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Rising State-Sponsored Terror, The History of Abduction in J&K

Several national and international organisations issued appeals to Al-Faran to release the tourists. Representatives of the embassies of the victims' countries also visited Kashmir frequently to seek their release, without success.

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The kidnappers demanded the release of Pakistani militant Maulana Masood Azhar who had been imprisoned by India and 20 other prisoners. Pixabay

Considering the threat percept to India’s crown jewel – Jammu & Kashmir – India’s deep state knows its intensity and while it has developed responses, how does one deal with a fidayeen who is ready to die? State-sponsored terror now dovetailed with rising levels of local militancy are taking their toll on Indian security forces, asymmetrical warfare bleeding us through the famed military doctrine of death by a thousand cuts stratagem.

While this may have paid handsome dividends to ISI C Wing and the Jihadi complex that it nurtures, Kashmir Valley was thrown into chaos with a different tactic in the winter of 1989. The template was abduction and it paid handsome dividends.

Terroism/militancy/extremism was birthed out of this strategy. Since then the game plan has been changed repeatedly with great felicity and precision. The play list has seen many signature moves like the round of ethnic cleansing where well-known Kashmiri Pandits were systematically gunned down as ethnocentrism came centre-stage in Kashmir. For brutalising the psyche of the minority Hindu community to stampede them out of their home and hearth in the Valley, instilling the fear factor through a combination of kidnappings and race extermination — the power of the gun was unleashed.

The bleed India strategy has been predicated on keeping the pot boiling as nearly 700,000 Indian troops and paramilitary forces are at hyper vigil in Kashmir at very low cost to Pakistan, ensuring enormous expenditure to keep our military and polity bogged down.

Rewind to December 8, 1989, after much tumult and controversy with a V.P. Singh National Front government recently in place, a tumultuous event takes place. Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s daughter Rubaiya is abducted by JKLF militants and the world is turned upside down. Top erstwhile Jan Morcha leaders arrive at the house of Sayeed, where he is inconsolable as Arun Nehru, Arif Mohammad Khan and Satya Pal Malik (now Governor of J&K) are trying to convince him to appear on the national television to say that she is the nation’s daughter and it’s imperative that she be set free.

But a tearful Sayeed has lost all reason to think, overcome by extreme emotion, for obvious reasons. He refuses to do anything – stunned and struck by inertia.

Just six days earlier Mufti Saheb had taken oath as the first Kashmiri Muslim Home Minister in V.P. Singh’s government. At the same time, JKLF’s Asfaq Majid Wani wanted to do something spectacular in Kashmir Valley. His charter was to kick-start the “revolution” and he didn’t know where to begin.

Watching the oath-taking of Mufti Saheb, he thought of an audacious PLO-type of plan to rattle the newly formed government. The original plot, conceived by Wani, was to kidnap Mufti’s son, reportedly a doctor in Lal Ded hospital. But once recces were carried out, the son turned out to be a daughter – Dr Rubaiya Sayeed. As she finished her shift and left for home around 3 p.m. on December 8 boarding a bus at Exhibition Crossing, JKLF militants took over the bus with Wani and others following in a car.

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A note released by the kidnappers a day after the kidnappings read, “Accept our demands or face dire consequences. We are fighting against anti-Islamic forces. Western countries are anti-Islam, and America is the biggest enemy of Islam.” Pixabay

Around 5.30 p.m., JKLF top brass Javed Mir called up ‘Kashmir Times’ and relayed the news of abduction of the Union Home Minister’s daughter. All hell broke loose, with phones ringing non-stop in the Valley and Delhi. The triumph of V.P. Singh slaying Rajiv Gandhi was lost in translation as panic gripped the security mavens.

After 122 hours in captivity, against the wishes of then J&K Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, five top separatists were released for Rubaiya. It became a watershed moment for Kashmiris as they brought India to its knees.

Since then the trajectory in Kashmir has been southwards.

One would think that the next big play was the hijacking of IC 814, taking it to Kandahar and securing the release of Maulana Masood Azhar, but then we are missing the wood for the trees.

The swapping of three militants for 155 hostages of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane was not the first incident of its kind after Rubaiya Sayeed’s kidnapping in 1989, but one of several high-profile kidnappings which have gone unnoticed. Following the Rubaiya playbook, innumerable abductions took place and the release of many militants took place. The period between December 1989 and January 1992 saw frenetic abductions.

Prominent among them was the abduction of Tassaduq Dev, brother-in-law of then Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad by Al Umar Mujahideen in January 1992. Three jailed activists of Al Umar were set free in exchange for Dev’s release on January 17. Before this came the abduction of Nahida Soz, daughter of then National Conference MP Saifuddin Soz, by Jammu and Kashmir Students Liberation Front (JKSLF) in August 1991. Nahida was released when the government set free a Pakistan-trained hard-core militant, Mushtaq Ahmed.

Indian Oil Corporation Executive Director K. Dorraiswamy was abducted by activists of Ikhwan-Ul Muslimeen in Srinagar on July 29, 1991. His release on August 21 was possible when the government set free six militants. The released militants, included Javed Shalla, main accused in the kidnap and murder cases of Kashmir University Vice-Chancellor Mushir-Ul Haq and HMT General Manager H.L. Khera in 1990. Seven more militants were set free to seek the release of Mir Nassar Ullah, son of former J&K Minister G.M. Mir Lasjan, A.K. Dhar, scientist and T.K. Raina, retired Deputy Commissioner, abducted in March 1992.

There have been many other such instances – kidnappings of Dr Mustafa Aslam, son-in-law of then PCC President Ghulam Rasool Kar (February 24, 1992), Fayaz Ahmed Sheikh, son of then Additional Chief Secretary Sheikh Ghulam Rasool (March 21, 1992) and Ghulam Hassan Zia, assistant station director of AIR (April 1992). It is not known how the Government made their release possible.

Similarly, Allah Tigers militant outfit abducted former Member of Legislative Council (MLC) Habib-Ullah Bhat on March 2, 1992 and released him a month later on April 3. The number of militants, if any, set free in exchange for his release is not known. Likewise, J&K Bank chairman M.S. Qureshi was abducted on June 28, 1992 and later released unconditionally.

The Rubaiya Sayeed case had set a precedent for kidnappings for seeking release of jailed militants. According to government statistics, the state witnessed an upsurge in abductions after Rubaiya’s kidnapping. While only one kidnapping, that of Rubaiya, was reported in 1989, 169 abductions were reported in 1990, 290 in 1991, 281 in 1992, 349 in 1993 and 368 in 1995. It virtually became a cottage industry.

Incidentally, in one of these kidnapping cases, no militant was released for seeking release of Kashmir University Vice-Chancellor Mushir-Ul Haq and HMT GM H.L. Khera in 1990. They were killed by the captors.

In a first, six Western tourists were kidnapped by Al-Faran, an Islamist militant organisation from the Liddarwat area of Pahalgam in the Anantnag district on July 4, 1995. The government refused to succumb to their demands. The six victims included two British tourists, Keith Mangan (from Middlesbrough) and Paul Wells; two Americans, John Childs of Simsbury, Connecticut, and Donald Hutchings of Spokane, Washington; a German, Dirk Hasert; and a Norwegian, Hans Christian Ostr�. Mangan’s and Hutchings’ wives were left behind by the kidnappers as their husbands were abducted.

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After 122 hours in captivity, against the wishes of then J&K Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, five top separatists were released for Rubaiya. It became a watershed moment for Kashmiris as they brought India to its knees. Pixabay

A note released by the kidnappers a day after the kidnappings read, “Accept our demands or face dire consequences. We are fighting against anti-Islamic forces. Western countries are anti-Islam, and America is the biggest enemy of Islam.” Childs managed to escape and was rescued four days later. Ostr� was beheaded by his abductors and his body was found near Pahalgam on August 13, 1995. His body was taken to AIIMS, New Delhi, where a postmortem was conducted by Professor T.D. Dogra, who established the beheading as ante mortem and reported that the words ‘Al Faran’ were carved onto his chest.

The kidnappers demanded the release of Pakistani militant Maulana Masood Azhar who had been imprisoned by India and 20 other prisoners.

Several national and international organisations issued appeals to Al-Faran to release the tourists. Representatives of the embassies of the victims’ countries also visited Kashmir frequently to seek their release, without success.

Also Read: Guidelines For Filing Conflict Complaints, BCCI Comes Up With Its List Of Ethics And Regulations

In December 1995, the kidnappers left a note that they were no longer holding the men hostage. Mangan, Wells, Hutchings, and Hasert have never been found and are presumed to have been killed. In May 1996, a captured militant told Indian investigators and FBI agents that he had heard that all four hostages had been shot dead on December 13, 1995, nine days after an Indian military ambush that killed four of the original hostage-takers, including the man said to have been leading them, Abdul Hamid Turki.

Journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark claim, however, in their book ‘The Meadow’, that the remaining hostages were sold from Al-Faran to Ghulam Nabi Mir, also known as Azad Nabi, who held them for months before shooting them dead on December 24, 1995. (IANS)

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Find Out How Radicalisation Affects Security of the Nation

De-radicalisation is the new call of security

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Faith-based radicalisation as distinct from ideological or ethnicity-based motivation behind militancy, is at the root of the new global terror. Lifetime Stock

BY D.C. PATHAK

Faith-based radicalisation as distinct from ideological or ethnicity-based motivation behind militancy, is at the root of the new global terror of our times that has unfortunately got linked with the so-called ‘Islamic world’. In the Indian context, this threat had overtaken the challenge the state faced in the Naxalite belt or the North East. Invoking the war cry of Jehad — a mandate of Quran to the faithful to fight for the defence of Islam and the Ummah in danger, till the last breath — has been used in a facile way by many Ulema and the leaders of the community who were striving to retain their political power.

Socio-political and economic grievances have been turned into a cause for Jehad — a ‘win win situation’ painted by its protagonists coming in handy for them to recruit the young for this ‘war cry’ in Kashmir and elsewhere. In any insurgency or militant movement, youth — for reasons of their vulnerability to indoctrination and loyalty to their leaders — tend to be on the forefront with a degree of daring that often made the task of bringing them back to the path of normalcy difficult.

In the Valley many of them got into a role of collaboration with the Pak terrorists infiltrated from across the LoC making counter-terror operations more arduous. Radicalisation of youth, that led them to a blind acceptance of Jehad, is a known project of Pak ISI and its proxies in India engaged in an ongoing ‘proxy war’ against this country. What should cause concern is their determined bid to exploit the ‘Minority issues’ here. The environ created by the anti-CAA stir, with its no-holds-barred communal propaganda, must be receiving the closest attention of our national security set-up.

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In the Indian context, this threat of radicalisation had overtaken the challenge the state faced in the Naxalite belt or the North East. Wikimedia Commons

Radicalisation is now a serious long-range threat to India’s security because Pakistan is unabashed about giving safe haven on its soil to terror outfits having linkages across the spectrum of Islam and is determined to use all clandestine channels available to it, in Kashmir and elsewhere, to radicalise local youth including teenagers. Pakistan wants the sleeper cells of terror recruits to support the covert offensive of the Mujahideen infiltrated from across the LoC in the Valley or sent in clandestinely to other parts of the country. De-radicalisation of misguided youth has, therefore, emerged as a prime strategy for India’s counter- terror effort.

Our security forces, led by the army, have to continue eliminating terrorists in Intelligence-based operations. However, apart from the hardened local militants, who accompanied the foreign Mujahideen and ran the risk of getting targeted in such operations, there could be some youth in varying stage of radicalisation falling into the hands of the army personnel. It should be feasible for the civil administration to take them on for a non- coercive programme of ‘corrective education’ — using the outreach to the families wherever possible — for getting them back on the constructive path. It may be mentioned that the army has evolved the practice of running health camps and other outreach programmes to build an image of friendliness towards law abiding citizens in the affected areas of Kashmir. This should strengthen the above endeavour of the government.

De-radicalisation initiatives are, however, greatly dependent on the capacity of the entire administration, including the police, to act as the eyes and ears of the state to detect youth who were vulnerable to radicalisation attempts of the adversary. Many of the identified stone pelters of Kashmir would need this approach of a corrective response. As part of a de-radicalisation educational programme, there may be incentives from the government for mainstreaming the youngsters by way of exploring the means of fixing them in jobs, facilitating their entry into a higher study programme or rendering a much needed financial help to their family.

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Radicalisation is now a serious long-range threat to India’s security because Pakistan is unabashed about giving safe haven. Wikimedia Commons

Any programme of reeducating the ‘radicalised’ elements through interactions would call for the right content that highlights the value system of a democratic society, importance of religion as a source of social unity and advancement of peace, opposition to political misuse of freedom of religion and so on. Competent communicators should be able to bring out how all religions believe in one God though they may call Him by their own names, explain that religion is a matter of individual faith and point out that it was an important contributor of good social conduct involving respect for another person’s faith. Importance of showing reverence for symbols of the nation, considering national identity as the source of unity of all citizens and appreciating the greatness of democracy based on ‘one man one vote’ that worked for development of all and equal protection of law to all, has to be put across convincingly.

A clear message should be delivered to the youth that any indulgence in public violence under the misguiding influence of someone else can permanently damage the career for the life and that it was never too late to abandon the path of disruption and return to the sensible course of putting forth one’s demands in a peaceful manner. In the context of Kashmir, it should be explained that post-370, the Centre had taken full responsibility for the development and protection of all the people of J&K as one state without discrimination between Valley and the Jammu region, that the state had suffered because of the corruption of the Valley parties who encouraged separatism for their own political gains and that Kashmiris will now see better opportunities of growth throughout India and will also be better protected against Pak-sponsored terror.

Also Read- CAA, NCR and NPR: Result of India-Pakistan Partition

At the same time, it is extremely important that the security & intelligence set-up of the centre and the state identify the preachers and the hidden masterminds — within India and abroad — furthering the enemy’s agenda and take them on legally and operationally. Equally vital is to scan the social media channels and websites used by the enemy agents to reach out to the targets for trapping them for recruitment in sleeper cells for terror activity. A lot is being done in this direction but data collection and analytics for fixing the originators of the activity need an ongoing consolidation. Our intelligence set-up would, of course, use the tradecraft to gain access to the adversary’s network getting over the ‘community’ barriers if any — infiltration through ‘plants’ is successfully achieved by many agencies of the West. (IANS)