As Kashmir witnesses its biggest ever crackdown against radical separatists, it is only after years that separatist leader Yasin Malik has not only been arrested but also slapped with the Public Safety Act (PSA) and sent to Kot Balwal Jail in Jammu.
Yasin Malik isn’t like any other separatist or Hurriyat leader in Kashmir. He has taken the Indian government for a ride for three long decades.
In the process, not only has India forgotten his crimes against humanity, but Yasin Malik has called himself a 'Gandhian' and has been supported by human rights activists in New Delhi, who have depicted him as a revolutionary. Thus, the mainstreaming of a separatist was complete, without him having any fear of the law, judiciary or the CBI.
25 Jan 1990 Attack on IAF Personnel at Rawalpora
Three decades ago, in those weeks of 1989-90, Pakistan-sponsored terror had come knocking on the doors of the relatively peaceful Valley. The forced exodus of Kashmiri Pandits had already begun, with targeted killings of prominent Kashmiri Pandits and dire warnings from the local masjid loudspeakers simultaneously across the Valley, giving birth to a fear psychosis.
But 25 January 1990 was chilling in more ways than one. At least fourteen officers of the Indian Air Force (IAF) stood at a bus stop in Rawalpora chowk around 7:30 AM, waiting for an IAF bus to ferry them to the adjacent airport which wasn’t very far from the Air Force base in Budgam.
Even before the bus could arrive, a Maruti Gypsy, along with a bike, halted at the bus stop with a screeching sound. Before anyone could notice, five men with AK-47s and a pistol fired several bullets at the unarmed IAF men.
While all 14 fell to the ground immediately, unable to fight back the ambush, four IAF men died on the spot. The fallen IAF men were Squadron Leader Ravi Khanna, Corporal DB Singh, Corporal Uday Shankar and Airman Ajad Ahmed. The attack also killed two local Kashmiri women who were waiting at the bus stop. Eyewitnesses later revealed that the Gypsy and the bike took rounds around the IAF men who were lying in a pool of blood, and screamed and danced raising pro-jihadi slogans.
Initial investigations also revealed that a police picket with eight armed cops led by a head constable were metres away from the spot of the attack, and yet failed to avert it, or respond to the situation.
The five militants who conspired and finally unfolded the cold-blooded murder were from the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), led by a frail man with a squint, namely, Yasin Malik.
Yasin Malik’s Trajectory & Lack of Remorse
Malik, who began his career as a polling agent of Yusuf Shah alias Syed Salahuddin (later chief of terror group Hizbul Mujahideen) in 1987, crossed over to Pakistan illegally in 1988 with the help of ISI for arms training, and gave birth to the armed JKLF. While their aim was to shoot at sight anything remotely Indian, largely, the main targets for them remained Indian security forces and Kashmiri Pandits.
Exactly 12 years after murder of the 4 IAF men, Yasin Malik entered the BBC studios in London for an interview with the famous Tim Sebastian on his popular show ‘Hard Talk’.
Malik, by this time, had turned into a so-called 'Gandhian'. Babus in the North Block thought of Malik as a means for a 'political dialogue' in Kashmir, which they would regret years later.
Tim Sebastian, in his usual style, began grilling Yasin Malik on the killings he undertook during the days he held the gun for 'political messaging'. In the next 23 minutes of the interview, not only did Malik confess to killing several armed and unarmed people in Kashmir, but smiled unashamed when asked about the killing of the four IAF men, adding that JKLF indeed had claimed responsibility for the killing and he wasn't apologetic about it at all. Malik also confessed to killing a Kashmiri Pandit judge named Justice Neelkanth Ganju.
Yasin Malik’s Impunity
While the killings sent shock waves across Jammu & Kashmir, the state was already bearing the brunt of the mass exodus of Pandits and gradual lawlessness, with killings continuing unabated. Malik had already sent a strong signal in December 1989, by kidnapping Rubaiya Saeed, daughter of the then Home Minister of India Mufti Mohammad Saeed.
As the Home Ministry in Delhi went into a tizzy, JKLF only set her free days later, in exchange for the release of five dreaded terrorists.
In May 2017, sitting inside an old dilapidated building of Pattan in North Kashmir, I met Abdul Rashid Lone, an ex-commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen who now ran a normal life to feed his three young daughters. “From JKLF in 1990 I knew Yasin Malik. Even Bitta Karate and Javed Mir,” Lone told me, adding that, “these guys were commanders and mainly targeted the security forces and Pandits. Today they have big offices and receive regular money. I really wonder why the government never arrests Yasin Malik for good and convicts him like they did to us!”
The ‘Yasin Malik Case’ Reveals Failure of Kashmir Policy
Today, however, the CBI seems to have woken up from deep slumber. It seems that someone in the top security apparatus of the country has realised the consequences of giving Yasin Malik a long rope. While CBI has reached the J&K High Court to reopen this case for trial after 30 long years, Gita Mittal, Chief Justice of J&K High Court will hear objections from Yasin Malik to transfer the case to Jammu, on March 11.
The fact that a militant was able to scuttle multiple counts of murder and a kidnapping case for three long decades, reveals the complete and horrific policy failure of the Indian government in Jammu & Kashmir over the years.
What message does it send to an educated youth in Kashmir who is brainwashed in the name of jihad to pick up the gun? How can we even curb radicalisation when a militant roams free in the Valley and is now worshipped as a so-called “revolutionary”?
(Aditya Raj Kaul has a decade long experience in covering conflict, internal security and foreign policy for various national media outlets. He tweets at @AdityaRajKaul. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
. Read more on Opinion by The Quint.RSS & BJP’s Nehru-Netaji ‘Cosplay’: Irony Dies a Thousand DeathsWhy 2-Phase Poll in Karnataka May Not Help Any Party in Particular . Read more on Opinion by The Quint.