Mohammad Aamir, Delhi
Age 32 | Years In Jail 14
Arrested February 1998 | Acquitted January 2012

Mohammad Aamir

Photo: Ishan Tankha

FOURTEEN YEARS is a long time. Wiping away the tears streaming down his cheeks, Mohammad Aamir recounts his experience of when he stepped out of the Rohtak Jail on 9 January 2012.

The world seemed different. The guards were gone. So was the feeling of iron always chaining his limbs. “That was real freedom. I tasted it. I wept and cried in happiness. After three hours of riding a bus, I was home hugging my mother,” he says. But the Delhi Aamir knew had changed. Mobile phones, the Metro rail, roads, flyovers, buildings and bazaars — everything was new. The only old thing was his crumbling house.

“After seeing my mother, I went to see my father’s grave. He died waiting for my release,” Aamir says.

Forgotten by the press during his 14-year incarceration in jails across three states, Mohammad Aamir of old Delhi became their favourite after being acquitted in 18 of 20 cases of terrorism (appeals made in two other cases are pending).

Now, as he sits quietly before a computer in the office of ANHAD, an NGO in central Delhi, Aamir, 32, is penning a memoir of his passage from incarceration to redemption. Fourteen years behind bars have cost him much more than his youth. Not only did he lose his father, his mother was also paralysed in the interim.

In 1996-97, a couple of low intensity blasts had hit the national capital region (NCR), leaving the police in a tizzy. This was the time when the Khalistan movement in Punjab was fading and the Kashmir insurgency was at its pinnacle. The homegrown Indian Mujahideen (IM) was, however, nowhere in the arena. The police had no strong lead to follow. Then, in what looks like a meticulous plan to frame a young boy, the police claimed to have busted a terror module in February 1998.

Aamir was seized when he was returning home after saying Isha prayers. Bundled into a jeep, he was blindfolded before being dumped in an unidentified place for seven days, where he was tortured and made to sign on blank papers.

On 28 February, he was produced in the Tis Hazari court, charged with 17 cases in Delhi, including murder, sedition and waging war against the Indian State. Among the charges were two blasts in Haryana and one in 1996, on the Frontier Mail (train) in Ghaziabad.

“Getting me justice wasn’t easy for my father,” says Aamir. “Lawyers who would agree to fight cases charged a lot of money. Some quit midway after a local paper dubbed me a Pakistani national.

One by one, the prosecution evidence was disproved in the courts. But it was too late,” he rues. “My father died in 2001. The way justice was done only made me realise that I was guilty until proven innocent,” Aamir adds mockingly.

Now, at ANHAD’s office, Aamir hopes to finish his memoir and heads a forum for demanding the rehabilitation of falsely implicated youth.

Explains activist Shabnam Hashmi of ANHAD: “Writing a memoir is a healing process for Aamir. He is finishing his BA from IGNOU and aims to study law to help people like him.”

Aamir’s efforts have already started paying off. This is evident from the recently prepared list of 33 young men that now lies with the president.

The CPM demanded compensation for these men, special courts to settle such cases within a year and action against policemen found fabricating evidences.

Baba Umar is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.
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