Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
The Meadow: India's own little dirty war

The Meadow: India's own little dirty war

Ratings: (0)|Views: 235|Likes:

More info:

Published by: Sukumar Muralidharan on May 31, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as DOCX, PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





The Meadow
own dirty war
Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark,
The Meadow 
, Penguin Books India, Delhi, 2012, pp xxvi + 510;Rs 499, ISBN 978-0-143-41875-7.
At several junctures of this profusely documented and rapidly moving narrative, the reader wouldworry about getting lost in a welter of detail. This story about the abduction of six western tourists inKashmir in 1995 has for long been waiting to be told, since it is one where closure has not beenachieved despite all these years. One among the six escaped to safety within days of being takencaptive, recklessly plunging out into a directionless void. He was spotted by a helicopter patrol of theIndian security forces and could easily have been picked out by a marksman on board as a terroristintruder. But something that day worked for him and he was rescued in a state of near mental andphysical collapse. Another among the six, picked up by the kidnap team in the frustration occasionedby this escape, was after over a month in captivity, killed in a manner reminiscent of a medieval riteof vengeance. The other four dropped soon afterwards into a limbo of public inattention, as fatigueseemingly overwhelmed the search and more urgent security imperatives cropped up.This book, named after the picturesque spot in the Kashmir valley where the first abductions tookplace, features a complex cast of characters, variously motivated. Many of them, though sworn tomutual enmity, are compelled to talk terms for the immediate objective of securing the freedom of four men caught in a conflict not of their making. There are others who remain in the shadowyfringes, and appear in the story through proxies serving a variety of covert agendas. Once thatpurpose was served, the four hostages became literally, the men who knew too much. Letting themlive would have been a potential risk to the secret identities of the off-stage players. Like thousands
of “disappeared” Kashmiris,
Don Hutchings, Paul Wells, Keith Mangan and Dirk Hasert will probablyenter the his
tory books as “collateral damage” in the contest of wills between two neighbouring
states with a history of implacable hostility, where inflicting pain upon the other was an end that justified itself.Though it begins with the promise of unravelling the e
vent that “changed the face of modernterrorism”,
this book settles quickly into an unhurried account of three couples from different partsof the world -- Don and Jane, Keith and Julie, and Paul and Cath -- preparing for their separate journeys to Kashmir. At roughly the same time, John Childs, a design engineer for a weaponsmanufacturer in the U.S. was setting out on a business trip to eastern India. Being a sworn adherentof the philosophy that every expense an employer is willing to incur should be utilised for maximumbenefit, he hatched the plan of staying on a few days more for trekking in the Kashmir Himalayas.Javid Ahmad Bhat, from Dabran village in Anantnag district of Kashmir, was marked out as a youngman with a future by early academic achievement and the qualities of leadership displayed on thecricket field. Radicalised by the farcical elections to the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly in 1987,Bhat decided when full fledged insurrection broke out in 1990, that the Kashmiri had to deepen hiscommitment to his faith and meet force with force. He crossed over to Pakistan soon afterwards andwent on to Afghanistan for specialised arms training. By 1992, he was back in Kashmir with the
nomde guerre
Sikander, as the commander in Anantnag district of a militant cell answering directly to
handlers across the border. The following year, he was told as the militancy seemed to besplintering, that he would have to integrate his operations with another unit that handlers across theborder had named the Harkat ul-Ansar or
Movement of the Victorious
. Sajjad Shahid Khan or the
Afghani, a senior guerrilla leader from Pakistan’s Pashtun belt
, arrived in Kashmir early in 1994,trekking up into the forests east of Anantnag, seeding cells along the way while exploring the terrainas an operational base. He had been assigned to take over as military chief in the Anantnag sector,
and despite early reservations, Sikander gladly subsumed his unit under the Afghani’s command.
They had an old
mutual associate, in Nasrullah Mansoor Langrial, a guerrilla from Pakistan’s Punjab
province, who had trained alongside Sikander in Afghanistan before crossing over to Kashmir alongwith him in 1992.Langrial had plunged headlong into a series of militant actions on arrival in Kashmir. But virtuallycoinciding with the
Afghani’s arrival in the valley, he was captured in an Indian army operation. His
release was the first major cause around which the Afghani and Sikander tested their newly forgedmilitary partnership. A pitched engagement with security forces in a neighbourhood of Srinagar wasstaged from which the two barely managed to extract themselves alive. Following this, an Indianarmy officer, Major Bhupinder Singh, was abducted and held hostage for L
angrial’s release and
executed when the
refused to negotiate.As their protégés embarked on this sequence of futile and strategically reckless actions, the moodamong the Kashmir
’s handlers across the border began distinctly to darken. Princi
pal among
the strategists was “Brigadier Badam” of Pakistan’s Directorate of Inter
-Services Intelligence (ISI),identified throughout the book only by the nickname he picked up with his fondness for gulpingalmond-flavoured milk as a substitute for the alcohol he had given up during the Afghan
.Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil, the senior Islamic cleric and mentor of the Movement based inKarachi, was summoned and asked urgently to send an envoy into Kashmir to whip the militantsback in line.Masood Azhar was the person chosen for this mission. Operationally inept , Masood had picked up alasting physical disability from a friendly fire incident at the Afghan training camp he attended, afterstepping out to relieve himself on a dark night and failing to speak out the password for re-entry.Azhar though, had a way with words. Born into a family of relative wealth, he was known, like the
father who mentored him into his lifelong commitment, as a “no doubter”,
who allowed not thefaintest glimmer of scepticism into the aura of his fundamentalist faith. Azhar entered India on afalse passport in January 1995 and after about a fortnight spent in idle wandering around the streetsof Delhi and a visit to the Deoband Islamic seminary, arrived in Kashmir early in February. Headdressed a council of the holy warriors in Anantnag, but then the Afghani -- seemingly carried awayby his eloquence
persuaded him to address the Friday prayer in
Anantnag’s principal mosque.
 Azhar was reluctant at assuming a major public
profile but gave in to the Afghani’s suggestion.
Theywere spotted on the way and chased down by an Indian military patrol. A third member of the groupfled to safety in the thick woods around, but Afghani remained with Azhar, knowing that his highvalue visitor from Pakistan could not manage the same fleetness of foot. They were both taken in byIndian troops amidst joyous scenes of celebration.Brigadier Badam, by all accounts furious at the turn of events, quickly sent word to Sikander, whowas by now consumed with guilt that a motorcycle mishap had prevented him being
part of Azhar’s
 journey to Anantnag. Badam outlined a very straightforward operation titled
“Ghar” or “
. Itinvolved a certain number of high value individuals being seized as hostages to ensure the saferelease of Azhar, the Afghani and Langrial. Sikander was assigned two operatives to work alongsidehim, one of whom, Abdul Hamid al-Turki, or the Turk, he had special reason to worry about. Thougha warrior with undoubted jehadi pedigree, having fought in theatres as far afield as Somalia, Sudanand Afghanistan, the Turk was known to be impetuous and rather reckless, prone to acts of brutalitythat could alienate the silent support guerrilla operations depended on. But Sikander was not givenmuch time to voice his own tactical preferences or pick the personnel involved. By February 1995,the kidnap team had already been briefed by ISI handlers and sent across the border. The initialdirective was to pick up personnel from western companies engaged in engineering projects inKashmir, notably in the hydroelectricity sector. Later, the mandate was altered to just snatchingwhoever came to hand.From here on, there is a complex sequence of events that leads to the kidnap party, which had takenon the identity of Al Faran, arriving at the meadow where three western couples and the solitude-loving John Childs were camped early in July 1995. The moment the four men were seized, was oneof incomprehension and some puzzlement, not terror. Their captors conveyed little sense of threat,merely explaining that they needed to take away the men for questioning regarding possibleinvolvement in Israeli espionage. But then, the supposed interrogation just did not seem to end, andthe three women who hung about waiting for their companions to return had to make the agonisingdecision of leaving the scene of the abductions and trudging down to Pahalgam town, where theymade a complaint at the nearest police station. The local police though had their hands full withmanaging another possible flashpoint for violence. The Amarnath yatra, had been till the eruption of militancy in Kashmir, a low-key annual voyage of piety undertaken by a few thousands. But sincethen, it had been transformed into an annual contest of wills between the Indian security agenciesand the more extreme militant units. The time of the abduction was especially bad, since militantgroups had just set off bombs at Pahalgam, where the pilgrims began to gather prior to their trek upto a cave temple, and a Hindu vigilante group that had arrived in force to impose its will on thelocals, had set off a retaliatory rampage against all Kashmiris they could lay hands on. With apotential security meltdown on his hands, the local police superintendent urgently messagedsuperiors in Srinagar, recommending that the trekking routes beyond Pahalgam be cleared of allwestern tourists and fresh arrivals be dissuaded.His plea was ignored and this is the first of the mysteries of the official Indian response that calls forfresh scrutiny. On July 5, the German student Dirk Hasert and his friend Anne Hennig arrived inSrinagar and were told by all the officials they consulted that aside from the downtown area of thecity, every other part of Kashmir was safe for the
“holiday of a lifetime”.
The Norwegian HansChristian Ostro, who emerges in these pages as an engaging and zestful personality, needed no suchpositive reassurance. Indeed, when following five months in Kerala steeped in learning
, hehad been warned that Kashmir was dangerous territory, he had admonished his dance teachers forbeing
On July 8, when John Childs fled his captivity, feigning the desperate need for a nocturnal trip to thetoilet, the leader of the kidnap ring had sent his men in frantic search. At some point, the directivewas changed: any number of substitutes could be picked up. Hasert was the first to be snatchedfrom the tent that he was camped in. A few hours later, Ostro was taken from a tea stall near

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->