Out on bail, photojournalist Kamran Yousuf says don’t want to see jail ever again - watsupptoday.com
Out on bail, photojournalist Kamran Yousuf says don’t want to see jail ever again
Posted 17 Mar 2018 03:52 PM

In a single storey house in Tahab, Pulwama, Kamran Yousuf shares a cup of tea with his mother in her kitchen. It’s been six months and 12 days since they last sat together in their house. He holds his earlobe in his hand as he recalls his time in the jail. “I don’t want to see it (jail) ever again.” The freedom that came in the form of bail on March 12, is yet to sink in. “I feel like this is all a dream,” he says.

Kamran and his family reached Tahab late on Thursday evening. On Friday morning, his neighbours and relatives are learning about his release and is back at his residence. Shoes begin piling up outside his grandfather’s house as people pour in, to hug and hold him.

Arrested by the J&K police on September 4 last year, Kamran Yousuf was handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) the following day. In January, the NIA filed a 13,000-page charge sheet, naming Kamran as one of 12 accused for alleged terror funding and stone-pelting in the valley, alongside Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salauddin.

Although there was nothing to link Kamran with any crime, the charge sheet held the media “equally responsible” for the present situation in Kashmir as they are “not playing their role in peace, prosperity and communal harmony in the valley.”

On March 12, Kamran was finally granted bail by a Delhi court. He was released next evening.

Granting bail to him, Additional Sessions Judge Tarun Sherawat dismissed the NIA’s claim that Kamran was involved in “stone-pelting” and “subversive activities”, and stated, “Admittedly applicant/accused Kamran Yousuf was working as a photo journalist and he was covering all kinds of incidents ranging from social, cultural, political, economic and other activities in the Kashmir valley and as such in my considered view, his presence on the sites of stone pelting incidents etc is intrinsic, notwithstanding the fact/contention that he is not a permanent employee of any media organisation.” The order also stated that the agency has not placed on record a “single photo/video” to show the accused was “indulging in stone pelting activities at any site.”

Kamran turned 23 on January 26 while he was in Delhi’s Rohini Jail. Inside the jail, he recalled, that he was worried most for his mother. “I had not spoken to her for weeks and I knew she would be worried for me. One day while praying inside the jail, I started crying. I wanted to see my mother again. I got up from prayer, opened the newspaper and saw her picture. It was as if God answered my prayers,” he said.

It was through a newspaper report that he found out about his bail. “I was reading the newspaper on Tuesday morning and found out that I had been granted bail.”

Now sitting at his grandfather’s house, Kamran is wary of voicing his plans but says he loves photography. “I always loved taking photographs. I cannot explain the thrill of the first credit line I got for a picture in a local daily,” he says. His first camera, a Nikon D5200, costed him Rs 25,000 that he had saved from his pocket money and borrowed from his relatives to pay. His mother, Rubina, raised him after his parents separated and his father left for good. Rubina works as a clerk in a private school in the neighbourhood.

For the first two months that he was in jail, Rubina says she had no way of speaking to her son. She did not know what the NIA was until someone told her about the investigating agency. “I understood that if the NIA took someone, they would never be released. I prayed day and night, I was unable to sleep for six months,” she says. She touches Kamran’s arm and utters a prayer under her breath. “Whenever I spoke to him from the jail, he would ask me to be patient. And I told him that I could distract myself, I had relatives here but he was the one who had to be patient,” she says. “I felt like my world was on fire, and now that he is home, I feel like I can breathe again.”

His friends enter the room, photographers he shot several spots with, they hug and break down and Kamran reassures them. He plays with a friend’s camera who came to visit him, but refuses to be photographed with it. The words “real journalist” are repeated in the room. In its charge sheet, the NIA had noted, “Had he (Kamran) been a real journalist/stringer by profession, he may have performed one of the moral duty of a journalist which is to cover the activities and happening (good or bad) in his jurisdiction.”

Kamran’s mother Rubina cannot stop smiling. She hugs everyone who comes in through the door. She congratulates them and thanks them for their prayers. Sitting next to her, Kamran is pensive. “I want this (case) over with soon,” he says.

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