In quiet Ashmuji village situated alongside the famed Veshawriver in southern Kulgam district, the family of Waseem Bashir Rather, a scholar-turned-militant, received his body on Sunday evening, eight months after he joined the militant outfit HizbulMujahideen.
30-year-old Rather was killed along with his four associates in a gunfight with government forces in Kellem village of the restive district earlier in the day.
Before joining militancy on October 23 last year, Rather was pursuing a doctoral research programme in Linguistics from Barkatuallah University, Bhopal, Uttar Pradesh.
"He had a deep penchant for English literature and was in the third year of his programme when he joined militancy," said his elder brother, Mudasir Ahmad.
"One day he suddenly vanished from his native village and two weeks later, his picture showing him holding an AK-47 rifle started doing rounds on social media," he said.
Mudasir said the innocent killings during the street protests in 2016 and thereafter drew Rather towards the path of militancy.
Spotted always with long hair, Rather, according to a member of his family, was a "great philanthropist".
"He would always love to help those in need".
Rather is the fourth scholar killed by forces after they picked up arms in the past two years. He is survived by his parents and two elder brothers. His father is a government employee, working with the state forest department. After multiple rounds of funeral prayers, Rather was laid to rest at his ancestral graveyard, with mourners raising pro-freedom and pro-Islam slogans amid moist eyes.