Srinagar: For a week, 50 year-old Ashiya Begum has not eaten. The distraught woman has been making fervent appeals to everyone who visits her home. She wants her only son, an ace footballer from Jammu and Kashmir's Anantnag, to shun terror and return home.
Twenty-year-old Majid Khan joined the ranks of terrorists a week ago. The family says Majid suddenly disappeared last Thursday. days later, a photograph surfaced on Whatsapp showing him posing with an assault rifle, much like Burhan Wani, the "Facebook Terroist" whose killing last year had triggered an unrest in the state that lasted more than six months.
Burhan Wani, who was part of the terror group Hizbul Mujahideen, was known for uploading photographs of himself positing with weapons on social media. The photos were expected to be a big draw for the young men in the Valley and a catalyst for recruitment.
Police sources say around 100 local men have joined the ranks of the terrorists in the last one year. Many of them have surrendered or have been arrested by security forces.
Majid Khan has been playing football since his schooldays. A shelf in his home displays all the trophies he has won - they include one from a tournament organised by the police in south Kashmir. "I am waiting for him. I want him to return... I want him to play football again," his mother wept.
Videos carrying Ashiya Begum's appeals are being widely circulated on social media and thousands have appealed Majid Khan to return home.
On Tuesday, his father, 59 year-old Irshad Ahmad Khan, suffered a mild heart attack after hearing that Majid had been trapped in an encounter in Kulgam. One terrorist was killed. The arrest of three local terrorists during the mop up operations after the encounter rekindled the hope of family.
"I'm sure he will come back if he hears this message. He is not just my son, but a friend also.. I have brought him up like that. I don't understand why he did his," said Mr Khan.
The army, police and CRPF have announced that local men who give up terror will be adequately supported and rehabilitated. Top officials said they will do their best to ensure that Majid Khan returns to his family.
"Our message is for everyone - whether it's a particular boy who has recently joined militancy after being an excellent footballer or anyone else. Our message is 'Please leave the weapon' and come back to mainstream," said Zulfikar Hasan, a senior officer of the Central Reserve Police Force.