After spending 23 years in different jails across the country, four Kashmiris – Latif Ahmed Baja (42), Ali Mohammad Bhat (48), Mirza Nisar (39), Abdul Goni (57) and Rayees Beg (56) – were released on Tuesday. They were charged with involvement in Samleti and Lajpat Nagar bomb blasts in 1996. But the court on Monday acquitted them, saying the prosecution had failed to provide any evidence of conspiracy. On reaching Srinagar, Bhat headed directly to the burial ground to offer prayers at the graves of his parents. He dropped to the ground and hugged his father’s grave while tears rolled down his cheeks. Both of the Bhat’s parents died during the period he was in jail.
Similarly, Baja, Nisar, Goni and Beg have gone through their respective painful experiences, and as it has turned out, for none of their fault. They have been acquitted of all charges by the court. But their lives have been destroyed in the process. They are among the hundreds of ill-fated youth in Kashmir and the rest of India who have been wrongfully framed for being involved in terrorist attacks and jailed for years before being proven innocent by the courts and set free.
But this has hardly helped rebuild their shattered lives. Elsewhere in India they and their families continue to face the social stigma of being dubbed as terrorists.
So far, however, there has been little media spotlight on the tragedy of these individuals. A case after case of wrongful arrest has done little to sensitize the government towards introducing necessary checks and balances in the law and order machinery to discourage the incidence of picking up wrong people for terror incidents. Nor has it promoted some sense of responsibility towards the victims who are left to fend for themselves following their acquittal. Wronged by the system, the state owes these men recompense and rehabilitation. Least that the state can do is to provide them jobs. With best periods of their lives gone, these youth are hardly in a position to earn their livelihoods.
What is more, no need is being felt to hold to account the security and intelligence officers who got these youth arrested in the first place. It is only a tiny section of media which has chosen to raise questions about the shoddy nature of policing and intelligence gathering on terrorism following the acquittal of these youth. It is only to be hoped that this questioning only grows and the state is forced to acknowledge its mistakes and offer some form of compensation to these wronged persons.