THE choice was between paying Rs 10 lakh to the family of a girl he had developed friendship with, or drinking her urine. Fazal Hussain, 25, of Tugain village in Jammu’s Rajouri district, chose death. He was last seen by relative Mohammad Din, “climbing up into the mountains, and disappearing into dense fog”. Fazal had told a niece he was going to Kashmir, and handed over his mobile phone to be given to wife Nazia Kousar, 20. The same evening of July 28, his body was fished out of Smarhsar lake, located in the Pir Panjal mountain range.
He left his chappals beside the lake, and a 37-minute audio recording on his mobile, denying the “rape charge” and lamenting “the justice meted out within the four walls of a room”. On August 5, police arrested the girl’s father, uncle and a 23-year-old with whom the family wanted to marry her, on charges of abetting Fazal’s suicide. In the video message he left behind, Fazal, who was doing MA (Political Science) through correspondence, had named the three.
Later, one of the girl’s uncles, a maulvi who presided over the panchayat, was arrested, while her nephew, a minor, was detained. While Fazal said he had been accused of rape, Senior Superintendent of Police, Rajouri, Jugal Manhas says the girl’s family hasn’t alleged this. Neither party had approached the police, he adds. “Our investigations are on.”
Nearly 25 km separate Tugain from the girl’s village. The 17-year-old failed to appear for her Class X maths exam after the news broke. She is the second of three siblings. The girl says she and Fazal would talk over the phone. The two had met at a wedding in Chai Bela village in neighbouring Mahore tensil five months ago, after which she said Fazal kept calling to talk to her. First he would call up on a mobile phone her father, who runs a dhaba in the pilgrim town of Katra, had given her mother. Later, Fazal gifted her a mobile phone.
The girl claims she resisted, but that Fazal forced her to receive his calls. “He threatened he would become a militant or kill my family if I refused. After I came to know he was married, I decided to snap ties with him. He told me his relations with his wife were not cordial and that they had no children. But I still stopped the calls. A few days before the panchayat, I told him again not to call me. He threatened to do something that would compel me to come to him. However, I disconnected the call and broke the mobile phone.”
The girl adds that she was not present at the panchayat. Liaqat, the 23-year-old the girl’s family wanted her to marry, told her family about the phone calls between Fazal and her. Liaqat says Fazal told him about them himself, to dissuade him from marrying the girl. Liaqat recorded their conversation, and shared it with the girl’s father. The latter rushed home from Katra to confront his daughter. When she said Fazal had compelled her to talk, her brother called up Fazal’s brother Khadim, who is a police constable. The girl’s brother asked Khadim whether they wanted to “settle the matter in police or the biradari (community)”. Khadim reportedly chose biradari.
On July 25, Fazal came for the panchayat, held at the girl’s uncle’s home, reportedly along with Khadim, a relative and a maulvi, Hafiz Ghulam Rasool. The girl’s father, a brother and a nephew were present. “They started threatening and abusing us,” says Fazal’s relative Mushtaq Hussain. After nearly an hour of this, Fazal was told “to either pay Rs 10 lakh to the girl for damaging her reputation, or drink her urine, or swear by the Quran that it was not his voice in the audio on Liaqat’s mobile”.
Fazal refused to swear by the Quran on the spot, and sought two days’ time to decide on the other two conditions. The panchayat told him they would meet again on July 28. On returning, Fazal stayed in Tugain for a day, where the family admits they cursed him for bringing them a bad name. On July 27, he went to his sister’s house at Bhameri, where too he was humiliated. He attended a Khatam (Quran recitation function) at Ladiali for two hours, and then went to the dhok (a highland pasture) at Gamberi, where he lived with his wife.
On August 28 morning, hours before he was to appear before the panchayat, he left for the mountains, handing over his mobile phone to his niece and telling her he was going to Kashmir. By evening, he was dead. At Fazal’s single-storey kuchcha house, his parents Mohammad Abdullah, 75, and Puni Begum, 70, are scared and broken. He would provide for the two with his earnings working as a blacksmith. Abdullah and Puni Begum’s elder sons Anwar Hussain, 45, and Khadim, 35, live separately with their families. They have six daughters too, all married.
Fazal was trying to become a constable like Khadim, having cleared the physical test and waiting for the written exam. The family had got Fazal married, to Nazia Kousar, of Poonch four years ago. As Abdullah and Begum keep breaking down, Nazia, who has studied up to Class 12, says, “Sab khatam ho gaya (It’s all over).” Neighbour Sain Khan understands why Fazal wouldn’t swear on the Quran. “He was an honest and hardworking person who offered namaz five times a day,” Khan says.
In his apparent “dying statement”, Fazal said, “Logon ne apney gharon mein adalatein banai hui hein aur kya sach hai ya kya jhooth hai iska faisla ghar ki chardiwari mein hota hai (People hold courts within their houses to decide what is true and false). There is no justice in these courts.” He also pointed out that the “evidence” against him was the conversation he had with Liaqat, and claims he was blackmailed into saying all that he did about the girl. “I pleaded innocence telling them (the panchayat) that the girl was like a sister to me. I asked them to get her medically examined, but they did not listen.”
He was killing himself as he couldn’t bear the humiliation, Fazal said. “Allah will do justice.” Over at her home, the girl says that for her, there would be no closure soon. “Why did he (Fazal) have to take my name?” she says. “Khud to chala gaya, mujhe badnam kar gaya (He left, but I am ruined).”