New Delhi: The Rajasthan high court acquitted 48-year-old Ali Bhatt and four others in the 1996 Samleti blast case after 23 years of serving jail term. The first thing Bhatt did upon reaching Srinagar was to prostrate before his parents’ grave, the video of which is making hearts melt.

Bhatt served over two decades of his life in prison for a crime he has now been acquitted of. Bhatt lost his youth and his parents while serving term. On Tuesday (July 23) at 5:19 pm, Latif Ahmed Baja (42), Ali Bhatt (48), Mirza Nisar (39), Abdul Goni (57) and Rayees Beg (56), stepped out of prison.

Beg had been incarcerated since June 8, 1997, while the others were imprisoned between June 17, 1996 and July 27, 1996. During these 23 years, they were lodged in jails in Delhi and Ahmedabad, but were never released on parole or bail.

While acquitting them, the Rajasthan high court said that the prosecution had failed to provide evidence of conspiracy adding that the prosecution could not establish any link between them and the main accused, Dr Abdul Hameed, whose death sentence was upheld.

After their release on Tuesday, the five men said they didn’t know each other until the Criminal Investigation Department (Crime Branch) made them an accused in the case.

Before being jailed, Bhatt ran a carpet business, Baja used to sell Kashmiri handicraft in Delhi and Kathmandu, Nisar was a Class IX student and Goni used to run a school.

“We have no idea about the world we are stepping into,” Goni was quoted as saying by The Indian Express. “We’ve lost relatives while we were inside. My mother, father and two uncles passed away. We have been acquitted, but who will bring back those years,” said Beg. He added that his sister has since gotten married and his niece is now about to get married too.

The case dates back to May 22, 1996, when a bomb blast in a bus near Samleti village in Dausa, on the Jaipur-Agra highway, killed 14 people and injured 37 others; the bus was headed to Bikaner from Agra.

The blast came a day after the Lajpat Nagar bomb blast in Delhi, in which 13 people were killed. The charge sheet had said the men were associated with the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and claimed some of them were also involved in the Sawai Man Singh Stadium blast in Jaipur in 1996.

While 12 people were accused in the Samleti case, seven have been acquitted so far. While one was acquitted in 2014, six were acquitted on Tuesday.