Two congressmen moved Monday to demand the release of a Spokane man and four other hostages held for more than a month by guerrillas in northern India.
A resolution, co-sponsored by Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Spokane, condemns a shadowy group of militants for the capture of psychologist Don Hutchings and four other Westerners.
Drafted by Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., the resolution calls for an immediate release of the hostages and an end to violent acts in the Indian state of Jammu-Kashmir. It was referred to the House International Relations Committee on Monday.
But action on the resolution is at least a month away because of the congressional recess.
That delay, coupled with unconfirmed reports that Hutchings has been wounded, has his friends worried that any congressional action will come too late.
“There’s a lot of frustration,” said Emily Gordon, a member of Spokane Mountaineers, a club to which Hutchings and his wife, Jane Schelly, belong.
“If this is still going on after Labor Day, these people are going to be in really bad shape whether they’ve been wounded or not,” Gordon said.
Over the weekend, the rebel group calling itself Al-Faran released a picture showing Hutchings with a bloodstained bandage around his waist. It also released a tape recording in which a man identifying himself as Hutchings said he and another hostage had been injured.
Several weeks ago, the militants said two hostages had been wounded in a clash with Indian troops. The Indian government promptly denied any such gunbattle had taken place and called the militants’ claims a negotiating tactic.
Hutchings’ friends are concerned that the Indian government has yet to respond to the picture and tape recording, Gordon said.
The U.S. State Department, which previously said it supports the Indian government’s contention no battle had taken place, would say Monday only that it is aware of the picture and tape.