actor who died a ‘martyr’ for his people and a ‘terrorist’ for forces

THE ASIAN AGE. | YUSUF JAMEEL
Published : Dec 17, 2018, 3:15 am IST
Updated : Dec 17, 2018, 3:15 am IST

It is believed by many here that both Saqib and his friend Mudassir were motivated by Ali Bhai to join the LeT ranks.

People attend funeral prayers of militants killed in Saturday’s encounter.
 People attend funeral prayers of militants killed in Saturday’s encounter.

Hajin(Kashmir): He would wear expensive clothes and nice watches and was always determined to find a perfume he liked. “Jasmines and roses were his favourite and the alluring perfume of these made him smell like heaven,” said Mehbooba Begum, the mother of Saqib Bilal Sheikh.

Saqib was one of the two boys of this tiny Kashmiri town, 32-km north of capital Srinagar, who died in an encounter with security forces in a neighbouring village earlier this month, the other being 14-year-old Mudassir Rashid Parray. Also killed with them was a Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) commander Ali Bhai, believed to be a Pakistani national.

Saqib, 17, was known to his friends, neighbours and relatives as a promising actor and hardly anyone of them had in his or her wildest dreams expected him to turn a militant.

As 12-year-old ‘chocolate boy’, Saqib had done a cameo in Bollywood blockbuster ‘Haider’ produced and directed by Vishal Bhardwaj. The brief role he played in the movie won him hordes of fans in his hometown and the title of ‘hero’ among his friends. “He eventually died as real hero, a martyr for us,” said Feroz Hassan, a local resident. But for the security forces combating a nearly three-decade old insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, Saqib was a “terrorist” who met the fate he “deserved” for being such.

It is believed by many here that both Saqib and his friend Mudassir were motivated by Ali Bhai to join the LeT ranks. But for Abdus Salam Parray, an elderly resident, the “horrible events unfolding around us on daily basis” may have impacted their minds and pushed them towards the gun. He alleged, “The atrocities being perpetuated on our youth by the uniformed men are pushing them to the wall.”

Both Saqib and Mudassir had “disappeared” on August 31 this year and soon some of their friends learnt about them having joined the militant ranks. But for Saqib’s father Bilal Ahmed Sheikh it was just a rumour. “I knew my son as a sober and temperate boy and a talented student and never in my wildest dreams could I have thought he would be picking up the gun,” he said.

The Sheikhs are a well-to-do family which lives in Parray Mohalla of Hajin. Bilal’s elder son was adopted by an uncle and Saqib after being left the only male child in the family was being grown up in the lap of luxury. After playing the role of a poor blacksmith’s son in a play ‘Wath Che Yehai (This is the Way)’ successfully, he was picked up by ‘Haider’ team to do a cameo in the movie against a remuneration of Rs. 1,400. “He was good at studies too and would fondly play soccer,” said his uncle Aijaz Ahmed Sheikh who was expecting something “very big” from his nephew in future.

After Saqib went missing three months ago, his parents and other family members approached pirs and other mystic gurus to seek their help. They also sacrificed over a dozen sheep in the hope God will accept the offering and “send him back”. But Saqib was destined never to return alive. Today Bilal and Mehbooba take “pride” in being the parents of a “martyr.”

The story of Saqib and Mudassir serve a grim reminder about the fact that Kashmiri youth particularly the educated ones and those from well-off families continue to gravitate towards militancy. The politicians and even the officials of security forces openly do admit to it being a matter of ‘grave concern’ to all but they differ widely on how to stop the trend.

Tags: saqib bilal sheikh
Location: India, Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar