An angry former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah tonight made it vociferously clear that he was opposed to freeing militants in exchange of passengers of hijacked IC-814 aircraft in 1999 and said the release had shown India as a “weak nation”.
Speaking at a function to release a book “Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years” written by former RAW Chief A S Dulat, Abdullah said “no nation is built without sacrifices. Even if the militants had taken my daughter hostage, I would not have released a single terrorist.
“Similarly, if we had put our foot down in the hijacking case, we would have seen Americans and others coming around and helping us.”
Abdullah also said that he had warned the then Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani as well as the then External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh that no one should be released in exchange.
“I told them over phone that are we so weak as a nation that we can’t handle this,” he said.
However, Abdullah said he felt that Advani was not in favour of releasing terrorists and it seemed as if he is being pushed into it.
“I asked the then Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh was India weak as a nation and that we can’t put our foot down. Can’t we give this much of sacrifice for the nation,” said Abdullah, who appeared to be visibly upset even 14 years after the incident.
The former Chief Minister said he wondered even now as to why the plane was not stopped in Amritsar. “This is still baffling me why we failed to stop it. If I had been at the command at that point, I would have shot at the tyres of the plane and forgot what Delhi would have said later,” he said.
Three hardcore militants were released by the Government in exchange for 158 people including the crew of the Indian Airlines plane to end the seven-day hijack crisis.
Speaking about kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of present Chief Minister Mufti Mohamed Sayeed in 1989, he said “I was away and once I heard about the kidnapping, I came back and met Mufti (the then Home Minister) and assured that Rubaiya is like my daughter and I will do everything.”
“Two central ministers Arif Mohammed Khan and I K Gujral arrived in Srinagar and I briefed them about the situation and efforts made to secure her release. While Khan expressed wonder that Delhi had a different picture altogether whereas situation on ground was different, but Gujral conveyed that five militants need to be released otherwise my government will be dismissed,” recalled Abdullah.
“I was persuaded to release them despite my opposition which stemmed out from the fact that Muslims nations like Saudi Arabia were opposing kidnapping of a girl, I had to release. While ordering the release, I told Dulat that we will have to pay a heavy price for this and we did pay a huge price for this,” Abdullah said.
He spoke about the chapter of the book where the author, who was RAW Chief till 2000, had said that NDA government wanted to make Abdullah as the Vice President but backtracked later.
“I did get hurt but a man should always forget his wounds and move ahead. If one gets stuck to his wounds and nurses them for rest of his life, he is not worth being called a human,” Abdullah said.