Over a week back, a 25-year-old youth from Srinagar travelled to Mumbai and “surrendered” before the Mumbai Police Special Branch, claiming that he was involved in the July 10 blast in Pune. He told them he was a former militant and offered to help with the probe, if they paid him. His native accent seemed to work in his favour.
But his interrogation, and subsequent investigations, revealed that Bashir Ahmad Goglu, 25, was simply a shawl seller, burdened by debt and a crippled livelihood due to frequent and unforeseen strikes called by separatists in Jammu & Kashmir and curfews imposed by the administration. He saw life behind bars as his “only option” and a “better escape”.
At his home in Hamzah Colony, in Bemina area of Srinagar, his wife, Lovely, and her mother, were informed about his arrest by the Mumbai Police. There was another call — from a lawyer who wanted Rs 10,000 transferred to his account to fight Goglu’s case.
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Lovely can’t understand the sudden turn of events. She says her husband sold shawls for a living. She last saw him on July 1, when he made his annual trip to New Delhi to pick up new stock. “When he left, he gave me Rs 1,000, saying he would return in four days,” she says. “When he called me later, I told him that we have to pay the house rent. I asked him when he was returning. He said he would be home the next day.”
But Goglu did not return to the Valley. Instead, he went to the Mumbai Police Special Branch office on July 17, where he told Additional Commissioner Chhagan Wakade that he and his associates had carried out the Pune blast in which five people were injured. However, a background check did not reveal any suggested terrorist links. Goglu was also unable to answer any questions about the blast.
Goglu later revealed that he was an orphan, and preferred to stay in jail as he was burdened by debts and was unable to provide for his family. Police sources say he earned about Rs 160 per day, selling shawls at Lal Chowk, Srinagar. While his wife had recently given birth to a baby girl, Goglu also had the responsibility of his stepsister.
According to sources, Goglu struggled to pay the monthly rent of Rs 2,500. “He had accumulated loans of Rs 1.2 lakh and had no means of repaying the amount. He said he was fed up with his life in Srinagar and felt he could not provide for his family there. He felt that jail was his only release,” say sources.
“So he took a loan of Rs 8,000 earlier this month and travelled to Delhi. He met a local police officer there and told him he was going to commit a terrorist attack,” say sources. The officer, however, gave Goglu a patient hearing and set him free.
It was while he was in Delhi that Goglu heard about the Pune blast. So he decided to hand himself over to the Mumbai Police. Goglu was produced in court and sent to custody. He has been booked by the Azad Maidan police station in Mumbai for making statements likely to cause alarm to the public, criminal intimidation and common intention of the Indian Penal Code.
In Srinagar, Lovely is struggling to make ends meet. “It is difficult to run the house… I have to pay the house rent for two months, the grocery bills, and now I have to pay this lawyer. What will I do? He never told us about any debt,” she says.