Dream and Death

Model to Militant

Prashasti Awasthi finds a diary of slain militant and looks at his journey from being an aspiring militant to becoming a Lashkar militant.

 

Sohaib Akhoon’s eyes gleamed with a dream. A dream to see the crowd cheering his name out of admiration while he walks down the ramp. A dream to tread through the spotlights with the cameras clicking incessantly to make him a man larger than the life itself. A dream that did not take much time to manifest itself. Akhoon witnessed this all. However, in a different situation; amidst different set of people; and over a completely different kind of admiration.

This happened when his coffin was laid amongst thunderous Azadi slogans and photojournalists capturing his last rites, which indeed sounds like his dream but endeavours way more different than mere modeling. Akhoon, 21, was one of the three Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militants killed in a gunfight that erupted in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district on January 23. Akhoon was one of the top commanders of Lashkar in north Kashmir and was active since December 2017. The other two militants were Mohsin Bhatt, 22, and Nasir Darzi, 23, all hailing from Baramulla.

From aspiring model to pick up guns, Akhoon’s journey toward militancy is painfully surprising. However, his is not a story which is happening in the Valley for the first time. Hundreds of youth waded across the borders in the name of Azadi. Akhoon started morphing into a militant when he came under the influence of Hanzallah Adnan and Malik Saheb. He got indoctrinated and became pedant bent over Lashkar’s ideology as Akhoon wrote in his diary that he looks forward to Hafiz Saeed’s work and dances to the beats of Azadi slogans. Akhoon’s favourite place was Syria, which he never went to but took awe at its cataclysmic scenario.

Akhoon went to Pakistan in August 2017 on a valid visa. Akhoon decided to leave his studies and join militancy. He was imparted with 28 days training in a Lashkar camp in Burma Town, an hour and a half drive from Islamabad, Pakistan. He then came back through Wagah and joined the Lashkar outfit in Baramulla. The heart that once dreamt of attaining stardom through modeling then started beating to bring Azadi in the Valley.

“Sohaib had this strange fascination toward bikes and to pose with them. Sohaib wanted to own a Harley Davidson,” says his brother Farooq.

He told Kashmir Scan that he had no clue how his brother transformed into an extremist and left for Pakistan.

“We never thought that he wanted to see militant camps there. Our family thought that he didn’t like Kashmir because of the frequent investigations and warrants accusing him of stone-throwing,” Farooq said.

However, Mohsin’s brother looks differently into the matter.

“Mohsin was a soft-hearted person and he couldn’t bear the atrocities happening around him. Kashmir – the heaven now seems to be hell – and there is only one way to join heaven, the Shahadat. I know my brother has gone out beyond the miseries of our everyday life,” says Mohsin’s brother.

The case of Bilal Moulvi falls on the same lines. Moulvi’s father takes pride at his son’s death and calls it ‘martyrdom’.

“I am happy for my son as now he is in a better place. There is no better death than to die for motherland and attain heaven,” says Muhammad Yousuf Maulvi, father of Bilal Maulvi, who was killed in a gunfight on May 9, 2018.

Maulvi had two little children who seem to be too innocent to understand where their father is now. “Death is certain for all. My son has made me proud as he did not die an ordinary death, he died fighting,” he says.

The death of the militants is glorified to such an extent that even their tombstones are worshipped nowadays.

On the dilapidated street that leads to Sameer Tiger’s home in Drabgam area of Pulwama, one could see the graveyard on the left side where the bodies of the militants are buried. The graveyard is decorated with garlands – honouring the sacrifice of the ‘martyrs’. A primary school is positioned next to the graveyard whose walls are painted with freedom slogans and a call to ‘sacrifice life for the motherland’.

There are plenty of cases like Akhoon who get fancied over the idea of something else and then volunteer for something else.

Speaking to a New Delhi-based news channel on, Governor Satya Pal Malik requested youngsters of Kashmir to live for heaven (Kashmir) and not to die for it.

With the killing of three local Lashkar-e-Toiba militants, Baramulla was declared first militant-free district in 29 years by Director General of Police, Dilbag Singh.

However, innumerable hearts still remain astonished on marching to the beat of Azadi slogans.

A place that is renowned in the world for its rich and glorious Sufi culture now faces the challenge of religious radicalism. Where on one hand Sufism encourages to strive for love and live for people, youth are marching toward death. The Sufi saints of Kashmir advocate at living and generating the art within for the sake of love for the lord. As Rumi says, “In Prophet’s light, I learn how to love. In his beauty, I learn how to make poems. His words dance inside my chest where none sees them but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes the art.”

 

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