Srinagar: It brought a top cop of the Jammu and Kashmir Police to tears on Sunday when his prayers, recital of Quran and repeated appeals failed to save the life of a young man who was barely out of his teens. A day after, a choking Altaf Khan, SSP, Anantnag, narrated how his six-hour ordeal and the heart-rending scenes of old parents’ distraught appeals ended in a hail of bullets and the death of a militant.
Altaf Khan, senior superintendent of police, Anantnag, said the three hour-long operation in which a 21-year-old militant named Rouf Khanday was killed took a huge emotional toll on him and left him in tears and this was the toughest-ever operation that he has been in.
Another militant, Imran Rashid, was the lone militant who survived the biggest counter-insurgency operation in recent times in Kashmir that resulted in the deaths of 13 militants on Sunday. Rashid surrendered before the police while Rouf did not.
“I was in tears. I wanted to cry out loud but since I was in command of the operation I had to control my emotions,” he told News 18.
“We finally killed Rouf, but a lot happened before that,” said the decorated officer, known for leading many counter-insurgency operations across Kashmir.
Khan said he was moved to tears when Rouf’s parents, who were called to the encounter site on Saturday night, failed to convince him to lay down his arms and come out the house he had holed up in.
“I sent my men to pick his parents from their home to persuade Rouf to give up fighting but he did not agree. The image of his mother going into the house, twice, will still haunt me. It keeps on playing before me,” he said.
“I remember the face of her mother. She was sobbing helplessly. That picture will remain with me.”
At 11 pm on Saturday, police and Army personnel arrived at Peth Dailgam village, 12 km from Anantnag town, and closed in on the house where Rouf and Imran, two local Hizbul Mujahideen militants were staying. The police had all the details about the number of militants and the weapons they had.
As per the standard operating procedure, the forces evacuated the civilians in the adjoining houses to safety. Khan then told his Army counterparts that they need to give the militants a choice to surrender and save their lives, to which the soldiers agreed.
Standing behind his vehicle, he sent a local Kashmiri with a cell phone, inside the house to talk to the militants. “It took me 15 minutes to convince Imran to come out. He laid down his arms and walked with the cops,” Khan narrated.
However, the next two hours proved to be the toughest as Khan started talking to Rouf for 25 minutes, persuading him to surrender, but he was adamant.
“I quoted the Quran and Hadith to him, told him that it was suicide and his life mattered to him and his parents and that he can serve humanity better but he did not pay any heed,” the SSP said, adding “I told him to speak to his mother, which he did.”
Khan said he still wanted to give it another shot and rushed his vehicle to fetch his parents from their home, which is 6km from the encounter site.
“The parents came and I asked them to speak to their son. His father told me that he won’t go in because he never approved of him joining militancy. But when I asked him it was matter of life and death for him, he agreed to see him.”
“So when they had a chat for another 25 minutes, the father came back and told me that his son won’t surrender. The mother came out and went in again to beg of him to give up but she was told to go back. The walk she made from the target house towards me will remain with me forever,” Khan narrated how the night unfolded.
“It was a tough walk for her and the toughest ever for me. I will never forget her face. I was about to explode but there were subordinates around me and I didn’t want to cry,” he said.
Finally, when Rouf went up the terrace of the house around 1.25 am, we retaliated and he was killed within a few minutes. By 1.30 am, we mopped up the operation, Khan added.
Dailgam was the lightest of the three operations on Sunday. In two other encounters in Shopian, 12 militants were killed. In all, 20 people were killed on the Bloody Sunday, including four civilians and three Army jawans.