Jammu and Kashmir

A FOOTBALLER AFTER FRIEND’S FUNERAL JOINS LASHKAR, COMES BACK WITHIN DAYS, NOW OFFERED TRAINING BY FOOTBALL ICON BHAICHUNG BHUTIA: THIS IS MAJID KHAN’S STORY

Majid Khan (in skull cap), the football player from Anantnag, who joined the Lashkar camps but later returned home.

Shamsher Chandel, The Hush Post: “A week is a long time not just in politics.” Till about a fortnight ago, Majid Irshad Khan’s goalkeeping skills were the talk of Anantnag. But his mind wasn’t able to find the centre that one needs to keep the ‘goal.’ There was a storm brewing inside, and the storm would oscillate his mind in a fragile manner like a leaf of spring foliage. Slowly, he changed the goalpost from inside the football field to the Laskhar terror camp and picked up the AK-47. Even the parents of this 20-year-old introvert didn’t know why, and that was the big question?

The answer is that his militant friend Yawar Nissar Shergujri was killed in an encounter in August with security forces. He participated in the funeral of Yawar in Anantnag and the tearful farewell was just the expression of what was going on in his mind. Ever since, whenever he kicked the football, his mind would wander and chase that ball in the backdrop of the blue Anantnag sky, till it grew as small as a cricket ball or may be a bullet. He kicked the ball several times, mindfully and mindlessly. And then he made the transition, from playing the ball to the bullet. On October 29, in a Facebook post, he hinted that he might join militants. And on November 9, he officially joined Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Let’s take a glance at Majid’s past. He was among the district toppers in class 10 and 12. In class 12, he topped the Commerce stream in the Government Boys’ High Secondary School in Anantnag. With the skills to block the best of the banana kicks, a good school record, coupled with a will to serve, he was part of an NGO involved in social work, Majid was fast becoming the poster boy of the town, who resembled English cricketer Ben Stokes.

And then this November 9th act of Majid, and the whole world changed for his parents. “It is the youth like these who create impressions on the youngsters. If he plays soccer, youngster will follow him, but if joins the   militant ranks the younger ones will do the same,” this coming back means a lot to a Kashmiri youngster. After his photograph appeared brandishing an AK-47, his mother Ayesha Begum made several appeals asking him to come back while his father suffered a minor cardiac attack. His friends made Facebook requests asking him to come back, says Gauhar Geelani, a keen watcher of Kashmir affairs. And then Mahmood Shah, a self-styled chief of LeT in J&K, said that Majid was ‘allowed’ to leave on his mother’s request.

In a place like Kashmir, ideologies can make or break friendship, turn a friend into a foe in a second. One moment you are bantering and the next moment you could kill each other. “If you are not with us, you are against us.” This ideology of creating a false binary can be harmful and polarising. But Majid’s boss of nine days, Mahmood Shah let him go on his mother’s appeal. And the Army and Police welcomed him back. A local journalist not wanting to get named said, “It is a strange marriage of two opposing ideologies – anti-India forces of militants and the Indian forces symbolising the Indian republic for a greater common good. This greater common good is not about Majid coming back to the mainstream, but what it augurs for the future. “Such surrenders have happened in the past. But today, because of social media, the wailing of the mother is a thousand times more projected,” said state police Chief SP Vaid. But more than anything else, Majid’s return is a benchmark of a first-ever non-cooperative, unspoken agreement between the security forces and the Kashmiri sentiment, a sentiment for life.

A DAY LATER THIS HAPPENED:

Indian football icon, Baichung Bhutia, has written to Jammu and Kashmir football association and has shown his desire to support Majid Khan in pursuing his football career.  Bhutia has offered Majid a training stint at one of the Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools in New Delhi. “I was sad to read reports of Majid joining a terrorist organisation. Football has provided solace to many over the years and I feel he needs a platform to play and return to the game,” Bhutia said. “I want him to train under my coaches and then take it forward from there.” “Once you start kicking the ball again, you never know, your lives may just kick-off again. We want Majid to come back to normal life at the earliest,” Bhutia ended.

 

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