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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.

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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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Centre Succeeding in Effectively Neutralising Militants and Pro- Pak Elements in J&K

The dilemma for the government in Kashmir is that unless the externally aided trouble makers were rendered ineffective, they would continue to keep

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Militants, Pak, J&K
It is hoped the Centre and the state administration together are succeeding in effectively neutralising the militants and pro- Pak elements in J&K who had had a free run of the place earlier and who basically provided the raison detre for the Indian move. Pixabay

Prime Minister Modi once again spent Diwali with our Army Jawans in Jammu & Kashmir — at Rajauri — acknowledging the role of the army in keeping the threat of cross border terrorism in check and sending out the message that Kashmir was now fully integrated with the country. The abrogation of Art 370 by Indian Parliament on August 5 last, with a simultaneous clampdown on the assembly of people through out the state of J&K, has over these three months not altered the tenor of response from the world community that had shown, from India’s point of view, a considerable degree of understanding of the compelling reasons behind the move of the Modi regime.

There is, however, a gathering chorus of voices at home and abroad demanding expeditious return to normalcy of civil life in the state. It is hoped the Centre and the state administration together are succeeding in effectively neutralising the militants and pro- Pak elements in J&K who had had a free run of the place earlier and who basically provided the raison detre for the Indian move. The dilemma for the government in Kashmir is that unless the externally aided trouble makers were rendered ineffective, they would continue to keep the Kashmiris under a cloak of fear by carrying out stray acts of violence and prevent normalisation of business, educational and health-related activities.

It is not yet clear if the state administration and police — the collector and the station house officers in particular — had started reaching out to the people on the ground to build their morale as free citizens and get them to respond to the calibrated steps of the government to lift prohibitory orders. If local militants could still appear in mohallas and lanes to warn the people to do just their ‘minimal’ chores and not cooperate in the wider process of normalisation then it is evident that a lot more had to be done.

The army has to focus on eliminating the mujahideen, foreign or local, but the state administration must fulfil its primary responsibility of helping the citizens to feel normal about running their lives. Illicit guns and explosives had to be neutralised through sustained flow of Intelligence from below — the state Intelligence machinery had to produce more. If Pak agents had to be rounded up even in hundreds and moved out of the state, if necessary, this would be an acceptable part of the process of restoring normalcy. It is the detention of political leaders of the Valley, however, that has led the Human Rights advocates to set off the false narrative of ‘suppression of the people’. The government could consider progressively setting them free of any restraint on the condition that they would not indulge in ‘political activity’ — as mandated by the Supreme Court itself. Senior officers of the state should make this position clear to the leaders of the Valley parties and should let the country know about the reasonableness of the government stand.

Militants, Pak, J&K
There is, however, a gathering chorus of voices at home and abroad demanding expeditious return to normalcy of civil life in the state. Pixabay

The handling of the Kashmir situation has a macro perspective and a more important micro dimension — the former has worked out extremely well but the latter is the ongoing challenge facing the state administration. The district headquarter should become the fulcrum of development and people’s security. Every member of the state set-up must be made to understand that ‘security for all’ required a ‘contribution from all’ by way of those in the government acting as the eyes and ears of the democratic state against the doings of anti-national elements. The current state of affairs in J&K arose because the corrupt leaders of Valley parties remained silent over the launch of Kashmir Jehad by Pak ISI, colluded with separatists to stay in power and ignored the agents of Pakistan who organised civic disturbances to destabilise the state.

These leaders never asserted that Kashmir was not a ‘Muslim’ issue — a claim made by Pakistan — since the integral state was home to Hindus, Buddhists and Christians in large numbers. They deliberately brought in Pakistan as a factor in the democratic internal governance of the state simply because this helped to divert attention from their misrule and corruption. Now, under the LG regime, development should be taken to the people and deeper enquiries should be made into the disproportionate assets acquired by the local political leaders, in appropriate cases. Normalcy will return to J&K when its administration will come into full play and the state would be seen as being governed from Srinagar, not Delhi.

As mentioned earlier, India’s security and foreign policies have held well in the context of Kashmir — the Oct 22 proceedings of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs proving it as much. American acting assistant secretary for South and Central Asian affairs, Alice Wells, told the committee that the US supported the Indian government’s stated objectives for scrapping the special status of J&K — thus affirming that the development was an internal matter of India — and went on record to make it clear that while a dialogue between India and Pakistan was the most effective way of reducing bilateral tensions this was contingent on Islamabad taking ‘sustained and irreversible steps’ against terrorists on its soil. This coordinates with India’s policy stand that ‘terror and talks could not go together’ and turns Pakistan’s plea that terrorists were ‘non state actors’ on its head by questioning that country’s failure to chase the militant outfits out of their safe havens, if indeed they did not enjoy any state patronage.

The US concerns for an early return of the Kashmiris to normal day-to-day life represent the objective of India too — the world community has to be kept updated on the efforts being made by the state and central governments to facilitate that process. Visibility of improvement can be demonstrated in many ways. The decision of the Centre to allow a group of 23 members of European Parliament coming to Delhi to make a trip to J&K counts for this — the visiting dignitaries expressed full support for India’s fight against terror. Militants, meanwhile, made some stray attacks on non-Kashmiri labour working in the state — not surprising, considering that the latter are soft targets.

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India has finally succeeded in getting the world to acknowledge that Pakistan’s incessant attempts to use cross-border terrorism in Kashmir to keep the pot boiling there was what had forced the hands of the Modi regime to abrogate Art 370 and take charge of the security and development of J&K as a state of India. Time has come for India to specify the dangerous character of Pak-sponsored terror that relied for motivation not on ideology or an ethnic assertion but on commitment to ‘faith’ and to impress upon the entire democratic world that the revanchist call of Jehad, which had the potential of producing suicide bombers as an instrument of war, could make the world an unsafe place for a long time to come.

This is the threat of a new kind of terror arising out of the Muslim world and it is necessary to have it countered by way of a declaration of OIC that resort to Jehad was not a legitimate way of solving political disputes in today’s world. Unlike a country like the US, India, that houses the second largest Muslim population in the world, is particularly vulnerable to this danger since Pakistan has made Kashmir Jehad a declared war cry against India and is now determined to infiltrate Islamic militants through Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka routes. Internal security in India has to watch out against the influences of radicalisation and extend the outreach to concerned families to ward these off. Indian diplomacy must talk of the faith-based terror that the world was being exposed to and mobilise international opinion against it. A grave threat to our national security need not be couched in ambiguous terms for reasons of the need for diplomacy to be ‘politically correct’ always. India can use the dialogue of think-tanks to firm up the opinion of democratic countries against the enlarging threat of what is clearly an Islam-based terror. (IANS)