BHADARWAH (Jammu and Kashmir): Days after a Rajasthan court acquitted him in a 1996 bomb blast case, a 57-year-old teacher by profession said he would not take any legal action for his wrongful confinement as it was his destiny and "Allah wanted me to teach the inmates inside the jail".
Despite heavy downpour, hundreds of people gathered in this township of Doda district on Saturday to welcome Abdul Ghani Goni on his return home after 23 years of imprisonment.
After reaching his hometown, Goni went straight to the main mosque and offered special prayers as thanksgiving. He then headed to the graveyard of his parents. There, he broke down at the grave of his mother, who died three years ago after waiting for him.
"For wrongful confinement, I do not hold a grudge against anyone. I firmly believe Allah will take care of everything. The only regret is I could not fulfil my duty as a son to my mother," Goni told PTI.
"I remained positive and never let negative thoughts overpower me. I kept on reassuring my mother I will soon come out clean. Hope she could be alive today."
Early this week, the Rajasthan High Court acquitted six lifers while upholding the death sentence to one and life term to another in connection with a bomb blast at a bus stand in Dausa district, in which 14 persons were killed.
The six lifers who were freed on Monday by a Jaipur bench of the court included five Jammu and Kashmir natives - Javed Khan, Latif Ahmed, Mohammad Ali Bhatt, Mirja Nissa Hussain and Goni.
The sixth, Rais Beg, is from Agra in Uttar Pradesh.
A trial court at Bandikui in Dausa had awarded the death penalty to one person, Abdul Hamid, and life terms to seven others in the case.
"I am a teacher and it was written in my destiny to go to jail. Perhaps Allah wanted me to teach inside jail as I continued Islamic teachings to the inmates both at Tihar and Jaipur," Goni said.
Asked whether he would opt for the legal action for his prolonged wrongful detention, Goni said, "Not at all, as I said it was in my destiny and I am thankful to God I came out alive."
Goni was arrested in 1996, when he was travelling in the Sabarmati Express along with a group of Islamic preachers and underwent detention in jails in Delhi, Gujarat and Rajasthan.
"A lot has changed in these 23 years. The youth has become empowered and informed. But, from my experience, I wish to tell them: always avoid knee-jerk reaction and do not fall prey to rumours. Because for their reaction, not only they but whole society has to pay for decades," Goni said.
During his confinement, Goni's elder sister Shafiqa, a retired nursing teacher, made all-out efforts to secure his release.
"My mother died three years back after waiting every day for two decades. I could not even fulfil her last wish. When she was on the death bed, I pleaded before authorities and applied thrice for parole but every time they turned it down," said Shafiqa, 65.
Recalling Goni's arrest, she said police initially branded him a Pakistani national and it took her five years to prove he is an Indian from Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir.
"I knocked at the doors of Hurriyat leaders several times for help but they outrightly disowned my brother. The little help we received was only from Anjuman Ulmay-e-hind," she added.
Locals present at Goni's House were up in arms against the Kashmir leadership and media for apparently not mentioning Goni and focussing only on the other three persons from the Valley.
"It's pathetic and unfortunate on the part of Kashmiri leadership and some media houses who disowned Goni and never mentioned him since his release. It makes clear the importance of the people of Chinab Valley for them. The sooner we understand it the better it will be for us," social worker Riyaz Ahmed Najar said.