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The Meadow: A hostage situation in Kashmir

Jun 10, 2012 11:42 AM IST Books Books

The Meadow is a book that details a kidnapping of six foreign tourists in Kashmir in the mid-90s, the cover-up, the complicity of Pakistani intelligence, as well as a ploy for world attention, and subsequent strategising by Indian intelligence. One of the authors, the award-winning journalist Adrian Levy speaks to CNN-IBN's Karma Wangdi in London, about the revelations his and Cathy Scott-Clark's investigation threw up, on the kidnapping and the ripple effect - from IC 814 hijack, to the Daniel Pearl kidnap and murder.

Adrian Levy:
The funny thing is this subject is that we've been reporting from Jammu and Kashmir for almost 18 years and in fact when we first begun work as investigative foreign correspondents in Kashmir this subject was just unfolding out from the umbrella it was just underway .It was just the beginning of our careers in Jammu and Kashmir and its something we come back to time and time again the reason specifically why we returned to this 4 or 5 years ago was actually pricked by our coverage of the Kashmir earthquake in 2005 during that time a lot tracks of the state opened up political areas, LOC areas been trumped by the security services and we thought of opening process. We also found people whose attitudes started to open up and communities started to get close and began to talk and then with the talking came a lot of stories and those stories gave rise to the first reports on unmarked graves in Kashmir. That was like a lightning rod in the state -- a complete lightening rod, because the whole small community started to talk.
Many others felt compelled to talk too -- suddenly there was a network of mass graves which could be described and as we know by 2011 that was ratified by the states human rights commission and with people talking about bodies arising in Kashmir inevitably a lot of people within authority among distant communities began to talk about Kashmir's most intractable missing case and that was the case of the Westerners who were kidnapped by Al-Faran.

Karma Wangdi: What were the main findings of your investigation?

Adrian Levy: The crux of the book is essentially that Pakistan backed jihadist committed an act of terror and then he abducted a group of Westerners, a group of tourists, and they knew they can internationalise this affair. And were hoping they could put the screws on India and attract world attention in full -- 3rd party media attention which of course India never wanted on Kashmir. And yet this incident was turned around by a group of Indian intelligence security services... a potentially very small group and they saw it as an opportunity to make this highlight Pakistan's use of terrorism on the international level.

So if you like this was a play by Pakistani intelligence, responded to by Indian intelligence but the result was in the people trapped in the middle of this were the hostages. The case was protracted because the longer the case could run they more it seemed that Pakistan is a state sponsor for terror...And they looked for the kind of administration that time wanted to make the case more loudly ...that Pakistan was meddling in Kashmir.
And remember that it was the point when the West was not really understanding and the message was not really understood -- the message not really put across by India.

Adrian Levy:
There are several key points that arise out of the methodology of the investigation and the political backdrop. If we look at political backdrop first the most essential thing is the politics in Kashmir by 95% is built- its surrounded by governments rule that situation is been there since 1989.

The governor, the security advisor and the intelligence are in these courts and as you may know in that period what you have is the intelligence services providing data and analysis and intelligence services acting on its own -- now it's democratic, its not like that.

Nowadays even in the hostage taking of IC814 in 1999 you have the intelligence services providing the data and the political set up to decide whether to act on that and in the case of 1999 the political set up rejected the ISS rule and said that no we will save the passengers and release the prisoners we will make a compromise. That's what happened when Maulana Azhar was released.

In 1995 the intelligence and the security set up made proposals and the security and intelligence accepted the proposals and those proposals were to prolong this, to make no prisoner released, to use this piece of propaganda so what we had in this case was extremes of intelligence that identified the case of the hostages that placed them specifically in Warmon Valley, but also where they were playing sports you know there was aerial intelligence provided -- incredibly detailed photographs that even showed the sweat on the hostages eyebrows, and those were being looked by analysts, by IBN and the military team so the decision was taken to pen the hostages in and we know they were there for almost 11 weeks and the defence used at that time by the security services was the area was very breachable. They control the high ground -- they got spotters up in the mountains, helicopters needed to be only 2km -- the Roche's would be heard and the hostages would all die that makes sense obviously for me maybe for a week while you consider a new way you look at all your options and the expertise and the equipment the international community could bring to this but in 11 weeks you know that's a different statement altogether.

That amounts to political prevarication -- there has to be a reason behind it now to go to the 2nd part of the question -- the FBI is there, Scotland Yard is there, the CIA is there -- you know US special forces is there, SAS is there and german special forces they represent the stiffs in the government guest houses they're on par with the equipment in New Delhi but what they are being told - specifically is that first of all this is an issue about sovereignty there will be no foreign boots on indian soil.

They cannot leave the guesthouse they're restricted; not only that they're shut out from the negotiations that are secretly taking place with the JK police. They're shut out from the ... data and we got the logs and diaries from the key investigators from the West and their pictures are incredibly partial. All they know is the crumbs of information that they're being fed so you have paralysis within the Western community of intelligence that's offering help.
You've got all the cards being held by intelligence and military within Kashmir and you've got a set up of politics that's being marginalised and the Governor's rule is sitting on top of it all.

It's essentially the same group behind the 2 incidents with a few specific differences -- only basically the crime in the '95 mission was by Masood's only family. You wanted the release of Masood's particularly Masood who being arrested in 1994 while bringing funds and tried to marginalise in the Kashmir valley and with a stroke of fate his vehicle broke down and he was captured and interrogated.

In fact if you see from his interrogation statement he made no attempt to hold back any information and rolled over; he exhaustive statements to Indian intelligence in a very very good operation run by IB and whoever was involved too ...In 1995 the operation nexus was brought together by Masood and his father in Pakistani Punjab who plotted with the ISI and gathered a lot of forces together and planned how this operation would work and mark it to the local expertise on the ground and by choosing the South Kashmir commander of the Pakistani side, who was extremely capable himself as a jihadi.

He could then guide the operation to make it succeed. In 1999 we know among the key operatives in the operation were the members of Masood's family who were involved in actually hijacking the plane, but also Masood's family who were in the pool who were carrying cash, weapons who were relating to ISI cut out from the Pakistan Embassy. And they were being tracked -- in fact it is very good work done by rulers to track that element .They knew pretty much at the time that there was the Masood family connection, there was some ISI backing from Pakistan and there was also other characters who would come to forward later but were part of the ISI network.

The Daniel Pearl connection

In 2002 once Pearl was abducted by Omar Shaikh -- another of the people released because of IC 814 -- it was Amjad Farooqi who beheaded Daniel Pearl and that's another important point we've been trying to make with this: Why go back to 1995 if you just look at this conversation we are having now this one event had ripples that went far beyond this.
It turned out that the kidnapping in Kashmir was in sense the breeding ground for this terror, the beheading of one of the tourist the actor from Norway -- that was really a water shed working at how to manipalate, how to press the buttons of Western and Asian governments, how to project and portray the Islamist message and the people involved across the line would then go on to commit other atrocities.
Look look at the formation of Jaish-e Mohammed of the Masoods. What do they do? The first thing they do is that they use a British sleeper recruited by Masood Azhar in 1992/1993 in London, Birmingham ...

Then in 2001 what happens at the Indian Parliament attack? 2002 the Daniel Pearl involvement ...
Then we've got 2004, the guys who were responsible for the London bombings are connected -- coached by Masood's men and then you've got the liquid bomb ... you've got the shoe bomber... All the plots are sheltered coached projected facilitated by these guys

Al Qaeda is not essentially the essence of it -- It is a breeding ground for the terror and the people living in now.

'The truth can be a foundation for peace'

Of course in Kashmir, the secret things tend to be fragmented facts. The intelligence, the truth it tends to be fragmented. It's hard to get a group of people of Kashmir to get to agree what a proper name of a village is. There are 5 different versions depending who you speak to and what the politic gender is.

.Since 1989 you know to bury the truth in Kashmir is relatively easy...

That's what this story embracing the truth is not weak -- it's not about giving Pakistan the trump card. Let's forget that -- It's about moving forward, embracing the truth is laying the transition for peace.

Transcribed by: Armaan Talreja

Book: The meadow; Published by Penguin; Authors: Adrian Levy & Cathy Scott-Clark; Price: Rs 499