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Book on foreigners' kidnapping sparks debate in J-K

The recently released book 'The Meadow, Kashmir 1995 - Where the terror began' has several human rights organization approaching the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) on Friday for its reinvestigation.

india Updated: Apr 06, 2012 18:43 IST
Peerzada Ashiq
Peerzada Ashiq
Hindustan Times

The recently released book 'The Meadow, Kashmir 1995 - Where the terror began' has several human rights organization approaching the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) on Friday for its reinvestigation.

The book is based on the incident of four foreigners missing allegedly after being kidnapped by militants 15 years ago in south Kashmir.

"The Crime Branch investigations (in the case) were closed without being presented before a competent court. The authorities, who had the knowledge at various times of the location of the kidnapped persons, and ultimately of their burial site, did not intervene for political reasons," says the petition filed before the SHRC by three human rights organization --- International Peoples Tribunal on Human Rights, Justice in Indian-Administered Kashmir and Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons.

The petitioners have sought fresh investigations "to identify the grave sites and bodies of the four kidnapped persons as mentioned in the book". There should be forensic examinations of the sites, says the petition.

"An inquiry should be conducted as to why no action was taken on various points despite the authorities having knowledge of the location of the hostages, and then subsequently the burial site of the hostages, to ascertain the level of institutional culpability," said Khurram Pervez, a member of a Srinagar-based human rights group.

In July 1995, militants of the Al-Faran, a front of the Harkat-ul-Ansar, kidnapped six persons --- John Childs and Don Hutchings of the US; Germany's Dirk Hasert; England's Keith Mangan and Paul Wells; Norway's Hans Christian Ostro --- from Pahalgam mountain range.

Childs was able to escape on July 8 1995 but Ostro's dead body was found on August 13 1995. The rest are still missing.

Authors Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark's new book released in March last year in England has made startling disclosures in the case. "The four hostages were shot and buried…a good, hard walk behind the lower village," the book claims.

"A Western female trekker had approached the Rashtriya Rifles in Pahalgam to say she had witnessed the kidnapping of Dirk Hasert. Instead of assisting her, a Major of the army's Rashtriya Rifles sexually assaulted her," claims the book.

The book claims a person named Ghulam Nabi Mir alias Alpha, a gunmen working for the security forces, had signed a secret ceasefire agreement with Javid Ahmed Bhat alias Sikander, the main abductor prior to the kidnappings.

"Mir was told by the police special task force, and army and intelligence handlers to pass on weapons and explosives to Bhat and his partners. This was part of a larger plan that used Bhat and his partners against the Hizbul Mujahideen.

"This was the reason why the pro-government militiamen in the area, who had knowledge of the whereabouts of the kidnappers and the hostages, had not intervened…On December 1, 1995 the hostages were handed over by Al Faran to Mir for Rs 4 lakh," says the book.

The books claims that the death of Bhat on February 17, 1996 in an accident was "a planned operation set up by soldiers and Mir".

"The disclosures in the book, based on Crime Branch investigations, strongly suggest that the officials of the army and government were deliberately misleading the investigations into the kidnapping and withholding information," says the petition before the SHRC, which has listed it for April 16 for hearing.

"A final call on the petition will be decided by a division bench," SHRC's senior officer Tariq Banday told the HT. Director General of Police Kuldeep Khoda, however, has rubbished the authors' claim. "We have not found anything like that during our investigation as claimed by the authors in their book," said Khoda.

First Published: Apr 06, 2012 18:41 IST