Nineteen years have passed since the foreign tourists taken hostage by the Al Faran on July 4, 1995, were executed by government forces, but to this day, the government has not issued a statement in this regard. In official records, the foreign tourists continue to be missing, notwithstanding the stunning disclosures made in The Meadow. But then the government has been concealing material facts from the public from the very beginning. The Holy Relic was stolen in 1963, an enquiry was constituted but to this day the findings of the enquiry have not been made public. More than 200 probes ordered into human rights abuses since 1990 have also been in vain. So the people of Kashmir are not surprised. This is what happens in a region where one soldier is deployed for every ten people.
The government has been telling the world that the hostages were abducted and subsequently killed by the militants on December 4, 1995, at Dabran in South Kashmir. The Al Faran issued a statement immediately after the ‘encounter’ asserting that the hostages were taken by the army. But nobody believed them.
The actual story was unveiled on March 29, 2012, when a book, The Meadow, Kashmir 1995 – Where the Terror Began, by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, was released in the United Kingdom. This book provides the missing information, based on extensive analysis of a Crime Branch investigation that had been carried out on the kidnappings. It says that the four kidnapped persons had been killed in the remote twin villages of Mati and Gawran, approximately a five-hour drive from the Anantnag town, on December 24, 1995. Specifically, and as reported by the Asian Age on April 3, 2012, and the Greater Kashmir and the Rising Kashmir on April 4, 2012, the four hostages were shot and buried “a good, hard walk behind the lower village.”
The book further says:
“A Western female trekker had approached the Rashtriya Rifles camp at Chandanwari, Pahalgam, to say she had witnessed the kidnapping of Dirk Hasert. Instead of assisting her, a Rashtriya Rifles Major sexually assaulted her. Senior officers had been sent into the mountains to silence her and investigate the Major.”
“The Crime Branch team investigating the case was provided with surveillance images of the victims while they had been hostage. These images were provided to them by the Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). The Crime Branch team sent an urgent report on this information to their superiors. The intelligence services and the army, while in possession of this information, took no action. Throughout this time, the families of the kidnapped persons were being informed that there was no information on the location of the kidnapped persons. Subsequently, on numerous occasions, false information on sightings of the kidnapped persons was provided to the public and families of the kidnapped persons.
“Ghulam Nabi Mir (alias “Alpha”), a militiaman connected to state agencies, from Shelipora, Anantnag District, had signed a secret ceasefire agreement with Javid Ahmed Bhat (alias “Sikander,” the main abductor) prior to the kidnappings, and was told by his STF, and army and intelligence handlers to pass on weapons and explosives to Javid Ahmed Bhat (alias “Sikander”) and his partners. This was part of a larger plan that used Javid Ahmed Bhat (alias “Sikander”) and his partners against the Hizb-ul-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. The police STF, backed by a faction within the Indian Intelligence Agencies, and with the knowledge of counter-insurgency specialists of the Rashtriya Rifles had known about the deal from the very beginning, and in fact, the idea for such a ceasefire agreement had come from the security forces.
“On December 1, 1995 the hostages were handed over by “Al Faran” to Ghulam Nabi Mir (alias “Alpha”) for four lakh rupees.
“The December 4, 1995 operation, where three of the kidnappers were killed and two captured, was an ambush that was set up by Ghulam Nabi Mir (alias “Alpha”) calling Abdul Hamid al-Turki (alias “the Turk”) for a meeting.
“The four kidnapped persons were killed in the remote twin villages of Mati and Gawran (and specifically, behind the lower village), about a five-hour drive from Anantnag town, on December 24, 1995. Their bodies were buried in a hole.
“The death of Javid Ahmed Bhat (alias “Sikander”) on 17 February 1996, while alleged to be an accident was in fact a planned operation set up by soldiers and Ghulam Nabi Mir (alias “Alpha”).”
The kidnappers had demanded the release of 21 persons including Maulana Masood Azhar, Sajjad Shahid Khan (alias “the Afghani”), and Nasrullah Mansoor Langrial (alias “Darwesh”).
The six foreign tourists, Donald Hutchings (American), John Childs (American) Keith Mangan and Paul Wells (British), Dirk Hasert (German) and Hans Ostro (Norwegian) had been abducted by Al Faran, an outfit unknown until then, from Aru, a health resort in South Kashmir, a few kilometers from Pahalgam, the Valley of Shepherds,.
Hans Ostro was executed a few days after capture, and the police recovered his beheaded body. John Childs managed to escape somehow, and was rescued by a reconnaissance helicopter.
The government must now admit the truth. Closing cases by declaring them untraced won’t help. The truth must be made public.