Yawar Ahmed Dar, a dweller of South Kashmir, left home early in the morning to bat for his local team. Soon after he rang one of his teammates to inform about his absence, and that he would run straight away to Quimoh area, where a gunfight had erupted between militants and government forces. “But when I insisted that the team will need him, he told me that he will call me later,” told a friend, Shahid.

To ‘disperse the protesters’ near the encounter site, forces fired rounds of bullet, one of which finds the way to Dar’s chest. On the way to the hospital, struggling with every breath, Dar whispered into the ear of his friend, Andleeb, “I am dying in pain, dear friend, the pain is immense.” And lost the fight.

By the evening, an immense pool of people have gathered at Gassipora, about five kilometers away from the district headquarters in Anantnag, the native village of Dar to take the last glimpse of another fallen rebel. Villagers are flocking the house to see the mother of the killed civilians, “Who shouts slogans on the funeral of her son?” said a local. “How can India Defeat us, when we have mothers like her,” he added.

The 21-year-old was the only economic pillar of his family. Soon after 10th class, he pulled out of studies in 2014. Back on the 24th June 2018, an attempt to prevent the situation from exploding into a crisis, the authorities immediately snapped mobile internet in the Anantnag and Kulgam Districts of the Kashmir Valley, while the educational institutions were ordered to remain close and railway services were suspended subsequently.

Back at Dar’s place, young boys including his friends sat in one corner of a room listening to middle-aged man addressing the mourners to “fight their ego and that is the only way to find paradise”.

Mother of Yawar Ahmad Dar at his funeral procession. Photograph by Zafar Dar

Seven of Dar’s friends sat in a circle around his grave. Struggling to hold their emotions of a huge loss; one of them, Zubair cried loudly, “We don’t believe that he is no more. He was always so full of life.”

None of his friends have gone home since his death. “We miss him a lot. He was the leader of our group,” said another young boy. A woman raised slogans leading a group of men and children back from the graveyard.

A local resident said, “Look what a respect he has got. If I had died, even a few hundred people won’t have come to attend my funeral. This is what a funeral is. His pious blood fell for our sacred Tehreek (Freedom Struggle). Now, his family will be the most respected in the area,” adding that everyone will offer salaam to his mother now. “Thousands have already visited our village to get a glimpse of his brave mother,” he said.

The encounter raged in South Kashmir’s Quimoh area on Sunday after militants fired upon government forces’ party who were conducting search operations in the area. Massive crowds swelled, in a move which has become a routine now, threw stones on troopers trying to give a chance to the trapped militants to break the cordon.

Dar’s death has left his family in distraught. He outlived his parents, a brother, and two sisters. “He was taking care of the expenses of the entire family, he was the main bread earner. He was driving an auto, perhaps that is why they shot him dead,” his cousin said in grieve.

As told by Dar’s cousin, police often used to raid his house for his alleged involvement in stone throwing, until he actually became a real stone thrower. “They forced him to pick up stones,” his cousin sighed.

By 3 pm, when the gunshots stopped, the encounter left two militants dead, including one from Pakistan. According to latest reports, there has been an increasing trend of civilians being shot dead near encounter sites. The Indian Army chief has also warned the civilians protesting near encounter sites of dangerous consequences, however, the growing heads protesting near the gunfight sights suggests the mood otherwise.

Grieving about the regular bloodshed, one of the Dar’s neighbor said, “Today it is his son, tomorrow it would be mine; once again this conflict is consuming another generation of Kashmir.”

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