Rights groups seek info on foreigners abducted in 1995

Srinagar, Apr 07: Two local human rights groups Friday sought the help of State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) to unravel the mystery surrounding the disappearance of four foreigners abducted in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district in 1995. International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice (IPTHRJ) and Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) filed a joint-petition in the SHRC following claims by two foreign investigative journalists that the Westerners were killed by a group of government gunmen. The SHRC admitted the petition and listed it before the division bench on April 17, an APDP spokesman said. “As a part of the ongoing work on the issue of nameless and unmarked graves in Jammu and Kashmir, we request that the case of the four kidnapped persons (foreigners) be considered by the SHRC,” the petition said. Paul Wells and Keith Mangan of Britain, Dirk Hassert (Germany), John Childs and Donald Hutching (US) and Hans Christan Ostro (Norway) were abducted by little-known Al-Faran militant group, believed to be shadow outfit of Harkat ul-Ansar, from the woods of Pahalgam in 1995. While Childs was lucky to escape in the cover of darkness six days after his abduction, 27-year-old Ostro was killed by his abductors. His body was found on August 13 in the same year. There has been no trace of the remaining four foreigners. Pertinently, a book written by foreign investigative journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark has claimed that four foreign tourists were killed by a group of militants sponsored by Indian army. According to a recent report in Delhi based newspaper, Asian Age, Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, who have written their new book, “The Meadow: Kashmir 1995 — Where the Terror Began,” about the abduction, claim that the four Westerners were murdered by a group of Kashmiri militants who worked for the Indian Army. “The four hostages were shot and buried…a good, hard walk behind the Lower village,” the book claims. 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. 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. PTI

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