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Mehbooba’s sister Rubaiya Sayeed doesn’t turn hostile to save Yasin Malik in 1989 kidnapping case

Rubaiya Saeed With Father Mufti Mohammad Saeed released in exchange of five JKLF terrorists In Kashmir.

Contrary to much speculation in Kashmir's separatist camp, the former Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's daughter and the former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti's sister, Dr. Rubaiya Sayeed, has finally upheld her 1990 statement in the CBI's designated court in Jammu on Friday and identified the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Yasin Malik and three of his associates as her kidnappers in Srinagar in December 1989.

Rubaiya, who reached Jammu from Chennai the other day on summons of the CBI trial court to record her statement, identified the then JKLF militant Yasin Malik and three of her associates– Merajuddin Sheikh, Manzoor Ahmad Sofi and Mohammad Zaman Mir– as the persons who had allegedly spotted, followed and kidnapped her from outside Srinagar's major maternity hospital, Lal Ded Hospital, when she worked there as a doctor.

Then twenty-three-year-old, Dr Rubaiya Sayeed was  kidnapped by the JKLF militants from a Matador close to her residence at Nowgam, on the National Highway Bypass, after following her from Lal Ded Hospital on 8 December 1989, in 6 days of her father's induction as the union home minister in Prime Minister VP Singh's government. After a chain of dramatic developments, which culminated in the release of five JKLF militants, Rubaiya was released on 13 December 1989.

Rubaiya's release led to massive celebrations across the valley, particularly in the capital city of Srinagar, where separatists, militants and their supporters established their "first victory against India". They claimed boastfully that they had brought India to its knees. The historic night-long celebrations with slogan shouting and firecrackers spread a sense of victory among the militants, generating for them a groundswell of support in the valley. The National Conference President Dr. Farooq Abdullah's NC-Congress coalition government could not survive for more than 37 days thereafter.

The CBI completed investigation and filed charge sheets in the two high profile cases– Rubaiya Sayeed kidnapping case of 8 December 1989 and Indian Air Force (IAF) killings case of 25 January 1990– as long back as in 1990. However, the trial did not start for 29 years due to apparent political interventions and litigations. In April 2009, the Srinagar wing of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court stayed trial in the TADA Court Srinagar. The CBI got the stay vacated and both the cases were transferred to a special trial court in Jammu only after 40 CRPF men got killed in an unprecedented car bomb blast near Awantipora in February 2019.

Following the major terror attack, weeks ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, most of the militant and separatist groups, including the JKLF and Jamaat-e-Islami, were banned and most of their leaders, including Yasin Malik, arrested. It was after this blast that the Government of India withdrew the 20–25-year long security cover from the separatist leaders even as many of them were put under house arrest. These developments finally witnessed the Government of India withdraw the erstwhile State's special status and its break up into the two Union Territories on 5 August 2019.

On the trial court's warrants, Yasin Malik was produced before the Presiding Officer through video conferencing from Delhi's Tihar Jail on Friday. Merajuddin Sheikh, Manzoor Ahmad Sofi and Mohammad Zaman Mir were produced physically. While the CBI was represented by advocate Monica Kohli, Malik did not authorise any counsel for his representation. Former advocate general Mohammad Aslam Goni appeared on behalf of the accused Sheikh, Sofi and Mir.

In a significant development, the CBI court allowed Malik's petition giving him time and opportunity to cross examine the prosecution witnesses including Rubaiya. The court issued a warrant of production according to which Malik would be physically produced on the next date of hearing on 23 August 2022. On that day, he would be permitted to cross-examine Rubaiya and other prosecution witnesses.

Many circles in the UT had speculated Rubaiya Sayeed to either turn hostile or record a contradictory statement so as to protect the political and electoral interests of her Srinagar-based family. However, these all turned false when she identified Malik and his JKLF associates as her kidnappers as per the statement she had given to the CBI in 1990.

Interestingly, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) President, former Chief Minister and her sister Mehbooba Mufti were reportedly present in Jammu when Rubaiya appeared before the CBI court to record her statement. Knowledgeable sources said that she chose to stay away and did not make any speculated attempt to influence the prosecution witness. 

Early this month, Malik had filed a petition making clear that he would like to personally appear for cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses.

Also Read:  Yasin Malik—The rise and fall of a separatist who promised ‘azaadi’ to Kashmiris