Maine janaana chi ha draham yemuk tamanna ouseuy,
magar waenji chum goadd chanei wareiy,
chi ha chuham yati, yaad chum peywaan chon bat’ie mangun,
cheyn breyeenth chem gasaan, be te mare che path.

“Oh, my beloved! You left for what you had wished but it pierced my heart apart. You are here, I recall you asking for meals, I see you in mirages, I will follow you in death,” says the mother, wailing over her youngest son’s death.

Maimoona Akhter, 45, wearing pheran and white headscarf, was sitting in a makeshift tent, filled with women mourners on the morning after her son’s killing.

The son, whose absence now pierces her heart, was Fahad Mushtaq Waza, 17-year-old boy sporting a fresh beard. Waza had quit studies after class 9 and was at home, helping his father, who is a professional cook.

On 23 March 2018, Friday, Waza met his friend Nadim Kumar outside the locality mosque and said that he will go with Jamat, to go on a religious trip for a few days. At home, he had said same to his mother, Maimoona, and was expected to return on the morning of Monday.

But he never returned.

Four days later, the family had no idea of his whereabouts. When he didn’t return, Maimoona had called his friends to find him. Everyone was restless, the family then filed a missing report at the Police Station, Khanyar.

Next morning, his friends even uploaded about him being missing on social media but all the attempts failed when they saw his latest photograph.

“Why did you lie to me before leaving home?”

The photograph of him carrying an AK-47 rifle had appeared on social media as an announcement of him joining the militant outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Next day his distraught mother, wailing and screaming, appealed him to return home. “Why did you lie to me before leaving home,” said Maimoona, “come back home for God’s sake.”

This didn’t make the teenager come back.

Now that he had joined the militant ranks, the government forces came after his family. “We were going through the worst phase of our life,” said his 24-year-old elder brother, Umer Mushtaq Waza. “When he left, I along with my father faced mental torture from the government forces.”

As told by his family, they were even detained for three days without providing any reasons. “If anyone is joining militancy, what is the fault of their family in it?” questions brother. “Why are we being targeted? Rather than introspecting on why young boys are choosing the gun over anything else, they are creating more problems for family, friends, and society.”

A surprise meeting and shining face

mother, kashmir, jammu and kashmir, lashkar e toiba
Fahad Mushtaq Waza, 17.

In these months, Waza, who was a regular at the mosque, would offer five times prayers, made no contact with his family.

No one saw the boy, who was as humble and shy as him, his friends recall now. No one ever heard a bad-mouth about him. “I had never seen him speaking ill,” said Kumar, his friend. “He was one of the rare persons I have ever met in my life.”

No one met him after becoming a militant, except one person.

Mohammad Abbas*, one of his friends, met Waza in the outskirts of Srinagar city, four months after his gun-wielding photograph had gone viral. Abbas was in an unknown locality, standing on the roadside when a boy tapped his shoulder and called out his name.

How did the boy know his name? Abbas was surprised. “Someone wants to meet you,” the boy had said. Walking a few meters, pointing towards the stairs of an adjacent house, Abbas stepped into a room and his face froze.

It was Waza smiling back at him in the room, along with other two militants.

“I shouted his name and he stood up fast and hugged me,” said Abbas. “My eyes couldn’t believe what I saw. He was happy to see me. He asked me about the family and other friends. I cannot narrate you how his appearance was; the face was shining like the sun. Till my death, I will not forget that moment and happiness.”

After 209 days, the last six-hours

All these months, every time when Maimoona would hear news of any gunfight in Kashmir, she would cry for her son.

“I used to pray for his survival but yesterday when I got the news of his presence in the gunfight, I fainted,” said Maimoona.

Waza was trapped in a house in Fateh Kadal area of Srinagar city, along with Mehraj-u-din Bangroo, another Lashkar militant. They exchanged bullets and blasts, and fought for six hours, with the government forces.

The gunfight ended on Wednesday morning with the debris of the house and chaos in the city. Along with Waza and Mehraj, Rayees Ahmad Hanga, a civilian, and a policeman were also killed.

“One who wishes martyrdom follows the path from the beginning,” said Kumar. “We feel proud on his martyrdom because he had dreamed it. But I miss him. Whenever we would discuss Kashmir, he would tell me that ‘we are under brutal occupation facing atrocities of the oppressor.'”

Like many militants, the teenager whom mother appealed to come back didn’t have the last conversation with his mother or anyone. His mother longed for his return for six months and 24 days; it ended when she saw his bullet perforated body, and she wailed, like the thousands of others at his funeral.

As more women mourners filled the tent, Maimoona’s wails grew, “Oh my beloved! Who have you left me for?” A woman replies, “What happened to us? He was our son!”

*The name has been changed as per his request.

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