The state police have told the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in Srinagar that the master file of the case of six foreigners' kidnapping in south Kashmir in 1995 has gutted in a fire incident.
"The master file retained in the office of SSP, Crime, (in Srinagar) has been gutted and reduced to ashes during the fire on 11 September 2010," said the IGP Crime in its reply to the SHRC direction for producing the same.
In July 1995, militants of the Al-Faran, a front of the Harkat-ul-Ansar, kidnapped six persons – US' John Childs and Don Hutchings, Germany's Dirk Hasert, England's Keith Mangan and Paul Wells, Norway's Hans Christian Ostro – from south Kashmir's Pahalgam mountain range, very famous with tourists. Childs escaped on July 8, 1995 but Ostro's body was found on August 13, 1995. The rest are still missing.
Authors Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark's in their new book 'The Meadow, Kashmir 1995 – Where the terror began', released in March this year, claimed there was a grave site in south Kashmir's Anantnag district where they are buried and pointed towards involvement of the security forces-backed gunmen for the killing.
The book reignited the debate around the case with human rights bodies knocking the door of the SHRC to revisit it.
The disclosure that the original file has gutted is being viewed with suspicion by human rights activist.
"Why has the file gutted in first place? Why there was only one copy of the file in such an insecure manner," said Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (J-K CCS) coordinator Khuram Pervez. The J-K CCS is pursuing the case in the SHRC.
The crime branch office was gutted in a mysterious fire in 2010 on the occasion of Eid when moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq took a procession from old city to Lal Chowk.
The procession turned violent after the protesters and security forces clashed. As the protest was on, the building housing the office caught fire. The police blamed miscreants for the fire.
Meanwhile, the SHRC has issued notices to former Kashmir inspector general of police PS Gill and senior superintendent of police Ashkoor Wani in the kidnapping case.
"In case he (Gill) fails to file his personal response an adverse inference will be drawn in the matter against him. The secretary will address an independent communication to him on the address as furnished by the complainant calling upon the non-applicant to submit his personal response in the matter," says the SHRC direction.
The SHRC has also asked the deputy commissioner Anantnag to file his report in the case and its closure, if filed by the security forces.