Victims of delayed justice, three Kashmiri youths try picking up pieces of lives
Srinagar, Jul 25: Three Kashmiri youths -- Mohammad Ali Bhat, Lateef Ahmad Waza and Mirza Nissar Hussain -- arrested in 1996 in prime of their youths as "terrorists" but finally acquitted as "innocents" after 23 years of incarceration have been left coming to the terms of their lives here.
First arrested by the Delhi police from Nepal for their alleged roles in the 1996 bomb blast in the Lajpat Nagar market and then charged by the Rajasthan police with "bombing" of a state roadways bus at Samleti in Dausa a day later, the three have returned home after a Jaipur bench of the Rajasthan High Court finally acquitted them early this week.
Ironically, the three had been acquitted in the Lajpat Nagar bomb blast case by the Delhi High Court way back in November 2012, but had to stay put in the jail, awaiting the outcome of their appeals from the Rajasthan High Court since 2014.
As exuberant youths in their mid-twenties, the three had left the valley for Nepal to sell Kashmiri handicrafts with a common goal of making a future for themselves.
But they have been left sharing a destiny more intricately, first enduring the 23-year-long incarceration till a "delayed justice" freed them early this week, and now they have been left picking up pieces of their lives together.
"We were picked up by police from Kahtmandu where we had been doing business of selling Kashmiri handicrafts," the trio said in unison.
"We all were innocent ... how could anyone carry out bomb blast in Delhi or Rajasthan while one was in Nepal? But the way we were tortured... made to sign blank papers, it was clear we were being made scapegoats," said Waza, hailing from Khanqah area of the city, who reached home early this week.
As the city's Hassanabad locality native Bhat reached home, he had virtually no one to welcome him back. He had lost both his parents in the 23-year-long span that he spent in jails in Delhi and Rajasthan.
His mother died in 2002 while his father passed away in 2015, waiting to see their son.
As soon as Bhat reached home, he walked to the graveyard. And crying like a child, the 48-year-old flung himself on the graves of his parents. He stayed clung to it for long with no amount of consolation by their relatives and neighbours appearing to relieve him of his pain and agony of losing his both parents.
"I lost half of my life to this injustice. I am completely broken. My parents meant the world to me ... they are gone. Who will take responsibility for this?" asked Bhat, as he looks around blankly.
Bhat said he had lost hope of returning home as the cases would drag on endlessly.
"There were others accused in the case and they were innocent just like me. We pleaded for justice for 23 long years," bemoaning the "delayed justice" meted out to him and his friends with whom he had ventured out to start life.
The other two men, who walked free with Bhat -- Waza and Nissar -- are no less sore and sorry for what the life had for them in the store.
"I had prepared myself for death in jail as there was no end to the trial," said 42-year-old Waza.
After their convictions by trial courts -- first by Delhi's in April 2010 in the Lajpat Nagar Market blast case and then by a Bandikui court in 2014 in the case of bomb blast in a Rajasthan roadways bus, all three had lost all hopes of any acquittal.
The acquittal by the Delhi High Court in November 2012, amid the ongoing trial by the Bandikui court, appeared to be too unreal, said Nissar, a resident of Fateh Kadal area in the city and the youngest of the three.
"We were surprised but relieved at the same time, when the Rajasthan High Court finally acquitted us," he added.
"The time had stopped for us when we were in jail but the world outside has moved beyond us in these years," added a bewildered Nissar.
"I think it will take a long time to get used to this new life. This freedom has come at a huge cost," he said.
While Nissar is still coming to terms with the new found freedom, the Mirzas are thankful to God. Their other son Arshad too was arrested in the same case but was set free by a Delhi court nine years ago.
Among the friends, relatives and neighbours of the three, there were also some others, who have been visiting them in hopes of some possible words from them about their sons or relatives who are either jailed in Delhi or elsewhere in Rajasthan or who suddenly went missing from places like Delhi years ago.
They hope to get some information from the released men that could help them trace their loved ones.