Bashir Ahmad Baba, a 44-year old from Rainawari in Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir, returned home on June 23, eleven years after the Gujarat Police arrested him on terror charges, The Indian Express reported on Thursday. He was booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
On June 19, a court in Gujarat’s Vadodara held that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges and furnish evidence against Baba.
Baba ran a computer institute in Rainawari and worked with a non-government organisation that conducted medical camps, especially for children with cleft lip, Newsclick reported.
In February 2010, he had gone to Gujarat to attend a workshop. But, on March 13, 2010, a day before he was scheduled to return home, the anti-terrorism squad of Gujarat Police arrested Baba from Anand district, accusing him of visiting the state to establish a network of young people for “terror training”. He was charged of being an affiliate of the terrorist group Hizbul Mujahideen.
The police also alleged that Baba was in touch with Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin and one Bilal Ahmed Shera over phone and emails. He was sent to Vadodara Central Jail after being in anti-terrorism squad custody for 16 days, according to Kashmirwalla.
Over the next 11 years, his lawyers defended Baba, contending that he was in Gujarat to attend a camp on post-cancer care to provide services to patients in the Kashmir Valley. His counsel, Khalid Shaikh, said a Srinagar doctor had recommended that he attends the camp.
“The ATS contended that Ahmad had used the laptop of the doctor whose camp he was attending to send emails to his Hizbul handlers in Pakistan,” Shaikh told The Indian Express. “They also said he was seen making suspicious phone calls and leaving the camp multiple times in the day on the pretext of having meals or offering prayers.”
In his verdict, an additional sessions judge in Gujarat’s Anand district said that no evidence was presented by the Gujarat Police to prove that Baba stayed back in the state to set up a “terror network” and that he received financial aid for the alleged crime.
“The prosecution has also failed to establish any evidence to prove that he was in touch with the wanted Hizbul Mujahideen commanders,” the court said, in its order.
‘Never lost hope’
Speaking to The Indian Express, Baba said he knew that he was innocent and never lost hope of being acquitted. “I knew I would be released honorably one day,” he said.
He completed masters degrees in three subjects – Political Science, Public Administration and Intellectual Property Act, while in jail, Newsclick reported. “I spent most of my time in jail studying and I was sure that one day I will be proven innocent and will be released,” he said.
Baba, however, added that the release gave him both joy and sadness as he has lost many family members during his time in prison. His father died in 2017, three years after being diagnosed with colon cancer.
“My schedule was different in jail but now I have nothing to do here,” he told Kashmirwalla. “The only thing that pains me is the absence of my father.”