NEW DELHI -- When 37-year-old Mohammad Aamir Khan sees a police officer, he is stricken with fear. It has been five years since he was acquitted of a series of terror charges, but the sight of the khaki uniform brings flashbacks of police torture.
"Rehaii mil chuki hai par khauff barkaraar hai (I have been freed but the terror remains)," he told HuffPost India on Monday.
It was exactly 19 years ago when he says he was "kidnapped" by policemen in plainclothes. What followed was a week of torture--he recalled how he was made to drink detergent water, thrashed with wooden planks, even given electric shocks--in order to allegedly unlawfully extract a "confession" from him.
Khan was finally accused of masterminding serial blasts in Delhi and nearby cities in 20 terror cases, and spent 14 years in jail before he was finally acquitted in 18 of them. Each time, courts found an extraordinary lack of evidence against him--much like in the case of Rafiq Shah, who was acquitted in similar terror charges last week. However, years of delay in two of the remaining cases against Khan has meant that the terror slur hasn't been completely removed.
Even though he was incarcerated for 14 years for crimes he did not commit--losing his youth in jail and precious time to build a career--the Indian government has done nothing to rehabilitate him. In January this year, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) ordered the Chief Secretary of the Delhi government (MM Kutty) to pay ₹5 lakh as "interim relief" to Khan. It said, "The Commission is not concerned with the appeals pending in two cases. The fact is that the victim had to spend 14 years long incarceration in the prison for no reason violating his human rights. In these circumstances, the Commission finds no merits in the report of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Vigilance, Delhi."
However, Khan is yet to get this money.
Besides this, there has been no attempt from the government machinery to assist him in any way. He has been given assurances on several occasions--right after his release was reported in the media, officials from the state government met Khan and promised to help him. In 2013, Khan met President of India Pranab Mukherjee along with a delegation led by politician Prakash Karat. President Mukherjee told the delegation he would speak with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the various state governments to help rehabilitate those who are framed by police in such cases.
"Rehaii mil chuki hai par khauff barkaraar hai (I have been freed but the terror remains)."Mohammad Aamir Khan
In 2014, Khan met then-chief minister of Delhi Shiela Dikshit, who also gave him reassurances--but he is still waiting for such help.
"All I want is a government job which gives me dignity and helps me continue my education," Khan told HuffPost India. Since his release in 2012, he has worked for different non-governmental organisations and has even written a book Framed As a Terrorist: My 14-Year Struggle to Prove My Innocence along with human rights lawyer Nandita Haksar. "The civil society stepped forward where the government should have," he said.
Khan, who is now married and has a three-year-old daughter, wants to live a regular life. Like any parent, he is struggling to find a good school for his daughter who starts nursery this year, and is anxious to provide her a stable future.
Yet, every time a police officer comes knocking at his door, or calls on one of his neighbours while he is at work, he wonders if his family will ever escape the shadow of false terror charges. It remains an albatross around his neck.
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