(By Bashaarat Masood)
Back home Parvez Ahmad Radoo is still struggling to find a job
On September 12, 2006, Parvez Ahmad Radoo left home — a double-storey stone-and-brick house at Noorbagh Sopore in north Kashmir — for Pune with the hope to return on Eid that year. He returned, but seven years later, on June 9, 2013, a broken man who lost his youth and career to a false terror charge by the Delhi Police’s special cell and a slow judicial process.
On that September night, the then 29-year-old had to catch a connecting flight to Pune from the Delhi airport. As he collected his luggage at the Delhi airport and moved to get a boarding pass for Pune, he was whisked away. He was kept in solitary confinement for more than a month, and a day before Diwali presented before the media as a “dreaded terrorist” of the Jaish-e-Mohammad outfit. That year, Diwali and Eid fell within four days. The Delhi police claimed to have averted a major tragedy and showed it had recovered explosives and ammunition from Radoo’s possession.
A post graduate in zoology from Pune, Radoo was working as a research assistant in Pune University. One of his friends, who had moved to South Korea for a doctorate degree, persuaded Radoo to follow suit. Radoo agreed and decided to move to Pune to prepare for TOEFL. “I decided to prepare for the exam in Pune, as we had very poor internet connectivity here,” Radoo recalls.
In police confinement, he was made to call his family in Sopore and tell them that he was busy with his preparations. “I was tutored by the policemen to tell them I couldn’t come because I didn’t get a train reservation. Whenever I would get in touch with my family, they would stand around me with their guns cocked,” he says.
On October 20, 2006, when news channels across the country flashed Radoo’s pictures, terming him a “dreaded Jaish terrorist”, his father, Sonaullah Radoo, was shocked. “It was then that I informed them that I had been picked up the day I left Srinagar,” Radoo says.
“During this month, I was kept at many places. I was threatened to fall in line. In fact, it was a mixture of threat and cajoling,” he says. Radoo was then shifted to Tihar — his home for the next seven years. “When I met other prisoners there, they told me it was going to be a long ordeal. They advised me to be patient,” he says.
In jail, Radoo longed for home. “Back home, I would love to have brinjals and tomato. But in jail, when I would get brinjals, I would put them in the dustbin, as it would remind me of my home, and my mother,” he says.
In Sopore, the family — father, mother, a brother and sister — didn’t eat non-vegetarian food for three years. They didn’t prepare special cuisine even on festivities. “How could we have eaten mutton or fish, when he was not allowed to eat it inside the (Tihar) jail,” says his older brother Ajaz Ahmad Radoo, whose marriage took place without the traditional wazwan — in which more than 10-course meals are served to the wedding guests. “For several years, he declined to marry until my return. But when elders persuaded him, he kept it simple,” says Radoo.
All these years, the family depended on Ajaz and the pension of his father — a retired government teacher. Ajaz had a shop in Sopore. But recently, he met with an accident and had to undergo a surgery, which has left him with a limp. He now walks with the help of crutches. His shop has been shut for several months now.
After the police prepared the chargesheet, a slow and long judicial process followed. It took hundreds of court sittings, several judges, and seven years for him and his lawyer Manu Sharma to clear him of the charges. “After initial frustration, I spent the time inside jail to learn the relevant laws and rulings,” he says. Moreover, the prosecution witnesses — all of them policemen — often didn’t make an appearance when the court summoned them, which dragged the case further. The court finally acquitted Radoo on June 7, 2013.
On the morning of June 9, 2013, Radoo once again arrived at the Delhi airport — this time with his father to take a flight back home. “All I can say is that every second seemed like a year,” he says.
There was no shamiyana for Ajaz’s wedding, but the family put one up to welcome Radoo back home. But Radoo was not ready to face the guests. “It was a strange feeling and I told my father that we should delay our return,” he says. The guests, however, waited till late night. A narrow lane leads to Radoo’s home. “When I entered the lane, a large number of people were waiting outside. I only remember hugging my mother,” he says.
Back in his room for the first time after his return from Tihar, Radoo found it much bigger. “All these years, I had to stay in small cells with many people. That night, as I was going to sleep, my father switched off the lights. I was perturbed and told him to switch them on. In Tihar, we were not allowed to switch off the lights,” he says.
In these seven years, most of Radoo’s friends have completed their doctorates, but he is still struggling to find ways to streamline his future. “My first priority is to get a (government) job. I have tried at several private institutions. They all sympathised with my situation but politely declined a job,” he says. Radoo is 36 years old now, while the upper age limit for a government job is 37 years. The state government didn’t help in any way — neither in getting him released nor in rehabilitating him.
Once he finds a livelihood for himself, he hopes to write about his ordeal. “I remember everything and have noted down everything. Someday, maybe I will tell the tale of my homecoming,” says Radoo.
Courtesy: Indian Express