Jehadi to a Sipahi: Journey of Ata Mohamed

Maj. Gen (Dr.) Yash Mor,Seva Medal (Retd.)

This is a story which must be told to the nation at large. Although a story from a soldier engaged in fighting insurgency but this is more a human story. A story of compassion and love from one son of India to another.  This has created bonds of love and affection across regions and religions. In a nation being divided on lines of community and religion, many openly seeking blood and revenge on perceived wrongs of history. This comes out as a shower of first rain drops on parched lands of hatred.

This happened in Dec 2001 in Kokernag village of South Kashmir. I was company commander of a Rashtriya Rifles unit stationed in Anantnag district engaged in very intense counter terror operations. A local source gave a tip off about a militant convalescing in a house for treatment of his injured leg. The information was of a house in village Zalangaon, famous for being associated with Yasin Malick, a Kashmir separatist leader and former militant. A small team was dispatched immediately to the house and the injured terrorist was apprehended in broad day light.

The information was correct, the individual was a listed terrorist named Ata Mohmed Lather from Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI). A brief interrogation was sufficient to get all details about him. He had a gun shot wound on his left leg below ankle and was recovering from the injury.  He belonged to Kishtwar region and had got shot in an operation a month back in a firefight with Army. In spite of his injury he managed to escape. In order to recoup and get fit, he was transported on a hose back across the Sinthan pass, a desolate area on the Pir Panjal ranges to Kokernag. Since the intelligence agencies would not know much about him in this region, this appeared to be safe hideout.

His apprehension was reported to the higher headquarters of the army and the J&K Police. As per the instructions he was taken to the Joint Interrogation Cell in Srinagar by the Police. In a few days he was returned back to us to recover his weapon and conduct operations based on information provided by him. I met him on the same day in the evening and found him broken down physically and mentally. Seeing his condition, I asked my medical staff to firstly take care of his physical ailments. First task was to ensure he recovers from wounds suffered during the encounter as also from the interrogation.

In a few days he started recovering slowly, I made it a routine to meet him once day. We got talking after initial hesitation. Over next few sessions of this conversation, I came to know everything about him. He belonged to a humble family and was educated up to tenth class. He narrated his life story from village in Kishtwar to joining HuJi and further travelling over a very inhospitable terrain to cross over to Pakistan for training and indoctrination. He returned back from Pakistan after two years and again traversed through difficult area narrowly escaping army patrols to fight for HuJI tanjeem in Doda and Kishtwar region.

His fear was that his parents would be bereaving him assuming he would be killed by the security forces on being caught. By now we had developed a special bond as we started spending more time together. I asked him to write a letter to his father and tell him that he is safe with the Army. He wrote a letter in Urdu and i was impressed by his brilliant handwriting. It took sometime but one day his father came all the way from Kishtwar to Jammu to Anantnag and to the army camp in Kokernag. The joy to see a father meet his son whom he had given up as dead was unforgettable experience.

Ata Mohd soon became healthy and I tasked him to be employed in the company cook house to help in the cooking. By now close bonds grew stronger and he started giving us tips on how to operate in the jungles and high mountain tops of the ragged terrain in south Kashmir. Once he became fully fit, he confessed to me that the image of the Indian Army painted in their minds was totally wrong. He made friends with many soldiers and on special occasions narrated many anecdotes from his life as a Jehadi as well as his experiences in Pakistan training camp.

His life back on track, I decide to find gainful employment for him. At the same time the Army had started the process of rehabilitation of the erstwhile Ikhwans who had worked for the forces since a long time. Sensing a good opportunity, we ensured case against him for terror activities was dropped. We started his training to become fit to join the Indian Army as a Jawan. Very soon with his passion and hard work he got selected and joined the Indian Army. This perhaps is the only case of a Pakistani trained militant being saved from certain death and now getting recruited in the same Army he was brain washed in fighting.

Ata Mohd never looked back and soon started his military career with great passion and zeal. Today he has become Havildar (sergeant) and in a couple of years may be promoted to the rank of Junior Officer (JCO). He got married meanwhile and has three kids. Has built a decent house for himself in Kishtwar town for education of his children. Every Diwali and Eid we speak to each other. All these years I have felt the blessings of his parents and family.



< Contents                                                                                                                                  Next >