POONCH (JAMMU AND KASHMIR): Their beloved Aurangzeb did not return home for Eid, abducted and killed as he was by terrorists, but as they struggle to come to terms with their grief, the resolve of the deceased rifleman's family to serve the country's armed forces has only strengthened.
"My son has laid down his life for the country. He was a brave soldier. I and my sons will also sacrifice (ourselves) for the nation. We want goons to be wiped out," said Mohammad Hanief, Aurangzeb's father and a former Sepoy of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry.
Youngest of Aurangzeb's four brothers, 15-year-old Aasim eagerly awaited the rifleman's return on Eid with all the gifts including his much needed cricket bat. But what transpired has left Aasim shaken to the core.
But still, it has not shaken his will to join the Army. Aasim was on the phone talking to Aurangzeb, when the latter was abducted.
"My brother (Aurangzeb) was on his way to Poonch in a private vehicle. He was talking to me. I heard a shout ordering the vehicle to stop. I thought there was some checking. I never imagined militants were kidnapping my unarmed brother," he said.
Aurangzeb of 44, Rashtriya Rifles, was abducted and killed by terrorists in Pulwama district when on way home for Eid.
He had been part of Major Rohit Shukla's team that gunned down Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Sameer Tiger.
The Army jawan had boarded a private vehicle in Shopian for Rajouri. Terrorists intercepted the vehicle as it approached Kalampora and abducted the jawan. His bullet-riddled body was found at Gussu village, about 10 km from Kalampora, in Pulwama district.
Aurangzeb had talked to me on mobile and promised to bring new clothes and gifts including a cricket bat, Aasim said.
"But he did not come rushing and as usual hugged me. He came in a coffin. I do not need any gift of clothes but only my brother. They killed an unarmed person," the young boy cried.
But, despite the immeasurable loss, his spirit remains unbroken.
"I will join Army like my brothers and father," Aasim said.
For residents of Aurangzeb's native Salani hamlet, joining the forces is a way of life.
As the coffin, carried by Army jawans and officers on a serpentine track from Sagra army helipad to reached village Salani, Aurangzeb's parents, Hanief and Raj Bi, brothers, Mohmmad Kasim, Tariq, and five sisters wept bitterly.
Thousands from the area had gathered and shouted patriotic slogans.
"I give PM Modi 72 hours to avenge my son's death or else we are ready to take revenge on our own. Kashmir is ours. We must not let Kashmir burn. Instead, we must eliminate the goons who are destroying the Valley," Hanief said.
In a video, widely seen on social media, an emotional Hanief can be seen asking why Pakistani flags were being waved in Kashmir.
"Kashmir is ours. Why is Pakistan's flag flying in Kashmir? Why not the Indian flag? The Indian flag should be hoisted here," Hanief says in the video.
"The State government does not allow Army to work on anti militancy operations. They (Army) would teach stone-pelters and militants a lesson if they are given free hand to work. But this government does not allow them," Hanief is heard saying.