As many as 31 years after the kidnapping of the then Home Minister of India, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s daughter, Dr Rubiaya Sayeed, a special court in Jammu on Monday ordered framing of charges against the detained JKLF chairman Yasin Malik and nine of his associates.
Rubaiya Sayeed was kidnapped by the JKLF militants on December 8, 1989, days after Mufti was inducted as Home Minister in Prime Minister VP Singh’s government, while she was returning to her Nowgam, Srinagar, residence from Lal Ded Hospital by a minibus.
The investigation was assigned to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in 1990. The CBI submitted challan in the designated court for the cases under Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act in the same year. However, all the accused persons detained by the police were subsequently released on bail by different courts and the trial did not start for over 29 years.
Special Judge TADA Jammu, Sunit Gupta, on Monday ordered framing of charges against the detained JKLF chairman Yasin Malik and his associates namely Ali Mohammad Mir, Mohammad Zaman Mir, Iqbal Ahmad Gandroo, Javed Ahmad Mir, Mohd Rafiq Pahloo, Manzoor Ahmed Sofi, Wajahat Bashir, Mehraj-ud-Din Sheikh and Showkat Ahmad Bakshi.
Before turning to politics in 1994, Malik acted as ‘chief commander’ of the outlawed JKLF while Javed Mir became ‘chief commander’ after Malik’s arrest in August 1990. Showkat Bakhshi functioned as ‘district commander’ for Srinagar.
Claiming responsibility of Rubaiya Sayeed’s kidnapping at the time, JKLF had demanded release of a number of its militants. After days of negotiations, in which former Allahabad High Court judge and Mufti’s friend Moti Lal Bhat and several others participated, Farooq Abdullah’s government was forced to release 5 top militants. Their release was celebrated as ‘victory against India’ in the valley which plunged into euphoria, leading to thousands of youths picking arms.
After hearing arguments from CBI’s public prosecutor Vijay Kumar Dogra and the defence counsels Mohammad Aslam Goni and Yogesh Bakshi, the court observed: “during the pendency of charge sheet the accused persons namely Javed Ahmed Mir alias Nalka and Nanaji alias Salim alias Rafi Pahloo were apprehended and put to trial before this court. Rest of the accused persons namely Halima, Javed Iqbal Mir, Mohd Yaqub Pandit, Riyaz Ahmed Bhat, Khursheed Ahmed Dar, Basharat Rehman Noori, Tariq Ashraf, Shafat Ahmed Shangloo, Manzoor Ahmed, Gulam Mohd.Taploo, Abdul Majeed Bhat and Nissar Ahmed Bhat remained absconding and were ultimately proceeded against under Section 512 CrPC vide order dated 17-09-1991”.
“During the pendency of the present charge sheet, two of the accused persons namely Mohd Rafiq Dar and Mushtaq Ahmed Lone died as such the proceeding against them were abated”, the court said, adding “now the accused persons who are at present facing trial in the present case are Yasin Malik, Ali Mohd Mir, Mohd Zaman Mir, Iqbal Ahmed Gandroo, Javed Ahmed Mir, Rafiq Pahloo alias Nanaji, Manzoor Ahmed Sofi, Wajahat Bashir, Mehraj-u-Din Sheikh and Shoukat Ahmed Bakshi”.
During the investigation, accused Ali Mohammad Mir had voluntarily made the confessional statement under Section 164 CrPC before the Magistrate, whereby, he had admitted his role in the commission of offence as well as disclosed the role played by the other accused persons, the court said, adding “the accused Mohammad Zaman Mir had in the same manner made confessional statement under Section 164 CrPC before the concerned Magistrate and had disclosed his own role and the roles of other accused persons in the commission of the offence”.
The accused Iqbal Ahmed Gandroo had also made a confessional statement admitting his guilt and role played by him in the whole occurrence. Besides, the accused persons namely Rafiq Pahloo, Wajahat Bashir, Manzoor Ahmed Sofi and Showkat Ahmed Bakshi had made their confessional statements before Prakash Mishra SP CBI, which is found to be admissible in evidence under Section 15 of TADA Act, the court said.
“Since the accused persons besides admitting of their own guilt have also narrated about the participation of other accused persons namely Yaseen Malik, Javed Ahmed Malik and Mehraj-U-Din Sheikh, which can also be used against them as one of the pieces of evidence”, the court said, adding “the investigating agency has also conducted test identification parade of the accused persons Ali Mohd Mir, Mohd Rafiq Dar and Mohd Iqbal Gandroo, as per the provision of Section 9 of Evidence Act and during that proceedings the abductee Dr Rubiya Sayeed had identified them and disclosed about the individual participations of each of the accused persons in the commission of offences”.
The court further observed, “from the confessional statements of the accused persons recorded, either under Section 164 CrPC or under Section 15 of TADA Act, supported with the statements of the abductee Dr Rubiya Sayeed and other prosecution witnesses, it has been prima facie proved that the accused persons have hatched a criminal conspiracy to kidnap the abductee with sole objective to get their persons released from the custody after having negotiation with the Government of J&K as well as Government of India and the accused persons had also succeeded in their nefarious designs and got their persons released from the custody”.
“I am of the considered view that sufficient grounds are existing for drawing prima facie presumption that the accused persons namely Yasin Malik, Ali Mohd Mir, Iqbal Ahmed Gandroo, Manzoor Ahmed Sofi, Mehraj-u-Din Sheikh and Rafiq Ahmed Pahloo have committed offences under Sections 364/368 /120-B RPC, 3/4 TADA Act & 27 IA Act, whereas, the accused persons namely Mohd Zaman Mir, Javed Ahmed Mir, Wajahat Bashir and Showkat Ahmed Bakshi have committed offences under Sections 120-B read with Sections 368 RPC and Section 3/4 of TADA Act”, the Special Judge said, adding “hence, charges are required to be framed against each of the accused persons, separately, for the delineated offences”.
While some of the accused remained absconding, two of the militants, namely Mohammad Rafiq Dar and Mushtaq Ahmad Lone, died in two different encounters. Those arrested by Police were granted bail from time to time. Due to prolonged litigation and successive governments’ go-slow policy, the trial did not initiate for over 29 years. It was only after 40 CRPF personnel were killed in a suicide attack at Awantipora on February 14, 2019, that the CBI filed fresh petitions in J&K High Court and got the case transferred from Srinagar to Jammu TADA court for trial..