Irfan Ramzan Sheikh, a Class 10 student, was at the centre of a rare occasion at the Rashtrapati Bhavan — as the first Kashmiri teenager to receive the Shaurya Chakra, the peacetime gallantry award in 2019, for fighting terrorists who attacked his residence in Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir.
Speaking to The Indian Express after the function, Irfan said: “I came to know only recently that I have been selected for this award. Today, the President and all the others present at the function appreciated me.”
The award citation read, “During the intervening night of October 16/17, 2017, some local militants of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen outfit cordoned off the house of Mohd Ramazan Sheikh, S/o of Ab Ahad Sheikh, a political activist and was acting as “Halqa President PDP” for quite a long period of time. After lying cordon around the house, a few militants knocked the door of said PDP worker. Shri Irfan Ramzan Sheikh, elder son of the PDP worker, aged about 14 years opened the door. He found three militants in the Verandah of the house holding AK series rifles and wearing pouches carrying magazines and grenades. These militants questioned him about the whereabouts of his father and also asked him for the key of the vehicle lying in the compound of PDP worker. Sensing that the militants could harm his family particularly, his father, he exhibited highest degree of courage and faced the militants for some time to dodge them so as to avoid their entry inside the house.”
“In the meantime, his father namely Mohd Ramazan Sheikh came out from the house and as the militants sighted him, they pounced upn the PDP workers resulting in scuffle between him and the militants. Shri Irfan Ramzan Sheikh knowing that the militant could cause damage to any extent, did not think for a moment for his personal safety and pounced upon the militants while exhibiting highest degree of bravery and used his full muscle power to overpower the militants for safeguarding the life of his father and other family members. The militants resorted to indiscriminate firing resulting in severe bullet wounds to Mohammed Ramzan Sheikh. On seeing the father in a pool of blood, Shri Irfan Ramzan Sheikh did not lose courage and continued to engage one of the militants in scuffle who resorted to indiscriminate firing upon his father resulting in severe injuries to the militant as well who later also succumbed to his injuries and identified as Showkat Ahmad Kumar S/o Ab. Ahad Kumar.”
“The militants, on seeing that one of their associates also got injured, tried to flee away from the spot. However, Irfan Ramzan Sheikh chased them and they left the body of their associate militant. While covering some distance in chasing the militants, Shri Irfan Ramzan Sheikh got a sense that his father is seriously injured and needs medical attention, he immediately returned back and with the help of other family members, shifted their injured father to hospital where he unfortunately succumbed to his injuries and passed away.
On the next day, some people from village and from adjoining areas accompanied by few militants marched towards the house of slain PDP worker and torched his house. Shri Irfan Ramzan Sheikh exhibited the extraordinary show of bravery and maturity exhibited in such a small age.”
Irfan is the eldest of four siblings, and his mother is now employed with the J&K government. Since the protesters from neighbouring villages set fire to Irfan’s house in Imam Sahib Shopian, a volatile area in south Kashmir, the family has since moved out. Soon after receiving the Award, the 16-year-old disappeared into hiding, in a house where the family has been living in fear of reprisal from the jihadists. Shri Irfan Ramzan Sheikh, now studying XI Std., aspires to join the police force.