An occasional wail breaks the eerie silence. Women of the village sit in a circle, around a woman who is holding her head. She doesn’t speak, and screams each time she spots a family member or a neighbour. All that Jameela remembers is the sight of three men barging into a house in Shopian last night and taking away her 22-year-old son, Lieutenant Umar Fayaz. This morning, his body was found in another village. Jameela had gone to her brother’s home at Batpora Matribug village in the adjoining Shopian district to attend the wedding of her niece. Umar, who had taken leave, had travelled from Anantnag town to join the function.
Umar’s father sits in a room, surrounded by neighbours and family. Fayaz Ahmad Parray says he is unable to weep. “I can’t believe my son is not alive,’’ he says. “I have only one son,” he says, and almost immediately, corrects himself: “I had only one son. Now it is his mother and two sisters.”
Parray recalls that as soon as Umar cleared the Class XII examination in 2012, he wanted to take the NDA (National Defence Academy) entrance examination. “I am a farmer. I am illiterate. He told me he wants to become an officer and I said OK,’’ he said. “I didn’t know it would cost him his life.”
Umar’s maternal uncle Mohammad Maqbool, whose daughter was getting married, sheds light on what happened last night. “Umar was staying at Anantnag where his cousins had a rented accommodation. He hadn’t come home. He came straight to our place from Anantnag. He reached our place in the afternoon. Everything was fine. He was sitting with the bride upstairs when three men wearing pherans came in. It was around 8 pm. They headed upstairs and asked for him. The moment he identified himself, they took him.” “We tried to stop them but they pulled him. There were many others waiting for them outside, on the road,’’ he said.
This morning, Umar’s body was found near the bus stand in Harmain village in Shopian. “When villagers found his body, they took it to a hospital nearby. There, a doctor who knew Umar, identified him,’’ says Mohammad Ashraf, Umar’s uncle. “We received a call. It was unbelievable.”
The family didn’t say anything about the identity of the people who killed the young officer. “We never thought anybody would harm him at home,’’ Ashraf said.
He said Sarsuna village has had only one militant — Mohammad Ayub Parray who was killed on the LoC in early 1990s. “He was my uncle. He was also the uncle of Umar’s father,’’ Ashraf said. Kulgam Senior Superintendent of Police Sridhar Patel told The Indian Express that the police had no information that Lt Fayaz had been kidnapped last night.
“We didn’t know at all. We got to know about this only after his body was recovered this morning,’’ Patel said. “His body was recovered close to where (the cavalcade of ) SP Headquarters, Shopian, was fired at by the militants last night. They must have killed him around that time.” Army personnel, led by the Commandant of the 62 Rashtriya Rifles, placed a Tricolour on the young officer’s body and fired in the air before it was lowered in the grave. His father stood with two relatives, watching the Army officers and men paying floral tributes to his son.