Rubaiya Sayeed, the daughter of former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Friday identified Yasin Malik, the jailed Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief, and three others as her abductors in a 1989 kidnapping case. This was Rubaiya’s first appearance before a Special TADA court that had summoned her as a prosecution witness to record her statement.
Malik is currently undergoing a life sentence at Delhi’s Tihar jail after being convicted in a terror funding case in May.
On December 8, 1989, Rubaiya was abducted from a mini-bus in Srinagar, when she was returning home from the Lal Ded Memorial Hospital where she was a medical intern.
Just six days before the incident, her father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, had been sworn-in as the Union Home Minister in the V P Singh government.
The bus, in which Rubaiya was travelling, was intercepted by four armed men, a few hundred meters from Mufti’s residence at Nowgam on the outskirts of Srinagar city.
She was shifted to a car and whisked away to an undisclosed location. Hours later, the JKLF – then headed by Ishfaq Majeed Wani – claimed responsibility for the abduction in a call to a local newspaper.
Rubaiya, then 23, had been abducted by the militants to seek the release of five JKLF militants from the prison — Abdul Hameed Sheikh (Wani’s deputy), Ghulam Nabi Bhat (brother of JKLF founder Maqbool Bhat), Noor Mohammad Kalwal, Mohammad Altaf and Javed Ahmad Zargar.
Talks for release
In the wake of the abduction, then J&K CM Farooq Abdullah rushed back after cutting short his London visit. Meantime, senior official from the Centre, including the then IB chief, were sent to Srinagar to start negotiations with the JKLF through a local journalist.
Five days after the abduction, on December 13, 1989, two Union ministers in the Janata Dal government — Inder Kumar Gujral and Arif Mohammad Khan – were alo sent to the Valley.
Finally, a deal was struck and five JKLF militants were freed. A few hours later, Rubaiya too was released after spending five days in captivity.
The political tussle
Reports at that time attributed the delay in Rubaiya’s release to Farooq Abdullah’s reluctance to release the jailed militants. A decade later, Abdullah confirmed that he was against the swap, adding that the Centre had even threatened to sack him.
“A senior minister in V P Singh Cabinet specially flew to Srinagar with the threat. I didn’t deter from my stand and refused to release any militant…Mufti Sayeed, however, ensured that the militants were released which hastened my resignation from the office of Chief Minister,” Abdullah said on February 14, 2000.
Thirty-seven days after Rubaiya’s release, Abdullah resigned as CM soon after Jagmohan was appointed as J&K Governor. Abdullah saw Mufti’s hand in the new appointment to the Governor’s office.
The release of five JKLF men from jail was seen as a watershed moment in Kashmir’s militancy.
The massive victory procession in old Srinagar city to celebrate the release of JKLF militants was for the first time local people were seen expressing support for militancy.
The abduction and its successful outcome for militants triggered a series of kidnappings.
Those abducted in the aftermath included the Vice Chancellor of Kashmir University Professor Mashir-ul-Haq, his personal secretary Abdul Gani and General Manager of Hindustan Machine Tools (HMT) H L Khera. However, all three were killed by their abductors as the government turned down their demands for release of militants. Indian Oil Executive Director K Doraiswamy was also among those abducted, but was set free after nearly two months in a swap involving nine militants.
The present case
A case regarding Rubaiya Sayeed’s abduction was first registered at Srinagar’s Sadar Police station on December 8, 1989 under Section 364 of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), Section 3 of TADA and Section 3/25 of the Arms Act. The CBI took over the investigation in the early 1990s.
In January last year, the court had framed charges against 10, including Malik, in the abduction case.
Besides the four — Malik, Zaman Mir, Mehraj-ud-Din Sheikh and Manzoor Ahmed Sofi — identified by Rubaiya on Friday, the others are: Ali Mohammad Mir, Iqbal Ahmad Gandroo, Javed Ahmad Mir alias Nalka, Mohammad Rafiq Pahloo alias Nana Ji alias Saleem, Wajahat Bashir and Showkat Ahmad Bakshi.