Srinagar: Jailed in a terror case, Bashir Ahmad Baba (44) has been released after spending 12 long years in a Gujarat prison. Now, he has been cleared of all charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and is back at his home with his family.
Bashir and his family are happy that he was proven “innocent” even if it took over a decade.
However, while he was in jail, many of his family members died including his uncle and his father Ghulam Nabi Baba. His father, a contractor, died in 2017, three year after being diagnosed with colon cancer. For days, Bashir had no clue until he was produced before a court where he came to know about his father’s demise.
Bashir ran a computer institute close to his residence in Srinagar’s Rainawari locality and worked with an NGO as an assistant project manager responsible for organising medical camps, especially with children with cleft lip.
In February 2010, he left Kashmir to attend a training workshop in Gujarat. But, a day before he was to return, he was arrested by the Gujarat Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) near Samarkha village in Anand district and subsequently, booked on charges of being an affiliate of the Hizbul Mujahideen outfit. The ATS alleged that Bashir was planning to set up a network of youth for “terror training”, an accusation his family denied back then.
Before his arrest, Bashir had a diploma in computer applications, but he has returned with three master’s degree in political science, public administration and intellectual property act.
“I spent most of my time in jail studying and I was sure that one day I will be proven innocent and will be released,” Bashir told Newsclick.
Bashir has returned to a different Kashmir, he said. “There are flyovers, more markets, traffic and there are more signs of sadness,” he added.
Since his return, Bashir said, he had heard reports of increasing “unemployment, suicide and violence.”
Bashir also said that he was grateful to his lawyer Javed Khan who had been a great support during his time in jail. “When he heard my case and witnessed my family’s situation, he refused to take money to fight my case,” Bashir recalled.
However, Khan died only days before Bashir was cleared off all charges.
Bashir is among the hundreds of Kashmiris who were jailed in the last three decades across the country including in Kashmir. Many were booked for carrying out blasts in Indian cities while others on charges of planning and participating in “terror” related activities. Over the years, however, dozens have been proven innocent and were acquitted by Indian courts.
Mokhta, his mother, told Newsclick that she prayed everyday for her son’s return. “Our family suffered a lot after his arrest. My husband was diagnosed with CA and I had two unmarried daughters at home. Only Allah knows our struggle,” she said.
Both of Bashir’s sisters are married now and his brother Nazir Ahmad worked as a salesman to support his family. He has not married yet.
“My father’s death changed everything… I just waited for my elder brother. I knew he was innocent and we had put our faith in god for his return,” Nazir said.
With his elder brother’s return, they plan to get married together.