‘I chose studies to stay sane:’ Kashmir man looks back at 11 years in Gujarat jail under anti-terror law

He was acquitted recently by court, which said there was not enough evidence to prove charges levelled against him

Updated - July 04, 2021 02:59 pm IST

Published - July 03, 2021 02:06 pm IST - SRINAGAR:

A relative hugs Bashir Ahmad Baba who is acquitted of all charges in Rainwari area Srinagar, Wednesday, June 30, 2021.

A relative hugs Bashir Ahmad Baba who is acquitted of all charges in Rainwari area Srinagar, Wednesday, June 30, 2021.

Back home after 11 years of detention on unproven charges, Bashir Ahmad Baba , 44, from Srinagar’s Jogi Lankar area, wants to just remember his post-graduate degrees and diploma certificates he earned in his 8x10 jail cell and the letters of his now dead father.

Mr. Baba, booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in 2010, was acquitted of all charges this week by a Gujarat court.

“I decided to keep myself busy in a constructive way in the jail. I chose studies to stay sane. I completed a post-graduation course in Urdu and other diploma courses,” Mr. Baba said, who is busy meeting his friends, neighbours and relatives, whom he was seeing for the first time in 11 years.

“The look of most people have changed,” he added.

The jail authorities, Mr. Baba said, helped him with study material and met his requirements to complete the courses.

Mr. Baba, who had a computer degree then, was just 33 when he decided to attend a camp management course for post-cancer cases in Ahmedabad in February 2010.

“Within six days of my arrival in the city, I was picked up by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) team. Later, in March, I was produced before the media. I did not even know what the charges were as the charge sheet was in Gujarati,” Mr. Baba recalled.

The Gujarat ATS booked Mr. Baba on charges of recruiting boys into militancy and affiliation with Hizbul Mujahideen handlers across the border on email and phone. He was charged under the IPC and UAPA.

“It was a long struggle to prove my innocence. I have to nurse the wound all my life for not being able to participate in the final rites of my father in 2017,” Mr. Baba. His father died of colon cancer and bail was denied to him on the occasion.

Mr. Baba has a metaphoric way to explain his prolonged tenure in the jail and the visible changes he observed in Kashmir now. “There are smartphones everywhere. I remember the phones would run by pressing buttons and not screens then,” he said.

His mother, who met him once in the jail in 11 years “only after selling gold ornaments for tickets and stay”, said, “I had given up on everyone. I had faith in Allah. When Baba left home in 2010, I had bid him saying ‘ Ghas Khodayas hawali’ [Go and Allah be your protector]. And Allah has returned him to me,” she said.

Mr. Baba wants to start afresh. “I am hopeful of a good beginning now,” he said.

The Anand district court released him this week, saying there was not enough evidence to prove the charges levelled against him.

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