LESS THAN two years ago, a chilling scene played out at the home of Irfan Ramzan Sheikh in south Kashmir's Shopian district. Three militants barged into his home and shot his father, who was a PDP worker. Irfan, meanwhile, sprung into action along with other members of the family, and a scuffle broke out with the militants. In the end, one militant lay dead and the others fled.
On Tuesday, Irfan, now 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.
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 Rashtrapati Bhavan's Twitter account declared: "President Kovind presents Shaurya Chakra to Irfan Ramzan Sheikh. He exhibited courage and maturity and fought off militants, safeguarding the life of his father and other family members in Jammu & Kashmir."
"Sensing that the militants could harm his family, he exhibited the highest degree of courage and faced the militants for sometime so as to avoid their entry inside the house," the award citation read.
Irfan is the eldest of four siblings, and his mother is now employed with the J&K government. While being rushed to hospital that day, Irfan's father Mohammad Ramzan Sheikh, a former panch, succumbed to injuries.
The scuffle in October 2017 and the death of the militant - identified as Shaukat Falahi - had a chilling fallout, too: the next day, 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.