The family of 51-year-old Malik Noor Mohammad Fayyaz, who is currently in prison for the killing of a BJP member and his brother in 2018, has contested the claims of the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The NIA has accused Fayyaz of being a “co-conspirator in reviving terrorism in the Chenab Valley.” Maintaining that Fayyaz, a primary school teacher, is innocent, the family stated that the arrest is the continuation of ‘harassment’ meted against Fayyaz.
Shadab Farooq and Anzer Ayoob | TwoCircles.net
JAMMU – It had just been a year when Malik Noor Mohammad Fayyaz was released from Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu after obtaining bail in the Unlawful Activities and Prevention Act (UAPA) on April 2, 2020. A year later on, July 27, 2021 he was arrested, again, by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for 2018 killing of a BJP member and his brother.
“Fayyaz is a co-conspirator for reviving terrorism in the Chenab Valley,” the NIA said in a statement. “He had also visited Assam and Nagaland with slain Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Osama-bin-Javid for the aim of procuring weapons,” NIA said, adding that he was “instrumental in encouraging and recruiting gullible Muslim youth to join the cadres of HM.”
Since his first arrest in 2008, Fayyaz has been arrested seven times. On October 1, 2008, he was arrested for the first time in Kishtwar by Jammu and Kashmir Police under FIR number 87/2008 at Police Station Kishtwar.
Currently being incarcerated at Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu, Fayyaz’s family told TwoCircles.net that “he has been falsely booked.”
Who is Malik Noor Mohammad Fayyaz?
Malik Noor Mohammad Fayyaz, a 51-year-old primary school teacher from Phagsoo village in the subdivision Thathri of Doda district in Indian Administered Kashmir, lives with his two boys, wife, and elderly mother in a dented one-story house.
“We wouldn’t be living in poverty if my father had done something wrong,” Idrees Malik, Fayyaz’s elder son told TwoCircles.net. “Even after earlier bails, my father was required to inform the police, even for medical reasons.”
Before teaching, Fayyaz worked for the Hurriyat Conference, a socio-political front based in Kashmir. He worked as an office employee and left in 2013. Before leaving Hurriyat, two further FIRs on Fayyaz had been filed against him.
“He quit his job and returned to his village, but they continued to harass him for false accusations,” claimed Fayyaz’s brother-in-law, Mohammed Rafi Sheikh.
After leaving Hurriyat, Fayyaz became a teacher at Jamia Marfiya Academy in Kishtwar. He and his wife used to live in a rented apartment in Kishtwar.
The harassment continued after Fayyaz left Hurriyat. Following his departure from the Hurriyat, an FIR was filed under CrPC 8/2014 at the Jammu Police Station Bus Stand, Jammu. Fayyaz travelled to Jammu to see his sons but was arrested and imprisoned for something he never did, only to be released after two months. He was found not guilty and freed after spending two months in jail.
To avoid harassment and long-standing injustice, Fayyaz returned to his hamlet in Phagsoo. “Fayyaz had finally moved to his village, eager to start his new life, and he was relieved that things would change now,” Mohammed Rafi Sheikh said.
Constant police harassment
Fayyaz accepted the position of Principal at Unique School Phagsoo, a primary school owned by Fayyaz’s father-in-law, Ghulam Qadir Sheikh. “Especially because he had no income, I gave him the responsibility of the school, and ever since our school shines in the village,” Ghulam Qadir Sheikh said.
“But they didn’t let us live in peace,” Maqsooda Begum, Noor Mohammed Malik Fayyaz’s wife told TwoCircles.net. “In 2018, he was detained on December 3 under FIR no. 44/2018 at Police Station Kishtwar and then released on December 15 under 169 CrPC, which states that there is no proof against the accused,” Maqsooda Begum said.
Javed Ahmad, a member of Phagsoo panchayat claimed, “We never observed him doing anything unlawful when he returned to Phagsoo in 2017 and worked in the school. Even though my children attend this school, I have always considered him to be sincere and a wonderful educator.”
In 2019, he was arrested by J&K Police under FIR number 232/2019 and jailed on October 3, until being freed from Kot Bhalwal Jail on April 2, 2020, in the Unlawful Activities case when the court granted his bail.
Idrees, Fayyaz’s son, claims that following the 2019 Unlawful Activities case, his father never held a cellphone. “From that day forward, he kept his phone in the police station.”
“My husband intended to live peacefully with us, but he was again arrested by the police a year later. Why is our family being abused and harassed if they don’t have any evidence against my husband?”, asks Maqsooda Begum.
A local Imam, Abdul Kabir Malik, affirmed that Fayyaz is a truthful and simple person. “I always noted that he lived a simple existence. I agree with his family that he is being maligned and harassed unfairly because he is a poor person,” he said.
Charges against Fayyaz
The NIA charged six people in May 2020, including three slain Hizbul Mujahideen militants and three of their associates, with the murder of J&K BJP secretary Anil Parihar and his brother Ajeet Parihar in Kishtwar on November 1, 2018. However, Fayyaz’s name was not in the FIR but his house was raided by the NIA on January 30, Fayyaz’s family claimed.
“The NIA raided our home last winter but found nothing,” Maqsooda Begum said. “Now a year later, before my husband’s arrest, on July 22, we started getting calls from the agencies three to four times a day. I knew they were going to do something bad. Soon they ordered him to come to Jammu,” she added.
Maqsooda Begum further said that on July 25, the police phoned Fayyaz and told him not to appear since the matter had been revealed. “However, he received a call from NIA’s Sanjay Nath Pal and was quickly summoned to their office.”
“He had also visited Assam and Nagaland along with slain Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Osama-bin-Javid for procurement of weapons for the said purpose,” the NIA said after arresting Fayyaz on July 27, 2021. He was “instrumental in motivating and recruiting gullible Muslim youth to join the cadres of Hizbul Mujahideen,” it added.
However, Maqsooda Begum refutes NIA’s claims, arguing that Fayyaz did not travel with the militant to Assam but for a wedding ceremony. “A poor worker from Assam used to live near our rented home in Kishtwar. The seller asked my husband and me to the wedding of his relative, but I was unable to attend due to health difficulties. However, I insisted my husband to attend the wedding,” Maqsooda Begum said. She went on to say, “The vendor had also sent us the marriage card.”
The law forbids arbitrary detention and arrest, but Fayyaz has been arrested repeatedly under the same. Special security regulations are often used by police to delay judicial investigations of arrests.
“For some time, the police did not divulge the location where Fayyaz was being held,” said Fayyaz’s lawyer, Mohammad Wajahatullah. “We have filed an application asking on what grounds they have arrested Fayyaz, and we have begun the procedure.” Wajahatullah added.
“It’s difficult to witness the anguish that our family has endured for the past fourteen years,” Idrees Malik said, adding, “We have lost our minds.”
Masking the brittle fracture in Idrees’s voice, Maqsooda Begum said, “The police discovered nothing against him all these years but kept harassing us. My husband is innocent.”
Maqsooda said that all their savings have been spent in visiting courts and procuring bail all these years. “The difficult times will get fixed but what never fixes is the brittle fractures that we are left with,” she added.