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The abduction of Rubaiya Saeed: This is the image that eventually paved the way for Kashmir to descend into chaos

Mehbooba Mufti had even demanded that Yasin Malik be released immediately, citing concerns over his health conditions. Normally, people don't speak out in favour of someone who had been involved with their sister's kidnapping in the past.

The Kashmiri Pandit genocide occurred in 1990 but the seed for it was sown the previous year. A shameful incident in history when the Indian State capitulated to Islamic terrorists, it set the tone for what was to come. It began on the fateful day of the 8th of December, 1989 when Rubaiya Saeed, the daughter of Mufti Mohammad Saeed and the sister of Mehbooba Mufti, was kidnapped by terrorists.

The incident occurred only five days after Saeed was appointed the Union Home Minister. Rubaiya was on her way home from Lal Ded Memorial Women’s Hospital where was working as a medical intern when she was kidnapped by terrorists associated with Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front. She was 23 years old at the time.

The terrorists demanded that five of their imprisoned comrades be freed by the Indian government. They claimed that unless their demands were met, Saeed will not see her daughter ever again. Thus, negotiations began between the Central government and the terrorists.

Farooq Abdullah, the then Chief Minister of the state, was totally against the idea. He believed that the terrorists will not dare harm Rubaiya as they will otherwise risk alienating public support. The Central Government, quite clearly, had other plans. After the entire saga was over, Abdullah had even claimed that he was threatened that his government would be sacked if the terrorists were not freed.

Negotiations were carried out over the next few days. On the 13th of December, two Union Cabinet Ministers, IK Gujral, and Arif Mohammad Khan landed in Srinagar with the Prime Minister’s orders to release Abdul Hamid Sheikh, Sher Khan (a Pakistani), Noor Mohammad Kalwal, Altaf Ahmed and Javed Ahmed Jargar. They were released the same day. A couple of hours later, Rubaiya was back home with her family.

Jargar later went on to carry out the hijacking of IC-184 plane in December 1999 which eventually saw the release of Masood Azhar. Masood Azhar heads the terror organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed.

The valley was in a celebratory mood, not because Rubaiya returned home safely unharmed but because of the release of the terrorists. Farooq Abdullah had warned that releasing these terrorists would open floodgates. It seems weird but looking back, it appears Abdullah was the only one in his senses.

Years later, JKLF Vice-Chairman Javed Mir admitted that he had carried out the kidnapping. Yasin Malik and Ashfaq Wani were also involved in the operation, he said. The abduction had followed months of careful planning.

As was predicted, militancy increased exponentially following the release of the dreaded terrorists. Soon after, the genocide of Kashmiri Hindus came to pass. There were several troubling details about the whole affair that have given rise to numerous theories to explain what actually transpired.

It appears bewildering that the daughter of a Union Home Minister was kidnapped by terrorists so easily. The timing of the incident was also extremely suspicious. It occurred only five days after the appointment of Saeed as Home Minister in the Central Cabinet. Saeed himself had an extremely chequered past. He was believed to have engineered communal riots in Anantnag for his political objectives.

Interestingly, in the now infamous state elections of 1987 which is widely considered by many to have further exacerbated the Kashmir problem, Saeed had allegedly campaigned for the Muslim United Front (MUF) which was contesting against the alliance of Congress and Abdullah’s National Conference despite being a senior Congress member himself.

Yasin Malik had been the election manager of MUF leader Muhammad Yusuf Shah who went to call himself Syed Salahuddin and head the terror outfit Hizbul Mujahideen. Thus, the fact that two years later, Yasin Malik was involved in the abduction of Saeed’s daughter does raise some eyebrows. Furthermore, Saeed had never once objected to the release of terrorists if reports are to be believed.

Abdullah had also claimed that Saeed ensured the release of the terrorists which “hastened my resignation from the office of Chief Ministership.” Thus, it appears Saeed’s daughter was abducted by people he had worked closely with two years prior. That too only five days after he became the Union Home Minister. Furthermore, his ambition to become the Chief Minister of the state was widely known and Abdullah was an obstacle in his path.

The animosity between Abdullah and Saeed, too, is well recorded. Moreover, while Abdullah strongly objected to the release of the terrorists, Saeed did not on any occasion register his hesitation. Understandably, the life of his daughter was on the line, however, circumstances were mysterious enough to raise valid suspicions.

Even after knowledge of Yasin Malik’s involvement in the abduction of Rubaiya became evident, it doesn’t appear to have affected the relationship between him and the Saeed family. For instance, in February this year, Mehbooba Mufti had vocally objected to the arrest of Yasin Malik among other separatist leaders.

Mufti had even demanded that Yasin Malik be released immediately claiming that he was unwell. Normally, people don’t speak out in favour of someone who had been involved in their sister’s kidnapping in the past. But when it comes to politicians in Kashmir, it often becomes difficult to tell when family love merges with separatist sentiments and when separatist narratives gradually transform into radical Islamist ideology that calls for a Ghazwa-e-Hind.

Ordinary people generally find it difficult to be friends with someone who abducted and threatened to murder their sister but then, politicians appear to be made of a different moral fiber. It’s quite evident from how BSP supremo Mayawati allied with Mulayam Singh’s party even after being physically assaulted and allegedly molested by Samajwadi party members years ago.

We can only speculate about what happened and make educated guesses about the motivations of the key players involved. The political rivalry between Abdullah and Saeed cannot be ignored. The failure of state and central leadership in providing protection to Hindus while directly or indirectly helping secessionists and Islamists has been a major reason for the mess that Jammu and Kashmir is in today. Another aspect of Kashmir that has become evident is the fact that the political fraternity is too intricately connected with terrorists for the central leadership in Delhi to ever be comfortable.

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K Bhattacharjee
Black Coffee Enthusiast. Post Graduate in Psychology. Bengali.

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