I remember Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who passed away today, not for being the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, but for entirely different reasons. He was one of three people who were the cynosure of all eyes in a kidnapping drama in the winter of 1989 – a father who had to see his daughter Rubaiya abducted by militants. The fact that Mufti was then a Home Minister in the V P Singh Government which was in power at the Centre added immense weight to the drama that unfolded that December day and the ensuing five days.
The V P Singh government barely had time to settle down in office when the kidnapping happened. The nation had a new Home Minister – a Kashmiri Muslim called Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. Close on the heels of his appointment, a militant outfit called JKLF (Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front) had apparently abducted Rubaiya who was then a medical student in Kashmir. Their demand was the release of five hardcore militants who were jailed in India including a Pakistani national. After five days of intense negotiations, the Government caved in to concede the demands of the militants. Rubaiya was freed and the family was united in true Bollywood style.
I was only 10 when all this happened but remember seeing clearly on good old Doordarshan the tearful Mufti hugging his daughter. JKLF shot into prominence, Farooq Abdullah – the then Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister was cornered and life never really became the same for Rubaiya. Conspiracy theorists argue that the kidnapping was a charade to help the V P Singh Government get some political mileage. By playing into the hands of the militants, the sentimental Indian would never blame the Government for releasing a few anti-social elements from prison, the theorists argued. The fact that Mufti stayed back in New Delhi all through the episode sort of lent credence to the allegation that he had not gone to his home state precisely to put pressure on the Prime Minister to release the jailed militants.
27 years down the line, the pictures on TV look blurred when I reflect upon it but that image of the father and daughter embracing remains quite clear. Mufti was a father first and then the Home Minister of India and I think his fatherly love was the trigger that supposedly made him go the lengths that he went to secure the release of his daughter. I am not sure if love for your kin is or should be greater than the love for your nation. I am a father and I would do anything to see that my kids are safe but that does not mean I am compromising my motherland. It would, I think, be preposterous to even think so. Mufti was 200% correct in assessing that his daughter was the more important to him even as he perhaps realized that daughter and nation are balanced on a weighing scale!