The gripping tale of the abduction and killing of five foreign tourists in the Valley in 1995, recreated by two British journalists Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark in a recently published book The Meadow, raises many questions that need answers from the Indian State.
It is a heart-rending tale of deceit and treachery in which not only is the complicity of the Pakistani-sponsored militants established, but also that of the Indian State agencies. This 500-page book drips with blood of innocent Kashmiris, caught in the crossfire of Pakistan's designs to dismember India, and the Indian State's brutal response, for whom the aspirations of the local populace for azadi is met with murderous intentions with no respect either for the law of the land or human rights. It is all too shocking for words.
The Kashmir of the 1990s, as recreated in the book, can leave anyone shaken to his bones, especially if he happens to be an admirer of Indian democracy and the integrity of its armed forces. As a Kashmiri myself, who believes in Albert Camus' words "choosing justice in order to remain faithful to the world", the book comes as a reconfirmation of all that one has heard and sadly, in much more detail, whose authenticity is corroborated by a long list of an ensemble cast who were involved in tracking the crime, either as investigating officers or as negotiators trying to get the hostages released.
My intention in writing this piece is not to review the book, which has been done in glowing terms by many watchers of the Kashmir tragedy. As a legitimate citizen of this world and a born Kashmiri, I am incensed by what is written in the book, which portrays our saviours of democracy and the country as savage killers, who let loose a reign of terror by backing the renegades (ex-militants) in their design to show the hellish nature of the militants and their Pakistani handlers. Significantly, it also shows that the central agencies (R&AW and the IB) are hell-bent on prolonging the crisis - at the cost of human lives - with just one aim: to prove to the world that militancy and the Movement for Azadi in the Valley is the sole creation of Pakistan. This serves them the dual purpose of discrediting Pakistan's manipulations (a just calling) and gives the security agencies a carte blanche to kill and suppress the will of a majority (a reprehensible act) whose crime is that they are challenging Kashmir's accession to India.
The question that needs to be raised here is how truthful and foolproof are the renditions in the book by the authors? Are the meticulous investigations by "the Squad", formed by the crime branch to find the truth, and the work of its Superintendent Mushtaq Mohammad Sadiq a figment of the authors' imagination or did they have access to the case files? The authors make it clear they had access to the files.
And then there is that "subtle thug and elitist democrat, a remorseful tyrant and a scientific plod" Rajinder Tickoo, a Kashmiri Hindu, who as Inspector-General (Crime) was entrusted with the job of being the key negotiator with the abductors. It is his case files, recorded to the minutest detail and his decision to go on leave once he discovered that someone in Delhi was sabotaging the negotiations that, among the many frightening, disquieting issues raised in the book, need answers from the State.
In Tickoo's words from the book: "The people who did this wanted to prove to the world that these fellows are mercenaries, no respect for anything, no cause... somebody in intelligence did this and he should be whipped and shot." We, the "proud citizens of this country" should demand that the real story be told and not the countless ones leaked to the media by the intelligence agencies, which we lap up as the gospel truth. There can be no greater crime than playing with human lives, with their self-respect and dignity.