India frees Kashmiri men after 23 years of wrongful imprisonment

Wrongly convicted as young men for bombing attacks on Delhi and Rajasthan, three men return home to find they have lost families and livelihoods.

Lateef Ahmad Waza, 42, lives in an old part of Srinagar city, in India-controlled Kashmir. His home is tucked away behind a warren of run-down houses where visitors are arriving in a trickle. 

Returning home, Waza cuts a pensive figure. Women break down upon seeing him, hugging him close and young men from the neighbourhood turn up with floral garlands. 

Waza was released from jail after serving a total 23 years of imprisonment for a crime he did not commit. He was 16 when Indian police picked him up from Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, a mountainous country to the north of India. He had established a business to escape the fallout of a deadly insurgency that had erupted in Kashmir in response to India’s dithering over the decades-old Kashmir conflict and the rigging of regional elections in 1987. 

India dealt with the armed uprising imposing a massive military clampdown. As cities and the countryside were occupied by Indian soldiers, abuse and harassment became commonplace.

Kashmir is a contested mountainous territory between India and Pakistan. Both countries – who claim the region in total but only administer a portion – have gone to wars over it many times. The region came to global public attention recently after the US President Donald Trump made a mediation offer to bring an end to the dispute. India has consistently refused any third-party intervention to resolve the dispute.


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