New Delhi: It is seldom that an Armyman pens tribute to a Kashmiri pro-freedom activist on his death. But for Brigadier PS Gothra, a serving Indian Army officer, Noor Khan was much more than just a jailed bird.
The news of the demise of Khan aka Ghulam Hassan Malik, who became a terrorist in 1989, left a deep emotional vacuum for Brigadier Gothra who felt a sense of personal loss.
In his Facebook post, Brigadier Gothra explained the bond that Army officers gradually develop over a period of time during their posting in a particular area. "You seek and ask welfare of some old lady who blessed you for a long life, some young girl who forewarned you of some deadly mine laid for you, some SPO or policeman who took the bullet aimed at you on his chest, and some boys who helped you in operations," he noted.
His relationship with Khan, however, meant more than any of these.
"On a cold night in 1991, Noor Khan and his accomplices were surrounded by security forces. He jumped off from the first floor and got away but his leg got fractured. He could drag himself to a distance. By midnight he was lying helpless by the side of a road when a couple of NHPC employees on a vehicle spotted him. They took him along, gave him shelter and medical aid. In a month he was hale and hearty," he recollected.
Two years later, on a dark night when his father, Major GS Gothra (retd), then a Chief Engineer of Uri Hydroelectric Project (NHPC), was kidnapped by a group of terrorists. Perturbed by the situation, locals and NHPC employees approached Khan to help trace his kidnapped father.
"Noor Khan through his network could trace that my father was taken to a village in Sheri Valley. A local truck driver of the Project volunteered to go with Noor Khan to that village. Noor Khan at his peril argued with those terrorists and by midnight my father was brought back safely," he noted.
Later Brigadier Gothra's father offered Khan a reward for helping him return home safe. But, Khan refused to accept a single penny.
"The man had a lot of dignity," wrote Brig Gothra as he penned the tribute.
In 2013, Brigadier Gothra on being posted to Sheri Valley headed to Khan's house to pay him a visit, only to find that Khan had surrendered, grown old and voluntarily offered to pass information from his connections across the Line of Control.
Reminiscing the conversations he had with Khan, Brigadier Gothra cherished the dignity in that man. While highlighting how Khan never approached him for any help, Brigadier Gothra wrote how Khan's need was only limited to some medical aid, and that too only for his grandchild.
"He died yesterday at 70 years. I wish him eternal peace," he signed off.