Lodged in prison number 3 of Delhi's high profile Tihar Jail, India's most talked about terror convict Afzal Guru always longed for his son Ghalib. He wished to see him more often but had himself decided against it.
In perhaps his last interview nearly five years ago, he told me about his wish to remain with his family. “The intelligence agencies harass my wife and son when they come to see me. They would follow them and create unnecessary problems. I have told them not to come to Delhi anymore,” he said in a well-disguised interview.
Ghalib was eight years old then and the family resided in Sopore in Jammu and Kashmir. His son was barley a few years old when Afzal was arrested by the Special Cell of Delhi Police for his role in the 2001 Parliament terror attack case.
“Many a times, I had requested them to transfer me to a jail in Kashmir but they refused citing an imminent threat from terror outfits to free me,” a visibly upset Afzal, who was more known because of his first name, added.
Delhi's Tihar Jail is much more secure and has multiple forces guarding it round the clock. Its personnel have weapons ranging from lethal Ak-47s to mobile jammers. Close circuit television cameras installed at every nook and corner keep a hawk eye over activities inside and outside of the fortress. Tihar has been house to high profile politicians, bureaucrats, corporate honchos besides dreaded criminals and terrorists.
He was surprised to see him as no one in the recent past had met him or tried to meet him.
“I was in a fix when the jail warden told me that I had a visitor. For two days, I kept wondering who the person could be. Now I am more surprised to know that you are a journalist. In the past, many journalists have tried to reach me but they failed. How did you manage to meet me?” Afzal asked.
After an initial hesitation, he opened up. We were in the newly-constructed meeting room, which was like a furnace in summer, and separated by a thick glass wall. We could see each other but had to concentrate hard to be heard.
He told me he never wanted to file a mercy petition before the President but decided to take this last legal recourse at the very last minute on the instance of his wife.
“I am not optimistic. It is better they hang me. I die every day in the jail, waiting to hear from political masters to seal my fate. Life in jail is like rotting in hell every day," he said, complaining how he was not given a fair trial and no one was willing to take up his fight.
He shared his ideas of Kashmir with me. He talked about militancy and extremists in the valley, who had taken over the real agenda. Some of his ideas were extreme. But never in the 30-minute interview did he accept his role in the Parliament attack nor did he fully absolve himself of the charges. He had turned more religious as he was kept in a solitary confinement and barely spoke to fellow inmates.
Afzal also rued about people who betrayed him and did not care to visit him in the jail.