15-year-old Saqib Bilal was killed in an encounter with the Indian security forces in Srinagar’s Mujgund after four months of being disappeared from home in Bandipora district Hajin. He was suspected to have joined militancy.
He was gunned down along with another teenager, a Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist, identified as Ali Bhai, a Pakistani.
The teenager, Saqib Bilal, appeared in the Vishal Bhardwaj movie ‘Haider’ and earned Rs.1400 for two shots at centaur Lake view hotel here five years ago, his maternal uncle Ajaz Parray, told the TOI.
Saqib was contacted by Kashmiri coordinators in Srinagar because he was one among the “chocolate-boys” the movie director required for several scenes, Parray said. “I took my nephew Saqib, who was 13 or 14 at that time, for screening. He was taken to Srinagar along with a dozen boys in a cab to Lake view hotel for shooting in December 2013. The scene he appeared in pertained to the elections in Kashmir ,” Parray said.
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The grief-stricken father, Bilal Ahmad Sheikh, an employee in Hajin municipality, described Saqib as a good-looking bright student who was interested in theatre. He said he couldn’t recall even one instance when his son had exhibited radical behavior.
Police sources on Sunday had said that 14-year-old Mudasir Parray, who was a courier boy of Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists since 2014, influenced Saqib and persuaded him to pick up arms and join the terror group.
Parray said Mudasir lived three villages away from Saqib’s and it was astonishing to know about their closeness. “Saqib was studying in class 11th in Sumbal New Greenland school while Mudasir was in class 9 in government high school at Hajin in Bandipora district. The two had different hobbies as well. While Saqib played cricket, Mudasir was fond of football. How they met is still a mystery.”
His uncle Parray claimed that Saqib was happy-go-lucky boy who was fond of good food and music. With a typical fair-complexioned sharp Kashmiri looks, Saqib had acted in a play called ‘Vath Chhi Yeahiy’ (This is the Way), at Srinagar’s Tagore Hall. “He even went to Odisha for the same drama,” his uncle Parray said.
“He sung several Kashmiri folk songs at my wedding in 2016, when the whole valley was gripped by violence post-Burhan Wani killing,” Parray recalled.
“The entirely family was shocked when he left home on August 31, this year and joined militancy. We tried to get in touch with him but he could not meet any of us,” the uncle said.