In a single-storey house in Tahab, Pulwama, photojournalist Kamran Yousuf shared a cup of tea with his mother in the kitchen. It has been six months and 13 days since they last sat together in the house.
He held his earlobe as he recalled his time in jail. “I don’t want to see it (jail) ever again.” The freedom that came in the form of bail on March 12 was still to sink in —“I feel this is all a dream,” he said.
Kamran and his family reached Tahab late Thursday evening. Since Friday morning, as neighbours and relatives slowly found out that he was back, shoes began piling up outside his grandfather’s house, as people poured in —to hug, and to hold him.
Arrested by J&K police on September 4 last year, Kamran was handed over to the NIA the following day. In January this year, the NIA filed a 13,000-page chargesheet. Kamran was one of 12 people named in it, accused of alleged terror funding and stone-pelting in the Valley, alongside Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salauddin.
The chargesheet noted that the media is “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.
Kamran turned 23 on January 26 while he was in Delhi’s Rohini jail. Inside, he recalled, he was worried most for his mother: “I had not spoken with her for weeks and I knew she would be worried sick for me. One day, while praying in 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.
A newspaper report is also how he found out that he has been granted bail: “I was reading the newspaper on Tuesday (March 13) morning and found out I had been granted bail.”
In his grandfather’s house, Kamran was wary of voicing his plans but said he has always loved photography. “I cannot explain the thrill of the first photo credit I got for a picture in a local daily,” he said. His first camera, a Nikon D5200, cost Rs 25,000 that he had saved from pocket money and borrowed from relatives. His mother Rubina raised him after his parents divorced and his father left. Rubina works as a clerk in a private school in the neighbourhood.
For the first two months that he was in jail, Rubina said 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 have not been able to sleep for six months,” she said, and touched Kamran’s arm, uttering a prayer under her breath.
“Whenever I spoke to him in jail, he would ask me to be patient. I told him that I could distract myself, I had relatives here but he was the one who had to be patient,” she said. “I felt like my world was on fire. Now that he is home, I feel like I can breathe again.”