After 6 months in jail as 'terror suspect', a journalist returns

DF

One of five children of a small-time perfume merchant from Hubli, Siddiqui financed his own education, and did not allow the death of his father in 2006 to deter him from obtaining a post-graduate degree in mass communication and pursuing his dream of a career in journalism.

"When I was doing my PG diploma in mass communication, I chose the topic, 'Media coverage of terrorism suspects', for my thesis. Unfortunately, my supervisor struck down the topic, saying I may get into trouble. But the subject has always been on my mind. And I saw in prison that people have been stuck there for years, in some cases without a trial,'' he said, referring to the continued incarceration of 32 youths arrested from Hubli in 2007.

"I consider myself very fortunate that I have been released after six months. Trial takes about seven to eight years. When you are declared innocent after seven or eight years, it is like a slap on your face. My sympathies were always with terror suspects, and that feeling has become stronger now,'' said Siddiqui.

During his time in prison, Siddiqui memorised a significant part of the Quran. "That is one of the positive things this experience has given me," he said. Siddiqui said he also tried to engage himself constructively by teaching two of his co-accused who are illiterate (Mohammed Sadiq Laskhar, 28 and Mahaboob Bagalkot, 26).

"Initially I was very optimistic that I would get out soon because they had promised me. We waited and waited, but it did not happen," he said. As time lapsed, he feared that the police may fabricate evidence against him. With charges being brought under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, the time for incarceration prior to the chargesheet was extended to 180 days.

"The experience has really changed me as a person. When you are kept in confinement, it is very depressing. Now I have a different perspective of the world,'' he said.

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