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Explained: What's 1990 J&K Air Force Officers Killings Case, Why Has Yasin Malik's Hearing Been Deferred?

Yasin Malik is the chief of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). Along with the Indian Air Force (IAF) officers killings case, he is an accused in the abduction of Rubaiya Sayeed and dozens of other cases.

Separatist leader Yasin Malik
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A court in Jammu on Saturday deferred the hearing in the 1990 Indian Air Force (IAF) officers killings case in which Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik is an accused.

The case is related to the killing of four IAF officers in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, in 1990. Malik, then a terrorist leader of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), is an accused in the case. This is the most well-known case against Malik.

While the IAF officers killings case is the most well-known against Malik, he has a total of over 60 cases against him. In a terror funding case, he is currently serving a life sentence in Delhi's Tihar Jail. 

Here we explain what's the 1990 IAF officers killings case, the journey of Malik, and why the hearing was deferred on Saturday.

What's 1990 IAF killings case, who is Yasin Malik?

A group of terrorists, allegedly led by Yasin Malik, fired at Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel in Srinagar on January 25, 199p. Four were killed and 22 were injured. Malik was a leader of the terrorist group JKLF at the time.

Malik was arrested in 1990. The charge sheet was filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) the same year but the trial went cold. 

Malik was later released in 1994. The High Court stayed his trial in 1995. Following his release, Malik split the JKLF into two. While he led a non-violent separatist faction, founder Amanullah Khan continued the violent faction. 

Malik began as a mainstream political activist, switched to terrorism, and then joined mainstream separatism in mid-1990s.

In the 1987 elections in J&K, Malik was the leader of Islamic Students League, which supported Muslim United Front (MUF) that was contesting against the National Conference (NC)-Congress alliance. Malik became the polling agent of MUF candidate Mohammad Yusuf Shah.  

Shah lost the elections that were allegedly rigged in favour of the NC-Congress coalition. He moved to armed movement and went on to take up the name of Sayeed Salahuddin to become the leader of terrorist organisation Hizbul Mujahideen. Malik would go on to become the leader of JKLF, which was set up in the United Kingdom by Amanullah Khan in 1977, as per the South Asia Terrorism Portal. 

Besides the 1990 IAF killings case, Malik was also involved in the abduction of Rubaiya Sayeed, the daughter of former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and Union minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. She was freed in lieu of terrorists' releasae and it marked a turning point in the history of Kashmir.

Rediff News reported that the release of the militants saw great euphoria in Kashmir. Journalist Aasha Khosa told Rediff, "There was no sympathy for Rubaiya. The people were all with the militants. When the militants were released, there was celebration all around. I have never seen so many people on the streets! They sang, danced and raised anti-India slogans."

At the peak of terrorism in Kashmir, Malik was among the four area commanders of JKLF, notes a Rediff report.

The report says, "Malik was one of the JKLF's four area commanders...Malik and his colleagues crossed the India-Pakistan border in 1987 and returned to the Kashmir valley in 1988. He was arrested under TADA in 1990 and remained in custody till he was released on bail in 1996."

The long road of Yasin Malik's trial

Even though the CBI first filed the charge sheet against Yasin Malik in 1990, the case against him went cold soon. 

Malik is said to have been involved in back-channel talks with Indian government. He became part of the mainstream politics and was even invited to the Prime Minister's Residence in Delhi where he met the then-Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. He also attended media events and public events despite being accused of dozens of cases.

"The CBI had filed a chargesheet in the case in 1990 itself. But, soon afterwards, Malik, who was injured while escaping from the security forces, was groomed by the Intelligence Bureau for a prospective future in politics. As New Delhi cosied up to him, the case lay dormant," noted Rahul Pandita in an article for OPEN magazine.

He further noted, "Two chargesheets were filed by the CBI in 1990 itself. But as New Delhi was not interested in pursuing the case, it went cold. In the ensuing years, Malik fashioned himself as a ‘Gandhian,’ and shared stage with intellectuals in Delhi. He would be called to media conclaves to talk about his ‘struggle’. In 2006, he was seen shaking hands with then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as he called upon him."

Cases against Malik were reopened in 2017. In 2019, he and six others were charged in the IAF killings case. Last year, he was sentenced to life in a terror funding case. The case of Rubaiya's abduction is also ongoing in which Malik is an accused.

In his years of mainstream activism, Malik preferred a settlement for the Kashmir dispute in which India and Pakistan were the parties. With the Narendra Modi's government's hardline approach and after Article 370 abrogation, such a suggestion is not a serious consideration anymore.

"The reason we are insisting on Pakistan's involvement is primarily because the latter is party to the dispute -- we are the principal party. One just can't ignore the participation of Pakistan in any talks on Kashmir. Both countries should also talk on other levels like -- secretary, foreign secretary and prime minister. But when we say Pakistan should be involved in the discussions on Kashmir, the Indian government refuses to accept this proposal," said Malik in an interview in 2001 to Rediff.

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Why was Yasin Malik's hearing deferred?

A Jammu court on Saturday deferred the identification by an eye-witness of six accused including JKLF chief Mohd Yasin Malik in connection with the killing of four Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel in a terrorist attack in the summer capital Srinagar in 1990.

The identification was deferred due to non-availability of some of the accused in the court in Jammu even as one of the two eye-witnesses who turned up for cross-examination expressed readiness to identify them, CBI chief prosecutor Monika Kohli said.

Malik, who is lodged in Delhi’s Tihar jail, was present through video conferencing during the hearing of the much publicised case.

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“Two eye-witnesses turned up for cross-examination and one of them expressed willingness to identify the accused. Since some of the accused were not present in the court, the identification was deferred till next hearing,” Kohli, who is also senior additional advocate general, told PTI.

She said the cross-examination of the other eye-witness was completed but he expressed his inability to identify the accused.

The special TADA court has already framed charges separately against the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief and several others in this case, as well as another related to the abduction of Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, by his group in 1989.

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While the charges were framed against Malik and six others on March 16, 2020 in the killing of four IAF personnel, the court has framed the charges against Malik and nine others in the 1989 abduction case of Rubaiya on January 11 last year.

Malik was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in April 2019 in connection with a terror funding case, a month after his group was banned by the central government.

(With PTI inputs)

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