It was quite a sight outside the Hari Nagar guesthouse near former CM Omar Abdullah’s official residence in Srinagar on March 24. Surrounded by people wearing masks due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Conference leader stepped out of the guesthouse where he had been detained for 232 days. He was sporting the white beard he had vowed not to shave until his release. In his first post-release tweet, Omar said it is “a very different world today to the one that existed on August 5, 2019” when J&K was put under lockdown to prevent unrest following the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A.
Days before Omar’s release, a TADA court in Jammu framed charges against Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik and six others in a case involving the killing of four air force personnel in an attack by militants in Srinagar on January 25, 1990. The framing of charges three decades after the CBI filed the chargesheet in August 1990 could mean a long haul in jail for the former militant currently held in Delhi’s Tihar Jail in connection with a case of alleged terror funding of separatist activities being probed by the NIA.
On March 7, the court of the additional sessions TADA judge III, designated for hearing the 1990 case, said there was enough evidence to frame charges. Yasin’s family members claim he has been wrongly charged in a trumped-up case. “Why have they raked up a 30-year-old case now?” asks Yasin’s sister Abida. “He is not being produced before the court. The hearing is done through video conferencing and the line gets disconnected whenever he starts speaking. My brother has decided to go on hunger strike from April 1.”
Yasin’s family has shared with the media an open letter written by him in jail after the charges were framed. “During my stay in jail in 1992, top intelligence officers and several civil society members, like Kuldip Nayar, Rajmohan Gandhi, ex-Chief Justice Rajinder Sachar and Wajahat Habibullah, visited me,” he writes. “They wanted me to give peace a chance. I was told that if I shunned the path of armed struggle and returned to peaceful non-violent struggle, we would be provided with a genuine political space and efforts would be made for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute.”
Referring to his decision to declare “unilateral ceasefire” in 1994 and adopt non-violent means of struggle, Yasin writes: “It was an unpopular decision and I was declared a traitor by many. I miraculously escaped a bid on my life when I was kidnapped by some militants. Many of my colleagues lost their lives…. All the governments from 1994, led by prime ministers like P.V. Narasimha Rao, H.D. Deve Gowda, I.K. Gujral, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh, honoured the pledge made to us by the Indian government in 1994.”
By Naseer Ganai in Srinagar