By Shafat Mir
Kokernag: Mahtaba, wiping tears off her eyes with her headscarf, points toward the sketch of a peacock on a wall of her room. The sketch is the most prominent symbol in the house that reminds her of her son, Fayaz, who was subjected to the enforced custodial disappearance by the army in September 2002.
A stranger’s knock at the door is immediately followed by her query she has repeated often enough: “Aav ma Fayaz (Has Fayaz returned).” She poses this question because the years of weeping and frustrated expectation of her son’s return has blurred her eyesight.
Fayaz Ahmad Lone was picked up by the army’s 36 Rashtriya Rifles on the night of 22 September 2002, when National Conference was savouring the last days in rule, from his sister’s house in Zalangam village of Kokernag area in Anantnang district. He hails from Gadol hamlet in the same area.
The soldiers had told the family that Fayaz, a mason, is needed for a search operation. Four other men who had been picked up along with him had been released hours later.
Fayaz’s father Abdul Rehman, who died six years ago after a fruitless search for his son, had learnt from the villagers in Zalangam that the soldiers had arrived in a private vehicle (registration number JK03-6611).
Fayaz is survived by his wife and three minor children—two daughters and a son.
The family alleges that a constable, Mohammad Ramzan, and an army Major whom they named as Moor were behind the disappearance of Fayaz.
The witnesses to the incident had been harassed by the police and army, which prompted the family to stop pursuing the case.
“It has been 13 years since his disappearance and not a moment goes when I don’t miss my son,” Mahtaba said, recalling how she had been “forced out” of Mehbooba Mufti’s home when she went to seek her help.
“She (Mehbooba) said ‘go and look for your son’. She was angry because we had filed a complaint with the police.
I left her place in tears,” she said.
Irshad Ahmed, Fayaz’s elder brother, said although the family requested then station house officer of Kokernag police station to register the complaint the next day, he did so only after five days and that too in the office of then Anantnag superintendent of police Ghulam Hassan Bhat.
“The SP summoned the SHO to his office. Only then did he register the FIR,” Irshad said.
“We were not allowed to approach the army directly and it was the SHO who used to go there and communicate with them. Initially, the army, according to the SHO, had promised to release my brother in a couple of days but after Mehbooba intervened the RR unit completely denied having picked up my brother,” he added.