Lost a wife, separated from son, money stolen, land and cattle sold to meet his case expenses --- Liyaqat Shah, acquitted of all terror charges by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), finally picks up the threads to start his life afresh after acquittal.
"I have paid a heavy price for returning home. My wife Naseema Bibi (residing in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) died of heart attack two weeks after my arrest. My son still is stranded across the border. I await his return too to start my life," said Shah, a resident of north Kashmir's remote village of Syed Mohalla of Lolab Valley in Kupwara district.
Shah, who crossed the border in 90s, was travelling to India as part of the government's rehabilitation for militants under Form No 74 when the Special Cell of Delhi Police arrested him on March 20, 2013.
Though he was held on the Indo-Nepal border at Sanauli near Gorakhpur, the Delhi police claimed that he was arrested from a city hotel with arms. He was described as an active Hizbul Mujahideen militant who wanted to carry out attacks on Holi in the national capital.
However, the J&K police and government's contrary claims paved the way for NIA to investigate the matter. In May 2013, Shah was also granted bail by a Delhi court.
The NIA last week absolved Shah of all terror cases. A free man now, he demanded justice to end the practice of fake arrests. "Such things are discouraging more such people to return from PoK. Punish those who tried to implicate me on fictitious charges," said Shah.
Shah's arrest had his mother Bibi Alif Noor bed-ridden. However, he pledges to restart life afresh for his two wives, two sons and a daughter in the valley. But it seems an uphill task for him.
"My family sold 10 kanals of land after my arrest. I am selling my cow and bull to meet the travel expenses to Delhi to fulfil the formalities," he said.
Shah, who awaits for Rs 20,000 and three mobiles taken away by the Delhi police, sees NIA's clean chit first step towards living a normal life after 25 years of tumult, where he lived a life of a former Hizbul Mujahideen operative and a Kashmiri longing to return home.
"Justice done by the NIA is reassuring to me to go back to my fields and tend cattle afresh so that I can look after my family. This will encourage others to return," said Shah.