The official visit of a 16-member delegation of envoys from different countries to the state of Jammu and Kashmir in ongoing. Just yesterday, the delegation met delegations of civil society members and Kashmiri Pandits to understand the prevailing situation in the region. Some of the envoys have observed that normalcy was being restored in the Kashmir Valley and that people were largely happy with the current situation.
What is being ignored in the scrutiny on the envoy visit is the fact that the normalcy being referred to is of recent origin. There was a time in Jammu and Kashmir when the writ of terrorists loomed far and wide. Kidnappings to secure release of terrorists was a common strategy. Between 1989 and 1995, over 1,400 kidnappings were undertaken by terrorists. Victims included children of politicians and bureaucrats, eminent citizens, academics, government PSU employees and even foreign tourists. Here is a list of a few well-known incidents from the past.
Rubaiyya Sayeed, the 23-year-old daughter of then Home Minister of India, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, was kidnapped on her way home from Lal Ded Memorial Women’s Hospital, where was a medical intern, by terrorists associated with Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). She was released only after the government released five dreaded terrorists – Abdul Hamid Sheikh, Sher Khan, Noor Mohammad Kalwal, Altaf Ahmed and Javed Ahmed Zargar. Javed Ahmed Zargar went on to orchestrate the infamous IC814 hijack in 1999.
Professor Mushir-ul-Haq, Vice Chancellor of Kashmir University, was kidnapped on 6 April 1990 along with his assistant Abdul Ghani Zargar, sending shockwaves across the country. Four days later, their bodies were found. by Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) made the announcement and the claim for the kidnapping and murder of the two.
On 27 February 1991, the Jammu and Kashmir Students’ Liberation Front (JKSLF) kidnapped Nahida Imtiaz, the daughter of Saifuddin Soz. The JKSLF demanded the release of five terrorists put in jail by the security forces. At the time, Saifuddin Soz was a prominent leader of the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference led at the time by Farooq Abdullah. Five terrorists were indeed released in exchange of Nahida’s release within one week of her kidnapping.
Within days of the kidnapping of Nahida Imtiaz, Indian Oil Corporation Executive Director K. Dorraiswamy was abducted by activists of Ikhwan-Ul Muslimeen in Srinagar. His release in August was possible when the government set free six militants. This incident later proved to be the inspiration for Mani Ratnam’s 1992 classic Tamil film Roja.
Fayaz Ahmed Sheikh, the son of Jammu and Kashmir’s then Chief Secretary, Sheikh Ghulam Rasool, was kidnapped on 21 March 1992. He was later released, though the conditions of his release are not known.
Six western tourists – Keith Mangan, Paul Wells, John Childs, Donald Hutchings, Dirk Hasert, and Hans Christian Ostrø, were kidnapped from Pahalgam by a terrorist group Al Faran on 4 July 1995. While John Childs escaped and Ostrø was beheaded by the terrorists, the whereabouts of the others remains unknown. It is presumed that they were killed by tourists.
Much Has Changed In The Present Regime
One must feel grateful today that the Modi government has literally broken the back of terrorism in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. While strong action was on from the start of Mr. Modi’s term in 2014, the decisive turn came in 2018, when the BJP withdrew support to Mehbooba Mufti’s government. Since that time, there has been decisive action, which has sharply reduced the overall number of deaths due to terrorist activities. Further, India has taken the fight into enemy territory with military operations like surgical strikes and air raids, both of which have caused considerable damage to the capabilities of terrorists and their handlers alongside several other measures. The government is clear – no effort will be spared to fight terrorism and maintain peace and order.