AS THEY reached the fourth floor landing of their Versova flat on Thursday morning, a ‘Welcome’ sign hanging outside their double-door with ‘HMD’, for Hamid, written by neighbours with blue ribbons greeted the family of four. “Who did this?” smiled Fauzia Ansari, fumbling for her house keys.
Hamid smiled at the door, entered the flat, now his home, for the first time.
“Never fall in love on Facebook,” the 33-year-old engineer said. “I learnt this lesson that one should never hide anything from their parents, even if they scold you. I should have never been swayed by emotions. There is a legal process for everything and I should have followed it,” Hamid added.
The IT engineer and a management graduate had left India on November 5, 2012, to take up a job at Kabul airport in Afghanistan. He entered Pakistan illegally after falling in love with a girl on Facebook. Arrested by the Pakistan military in Kohat in November 2012 on charges of spying, he was sentenced to imprisonment in Peshawar Central Jail for three years on December 15, 2015. He was released from Peshawar Central Jail on Tuesday.
Hamid said that while he initially remained disturbed, not knowing if he would ever be able to return, he would pray regularly. “When I got access to a lawyer, and got in touch with human right activists, I came to know that my parents are trying to free me.”
“Jab hamari sarkar convinced thi ki Hamid Ansari begunaah hai, to bharosa aaya ki ab main ghar jauga (When our government was convinced that Hamid Ansari is innocent, I was confident that I will return home),” he said, adding that he does not even know the numerous people who supported him.
Talking about his experience in Pakistan, Hamid said, “I want to forget all past memories as if they were a bad dream.”
He added, “This is my second life. After going through so much inside prison, I am not in the right frame of mind, so my first intention is to get stable, mentally, and then get look for job.”
Hamid said he plans to “retire” from Facebook, a “waste of time”. “I have wasted six years of my life, now I want to get my life back on track.”
His brother Khalid Ansari, a dental implantologist, said it was an emotional moment for the family to have him back. “When he entered the house, he was so happy to see his own bedroom, all his belongings.”
The family members said they have hardly slept in the last four days.
Thanking External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for her help, Fauzia (59) said: “I still remember that following the election in 2014, I was hoping that Mrs Swaraj gets the charge of the external affairs ministry. As soon as she was appointed, I went to meet her in Delhi. There were many people who had come with bouquets and sweets to congratulate her, and I had just gone with tears in my eyes. I told her my ordeal and gave her a letter. She promised that she would help me and she stood by her promise.”
MLA Krishna Hegde said what helped expedite the process of getting Hamid back was how the parents tirelessly pursued legal documentation. “Six years ago, I got another Gujarati boy back from Pakistan. The Ansaris came to me after reading about him,” Hegde added.
Advocate Majeed Memon, who has helped the family, said: “Fauzia and her husband have been meeting me for six years. In late 2015, several advocates from Peshawar had come to Mumbai, and I introduced her to advocate Qazi Muhammad Anwar. He went out of his way to help her and located Hamid in Peshawar jail.” The advocates in Pakistan did not take any money for the case, added Memon. “This was the result of a collective effort by so many people in India and Pakistan,” said activist Jatin Desai.
Methilda D’Souza, a friend of the Ansaris, said the family had moved to their current accommodation three years ago. “I first met his father when he attended a society meeting one evening. We only knew his son was in Pakistan jail, and would often see him travelling to Delhi. Every one prayed that the boy should return home,” Methilda said.