SRINAGAR: On December 5 a haunting picture went viral on social media, in which a cute 14 year old boy holds an AK-47 in one hand and and a knife in the other.

Mudasir, a resident of Khankah Mohalla of Hajin town in north Kashmir, went missing from home along with 16 year old Saqib on August 31, after an encounter took place in Hajin in which three foreign militants were killed.

Both boys' families were in shock after they came to know that both had left their homes.

Five days after his picture went viral, Mudasir was trapped in a gunfight in the Mujgund area on the outskirts of Srinagar and was killed in a gunfight lasting 18 hours, along with his friend Saqib and a Pakistani militant known as Ali Bhai.

Mudasir is survived by his parents, an sister and a brother.

Soon after his picture went viral, Mudasir's family made vehement appeals to him to return home. "I appeal to him, wherever he is, to come back home as soon as possible. Don’t leave us like this," his mother Fareeda Begum told the media next day.

Mudasir had left home to play at the local Eidgah. When he did not return and could not be contacted his family lodged a missing person report at the Hajin Police Station.

When the photograph surfaced, his family was surprised as they said he had been living his life normally with family and friends. "It wasn’t the kind of family you’d expect to produce a militant," a local said.

However, his friends maintain that Mudasir had been in contact with militants since the killing of Burhan Wani in 2016.

His family says Mudasir was never inclined towards militancy. "I was unaware about his joining militant ranks after he went missing in August. Had I been aware of it, I would have never allowed him to leave the house, because I didn’t want a separation from my son like this," said Fareeda Begum, tears rolling down her eyes.

Scores of women from the neighbourhood tried to console her but failed.

Mudasir's family lives in a single room. His mother is a heart patient, his father is chronically ailing with 16 stitches in his back , and he has a handicapped brother and a little sister.

Fareeda Begum is still in shock that her son has been killed. "Mudasir was not my son only, but a hope - the lone bread earner, who also worked as a labourer part time to help the family financially, as my other son is handicapped. When Mudasir left home in August, I was on my way to Sopore and asked him to accompany me there, but Mudasir refused and silently headed for the playground. That was the last time I saw him," she said.

"Soon after he went missing, I went from pillar to post, I searched for him from dawn to dusk, but Mudasir was nowhere. I am still waiting for his arrival," she said while wailing.

When Mudasir’s body arrived home, Fareeda Begum couldn't believe she was meeting her son with blood and bullets after three months.

Wailing she said, "Doudh haa cheey wyn praaczan lour’uy, waey, Baa karay ghoor ghooro. The milk is still on your lips, Let me cradle you, You have still to drink my milk, Let me cradle you."

Maimoona, his sister in the corner of the single room home broke into tears saying, "I was so happy that Mudasir would afford all my expenses and I would fulfil all my dreams, as my other brother is handicapped. But now all dreams are crushed."

Mudasir was arrested during the 2016 unrest in a stone pelting case and was lodged in Hajin Police Station for over a week, but was later released after counselling, said one of his relatives, who believes that Mudasir joined militants' ranks after the encounter killing of their close relative Abid Mir in Sopore. "This was the turning point," he said, breaking into tears.

The residents of Khankah Mohalla remember Mudasir as a shy but courageous young boy. "He was very humble and everyone in the village loved him. We don’t believe even today that he is dead because we all loved him. Mudasir is perhaps the youngest militant to have laid down his life," the neighbours said.

Militancy has been growing in Hajin ever since the Indian Army killed 21 year old Burhan Wani in July 2016. The town was once the home and base of the dreaded Ikhwan, a home-bred counter-insurgency militia led by Kuka Parray. But that period too was long past. Until now, when the tide again seems to be turning for Hajin.

(Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR)