After a long wait of nearly 23 years, three residents of Srinagar, accused of being involved in Lajpat Nagar bomb blast of 1996, reached home on Wednesday after being acquitted by Rajasthan High Court.
Jubilant scenes were witnessed at their houses as family members, relatives and neighbors accorded them a rousing and emotional reception. Many friends and close relatives welcomed them by showering flower petals, garlands amid hugs and prayers.
The acquitted were identified as Lateef Ahmad Waza, Mirza Nisar Hussain and Ali Muhammad Bhatt, all residents of Srinagar city. According to the trio, they were first acquitted by the Delhi High Court and then Jaipur High Court in the cases related to dumping of arms and ammunition and Lajpat Nagar bomb blast case where in 13 civilians were killed and 39 injured. They were arrested in 1996 and served imprisonment in Rajasthan and Tihar jails for 23 years. As per the trio, they were never released on a parole or bail ever since they were arrested in 1996.
At the house of Lateef Ahmed Waza son of Ghulam Ahmed, a resident of Shamswari, Khankha-e-Moula in Downtown, people were making a beeline to receive him with many showering flower petals on him.
“I was arrested from Kathmandu and kept in Delhi police cell in connection with Lajpat Nagar bomb blast. After that, Jaipur police cell also sought my custody. I was linked with a blast that had occurred in Mahua in 1996 and then also with the Lajpat Nagar bomb blast case of May 1996,” Lateef told Greater Kashmir. “We were always surprised to see the charges that were leveled against us as we never committed the crimes for which we were imprisoned.”
Lateef lost his father after he went to see him at Jaipur prison. “After meeting me in Jaipur, my father couldn’t survive for more than a week,” he said. On how he feels after returning home after 23 long-years, he said. “Today, I am feeling like I am lost in a dream about returning home after a long time. I still feel it is not a reality,” he said.
Lateef’s mother constantly gazes at her son’s face. “After every court hearing, I would pray to Alimight Allah for my son’s release… today my prayers were answered,” she said.
At the residence of another released youth, Mirza Nisar Hussain son of Mirza Ali Muhammad, a resident of Namchabal, Fateh Kadal, people were seen hugging Mirza with relatives hugging him amid sobs.
“We were freed by Delhi High Court first and then by Rajasthan court. At the end, we proved to be innocent,” Mirza said.
Elaborating he said “I was only 17 when I was arrested from Nepal. After reaching home, I was not able to recognize my close relatives. I asked their names so that I could recall their faces. I am not even able to recognize my close relations.”
Mirza’s brother Ifthikar Mirza said that “23 precious years of my brother have gone waste. Government must compensate my brother,” he said.
The third released youth, Muhammad Ali Bhat son of Sher Ali Bhat, a resident of Hassanabad, Rainawari in Downtown, Srinagar said that during his imprisonment, he lost both his parents. He was arrested in 1996 and lodged in Tihar till 2014 and then shifted to Jaipur jail where we remained till July 24, 2019.
Soon after reaching Srinagar, he first visited Imam Bara Hassanabad to offer prayers to thank Almighty for his safe return after a long gap of over two-decades. “I had thought I would meet my family only after my death. But Allah is great as he accepted my prayers and today I am back to my house after such a long time,” he said.