Until their Freedom Came

  • Aditya Sinha
  • Publish Date: Jan 19 2016 12:14PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Apr 3 2016 1:40PM
Until their Freedom Came

Over the years, scores of Kashmiri youth have been arrested outside the state, especially by the Special Cell of Delhi Police which falsely implicated them in terror charges and imprisoned them for many years before they were finally declared innocent and acquitted by the courts. But not before the prime years of their youth were lost in various jails outside the state. The delayed acquittals carry a bitter sense of injustice.  The victims struggle to live a normal life long after their release. Their careers are ruined, their personal lives wrecked, and their families devastated.

The perpetrators, involving police and security agencies who had wrongly implicated them based on fabricated evidence have mostly gone unpunished, and the victims haven’t even got compensation for their long years of illegal incarceration.

Senior human rights lawyer, Mir Shafqat Hussain, says most of the times the state files frivolous appeals against those acquitted by the courts outside the state. “When trial court acquits someone outside the state, the acquittal is based on some solid evidence. Since the police and other agencies who frame these youth are then questioned for falsely implicating them in terror cases, they go for these appeals,” he says.

Hussain says acquittals in courts outside the state are very rare. “If a Kashmiri is acquitted in courts outside the state on charges of terror, he should consider himself lucky as there are very stringent laws and special cells there for preparing cases in which there are very rare chances of being released,” he says, adding that most of these youth acquitted in courts outside the state are released on technical grounds and not on the merits of their case. “In other states they follow procedures, for example when police shows recovery of arms or explosives from the accused, they have to prove before court that it was recovered from the accused and the arms and explosives are sent for verification,” he says. “The accused is then acquitted on mere technicalities like when the explosives police had shown recovered from the accused turns out to be some other stuff after assessment.”

Kashmir Ink traced some of these persons from north to south Kashmir to reveal their tales of wrongful detention in jails outside the state. Told in their own words, these are revealing testimonies of wrongful detentions, of unjust trials, of police brutality and indifferent judiciary, and of harrowing torture and ordeal they and their families had to go through while they were imprisoned for years in jails outside Kashmir.

After serving many years of detention in jails outside the state, many of them are now suffering from various ailments. But their remarkable spirit and their resolve to live a dignified life is undeterred and inspiring. Years after their release, they are also fighting their own legal battles to be honorably acquitted of all charges slapped against them outside the state. One of the young man, whose testimony follows, after being wrongly imprisoned for about nine years outside the state, said when he was finally acquitted of all charges and leaving the prison gates, the jailers told him as he stepped out of prison: “Hum tum Kashmiriyon ki himat nahe toed payee.” (We could not break your strong will and resolve despite all these years in prison)

Another wrongly accused, who was a government engineer before he was arrested and imprisoned for more than 19 years in Tihar and Jaipur jail, says he has no regrets in life. “People in Kashmir have suffered worst, they have been killed, including young boys in 2008 and 2010 uprising,” he said. “I just lost some years in prison and I am still alive. My sacrifice is nothing in comparison to our boys who lost their lives on the streets here.”

But long periods of incarceration, especially solitary confinement, does take a psychological toll on those wrongly accused. Dr. Arshad Hussain, noted psychiatrist and Associate Professor of Psychiatry in Government Medical College Srinagar, says long term incarceration particularly the solitary confinement is devastating to the psyche of a person. “It leads to pervasive personality changes typified by alterations in regulation of effect, alterations in regulation of relationship with others and alterations in regulation of self perception,” he says, “This in turn results into difficulties in mood and anger regulation, self destructive and suicidal preoccupation, guilt and shame and inability to trust. This is more so when the person’s feeling about incarceration is of injustice and deprivation.”

“They always get flashbacks of the torture and other punishment meted out to them in jails,” points out Dr Zaid Wani, Associate Professor of Psychiatry in GMC, Srinagar. “Also, some of them start taking intoxicants which they think helps them to forget that period.” Dr Wani says that after coming out of the jails, most of these persons get bouts of long-term depressions and they get startled even by light knocks at the door. “Unlike those arrested for crimes like robbery etc., these people do not have a guilty feeling,” he says.

Dr Arshad adds some persons released after years of being imprisoned might have changes in their personality which are positive “in a sense that they become trauma activated personalities and take larger roles in life beyond self, striving for justice without feelings of vengeance and contribute to society and to the nations much beyond their original capacities prior to their incarceration.”

 “They told us to confess that we are terrorists”

Photo by Shams Ul Haq Qari

Name: Sajad Hussain from Chak Reshipora, Bandipora
Arrested: March 7, 2003 from Meerut, UP
Released:   April 7, 2012
Years in prison:  9 years and two months

In 2003, I was pursuing Bachelors degree in agriculture from Kisan Post Graduate College of Chaudri Charan Singh University in Meerut, UP. I went there for my studies in 2002. One of my cousins, who was pursuing his studies there, had encouraged me to apply. I was subsequently selected for the Bachelors degree.

Our annual exams began on 4th march, 2003. It was the second year of my degree. I had appeared in one paper. On 6th march, I appeared in another paper. On 7th April, 2003, there was a one day break before another paper scheduled on 8th of April. I along with another Kashmiri student was preparing for our paper in a rented room closer to our campus. On the evening of 7th march, the owner of our accommodation came to our room saying that someone had called for us on their landline phone. The caller had said that some Kashmiri guy wants to meet us outside, near an STD booth. It was Friday, I remember. I had a wallet with 3000 rupees cash and a Cashio watch. Other than this there was nothing in my possession. I was about 21-year-old then.

When we came out near the STD, there was no one there. At a short distance we saw a sumo vehicle in which few people in plain clothes were suspiciously looking at us. It was about 8pm. As we were walking back to our place, these people ran after us and jumped on us. They asked if we are Kashmiris. When we said yes, they bundled us inside the sumo vehicle. They said they are policemen and they need to do our verification and then we will be released. These men, we later found out, were from the special cell of Delhi police. We were forced inside the sumo vehicle in Hapur, which came under district Gaziabad, an hour away from Delhi.

They took us to some unknown destination where we reached after an hour. Then they kept us in a farmhouse. From the window we could see fewer houses and long stretches of open fields. We were kept there for seven days. During all these seven days we were tortured. They would tell us to do as directed if we are to remain alive, otherwise they said we will be killed in an encounter. We were frightened. They would often tell us to confess that they recovered some bag from us.

After seven days in custody, they shaved us off, saying that we will look fresh. On 13th March, 2003, handcuffed and blindfolded, they took two of us away in a sumo vehicle. We were taken from Gaziabad to Shamli, Muzzafarnagar which is about 300 kms away from Gaziabad. We were travelling through the night and reached police station Shamli on 14th march.

There they got something written on a paper and asked us to sign it. It was written in Hindi. We couldn’t read Hindi. The policemen said if we sign it, we will be released. We had to sign it. After that they took us away in a convoy of police vehicles. After an hour we reached police lines in Muzzafarnager. There we were produced before SSP police. When our blindfolds were taken off, we heaved a sigh of relief, thinking that we will not be killed now. Media people had already assembled there. In front of SSP we saw the same papers which we were forced to sign earlier. “Ap shamli kis liyay ayaythay?” the SSP asked us. We told him that we had not come here and that we were preparing for our exams when we were arrested by the police. But he said police has received a bag from us which we denied. He said RDX has been recovered from our bag. We were shocked. We thought that they have already framed us and now there are no chances of our release.

We were paraded before 50 to 60 media persons there while we were handcuffed. We couldn’t understand what was happening. Some media persons present there would tell policemen to ‘make a strong case against these terrorists’. Then we were brought before the court where these signed papers were produced but our statements were not recorded. We were sent to custody in Muzzafarnager district jail on 14th of March. When we reached the jail, we saw two of our Kashmiri classmates from the same college who were already brought there from a different route. Now we four were imprisoned in the same jail.

The police had told court that they arrested us on 14th March but we were actually arrested on 7th march. On 10th March our parents had come to know of our arrest and they had approached the then DC Parvez Dewan who had written a letter the same day to DC Meerut, asking him to look into our case. The letter, dated 10th march, was eventually accepted by the court at the time of our acquittal. The document proved that we were arrested from Gaziabad on 7th march.

On 22 March, three of us were produced before POTA court in Meerut. The other Kashmiri student, Itifaq Hassan, was not booked under POTA as his father had paid some money to police.

The POTA court sent us to judicial custody for three months.  We were taken to Meerut central jail.  The police asked for our remand in custody for seven more days.  In Meerut jail, we were asked to wear a white uniform which is usually given to those serving capital punishment.  We were kept in solitary confinement in small cells. On 23rd March we were again taken for seven days in special cell custody in their farmhouse.  By now we had lost all hopes of release. On 29th march we are brought back to Meerut. Then Ajaz was produced before CJM Muzzafarnagar. The police told the CJM that after questioning, with the help of Ajaz, they had recovered 12 live cartridges of AK-47 from us. Under POTA they had powers that even if a police inspector says they recovered weapons from the accused, it will be accepted in the court. The onus is on the accused under POTA.

I literally fought my own case from then onwards as our lawyers misrepresented us despite taking money from our families to defend us in the court. For three months we were kept without any trial in Meerat jail. We were not allowed to meet our family.  Parents would be asked to leave from the jail gate, without meeting us.  Then after three months we were produced before the court.  Four months after our arrest, we met our parents for the first time.

In Meerut jail, we were allowed to meet our family members after one and half year of our imprisonment. There the food served was substandard. We had to eat half-burnt chapattis. In my first year in jail, I developed a cyst in my ear. It was painful. We requested court for medical treatment, but I was not taken to the hospital. The cyst healed on its own after several months.

By the time we were in our third year of detention, the UPA congress government had come to power in the centre. Since congress had promised in their manifesto that the cases of Muslims held under POTA cases will be reviewed, a central POTA review committee was constituted. Our case was the first one to be reviewed by the committee in 2005. The first hearing took place in circuit house, Meerut. The investigating officer and SSP of the police were called before the committee that was hearing our case.

When we were produced before the committee judge, I told him everything – how I was wrongly framed and how all the charges against me are false.  The RDX police had shown to be recovered from me turned out to be ammonium sulphate after tests by the forensic lab. The committee asked my lawyer to send all my case documents to the committee office in New Delhi. But the lawyer didn’t send my documents to the committee. The committee was still convinced about my innocence. They wrote to the then UP government to remove POTA case against us but it took nine months be implemented by the state government.  I told the court after nine months that POTA is not applicable in our case.

After six years in prison, we had another lawyer who would come from Delhi to defend our case. Eventually Meerut court acquitted us of some charges, only the RDX charge remained. It was the 7th year of my imprisonment. In 2011, we were in prison for 8 years. Then our case came under fast track court. We had daily hearing. Once the judge asked us what is the reality. We told him the truth – that we were innocent.  Then, a year later, in 2012 we were eventually acquitted and released after nine years in prison. The police, despite getting many chances, couldn’t bring any eye witness who could testify against us.

On 7th April, 2012, we were released. We left the jail with only our clothes, the rest of the blankets etc., we gave to some Bangladeshi and Pakistani prisoners who were poor and no one would come to meet them.

We had apprehensions of being rearrested once we stepped outside the jail. When we came out of jail, we asked a constable to call our home. When I came out, I kept looking at the sky. I couldn’t believe I am free now. Next morning we left for Delhi and then after two days we reached home. I couldn’t recognize my younger brothers at home. They had all grown up.

I wanted to do PhD in agriculture but I couldn’t do it. My career was ruined. But I didn’t sit idle after my release. I applied for an agriculture assistant post a year ago and I was selected. I’m also doing a departmental diploma course in agriculture extension. I have started my life again but I will never forget my years in prison and those responsible for my wrongful detention.

‘I’ve come out of a small prison and now live in a bigger prison’

Name: Engineer Farooq Khan from Janglath Mandi, Islamabad
Arrested: 1996
Released:  September 29, 2014
Years in prison:  19 years

I was released from central jail Jaipur after being in prison for more than 19 years. Out of these 19 years, for 14 years I was imprisoned in Tihar jail, Delhi.

I was working as a junior engineer in PHE mechanical division in 1996 when I was arrested. On that 23rd May afternoon I had to attend polling duty for the parliamentary elections in Srinagar. I was driving to Srinagar from Islamabad at around 6 pm that day. When I reached Khanbal, I was stopped by SOG men of police who then blindfolded me and forced into their vehicle. I was taken to cargo SOG interrogation centre in Srinagar where I was tortured for two days. They accused me of being involved in 1996 Delhi blasts.

After two days I blindfolded again and taken to the airport and from there taken to Delhi in a chartered flight.  On 26th May I along with few other Kashmiris were produced before the magistrate in Delhi. I was handed over to the special cell of Delhi police. I was framed in cases and accused of being involved in 21st May Delhi blasts. I was not allowed to talk in the court. I was also accused of being involved in Cannaught place blasts. After 14 days we would be produced in court and when we were about to be remanded, police would implicate us in other blasts.

After Delhi we were taken to Rajasthan and implicated in blasts that had happened there. I would tell them that I am a government mulazim and that they should check my record in Kashmir. But no one would believe me. Then after a month I was brought back to Delhi and lodged in Tihar jail.

When Abu Gharib torture tales came out in public, I thought that was nothing compared to the worst torture we had gone through in jail. I know of a short Kashmiri fellow from my early days in prison, Noor Muhammad from Tral, who told me that were forced into sodomy with other prisoners during their incarceration outside.

It’s been 20 years and now I’m out of prison but I still have torture marks on my body.  The SOG men here would torture us and put petrol inside our private parts. It would hurt more since they were supposed to be our own people.

Initially I never thought we would be imprisoned for so long but with time I realized that they have framed us and made up their mind to imprison us for many years. Every month the police would take us from the jail to the court. I was able to meet my family for the first time after three months of my detention in Delhi.

In 2006 we ourselves wrote to the court saying that our case was not moving forward. The case was on 10 people, 9 were from Kashmir, including me, and one was a Muslim guy from Delhi. Then from 2006 onwards we were put on day to day trial. Every day we would go to the court for one hour. Till 2010, more than 16 judges changed in our case.

Since I was framed in other cases too, I had to spend more time in jail, till 2014. In 2010 I was taken to central jail Jaipur where I was imprisoned till 2014. I was finally acquitted from there. The judge said before acquitting me after the final hearing: ‘there is no solid evidence against the person.” I was released later in the afternoon. I came to Delhi and then travelled to home.

Till 2007 I would get some suspension allowance from my job which would go to my kids. In 2007, while I was still in jail, I was terminated from my services. My father passed away while I was in jail. I couldn’t see him. I was later told that after he died only my photo was found in his pocket.

When I was arrested in 1996, I was married with two little daughters. Now I don’t know about them. They are studying abroad, I’m told, and my wife remarried while I was in prison. When I was released I came to know that my elder daughter is pursuing PhD in London.

I have no regrets in life. People here have seen worst. So many kids were killed here during 2008 and 2010 uprising. In front of their sacrifice, my imprisonment is nothing. I’m still alive. I have seen a lot of life. I think of those young boys killed in 2008 and 2010 here. I am about 50-year-old year old now. When I was arrested, then I was 30. I think I have come out of a small jail and now live in a bigger jail.  The military is still on the streets here. Nothing has changed here. Now bullets might be fired less but tear gas shells and pellet guns are fired more. There are other means to suppress people now.

I am happy with my life. I have no regrets. My heart goes out to those people and kids who were killed on the streets here. My life is nothing in front of their sacrifice. I think some generation will see a free Kashmir. Now going to jail doesn’t bother me. Many of friends advised me to approach courts to get back my government job, but I will not bow my head before the government.

‘Now he’s afraid to travel outside the state for treatment’

Name: A 60-year-old man from Bandipora (name withheld on request)
Arrested: 2007
Released: 2013
Years in prison: Seven years

When he was arrested in Delhi in 2007, he was doing well in his fruit business. He has been in this business for about 30-years. Everyone involved in fruit business here and in Delhi mandi knew him. He was 51-year old when he was arrested in Delhi. That year he was travelling from Kolkata to Delhi in train. He had come to Delhi to take money from a person who owed him some money after he had taken apple consignments. The Delhi police however told the court that he was travelling from Jammu to Delhi at the time of his arrest. This was a lie.

We didn’t know about his fate for 10 days after he was arrested. We saw his face on a television channel when he was paraded before the media as a ‘terrorist. The Delhi police showed four people before the media who they said were all terrorists. I recognized my brother.

For six and a half year he was put on trial in Tis Hazari sessions court in Delhi. We had to arrange our own lawyer to fight his case. During all his years of detention we had to spend about 30 lakhs on his case.

Every Kashmir police and intelligence agency had given in writing that no FIR has been lodged against him and that he was not involved in any case in Kashmir. But despite this, he was framed in Delhi and imprisoned for all these years.

During his seven years of incarceration in Delhi, he developed some skin infection due to which his skin has a whitish complexion. He also developed heart ailment in prison. The doctors here tell us that six arteries that go to his heart are blocked. The doctors have told us that he needs an immediate open heart surgery outside the state, either in Delhi or Chandigarh which will cost about 10 Lakh rupees. But he is afraid of being rearrested outside the state so he doesn’t want to go out for treatment. The Delhi court has sent a notice to his home recently. My brother is ailing and he lives in perpetual fear. He can’t even get himself treated.  The doctors have told us that he can’t survive if he goes untreated for more than six months.

During these years in prison he lost about one crore business in fruit industry. He ran a successful fruit business before his arrest. Now he is ill and he has to spend about seven thousand rupees on medicines every month. His family also suffered while he was in prison. Their financial condition is such that they had to recently collect some money to arrange marriage of his daughter. He mostly remains in hiding and away from home to evade more harassment and arrest by police and other agencies. You won’t believe he congratulated his son-in-law and daughter on phone as he couldn’t come home to see them getting married.

(As told by his elder brother. The old man, ailing and afraid of being rearrested, was reluctant to talk about his incarceration)

They would torture us and hang us naked upside down’

Photo by Shams Ul Haq Qari

 Name: Bashir Ahmad Panoo, 45, from Sopore, north Kashmir
Arrested:  January 29, 2007
Released: August 7, 2013
Years in prison: 7 years

I was doing fruit business in 2007. That year I was travelling to Delhi by train on 29 January when I was arrested near Ambala railway station. Another boy who was from Kupwara was also held with me. I was having tea near the railway station when some men in plain clothes approached me and asked me to show them my ID card.  They threatened me with pistols and told me that they have to talk to me. I was blindfolded and taken to Delhi. I was kept underground at some place in sector 9 where I found more people. They beat us up in their custody. They accused me of working for Jaish-e-Muhammad or Lashkar-e-Taiba. They would torture us, hang us naked upside down, beat our under-feet and then apply electric shocks to our private parts.

On February 4, they showed in their FIR that an encounter had taken place near Ranjit Singh flyover close to the railway station and that the militants had fired at them. They had written that the terrorist had come from Jammu to Delhi. It was all lies.

The police had shown in their FIR that 60 rounds of bullets were fired. It was a drama enacted to wrongly frame us. They also said that US $100 and 3 kg RDX was recovered from me and that I had fired 7 rounds of pistol fire.  It was a lie.

We were sent on 14 days remand in custody of special cell of Delhi police. There we were not only beaten but made to drink urine of each other. Then they lodged us in Tihar jail. When we were taken to hospital for medical checkup, I remember once a doctor told police: why didn’t they kill us when they caught us there. We, being Kashmiris, were also abused in jail.

On August 7, 2013 we were acquitted of all charges in the Tis Hazari court and released. After I reached home, the special cell of Delhi police lodged an FIR in Delhi High court, challenging our acquittal. They still wanted us in custody. Then we had to arrange our own lawyer and pay him 85,000 rupees to defend my case. At home my swife had to sell our cow to pay the required fee to the lawyer. Even this lawyer didn’t turn up on the day when there was argument on my case. Back home, there was flood and my house was already inundated.

Then a junior lawyer defended our case but the judge would tell him that Kashmir police is hand in gloves with police and how can they trust them. On December 8, I was judged guilty of my charges. The court has fresh issued warrant against me. I don’t come home for fear of arrest.

It was the Sessions judge who acquitted us, but Delhi high court turned down the acquittal. We have been framed under section 121 for unlawful activities. The local police look for me at home but I rarely come home now. Some of my friends and my brother help my family. I used to sell fruits on my cart after my release but since the warrant was issued against me, I don’t go out to work now. Next hearing of my case is on December 14.

‘For first four months we were not even shown to the judges’

Photo by Shams Ul Haq Qari

Name: Ajaz Ahmad and Samiullah Sheikh from Tantraypora, Palhallan
Arrested: November, 2006
Released:  April 14, 2014
Years in prison: 9 years

I was 32 year old when I was arrested in 2006. I had gone to Azadpur mandi in Delhi.  I was travelling to Delhi along with my brother Samiullah Sheikh. He was 20 then. We were in train. It was November 2006. We had to meet a fruit trader. Suddenly some men appeared in Nizamudin railway station. They said they are from police and we need to go with them. They blindfolded us. It was our first day in Delhi. We were taken to Lodhi colony police cell. They told us we are militants. We were held there for one month. Our family back home didn’t know about our arrest.

On Dec 31, we were blindfolded and driven to some spot where the police vehicle stopped. There, we could see from the corner of our blindfolds, two guys were given our sweaters and our bags were shown to be recovered from these two people. The Delhi police wanted to show that they have arrested two people with bags containing explosives. Then they told media that they have recovered two improvised explosives from two Kashmiri terrorists. It was all fake drama. That was their way of framing us. Then we were produced before court where police had brought their own witnesses. For first four months we were not even shown to judges. The police would go to the courts on their own; the judges would trust the police and extend our custody.

In 2007, after one year of our detention, we got our own lawyer. The Kashmir police had given clear report about us but we were still framed in Delhi. We ourselves hired a lawyer. In 2008 one public witness was produced before the court who was actually a police source. He said in his statement that he saw bags open and some red earth kind of material was in the bag. From 2007 to 2010 we were produced after every month or 20 days before the court. In 2010, when the case was heard again, the judge gave us 14 more years in jail. I and my brother had to pay one and a half lakh rupees to the court. Then we were taken to Srinagar central jail and released on April 14 last year. My brother was released a few months later, in July.

During our imprisonment, my family went to various politicians and member parliament, asking for their help but every time they would return disappointed.

I am still unmarried. Before my arrest I was engaged to a girl. After my arrest they waited for a couple of years but when I was imprisoned for many years, they couldn’t wait more and the girl remarried. I don’t blame her.

My younger brother’s health was affected while we were in prison. He was hospitalized many times during his incarceration. He suffered from severe headaches because of torture in the initial months of our custody. The policemen from the special cell would beat us up and also give electric shocks to our private parts. They were brutal. They would first drink and then start beating us. We were branded as terrorists and treated as such.

Sometimes those days of horror come back to haunt me. My bones are very weak now as we were kept in solitary cells and not exposed to sunshine for many months in prison. I hurts when I walk even today. After my release last year I tried to do some labour work to make a living but I couldn’t continue it due to my poor health. A few months ago, I took a loan of three lakhs from the bank to open this small jewelry shop.  It’s not doing that well. I need more customers, only then can I repay the loan.

‘How can I be an active member of Lashkar when I was a police constable?’

Photo by Shams Ul Haq Qari

Name: Mushtaq Ahmad Wani, 35, from Shirpora, Palhalan
Arrested: November 25, 2006
Released: April, 25, 2013
Years in prison: 7 years

I was 26-year-old when I was arrested in Delhi on November 25, 2006. I had gone to Delhi that year to meet a relative there. I was walking back to my relative’s place in Okhla after doing some shopping in a nearby market.

I was arrested there and framed by Delhi Police who later showed that they recovered a bag containing explosives from my possession.  I was taken in custody for 14 days and subsequently booked for unlawful activities under section 17, 18, 20, 21. I’m still fighting some of these cases.

The Delhi Police had accused me of being “active member” of Lashkar when I was actually working in police (laughs). I hate their media there; they would instantly brand us as terrorists.

Before my arrest, I was working as a constable in J&K police. Still they framed me in Delhi and imprisoned me for all these years. The then additional DG CID also gave in writing that I was not even absent for one hour from duty here. I worked as a constable for six years before my arrest. When Delhi police arrested me, they took away my police ID card. They thought it was a fake. They send it to JK police to verify its authenticity. The JK police had then admitted that I was working as a police constable with them. But this did not prove my innocence for Delhi police who framed me as a terrorist.

After being in prison for three and half years, in 2010 I was charged guilty of charges and given 8 more years in prison and asked to pay a fine of Rs 50,000. After one month my family arranged 50,000 rupees, otherwise I had to be in prison for two more years. Then I approached high court against this decision. Even my lawyer didn’t defend my case well.

I was eventually released on April 25, 2013 after more than six years of imprisonment.

When  I reached home in 2013, I went to the police headquarters in Batamaloo to see if I could get my job back, but they told me there that I have been dismissed from my services given the cases against me. It was futile to plead my innocence.

During my imprisonment, my family had to spend a lot of money on travel and stay in Delhi so that they could meet me. At times they would spend 60,000 on return tickets but they would return home without meeting me in jail. During all these years in prison my family had to sell land for mere 3 lakhs to afford travel and fees of my lawyers.

My brother’s career also suffered because of my imprisonment. Before my arrest he was selected in open merit for a Masters Degree in Kashmir University but he couldn’t go to university after I was arrested. My younger brother wanted to go outside India after he did his MBA but he couldn’t go as he was not given passport because of these cases against me. I feel bad that my brothers suffered due to me.

I didn’t sit idle after my release. In 2013, two months after my release, I opened a small shop here in Palhalan. I pay the rent for the shop. Earlier friends and relatives would look at me with pity. But now I am doing fine and my parents are looking for a match. They want to see me get married.

I can’t forget the years they took away from my life. The day I came home after my release, I couldn’t recognize many of my relatives and children. Some had grown up, some had grown old. The initial months were difficult as I couldn’t adjust to normal life. And when I opened the shop, someone told me I used to sit outside silently and look at the open sky for hours together. My blood pressure remained unstable for a year after my release. I used to talk less.

Even after my release I’ve to still appear in high court on some dates. I have a lawyer there who is looking after my case.  I want compensation for all these years I lost in jail. I want justice. I want to be honorably acquitted of all charges.


(As told to Majid Maqbool)