A book on the 1995 kidnapping of foreign tourist by Al Faran

Discussion in 'Internal Security' started by Yusuf, Apr 13, 2012.

  1. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    April 13, 2012, 9:54 AM
    A Conversation With : ‘The Meadow’ Author Adrian Levy
    By HEATHER TIMMONS
    Adrian Levy is co-author of “The Meadow,” a newly released book about the 1995 kidnappings of six foreigners in Kashmir and the aftermath. He and Cathy Scott-Clark, both veteran journalists, also have written books about Russian artwork, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and jade.

    In “The Meadow,” they examine Al Faran, the group responsible for the kidnappings, and its links to Masood Azhar, a Pakistani cleric jailed in India whose release the group was demanding, as well as recreate the kidnapping and months that the hostages were held. Mr. Levy responded to questions from India Ink by e-mail about the book, and particularly the startling theory that underpins it: that the Indian government and military allowed the hostages to die, as part of a larger political game that was being played in Kashmir at the time.

    Q.
    Can you tell us about the research process for this book?

    A.
    We began reporting for The Sunday Times magazine in South Asia around the time of the kidnapping, before becoming correspondents based in Delhi, working for The Sunday Times foreign department.

    We then moved over to The Guardian, and worked across the entire of Asia. Kashmir was a story/issue/crisis we followed and investigated for those two newspapers (consecutively) for 16 years. Over that time we developed close contacts in the Jammu and Kashmir Police, Intelligence Bureau (IB), Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and as significantly in civil society groups, consisting of lawyers and the so-called “mothers of the missing,” or Association of the Parents of Disappeared Persons from their foundation to now.

    These relations all deepened after the earthquake of 2005, when we and them scoured Kashmir reporting the disaster but also reporting on the emergence of unmarked and mass graves in areas previously closed down. Our focus on the missing and the graves brought us back to the subject of the Western missing, which officials, agents, officers and villagers began to talk about freely for the first time, as a cathartic reaction to their mapping of the graves.

    In 2007, after finishing a book on Pakistan, we went back to our notes from the 1995 kidnappings, and approached the Western inquiry teams first: diplomats, Scotland Yard detectives, and the FBI, to explore what had been known and what were the basic research material available: timelines, maps, sightings, eye witness accounts.

    Armed with these, including the complete diplomatic chronology of events, we then moved research to Pakistan, where we have worked extensively. There we have particularly good contacts with federal investigators, and inside the government and military. These led to meetings with the Masood circle, his father and associates in the Punjab, Karachi and what was the Northwest Frontier Province. An enormous range of material was made available to us, including a Masood journal and his early writings, as well as files on his group’s creation of Al Faran.

    In India, with the help of Western diplomats and contacts in Delhi, we created lists of who was in the J&K police inquiry, the IB and RAW at the time, running the Valley, but also with specific responsibilities. These names included the most senior officers and agents, all of whom we approached and then returned to on multiple occasions, interviewing them and drawing them out.

    They in turn passed us on to others in RAW (mostly retired), IB and the police, until we had a fairly complete diagrammatic structure of who was where and had interviewed almost all of them.

    The army and the Ministry of Defense declined to get involved at any level, although Gen. D.D. Saklani, who was the security adviser to the governor, did talk at length.

    My general observations would be that the J&K police’s senior officers wanted to talk and were enormously helpful, as were IB. Through them we got to files and tape recordings.

    We also determined the exact route taken by the kidnappers, and followed that route, through Anantnag, and over in Kishtwar and the Warwan Valley, interviewing hundreds of villagers over the years, staying in Sukhnoi where we learned from villagers, and then the IB and the J&K police, the hostages had been deliberately penned in for 11 weeks approximately, while they were observed in detail and near daily, by an Indian helicopter.

    Our basic method was then to take the gamut of “witness” statements from the countryside back to the J&K police, IB etc and bounce them around to see what memories were jogged and if these memories matched official accounts, which they did.

    The view of Indian politicians, was that none of this (in 1995) was in their control, given the governor’s rule was in place in the Valley, and they were elbowed out and replaced by the military/intelligence/policing arrangement.

    We did approach former civil servants from South Block who all confirmed that the hostages had been penned in the Warwan and that intelligence and military ran the show.

    So starting with maps and a chronology, we created lists of officials and agents, whose accounts we then matched to new eyewitnesses, and whose statements we put to the people who had run the inquiries to eke out the truth.

    We also then reached out to all of the victims of the earlier kidnappings. We looked at these events in details from all sides to see the building methodology of the group. We visited some of the jihadis involved in jail in India and in Pakistan.

    Q.
    The most shocking part of the book concerns the role of the Indian government and military. Can you tell us at what time in your reporting you had, as one crime squad member said in the book, the “dawning realization that their desire to solve the crime was at odds with the goals of some senior figures in the military and the intelligence services.”

    A.
    We had no idea until 2010.

    The idea of a conspiracy of some sorts had been building, in that we had been told, convincingly by officials and civilians, that the hostages’ whereabouts was known for an extensive period of time. There was no attempt to rescue them, only efforts to make the affair more protracted.

    We also knew by then the workings of internal and secret talks between the J&K police, IB and the kidnappers. We had the tape transcripts and interviews with those who talked on all sides. And from this it became clear that these talks were sabotaged by Indian officials.

    The details were rich and precise, showing how at every level when a solution was found, it was undermined at the highest level by the intelligence agencies and military.

    No names were ever given us, although the opinion expressed by all involved in talking to Al Faran was that only those at the top within intelligence could have had access to the information.

    In 2010-2011, we also were introduced to the renegades who had been working with the military and IB, and they and their handlers revealed a truce that had been struck between themselves and the kidnapping group, a truce that went against everything that was being expressed publicly.

    These Renegades, their handlers and the police who were investigating them, suspicious of their involvement in the kidnapping, led us in 2011 to information, witnesses and official accounts of how the hostages were “sold,” bought from Al Faran, and taken charge of by the Renegades led by Nabi Azad in Shelipora.

    Q.
    Who are the people that you would say strongly support your conclusion?

    A.
    The Crime Branch team on the ground, the security team working for the then governor of Kashmir, very senior officers in the J&K police, both serving and retired, IB officers (retired), jailed militants in Tihar, who were first framed for the killing and then cleared by the Indian authorities, British foreign office sources (retired), and eyewitness to the men’s death.

    We also were shown extensive records, journals, accounts by investigators including eye witness statements.

    We interviewed the eyewitnesses and police sources.

    Inspector General Rajinder Tikoo (who led the negotiations with the kidnappers) confirmed the sabotaging of the talks and that intelligence did not want there to be a resolution. He resigned as a result from the inquiry. He then had no part to play and does not express a view of the ending.

    Q.
    Did you attempt to make contact with any of the senior-most figures who would have been involved in that decision? Members of then-Prime Minister [Narasimha] Rao’s inner circle? Pranab Mukherjee, who is quoted during one press conference? Former Gov. of Kashmir Rao? Former heads of RAW or IB who would have been active at that time? If so, what was their response?

    A.
    Military, apart from Saklani, would not play ball. Politicians all declared they were led by the intelligence and military as they were out of the picture. IB and RAW conceded that prolonging the crime was their intention. It was wrapped up in the language of strategy, in that they could publicly claim the Warwan Valley was inaccessible and that any raid would be detected and thwarted leading to the deaths of the hostages.

    IB and RAW officers conceded that the view inside the bunker of intelligence was that Pakistan started this, and would not be allowed to end it. The kidnapping was a boon that enabled the Indian intelligence fraternity to clearly demonstrate Pakistan backed terror and demonize Kashmiri aspirations.

    These same agents and officers claimed that the ending was a local affair and riven by agents in the Valley who were too close to the Renegades who were by now uncontrollable. The Special Task Force of the police were similarly out of control, they were a criminal nexus. Indeed, they were also keen to point out that a judicial inquiry into Prime Minister Rao’s government in Delhi concluded that it, too, was completely in the pay of a criminal nexus, tainting his entire administration in scandal.

    http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/13/a-conversation-with-the-meadow-author-adrian-levy/
     
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  3. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    The book has serious allegations and also claims to have tape transcripts of intel officials. Says the hostages were left to die on purpose.
     
  4. balai_c

    balai_c Regular Member

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    The report appeared in the new york times blogs. A straight giveaway of their intentions would be the following statement:

    "Demonize Kashmiri aspirations" , need I say more? It is a hit job typical of a New york Times type pro pakistani journalist!
     
  5. lemontree

    lemontree Defence Professionals Defence Professionals

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    Al Faran formerly known as Harkat-ul-Ansar and is now known as Harkat-ul-Mujahideen.

    The organisation had abducted 9 foreigners and J&K police carried out operations that arrested two Harkat-ul-Ansar members including Umar Saeed Sheikh, a British student of Pakistani origin, in a operation where four hostages were freed.

    Of the remaining 5 one was beheaded and four were never found.

    In May 1996, a captured militant told Indian investigators and F.B.I. agents that he had heard that all four hostages had been shot dead on 13 December 1995, nine days after an Indian military ambush that killed four of the original hostage-takers, including the man said to have been leading them, Abdul Hamid Turki.

    I remember that even our unit had sent patrols and we were hunting for the foreigners,as the intelligence suspected that they would be exfilterated across to POK.

    The article is crap.. trying to creat sensationalism.
     
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  6. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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