Pune/Mumbai: Putting behind the torrid times since his conviction in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case, Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt on Thursday walked out a free man from the Yerawada Central prison in Pune after being granted remission in his five-year sentence.
A smile lighted his face as the 56-year-old actor, clad in a blue shirt and jeans, stepped out and walked briskly toward a waiting car outside the prison, waving to onlookers. Looking in good health, he enthusiastically carried in his hands a ‘khaki’ bag containing his belongings and a green coloured file that apparently contained his prison record.
A sense of dramatics crept in as he turned back and saluted the tricolour atop the prison building and bent to touch the soil in full media glare. Waiting for him inside the car were his wife Maanyata and friend and director Rajkumar Hirani as he drove to Pune airport to take an onward chartered flight to Mumbai.
Speaking to reporters outside the Pune airport, the actor quipped that “There is no easy walk to freedom my friends". Dutt was set free after completing prison formalities at around 8.45am and came out escorted by police which had tightened security in the area. He completed 42-months remaining of his five year sentence in Yerawada prison in Pune as he had already spent 18 months in Mumbai’s Arthur road jail as an undertrial.
Controversies continued to dog him for his leave of parole and furlough as his critics and detractors alleged that the actor had been given “special treatment" that led to his remission and a curtailed stay in prison. Before Dutt’s release this morning, a handful of protestors too had raised slogans in front of the prison protesting alleged the preferential treatment meted out to him by the authorities.
Prison authorities and his lawyers, however, refuted the allegations saying that his remission of 144 days and his parole leave was in accordance with jail manual and prescribed rules.
Later on, addressing the media after returning to his home in suburban Bandra in Mumbai, Dutt stated that he is not a terrorist and wants to leave behind the bitter memories of being convicted in connection with the 1993 serial blasts case. “I am not a terrorist. I have been acquitted of charges under TADA and conspiracy. The Supreme Court had also acquitted me under (IPC) section 120-B of conspiracy and TADA. I got the sentence under the Arms Act," the 56-year-old actor said, addressing the media after returning to his home in suburban Bandra in Mumbai.
“I request the media that whenever they write or mention anything about me, don’t write 1993 blasts case before my name... I’m not into it," Dutt said. The “Munnabhai" fame actor, who walked a free man on Thursday out of the prison, said, “For 23 years I have been waiting for this moment... for freedom. I did everything (followed the law). It’s a feeling that will take a while to sink in.
“I miss my father (Sunil Dutt) today. I wish he was alive to see this day...if he would have been (alive), he would have been the happiest person," he said. After landing in Mumbai, the 56-year-old actor visited the Siddhivinayak temple and his mother Nargis Dutt’s grave. “She (Dutt’s mother) passed away when we were very small. I went to seek her blessings as I am a free man today," he said.
When asked about justice P.D. Kode absolving him of the terror tag and conspiracy in the blasts case, he said, “The court had said I am not a terrorist. That was a big thing. I wish my father was alive to hear this. Even the Supreme Court had endorsed it." On the criticism over he being granted remission and the furloughs availed by him while serving the sentence, Dutt said, “It’s a misconception (that he got preferential treatment for leaves). It has nothing to do with me being a celebrity as I was also not allowed to do many things. May be, it (celebrity status) went against me."
When asked how was his last day in jail on Wednesday, the actor said he did not sleep and he even did not have food for the last four days. “I was like I will be out of jail...not come here again (jail)."