He was a theatre artist and had even done a brief role in a Bollywood movie. That was before he disappeared along with another boy in August.
Saqib Bilal and another boy, a Class 9 student from Hajin Bandipora, were killed along with a Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba militant in an 18-hour gun battle with security forces in Mujgund on the outskirts of Srinagar on December 9.
Both the boys had left their homes on August 31 and Bilal’s family is at a loss to understand why he joined militancy. They looked everywhere and his mother even brought an amulet from a faith healer for her son’s safety.
“For more than a month, we went to places to find them. Ultimately, we realised the unthinkable,” Asim Aijaz, Bilal’s maternal uncle, said.
“He had an interest in engineering. We could never understand why he joined. In fact, he left home on the day to buy some groceries. People had seen the two boys riding behind a third person on a bike,” Aijaz said.
Bilal had cleared his Class 10 with a distinction and was studying physics, chemistry and maths in Class 11. He was a football aficionado and had even played taekwondo and kabaddi. The other boy belonged to a poor family and Saqib came from a well to do farming family.
Bilal’s family said he had an interest in acting and had done a small role in Vishal Bhardwaj’s movie Haider.
“He was in his sixth class when he appeared for two brief shots in Haider which have appeared in the film. In one of the shots he appeared as a ‘chocolate boy’ and in another, he acted of surviving a violent incident in a bus,” Aijaz said.
The uncle said the boy was a theatre artist as well.
“Before his Haider stint, he appeared in a stage show ‘Weath chi Yeahi (This is the river)’ at Tagore Hall in which he was the protagonist. He managed to get an award and even went to Odisha to repeat the performance,” Aijaz said.
Police officials said the two teenagers joined militants immediately after they disappeared.
The only reason Bilal’s family could find was an encounter between militants and security forces a day before their disappearance in Hajin. “Some militants had been killed and people went to see the ruined place,” Asim said.
The death of the two boys has triggered anger and grief in Kashmir. People not only questioned the militants for allowing minors in their ranks but have also castigated the security forces for going for the kill when minors were involved.
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