Who will bring them back their valuable 12 years, their budding and blossoming youth, their cherished passions and aspirations? Who will compensate for the youthful years wrenched off their life? Is their any compensation worth the lost years?
Twelve years is a long span of time in a not-so-long chain of life. Imagine the pain, physical, mental, when one is plucked out of his bearing and sucked virtually in a hell, all of a sudden and for no fault of his own. Unlike a guilty person who does have a succor, in anticipation of the fallout and the courage to bear it, the innocent picked up has no such 'relief'. He has no such shock-absorbing shield. Snatched off his dear ones and not harboring any guilt feelings is a devastating blow for him. A human-wreck he is reduced to. And, more pathetically, returned to the parents and the society, more as liability after the better of his life has been yanked out of him. His dream projects all shattered and in drain goes the hope and the investment his family or he himself has put in. The agony multiplies when the perpetrators of this ghastly crime—a chain of them, police, agencies, prosecution, so called 'witnesses'—derive sadistic pleasure from their anti-human acts, and, enjoying freedom, look for another prey. And no 'angry spot doth glow on Caesar's brow', while justice keeps eluding.
Two weeks before, three Kashmiris were acquitted from 2005 Delhi bomb blast case. They were let off for lack of evidence. The court pulled up Delhi Police for failure to prove any links of the accused– Muhammad Hussain Fazli, Muhammad Rafiq Shah and Tariq Ahmad Dar– with the blast case. All of them were in the prime of their youth when lifted in the thick of night from their homes. Returned home—peeled off their youthful exuberance—they have beards turned grey.
The first question, if it was not them, who else did the ghastly crime? Doesn't it imply that the real culprits are roaming free under the watchful nose of the 'law enforcing agencies'? Or, it doesn't need a deep scrutiny and follow the procedures of the law when they spot a Kashmiri and their "sports-playing" gaze instantly gets fixed on him? He stands convicted even before the court (s) deliver the sentence. The Indian media leads the smear campaign of the Kashmiris, demonizing them as 'terrorists' wanting nothing but their hanging.
As stated in a report in Indian Express ( February 22, 2017), Fazili, who was a shawl owner, hailing from Srinagar, alleged that torture started even before they (Fazili and Rafiq) were taken to court for police remand. They were taken to Air Cargo (Headquarter of SOG, the counter insurgency group of JK Police) and tortured for three days. Plane-driven to Delhi they were lodged in police station Lodhi Colony. Here they were subjected to worse. 'I was asked to lie on a bench and my hands were tied underneath it. Two policemen stood on my legs and one walked over my abdomen. Another forced me to drink water mixed with detergent', Fazili told the Indian daily. He went on ' They forced feces into our mouth and then shoved rotis and water so we would gulp it down'. About the kind of torture Rafiq recollected, ' Water-boarding, electric shocks—I could not tell you what else. It was like Abu Ghraib. I still wake up at night and lie in bed thinking of those days'. As police knew they were innocents—and would tell the Kashmiri youth of the same—still they practiced cruelties on them and forced them to sign on scores of blank papers. After 50 days long ordeal they underwent through in Lodhi colony they were shifted to Tihar jail. The trial lasted for 11 years and they had to spent most of time in solitary confinement.
Now look at the charges the prosecution had levelled against them. They were accused of ' waging war against the state, conspiring, collecting arms, murder and attempt to murder'—the charges if proved could have invited life imprisonment or even death. Where police left, the prosecution picked it up. The third degree police torture of the accused Kashmiris was to get replaced by another kind of torture by prosecution—prolong the case and pain in its all severity gets inflicted in all parts of the body. In this case the prosecution submitted a list of 345 witnesses. That was a deliberate attempt to prevent court from giving any relief to the victim of injustice. Eventually, after a long painful wait when their lawyer was given the opportunity, it took only a few hearings for the court to pronounce verdict setting them free. But till that time the damage—irreparable and unforgivable—was already done.
As it turned in Rafiq's case, even his very presence in the class at Kashmir University at the day of the blast in Delhi doesn't matter. Perhaps the unaccountable police force, with patronization from the executive, is driven to believe: 'Let the execution take place, the trial may follow'. Rafiq's cries of innocence didn't save him from the 12 years ordeal he underwent, but nonetheless the attendance sheet, as he himself says saved him as court found it genuine after summoning concerned professors, even the VC of the University who vouched for him.
This is not the first time Kashmiri youth were acquitted by the courts after nothing incriminating found against them. Before them Mirza Iftikhar and Muhammad Maqbool Shah were similarly acquitted after 15 years long stints in the prisons on ' terrorism' charges.
After they walked out of the prison and into the yards of their youthful charming days, they realized the life had moved fast. And left miseries to greet them. 'These 11 years have', says Rafiq, ' brought them 11 centuries of pain'. Only the victim and their families knows the hell they have gone through. Someone's mother had the stroke, some lost their sister, some robbed off their academic career, some of the business. Just one example, Rafiq receives his friend at home, now an Assistant Professor. At the time he was picked up he was senior to his friend studying Political Science in KU.
Now as the court have set them free, the responsibility for ruining their life lies on criminals in uniform who implicated these Kashmiri youth in false cases. It is they who deserved what was inflicted on them. They need to be dismissed of their services and put behind the bars, so as to make it deterrent for the potential criminals. For the moment, the state government need to adequately compensate them through monetary assistance and providing them the government job. Though that will not bring the lost years to them, at least make them help start a new.