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‘Studying to keep sane’: A Kashmiri man’s 11 years in Gujarat prison

Bashir Ahmad Baba, 44, of Jogi Lankar, Srinagar, has only time to think about his post-graduation levels, diploma certificates, and letters he earned during his 8-by-10 cell and the letters his dead father left for him. Gujarat court docket acquitted Mr. Baba of all costs under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in 2010. ‘I decided to keep myself occupied in a constructive way while in jail. To stay sane, I chose to study’. Mr. Baba completed a post-graduate course in Urdu and other diploma courses, and he is busy meeting his friends, neighbours, and family members for the first time in over 11 years.

‘Most people look different now,’ he said. His jail officials assisted him with research materials and completed his requirements so that he could complete the programs, Mr. Baba said. Baba, who had a computer diploma at the time, was just 33 when he decided to attend a camp management course for post-cancer circumstances in Ahmedabad in February 2010.

‘I was picked up by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) within six days of arriving in the city. In March, I was produced before the media. I had no idea what the charges were since the charge sheet was in Gujarati,’ Baba recalled. According to the Gujarat ATS, Mr. Baba was accused of recruiting boys into militancy and affiliation with Hizbul Mujahideen handlers throughout the border via e-mail and telephone. He was charged under both the IPC and UAPA.

‘Proving my innocence was a long process. My father’s final rites will always remain instilled in my mind because I wasn’t able to attend them in 2017,’ Mr. Baba. His father died of colon cancers and he was denied bail. As Mr. Baba explains his extended imprisonment and the changes he has observed in Kashmir, he uses a metaphoric approach. ‘We have smartphones everywhere. Back then, the phones ran by pressing buttons, not screens,’ he recalled.

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‘I had given up on everyone,’ said his mother, who met him for the first time in a jail in 11 years only after selling gold ornaments for tickets and staying. ‘Allah was my faith. As Baba left home in 2010, I said to him, ‘Ghas Khodayas hawali’ [Go and Allah be your protector]. Allah has returned him to me,’ she said. Mr. Baba must start over from scratch. He has expressed hope, now that things will start well. According to the Anand district court docket, the charges lodged against him were not supported by sufficient proof.


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