After spending eight years locked up for a crime he didn't commit, Satyam Babu walked out of the Rajahmundry Central Prison in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday, after he was acquitted by the Hyderabad High Court in the Ayesha Meera murder case.
Satyam stepped out of the jail premises on Sunday morning to a large gathering of media persons, lawyers, policemen and leaders of a few Dalit organisations.
Pharmacy student Ayesha Meera was raped and murdered in 2007, and almost a year later, Satyam Babu was charged with the crime. He was convicted by a Vijayawada Women's Special Sessions Court in 2010, and sentenced to imprisonment for life.
However, even family members of the victim, as well as several activists, had alleged that Satyam was framed to let a powerful politician's relative off the hook.
This week, the HC acquitted him and directed the Andhra Pradesh government to pay Rs 1 lakh compensation to the youth, who spent eight years in jail without any evidence of his involvement. It also ordered disciplinary action against the police officers who investigated the case.
Addressing media persons, a visibly emotional Satyam said, "My family has suffered a lot. Only I know how much my mother has suffered. Ever since I went in, she worked as a coolie and raised my younger sister and made her study."
"There hasn't been a single day since I went to jail that my own mother, who gave birth to me, hasn't run around for justice. She had never set foot in a jail or a court. Just for me, she has done both for the past eight years," he added.
Satyam's mother, Mariyamma, who was also present, mumbled a few words about being reunited with her son again, before breaking down.
Satyam went on to say, "I was separated from her (his mother) for so many years. I can finally hold her hand again, and remember her touch. I will take care of my mother and my sister."
When asked about how he felt when he received the news, Satyam said, "For 5 to 10 minutes, I didn't know what to feel. My legs felt weak. Then I came to terms with it that I was finally going to be free."
Satyam also mentioned the support he had received from the residents of his village, Nandigama in Krishna District.
"Since my arrest, they did a lot of 'dharnas' in my village. They backed me completely, and helped me a lot. I express my heartfelt gratitude for their support," he said.
"Everyone knows what happened to me, and how justice was denied. I am very grateful to all those supported me. Today, justice has won, and god is on my side. I'm extremely happy," he said.
He added that there were other innocent people like him still imprisoned in the country, who also deserved to get justice.
Satyam was initially meant to be freed on Saturday morning.
However, the order copies with the HC's seal, which are necessary for his release, did not reach the prison by Saturday evening, as they were sent by post.
The prison authorities did allow Satyam's mother to meet him on Saturday in the visitor's room.
The Vijayawada police, however, is reportedly planning to challenge Satyam's acquittal in court.
When journalists reportedly asked Vijayawada Police Commissioner Gautham Sawang for his response to the acquittal, he said, "We are surprised at the High Court orders. We will initiate necessary legal action after receiving the judgement copy. I have no further comment."