Mohamad Ishaq Parray: a household name in South Kashmir
“History of the world is the biography of the great man… The great man always acts like a thunder. He storms the skies, while others are waiting to be stormed”. Thomas Carlyle.
In a conflict-ridden Kashmir, many stories are unheard and many persons are unknown who have given a lot of sacrifices to the movement of right to self determination of Kashmir. Duuring the 90s Kashmir witnessed huge insurgency and a rat race towards the armed training. It was relatively a norm during those days to cross the borders and get the armed training out there. Here I have attempted to narrate the story of a man who in the 90s crossed the border at his early age and in no time struck with a huge reputation in the whole south Kashmir. Although those days internet and social media were not available yet he was known to everyone and was named, Sakh Parray (real name Mohamad Ishaq Parray ).
Mohd Ishaq parray was born on March 12, 1974, in a small hamlet of district Shopian, Rawalpora. He did his schooling in a local vicinity up to 8th standard. He also got a Quranic education from a local tutor and got command on three languages to understand the commentary of the Quran. His childhood pal, Mushtaq Ahmad, narrates, his childhood in these words:
“He was known by his bravery and courage. He was a great fan of cricket. He mostly beat us whenever we played with him. He was most angry among the friends but was humbly honest. Whatever he did, he did that without any hesitation. Indeed, his personality was devoid of hypocrisy.”
Ishaq was of noble lineage. His family was very affluent and had earned a good reputation in the whole area for hospitality, love and affection. His family used to give a helping hand to poor people in the adjacent areas. His grandfather was financially sound and was noted in his village for kindness and a compassionate heart. In those days his family had a mill (bandsaw), floor mill (grateh,) rice grinding machine etc.
In December 1990, he crossed the border first time and joined the outfit, Hizbul Mujahideen (a local rebel outfit fighting Indian rule in Kashmir). Gh. Ahmad (name changed) had also crossed the border and was from the same outfit. He narrated the whole story how they crossed the borders with this reporter. He puts it;
“We were nine boys from the Tehsil, Shopian who were all set to cross the border. At first, we rejected Amir (now nicknamed) on the basis of his age. He was too young and it was against our policy to take him in the armed training camp. But, on the basis of his curiosity and his resistance we made him our accomplice. I appreciated his valour and zeal and was happy on his selection, more importantly, I was on cloud nine because Amir and another guy, Gowher were given to me to lead them. Telling you from the heart, I was more curious to visit Pakistan but Amir had really an ambition for ‘jihad’ (struggle intended to fight against the Indian army). On reaching Batamalo, Srinagar a man named Firdoos told our bus driver that he has to go to Ganderbal. Our bus was now full with young boys and when we left from Batamalo, the women were seen singing melodious songs. Dusk was approaching when we reached Kupwara. Now, the total buses were nine and we were asked by one man not to get down from our buses. He had a walkie-talkie as I remember. At 10 pm we crossed Kupwara and then we travelled the whole night and there were a total of 400 boys. Among the boys one Hafiz-e-Quran, Rouf Sahab, was chosen as an ameer and a guide. Thus, we reached our spot with the slogans ‘Narai takbeer’. While crossing the border, Amir’s serial no. was 160 and I was ranked at 161. On reaching this place, Amir told one guy, ‘you did not allow me to come, see I’m here now.’ At the training camp, there were 800 boys and we spent one month there. During the training, we used to write down the things related to our training of using weapons and guerrilla strategies. It was like a theory class, believe me, I was unable to write down the things but Amir was penning down the things as if he was a scholar and he used to write down the instructions within the stipulated time which was given by our instructor.
After finishing the training sessions, we were given weapons and ammunition to take them to Kashmir. Amir was given SMG but he refused to take it and demanded an LMG. He insisted so much on this point that Major Shah had to yield to his wish. In addition to this, he was also given 5 pistols. When we left the training camp and reached a forest all of us were chilled to the bone as the weather was inclement and dark clouds were looming large. We found ourselves surrounded by snowcapped mountains. When we set off on our return journey, we were 111 boys but when we reached the snowy mountains we were only 81 boys. Rest had died because of harsh winter and biting cold. All the boys were crying, we lost our way, the guide was missing and the snow was all about us. Being without food, it took us 12 days to reach to the top of the mountain. Amir got pneumonia and was unconscious, we thought, he had died, but, one boy punched him on the back and he opened his eyes and asked inquisitively, ‘where have we reached?’ The answer to this question was not known as nobody knew where we had reached. What really worsened the condition of all of us was the Chilblain that hampered our mobility. It was only the God’s miracle that we survived and walked past the snowy mountains. Our main focus was on weapons and ammunition. On reaching the Muree Sector, we saw one chopper and felt some ray of hope and inferred that it is from Pakistan and we thought that it will rescue us. We started to cry bitterly and were on the verge of chanting ‘Nari Takbeer’ enthusiastically and loudly as it came close to us. However, we were shocked and stunned at seeing the Indian army. They arrested 61 boys and told that they were waiting for us and kept all of us in their custody. They didn’t beat us but simply they tied our hands and took us to Kaloroos, Kupwara. After that, they took us to Zangli army camp, Kupwara (near district headquarters) where we were kept naked and were beaten ruthlessly and tortured. I still remember how we were unable to eat even a morsel of food because our hands were totally numb and badly affected by chill blain. Next, we were taken to Badamibag Cantonment, Srinagar and spent 11 days there. At this very infamous place, we were interrogated and underwent third-degree tortures. Finally, after the severe interrogation, we were taken to Kotbalwal Jail, Jammu. In Kotbalwal, Amir fell ill because of infection and unhygienic food. After the two months, Amir’s family got to know that he was arrested and is now in Jammu Jail. They had come to know by some TV news about their son’s arrest. Finally, he was found a minor and was granted bail. It was my final glimpse towards him. I requested him to go home and live comfortably. On the contrary, he replied calmly, ‘Let’s see which way the wind blows.’ He then bid me farewell with a photogenic face, frizzled hair, somber eyes, and a wry smile.”
Ishaq Parrey was made for ‘jihad’, believed the locals from his village and had a great penchant for armed struggle. According to his close associate, Tahir Ahmad, “After his release from the jail, he merely stayed at home for five months. I remember, after his release, he was restless and was telling me time and again, ‘I will not stay at home. How come I will…after the armed training… I will definitely join the outfit once again.’ In fact, he had a noose for militancy and joined again the outfit. He had an aim to fight. “He was a visionary” believes one of his outfit associate, Mohd Hassan (name changed). Talking to this reporter, Mohd. Hassan sums up the personality of Ishaq Parray in the following words :
“He was religious, pious and a dedicated person. His character was par-excellence. His physical strength was equal to twenty men. Further, he had nerves of steel. We used to call him ‘Wahid Khan’. He had the qualities of Shaheen and Allah had granted him with many gifts. He was an environmentalist and had destroyed his own sawmill because he was well aware of the importance of forests and was concerned about climate change. He had a thorough knowledge about the natural resources that Kashmir is enriched with. However, He was blessed with leadership qualities and served the role of ‘ameer’ during his tenure. Not only this, he was elected in 2000 as a district commander of ‘Hizbul Mujahideen’ and in 2003-2004 as a divisional commander. Moreover, he had taken part in the Kargil War. It is because of him, the militancy in South Kashmir gained the momentum and generated euphoria among the masses. After joining the rebel group, he consolidated and gave impetus to the whole movement. He had worked as a wireless operator to the chief United Jahad Council (UJC), Syed Salahudeen. During, his period, Mohd Ishaq Parray never compromised.”
The whole hamlet is a witness for his bravery and indomitable will. When in 1998, Kashmir saw the rise of Ikhwan, a government-backed counter-insurgency group, he was the main target in his area. His house was demolished allegedly by the troops. His family was compelled to migrate to Srinagar. “Our house was completely damaged and we were left to God’s mercy, we were terrified, and all the family members were ruthlessly beaten day in and day out… our fault was only that ours was the family of a militant”, says, his brother, Tariq Ahmad with the tearful eyes. It is also believed that in South Kashmir, especially, in Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam districts Mohd Ishaq Parray played a prominent role in eliminating the Renegades. As per the sources, he mainly attacked those people who were assaulting, terrifying and humiliating the common people. One man, Manzoor aka Man Khalai, alleged to be a famous torturer and extortionist, is said to be killed by him.
When Mohd Ishaq Parray joined militancy, his family, relatives, and friends were made targets of third-degree tortures. Not only this his whole apple orchards were cut down by the troops in 1998. His brother-in-law was killed during those days. No such measure broke his will, he didn’t shake by these potent tides. Instead he carried on his ship toward his destination with a missionary zeal.
As per the sources, he crossed the borders many times during his period but, the year 2005 was the last time when he crossed the border and settled in Islamabad, Pakistan. Finally, he breathed his last on 15 April 2016 after the prolonged disease (he was laid up with cancer). His funeral procession was led by the UGC chief, Syed Salahudeen and followed by thousands of people in Islamabad. At his native place, absentia prayers were also held. In his funeral sermon, Syed Salahudeen paid glowing tribute to Ishaq Parray. “Mohd Ishaq Parray has served Kashmir cause honesty and uncompromisingly till his last breath. He had worked even with the Chief Operational Commander, Aanamullah Khan…I met him on his dwelling place three days before his death, he (Ishaq Parray ) told me, ‘Peer Shab, I have a last wish— the wish to go back to Kashmir and fight tooth and nail with the Indian Army in the battlefield’.” said Syed Salahuddin while addressing the gathering.
The author is post graduate in English Literature from University of Kashmir. He can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not necessarily reflect the position or editorial policy of Oracle Opinions.