It is not every day that a police officer tries to persuade a Lashkar-e-Taiba militant for surrender without a shot being fired. But on Thursday evening that is what happened in the Tujar Sharief area of the restive Sopore town, when police and the Army cordoned off a cluster of villages after receiving information that a militant was holed up inside a house in the village.
It took five hours for a Kashmir police team led by the Superintendent of Police, Sopore, Harmeet Singh Mehta, to motivate a recently-infiltrated Kashmiri militant, Umar Khaliq Mir, to surrender before the police and the Army on Thursday evening.
Mir, 24, had crossed the LoC, according to police sources, a month ago along with few foreign militants, and was operating in and out of his village, Tujar Sharief.
At 5 pm on Thursday evening, the police and Army cordoned off a cluster of villagers in the area and zeroed in on a house were Mir was hiding. The police first asked the owner of the house to try to speak to the hiding militant, and gave him a cell phone so that they could talk to the hiding militant.
Mir, a local resident, had been perhaps under surveillance for a long time after he had crossed over to this side, along with some other foreign militants, but had managed to give the slip to forces many times for the last one month.
"The negotiations," says SP Sopore, Harmeet Singh Mehta, continued for hours and "we were not in a rush". The police first evacuated the entire area.
"We told the house owner, to motivate Mir for a surrender and if he lays down his arms, we will not go for an encounter," Mehta said.
Mir crossed the LoC in May for arms training in Pakistan, police said, but there has been no case registered against him in any police station. According to police, since his arrival back to Kashmir, he had largely remained confined to his village. After the cordon was put in place, a police officer had a conversation with militant. He was asked to "surrender" on the condition that there will not be any gun battle.
When Mir refused and instead asked for his father, the police got nervous, but did get his father, Abdul Khaliq, who agreed to come to encounter site.
Khaliq arrived at the scene and was briefed by Mehta, who told the former that the police will not kill his son if he surrenders. "We sent his father along with some respectable people from the area and then told him that there would be no harm done to him, if he surrenders. Then he came out with his hands up and we arrested him," Mehta said.
"He finally gave up at around 10 pm." Khaliq said.
The surrender of Mir, a Kashmiri militant, is rare in recent times, as most of the militants who get caught in situations like this prefer a gunfight instead of surrender.
"But this," Mehta says will also encourage others to surrender when they realise that police will honour its commitment of not killing them if they choose to lay down their arms.”