With their long months of prayers answered, Indians, and in particular Maharashtrians, on Wednesday celebrated the International Court of Justice (ICJ) verdict on Kulbhushan Jadhav, a Mumbaikar, who was on the death row in Pakistan.
Friends, neighbours, family members as well as commoners greeted the judgement of The Hague-based court on India's petition that Jadhav was not a spy, as claimed by Pakistan, and should be released immediately.
It was celebrated with colourful balloons, gusty whistles, bursting of crackers and distribution of sweets and chocolates outside the family's locked home in the Silver Oaks Society of Powai, at his childhood home on the N.M. Joshi Marg and in their native village in Sangli.
The flat is locked for over two years and the family has virtually gone underground after a Pakistani military court awarded death penalty to Jadhav in April 2017.
Reacting to the verdict, Arvind Singh, a visibly relieved childhood friend of Jadhav, thanked the ICJ and said, "we always anticipated it."
"We are also thankful to the government of India for its tough stand in the matter and hope that Jadhav will be in our midst soon. Expecting the victory, we had bought sweets and balloons and have celebrated with that," Singh said.
"The ICJ ruling is excellent with the most significant aspect being the mandatory consular access, which has to be followed. It will also help some other prisoners languishing in Indian and Pakistani jails," India-Pakistan peace activist Jatin Desai told IANS.
In Jadhav's case, Desai said India had written to Pakistan over 50 times seeking the consular access, and this part of the verdict alone would give hope of justice to many prisoners on both sides.
Overjoyed by the verdict, Naseem Khan, Congress legislator from Chandivali and Deputy Leader in the House, said Jadhav's four-year ordeal in Pakistan should be over after the ICJ judgement.
"Jadhav's family members -- who are my constituents -- have suffered a lot. We Mumbaikars also share their pain. We are pleased with the ruling. We are now waiting to give a hero's welcome to Jadhav whenever he returns," Khan told IANS.
An Indian Navy officer since 1987, Jadhav, 49, quit the force in 2001 to set up his business. His father Sudhir and uncle Subhash are both retired Assistant Commissioners of Police from Mumbai.
The Jadhav clan's world fell apart in 2016 when Pakistan said it had arrested him on charges of spying, an allegation rubbished by India.
India had constantly been appealing Pakistan to release Jadhav, asserting that he was innocent. India had charged Pakistani authorities of kidnapping him from Iran where he had gone in connection with his business.
But as Pakistan refused to heed to its requests, India moved the ICJ in May 2017, a month after Jadhav was sentenced to death by a military court in an opaque trial. The ICJ had stayed Jadhav's execution, pending the final verdict that came today.
In December 2017, Jadhav's mother and wife travelled to Pakistan to meet him, but that restricted interaction left them disappointed though not disheartened.
Todaya's verdict was greeted with a flood of congratulatory messages on the social media, WhatsApp groups, among commuters in Mumbai's local trains and BEST buses, with pleas to Pakistan to release him as soon as possible.
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