Rafiq Shah returns to a home changed by 12 years

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By Bilal Bahadur

Srinagar

More than 12 years after he was declared innocent, Mohammad Rafiq Shah returned home last night. Held in Delhi serial blasts case, he moved out innocent from Tihar jail, last week.

As he arrived home, it was a festival, emotional reunion as his relatives, friends and neighbours had assembled to welcome him. It was a tearful reunion. They were hugging and kissing him as they saw him after a very long time. Some of them had actually forgotten his image and there were many whom he did not know.

With Shah in jail, the entire situation had changed in last 20 years. When he was arrested he was only 20 years of age. As he returned back, he is 33. He has a flowing beard and sunken eyes. When he saw his family members, for a moment, he felt strange as many things had changed.

Rafiq’s sisters were young at the time of his arrest. In his absence, they were married and they had kids and settled families. Now they have kids who saw first time a Mamu, who was not around for all these years.

Most of his relatives were feeling the same, something that for a moment sounded unreal. At around midnight when he was driven home, it was a strange situation. Everybody wanted to hug and everybody was crying, with joy and an element of disbelief.

At the time of Fajar prayer there was so much rush as it looked like the month of Ramadan. The people hugged him and got emotional as they saw him 12 years after, totally changed. People rushed towards his house raising slogans against India. Elders felt the change in the boy whom they saw like an elderly now. They cried.

Kashmir Life Image By Bilal Bhadur

Mohammad Rafiq Shah was pursuing his post-graduation at the time of arrest. He was preparing for his examinations when suddenly his house was besieged. To the utter shock of his parents and the locality, he was taken away by the cops. They even slapped his father and abusing his family members. They drove him to some unknown place from where he was moved to Delhi. It was there, he was charged for the Delhi serial blast case in which 67 persons were killed.

Shah was one of the three accused in the case. A Patiala House court last week, acquitted two of them honourably and convicted Tariq Ahmad Dar. He was given a sentence of ten years but he had already been in prison for 12 years. He has also moved out of Tihar.

It was in jail, where Shah met Dar and Mohammad Hussain Fazili, the third person, also declared innocent in the case.

Shah said Delhi police treated them brutally and forced them to take responsibility of something they had not done. They were kept nude and were given urine to drink that was a worst situation he had ever experienced. In his defence, though, the family submitted his class attendance to the court but it was not accepted till the court completed its trial.

Shah moved with full honour and respect but he says he has lost 12 precious years of life. Now out, he has to start his life afresh. It will take home time. First he will change the daily routine of 12 years and then get adjusted to a new life and may be that helps him decide about his career and a family.

(Bilal Bhadur is Kashmir Life’s Photo Chief.)

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