Mohammad Javed was released from prison in 2014 after serving eleven and a half years in prison while the authorities “investigated” him and his activities. Recently, around two years after the courts cleared him of all charges, he shared the almost unbelievable story of what got him incarcerated – in an interview conducted by the BBC. His crime – falling in love.
He was abducted and tortured by Indian investigative authorities, and subjected to inhumane treatment, all for falling in love – a love that he has now lost.
Why? The girl he happened to fall in love with was from Pakistan – so, obviously, he was categorized a terrorist and sent to jail for eleven and a half years.
A 19-year-old Javed – a TV mechanic from Rampur, Uttar Pradesh – had met Mobina in 1999 when he took his mother to Pakistan, to visit her cousins and uncles in Karachi. Yes, a lot of Indians do still have family in the region that is today called Pakistan, the most recently celebrated such person being former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
As for the couple, they fell in love at first sight, not that that even matters.
We were at a family wedding where there were other young women and I think she felt insecure. She took me aside and told me that I was not to look at any other girl since she was in love with me. I told her I felt the same way
In all, Javed and his family were in Pakistan for three and a half months during that first visit. Mobina was a distant relative, besides, love is sort of a taboo topic in both India and Pakistan – that’s nothing to do with religion, it’s to do with the mindset – so both parties were scared to come out about their love.
She would leave home in the morning telling her family that she was going to college. I would meet her outside the college gate, and we would go and hang out in Sipari Park.
Javed and his family returned home to India, but their love remained strong. phone calls from India to Pakistan, at that time, cost INR 62/minute, that’s almost USD 1$. Back then, it was over USD $1.
He went to Karachi a year later for 2 months, this time, both families knew of their love and had raised no objections. There had been some debate over where the couple would stay after marriage, obviously, but Mobina had cast her vote in favour of following Javed back to India.
This time as I prepared to leave, she said, “You go, I will convince my family and then you come back and take me with you.” I didn’t know that when I left, I would never return. That I would never see her again.
Over the next 2 years, Javed and Mobina corresponded regularly. Though she could only write Urdu and he could only write Hindi, they figured it out. They painstakingly wrote each other long letters. It was all worth it. They were in love.
Then one day, a person came to his shop asking that Javed accompany him back to his home to fix his TV. Javed was accompanying the man when a team of undercover police officials swooped down on them and kidnapped him. In the car, as they were driving away, he was informed that his family had also been abducted and that they would all be shot if he didn’t keep quiet. They took away all his possessions and blindfolded him, before torturing him for the next three days.
They beat me black and blue, hung me upside-down and kept lowering my head into a tub of water. It was so painful. I couldn’t bear it any longer. I begged them to kill me.
He was accused of “passing on secrets about the ministry of external affairs and defence ministry to Islamabad” as an “agent” for Pakistan’s Intelligence apparatus, ISI. They also captured three of his closest friends – Maqsood, Taj Mohammad, and Mumtaz Mian.
The foursome were branded in the media as “dreaded terrorists” from Pakistan who were “waging war against India.” Javed’s family visits were branded as meets with his ISI contacts, and his phone calls to his lover were explained as how he passed on secrets to the ISI.
Eventually, about 50 days later, they were charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota), which meant no bail. The 4 terrified youths were also told that they would be hanged to death if convicted. The time was soon after the Kargil War of 1999, which had created a general attitude of distrust towards Pakistanis and people from India who travelled into Pakistan.
One can also be sure that Javed is not the only one put in such a false position by investigations, and shudders to imagine how those people who are still wrongfully imprisoned under Pota might feel.
The eleven and a half years in confinement, especially in wrongful confinement, should have driven anyone to insanity. Javed, however, believes that thoughts of Mobina were what kept him sane. He had lost his friends – who blamed him for their own incarceration – his aged parents were alone, and had become impoverished from paying legal fees in constant bids to secure his freedom.
Javed was finally released on 19 January 2014. The court had dismissed all charges against him and ruled that the evidence against him was nonsensical, and was at a loss to understand the authorities’ basis for ever arresting him in the first place.
He has been trying to put his life back together over the last couple of years. He has gone back to repairing old TV sets, but he’s angry. Who wouldn’t be? He lost all of his twenties because the authorities would not believe him capable of falling in love with a woman from Pakistan, or worse, because the authorities believed that was reason enough to incarcerate him. There’s been no compensation paid, nor any punishment for the half-baked investigators and their shoddy enquiries.
But most of all, he still loves Mobina. He’s terrified to try and get in touch with her, and theorizes that she might be married now.
Actually, he probably prays she is married now and wasn’t also imprisoned and tortured all these years just for falling in love with him. Either way, it seems unlikely that he’ll ever get in touch with her again.
I have managed to expel her from my head, but not from my heart. I still love her, but I’m afraid to call her. What happens if they go after me or my family again?