By Ayaskant Das
New Delhi, Sep 10 (IANS) Nearly 30 years after four Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel were gunned down by militants in Srinagar, hopes for justice have finally arisen among the victims’ families.
The wait has been long and arduous for the families. But their belief in the judiciary has been reaffirmed after a TADA court in Jammu issued a non-bailable warrant on JKLF chief Yasin Malik, directing police for his personal appearance in hearings scheduled for the case on September 11. The jailed Kashmiri separatist leader, is the alleged perpetrator behind the terror attack.
Speaking to IANS, Nirmal Khanna, widow of Squadron Leader Ravi Khanna, one of the four IAF men killed in the terror attack, said Malik has been allowed to lead a comfortable life during the past 30 years despite having allegedly committed the despicable act.
Squadron Leader Khanna and his three colleagues had been shot dead, allegedly by a group of militants led by Malik, in Rawalpora on the outskirts of Srinagar on January 25, 1990.
“Yasin Malik was declared an activist and made a hero. He has been leading a comfortable life while families of the martyred soldiers have been running from pillar to post. During these thirty years, I had to run several times between Jammu and Delhi for the case and for pension-related matters. I raised two kids after the death of my husband. The pressures of life were so severe that I even suffered a brain stroke a few years ago,” Nirmal, 69, told IANS.
Nirmal was married to Khanna for 11 years before he met his tragic end. Coming from a business family in Amritsar, Khanna did his post-graduation in Physics from the Banaras Hindu University and followed it up with an MTech from IIT-Delhi. He was commissioned into the IAF sometime in the mid-1970s.
Along with his wife and two kids – a son aged eight years and a daughter aged six years – Khanna had moved into a first-floor rented accommodation in Rawalpora after getting posted to Srinagar. Nirmal vividly remembers the events of the fateful morning, on the day before Republic Day of 1990, which changed her life forever.
“Ravi was to proceed on leave from January 26. His leave till February 12 had been sanctioned. The kids had already left for their maternal grandparents’ home in Jammu a few days ago. Around 7.15 a.m. on January 25, barely five minutes after Ravi walked down a slope from the house towards a bus stop, I heard sounds, followed by commotion, which I thought to be firecrackers.
“I rushed to the third-floor terrace and could see a military coach and hordes of uniformed men in the distance. I decided to go to the spot myself. On the way, I found Ravi’s briefcase lying on the ground with a bullet mark upon it. Ravi was lying in a pool of blood on the roadside around 50 metres away. A post-mortem revealed he had sustained 27 bullet wounds upon his body,” she said.
Eyewitnesses later told police that Khanna had taken the brunt of the attack while trying to cover his colleagues from heavy automatic weapon firing by the car-borne militants.
Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front chief Malik is currently lodged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail after being arrested by the National Investigation Agency in a case related to financing of terror and separatist organisations. On 26 April, a bench of the Jammu & Kashmir High Court had lifted a stay imposed by a single judge in 2007 on his trial in the case. The court had also rejected Malik’s plea to shift the trial from Jammu to Srinagar.
(Ayaskant Das can be contacted at [email protected])