They have come in search of many things - nirvana, exhilaration, a sense of self. But over the course of the next week, their holidays take a terrifying turn when they become entangled in a nail-biting hostage drama that will suck them into an alien world of jihad and Islamic fundamentalism. In the months that follow, their fates will become caught-up in a bloody struggle between India and Pakistan, fought out in the airless heights of Kashmir.
With the world looking on, four of the captured travellers will vanish off the face of the earth, never to be seen again, creating one of the region's great mysteries.
Written with access to diaries, letters, unprocessed film and personal recollections from those enmeshed in the drama, drawing on classified police reports and secret tape recordings of Indian government negotiations, as well as interviews with the jihadis themselves and excerpts from their journals, Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark's book is a real-life thriller, a startling but compelling story told from the perspective of all involved.
The Meadow charts how the fates of two groups of young men from different hemispheres became inextricably entwined on the mountain trails they followed. It tells of the terrifying escape of one hostage, the heart-rending secret letters another wrote on birch bark and hid in his clothing as he contemplated his situation, and how, with a brutal beheading, the kidnappers took an irreversible step into the abyss.
Packed with explosive revelations, The Meadow provides the first definitive answers as to what happened to the missing backpackers, revealing how the kidnapping of July 1995 changed the face of modern jihad, its architects going on to sow the seeds of a cold-hearted war against the West.