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Separatist in 1971 Hijacking Surrenders on Return to India

December 30, 2000|From Associated Press

NEW DELHI — A separatist who hijacked a plane in 1971 to draw attention to Kashmir surrendered Friday, saying he wanted to show his support for the Indian government's attempts at peace in the troubled region.

Hashim Qureshi, a founder of the separatist Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front, turned himself over to police upon arriving Friday in New Delhi on a flight from Denmark.

"I have come here to support [Prime Minister Atal Behari] Vajpayee's peace initiative," Qureshi told reporters as he appeared before a local magistrate. He was ordered jailed pending a court hearing in two weeks.

Qureshi was 17 when he hijacked a state-run Indian Airlines flight en route from Srinagar to Jammu in Indian-held Kashmir in 1971. Qureshi, an Indian national, said he hijacked the plane to focus international attention on Kashmir.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over control of Kashmir since they won independence from Britain in 1947. Both countries claim Kashmir in its entirety.

Once the plane reached Lahore, Pakistan, and the passengers had disembarked, Qureshi and his accomplices blew it up. No one was injured.

Not long after, India and Pakistan went to war in 1971, which led to the breakup of Pakistan, with East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh.

Qureshi was tried in Pakistan on hijacking charges and imprisoned for nine years. He later moved to Europe, spending 14 years in Amsterdam.

His group, the Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front, spearheaded the Islamic insurgency in Kashmir that erupted in 1989. The group gave up arms six years later and called for the creation of an independent Kashmir.

Qureshi, now 46, told United News of India news agency in Geneva recently that he wanted to return to India to stand trial in the hijacking case. His wife and children returned to India a few months ago.

"I want to go back to my motherland. At least I want to die in my own land," Qureshi told the agency. "People send their children to Europe for studies, but I am sending my children to Kashmir so that they do not lose connection with their roots."

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