Irshad Ahmad Khan, a government employee in Anantnag, is entertaining guests at his home as his wife, Aysha Begum, listens to conversations from the adjacent room.
The topic – their son, who recently returned from the clutches of militancy.
On November 9, 20-year-old Majid Khan went missing and the next day, a picture of him wielding an AK-47 assault rifle went viral on social media.
A locally famous footballer, Majid studied business at a local government college and worked at a NGO, before he disappeared. He is even said to have scored high grades in both his higher secondary and senior secondary board exams.
It’s common practice for militants, particularly new recruits, to post photographs with weapons on social media.
Soon after Majid’s gun-toting photo went viral, his father suffered a cardiac arrest and his mother stopped eating.
When journalists visited their house, Aysha cried her heart out: “Come back Majid, kill your father and me; then go back.” The emotional video of Majid’s mother was also widely viewed in Kashmir.
People started posting, sharing social media posts, pleading Majid to return home. It soon became a campaign of sorts. “Dear #khan_majid I don’t know if you are reading this post or not, but my brother please come back. I have no words to express the condition of your family, your mother, your father… It’s yet early stage to come back… everything will be fine… I am appealing you just come back put down your arms please. Please! (sic)” Mohammad Farooz Pandith wrote on Facebook.
“Wech’hath ake fir, rat’hath naaley… zan Ha cxalhem sharr yaroo. Samkhan yette aeas, bey ha ake fir Teth jaai cxe cith, Kath baat karha. (Wish to see and embrace you again… wish to meet you at the same place where we used to chit chat for hours),” Majid’s friend and manager of the sports club he was playing for, wrote on Facebook.
More often than not, Kashmiris are seen praising young people who join militancy. This was one of the rare occasions when people of Kashmir took to social media to request a militant to shun the gun and return to his family.
A couple of days after Majid joined the militancy, an encounter raged in Kund area of Kulgam. One of Majid’s associates was killed and two others were arrested. One among them was Shamsul Viqar, an 18-year-old who reportedly lured Majid into militancy.
Majid attended the funeral of the slain militant and offered him a gun salute. The footballer’s friends realised that he was not going to return. “We were shocked when we saw him offering a gun salute,” said a friend of Majid. The campaign on social media, though, didn’t stop.