A Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader admitted that when the outfit kidnapped Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of the then Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, in 1989, they would have let her go even if their demand — the release of five militants in exchange — had not been met. The JKLF’s main intention had been to draw attention to the “Kashmir problem”.
Rubaiya Sayeed, a medico, was kidnapped on December 8, 1989, days after her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed became home minister in the V.P. Singh government. She was released on December 13 in exchange for the freedom of five JKLF militants. The event was termed a watershed for militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. The Centre’s policy of bowing to the demands of militants was repeated in December 1999 when three terrorists were released in exchange for the safety of passengers of a hijacked Indian Airlines flight.
“The primary objective of kidnapping Rubaiya Sayeed was to give a fillip to our movement and draw world attention to the Kashmir problem,” Javed Ahmad Mir, JKLF commander-in-chief in the early 1990s, told a local TV channel in Srinagar on Friday. “And our purpose was achieved as journalists descended from all over the world when Rubaiya was in our captivity.”
Javed Mir told the interviewer on Take One’s Face to face programme: “We had no intention of keeping her in captivity for a long period or harming her. And we were aware that the abduction of a lady would come in for a sharp criticism.” Mir agreed with the interviewer that the release of the five militants began a new chapter in the militancy in Kashmir. The state government was pressurised by the then Central government, and two ministers — I.K. Gujral and Arif Khan — had descended onto Srinagar to get the deal worked out despite stiff opposition from the then Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah.
Mir, who was among the first people to cross the border for training and was one of the JKLF’s top leaders, revealed that the outfit was constituted at the behest of Pakistan’s military ruler Zia-ul-Haq in 1988, who felt a slogan about ‘freedom’ would have better international appeal than ‘accession to Pakistan’. “Earlier, we all used to take part in pro-Pakistan demonstrations. But they (Pakistanis) wanted us to become champions of azadi (freedom), which we obeyed,” said Mir.
This is the first time a JKLF leader has talked candidly about the kidnapping. In a newspaper interview during his time as chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had admitted that he had behaved like a father, rather than a Home Minister.