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    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 49, Dated 08 Dec 2012

    'I couldn’t walk without falling. My family saw a disorder in me, but that had become my order'

    Syed Maqbool Shah
    Srinagar,Jammu & Kashmir
    Age 33| Years In Jail 14
    Arrested June 1996 | Acquitted April 2010

    Syed Maqbool Shah

    Photo: Faisal Shah

    SYED MAQBOOL SHAH of Kashmir has a similar story of injustice and wrongful incarceration. In the bylanes of Srinagar’s Lal Bazaar, Shah’s two-storey decrepit house in Jan Mohalla has become a wellknown structure. Those looking for direction to this house are guided till the gate.

    Inside, Shah and his mother Zoona Begum, 70, show three different corners of the house: a cesspool of dirty water seeping from burst sewer pipes, the walnut tree planted by Shah’s father in another corner, and two graves in the courtyard that stare at Shah every day. In those graves, his father Syed Mohammad (a shawl weaver) and sister lie buried. “This is where I live. This is the outcome of all that happened when I was in jail,” Shah says.

    On 17 June 1996, 17-year-old Shah, a class 12 student, was picked up in a night raid from his brother’s rented room in south Delhi’s Jangpura. The police alleged Shah was involved in the Lajpat Nagar car blast that had left 13 people dead and 39 injured.

    For the next 13 years, 10 months and 21 days, Shah was lodged in a high security cell in Tihar and Rohini jails, facing trial under Sections 302/307 IPC and 3, 4, 5 Explosives Act. The police built its case on a spare tyre of the Maruti car used in the blast, which it had allegedly recovered from Shah’s room. But during court proceedings, the car owner, Atul Nath, told the court that the tyre did not belong to his car, nor had he ever identified it during police investigation. The statement was enough to deflate the police theory.

    It took almost 26 judges hearing Shah’s case at different periods before he was declared innocent and acquitted of all charges on 8 April 2010, after spending 14 years in jail. At home, relatives and the local media had gathered to witness the homecoming. Garlands greeted him but his eyes were searching for his father’s and sister’s graves. Local photographers captured the moment on film: A popular image shows Shah embracing the grave of his sister with his arms stretched in a defensive semicircle. “Now I am back, but where are you Taathe (Father)? Where are you Hadeesae (Hadeesa Banu, his sister)?” Shah cried.

    For the first six months after his release, Shah couldn’t eat mutton — he’d forgotten how to, since the staple food in jail was rice or roti with dal. The house, which he had left 14 years ago, wasn’t the same; its roof was corroded, walls decrepit. For some months, Shah walked with a limp; climbing stairs and boarding vehicles remained problematic. “My family saw a disorder in me, but that had become my order,” he says.

    The loss Shah suffered remains colossal. So is the official indifference. The government, he says, wants him to forget everything and accept a job in the police or CRPF. “Trath Yeman (To hell with these departments). It’s the same police that framed me,” he says. “Why can’t the CM fit me in some civil department?”

    Shah, who now runs a small provision store in Jan Mohalla, though has a proud possession to show — a green jute bag stuffed with the memorabilia of injustice. Inside it are the four dairies he chronicled his sufferings of jail in, which he calls Apni Aap Beeti and intends to usher into print; and a black-and-white passport-size picture of his youthful days taken before his arrest. “Do I look like this?” he asks wryly. “I was a boy in this picture. Not a single hair on my face. Now I am a grown man — the black-bearded one.”

    Haider’s, Aamir’s and Shah’s stories are evidence of the wrongs our security agencies do in the name of cracking down on illegal movements — the collateral damage, if you may.

    Baba Umar is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.
    [email protected]

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    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 49, Dated 08 Dec 2012



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