Around three years ago, the truth about the six foreign tourists abducted in Pahalgam was unveiled in The Meadow, Kashmir 1995 – Where the Terror Began by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark. Released in the United Kingdom, the book provides the missing information, based on extensive analysis of a Crime Branch investigation that had been carried out on the kidnappings, and says that four of the hostages had been killed in the remote twin villages of Mati and Gawran, approximately a five-hour drive from Anantnag town, on December 24, 1995. Specifically, and as reported by the Asian Age on April 3, 2012, and theGreater 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, 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 Bhat and his partners. This was part of a larger plan that used Bhat 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 operation, where three of the kidnappers were killed and two captured, was an ambush that was set up by Mir (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, or Sikander on February 17, 1996, while alleged to be an accident, was in fact a planned operation set up by soldiers and Mir.
The kidnappers had demanded the release of 21 persons, including Maulana Masood Azhar, Sajjad Shahid Khan, alias 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) were abducted by an unknown outfit, Al Faran, on July 4, 1995 from Aru, a health resort in South Kashmir, a few kilometers from the Valley of Shepherds, Pahalgam.
Hans Ostro was executed a few days after the abduction, and the police recovered his beheaded body. John Childs managed escape somehow, and was rescued by a reconnaissance helicopter.
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. Al Faran issued a statement immediately after the encounter, saying that the hostages were taken by the army. But nobody believed them.
The government must now admit the truth. Closing cases by declaring them untraced won’t help. Let the truth come out. Concealing material facts must have worked for New Delhi in the last century, but in the age of the internet, it simply is not possible. Intelligence operations do not always help. The sooner it dawns on the government the better.