Altaf Ahmad Mir
A still from Coke StudioCoke Studio screengrab

The north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir witnesses militant activities almost every second day, with several ceasefire violations reported from different areas. In the last few years, scores of Kashmiri youths are also known to have joined militant groups.

Most of these youngsters are said to be from the Shopian and Pulwama districts in South Kashmir. Just in May 2018, at least 20 youths reportedly joined militant outfits and the officials told NDTV that the year 2018 may just end up seeing the highest number of recruitments. Until now, the year 2016 showed the highest recruitment with figures standing at 88.

However, the trend isn't new. In the year 1990, a Kashmiri man named Altaf Ahmad Mir is said to have left home in Janglat Mandi in Anantnag, and crossed over to Pakistan with an aim to become a militant. Little did he know that one day – almost 28 years later – he would be sending home a song as a Coke Studio star.

Mir has made headlines with his rendition of poet Ghulam Ahmad Mahjoor's classic "Ha Gulo," which means "Oh Flower."

Ha Gulo is the first Kashmiri song to become a part of Coke Studio Pakistan's new venture "Coke Studio Explorer" and has become quite a rage among listeners. Released on July 11, 2018, the video has been viewed over 3,60,000 times and a look at the comments section shows how well the song has been received.

After leaving Kashmir in 1990, Mir returned home in 1994, but hadn't joined militancy, reported the Indian Express. However, he went back to Pakistan in 1995 and now reportedly lives in Muzaffarabad. Himself a chain stitch artisan, Mir is said to have joined an NGO training boys in the art.

The 50-year-old has had a long association with Radio Pakistan and now leads a band called "Qasamir," reported IANS. The band includes Ghulam Mohammad Dar, a sarangi player, Saif-ud-din Shah, who plays the tumbakhnaer, which is a Kashmiri folk instrument, and Manzoor Ahmad Khan, who plays the nout, another Kashmiri instrument.

Mir has now made everyone back home proud. Speaking about him, his brother Javeed Ahmad told IE that he had an inclination towards music since he was a child. "We tried our best that he should return to Kashmir but that wasn't possible," Javeed told IE "Now that we have seen him becoming so famous, we are very happy... it's as if he has returned home."

Noted Kashmiri singer, Munir Ahmad Mir told IANS: "I saw it yesterday. It has a global appeal because of its folk music that is part of Kashmir's lofty culture. I am sure it will be admired by all those who love and know something about traditional music."

"The song is simply mesmerising. It cuts across borders and generations as it stands out to prove that genuine music and singing have no dearth of admirers," added Irfan Ahmad from Srinagar.

However, not everyone turns their life around. Just a few days ago, Shams-Ul-Haq Mengnoo, a Kashmiri youth and younger brother of an IPS officer is known to have joined militant group Hizbul Mujahideen. The group released photos of its new recruits and Shams was one of them. In the image, he can be seen holding an assault rifle and a holstered pistol.

The description on it reads: "Org:- Hizbul Mujahideen, Name:- Dr. Shams Ul Haq, S/O:- Mohammad Rafiq, R/O:- Hyderpora Srinagar, Code:- Burhan Sani."

Before him, Mohammed Rafi Bhat, a Kashmiri PhD scholar and an assistant professor in the Kashmir University, had joined Hizbul Mujahideen. He was involved in the encounter on May 6, and before being gunned down by security forces, he is said to have called his father Fayaz Ahmed Bhat and apologized.