Masks and false names fox sleuths
Harkat reaps hijack harvest
Mamata connects Calcutta with Kandahar
Supercyclone veiled saviour for leprosy colony
Women break free of landlord & Lucknow
Crop suicides stalk Andhra again

 
 
MASKS AND FALSE NAMES FOX SLEUTHS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan 2: 
Investigating officials have identified the false names under which the hijackers boarded flight IC 814.

It is clear from the passenger manifest at Kathmandu that the hijackers had adopted typical Indian names and false Indian addresses. But the Centre is not disclosing the names as it would cause embarrassment to agencies that had been taken unawares by the meticulously-planned crime.

However, all clues from the passenger list are being followed up. Even the false addresses are being looked into.

The hijackers had got away easily as neither a passport nor a visa is required to travel from Kathmandu to any place in India. Any proof of identity — a ration card or a bank passbook — suffices.

It is believed that the hijackers had procured fake identity cards without difficulty.

Indian officials admit that they would find it difficult to identify the hijackers. They do not want to harass the released hostages at this stage to find out if any of them had seen them without the masks.

But it may be possible for passengers who had fallen ill and had sent to the business class — which served as the infirmary —to illuminate the officials .

The hijackers may have taken off their masks in the business class and the cockpit — in the economy class, where the hostages were huddled together, the air pirates had their monkey caps on throughout the eight days with only their eyes showing.

The crew, who interacted closely with the hijackers, will be grilled later for additional information.

The Indian intelligence official returning from Nepal, who was among the hostages, is being debriefed to find out if with his experience of working in Nepal, he can throw light on the background of the hijackers — at least on the Kashmiri group to which they belong. Other intelligence officials will follow up his clues.

Harkat-ul-Ansar militants now in Indian jail will also be approached.

The role of the outfit in the hijack is being probed, as the hijackers finally released the hostages in exchange of two Harkat leaders.

One R.G. Verma had checked in with baggage weighing over 100 kg. He had taken his boarding pass along with S.A. Sayed, who did not return with the hostages. Both the names are being assumed to be aliases.

The hijackers, possibly having access to the passenger manifest, knew that a Verma family was among the passengers.

A common surname that matched with other passengers’ surnames was perhaps chosen to avoid suspicion.    


 
 
HARKAT REAPS HIJACK HARVEST 
 
 
FROM CHANDAN NANDY
 
New Delhi, Jan.2: 
Of all the splinter groups fighting for the secession of Kashmir, it is Harkat-ul-Ansar which looks set to emerge doubly strengthened from the hijack.

The hijackers have taken out two of its very senior leaders, ideologue Maulana Masood Azhar and Ahmed Omar Sayed Sheikh. It is is expected that the third released militant, Srinagar-based Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, will be absorbed into the Harkat-ul-Ansar to begin operations from Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir (PoK).

The unidentified hijackers too could belong to Harkat-ul-Ansar, a tanzeem (outfit) floated to spearhead jihad against India, especially in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Harkat-ul-Ansar was formed in October-November 1993 in Pakistan after the reunification of Harkat-ul-Jihadi-Islami , which was set up in 1980, and the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, which had split from the parent body in 1985.

Intelligence sources said Maulana Fazlul Khalil, then commander-in-chief of Harkat-ul-Jihadi-Islami, broke away following a “personality clash” with Qazi Saifullah, the amir.

In 1991, Maulana Shadatullah took over as amir of the Harkat-ul-Jihadi-Islami which encouraged ulemas of Deobandi institutions to reunite the splinter groups.

Following persistent efforts of the ulemas, including Maulana Kalimullah, chancellor of the Dar-ul-Uloom Jamia Farooqia, Mufti Rafi Usmani, chancellor of the Dar-ul-Uloom and Mufti Rashid Ahmed, chancellor of the Dar-ul-Ifta wal Irshad — all from Karachi — Harkat-ul-Jihadi-Islami and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen merged in Kashmir in December 1993.

Around the last week of January, 1994, Maulana Masood Azhar, alias Wali Adam Issa, came over from Pakistan via Dhaka on a fake Portuguese passport. The passport had been provided to him by a fellow Derbyshire-based activist. Masood hails from Kauser Colony in Model Town at Bahawalpur.

He was arrested within a month of his arrival in India during a routine check.

The Harkat-ul-Ansar provided arms training to its cadre at the Pakistani army-run Elaka Gair camp in Lipa and at Yawar, in Khost province of Afghanistan, run by the Hizb-e-Islami.

Indian security agencies said military training of Harkat-ul-Ansar terrorists was supervised by an Afghanistan-based “commander”, Abdul Jaffar.

Headquartered in Islamabad, Harkat-ul-Ansar is led by Maulana Fazlul Rehman Khalil Amir-e-Allah, Maulana Mohammad Ameen, Maulana Farooq Kashmiri (naib amir in Pakistan and amir in Jammu and Kashmir), Hataf Bhai, chief commander in the valley, and deputy chief commander Abdul Latif Kant, alias Akram.

In Bangladesh, the Harkat-ul-Ansar chief is Maulana Kalimullah. In the United Arab Emirates , it is headed by Maulana Ishaq Madni and its chief in Afg-hanistan is Jalaluddin Hakani.

The organisation’s main sponsors are the ISI, the Jamat-ul-Ulema Islam, Tableegh-ul-Islam, and the Hizb-e-Islami (Yunis Khalis faction). It also has close “working relations” with the Somalian Ittihad-e-Islami and has several activists and sympathisers in the United Kingdom.

Soon after being banned by the US in October 1997, some Harkat-ul-Ansar joined the Tehrik-e-Jihad and rechristened themselves as Harkat-ul-Mujahideen.    


 
 
MAMATA CONNECTS CALCUTTA WITH KANDAHAR 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Jan. 2: 
Mamata Banerjee has claimed that all the five hijackers on board IC 814 had stayed in Calcutta for six months. They were also fluent in Bengali, she added.

“Many of the hostages met me in Delhi after their return. They said the hijackers had claimed to have learnt Bengali during their six-month stay in Calcutta,” the railway minister said today at a news conference here.

Chief minister Jyoti Basu, however, dismissed Mamata’s claim. “I wouldn’t like to comment on what she said about the hijackers. She talks like a mad woman. It is unfortunate that such people are voted to power,” he said.

“I want the government to carry out a proper investigation into the hijacking incident,” he added.

Mamata was in the capital during the hijack crisis last week, meeting hostages’ relatives. Many of them were hostile to the government due to the delay in effecting the release, she said.

“I had to stay back in Delhi to keep the relatives informed of the government’s moves to expedite the release,” she said.

The West Bengal government was in the dark about the “startling fact” of the hijacker’s Calcutta connection.

At the press meet, the Trinamul Congress chief also grilled an intelligence official.

“What did your intelligence people do when the hijackers sneaked into the city and learnt Bengali?” she asked.

Criticising the Left Front, Mamata said: “This is ample proof of the state government’s scant concern about security measures.”

Reiterating that all the five districts in north Bengal are safe havens for terrorists, she said they have also been sneaking into some other border areas, taking advantage of security lapses.

“I have brought up this fact before the state government time and again but nothing has been done so far,” she alleged.    


 
 
SUPERCYCLONE VEILED SAVIOUR FOR LEPROSY COLONY 
 
 
FROM DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA
 
Paradip, Jan. 2: 
With their disfigured faces and missing toes, the residents of the leper colony here are the only possible survivors of the supercyclone who are smiling today.

Orissa is still reeling from the impact of the killer storm. The cyclone ravaged much of its coastal area and battered the port town on October 29, killing hundreds of people living in shanties and mowing down thousands of huts.

It also wrecked the leper colony in Paradip, leaving seven women widowed. But those who survived at Rogipara, an enclave of 24 leprosy-afflicted families, the storm brought an opportunity to start their lives anew.

With the media focusing on the plight of the families, help poured in from different aid agencies.

Glistening tin-and-tarp, semi-permanent shelters replaced the leaky shacks blown away in the storm. Goats and chickens were donated to the families.

The warm clothes they received as relief from private groups helped shield their skinny children from the cold. This was in sharp contrast to the condition in other cyclone-battered areas in the coastal districts, where children with little or nothing to wear had come down with cold and fever, reports said.

The families were not going hungry, as they had often done before the cyclone. “We have enough to eat now, thanks to a Rayagada-based leprosy trust,” Daitari Swain, a resident, said.

New Hope Rural Leprosy Trust, working in south Orissa and neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, pitched in with sacks of rice, potatoes, onions and other essentials. “We have never had eggs before,” Mathuri Jena, another resident said, as he had lunch out of a new stainless steel plate, also donated by the volunteer group. “The supplies will last at least two months.”

In the evening, the homes of the lepers are lit with big kerosene lanterns, which “came as a gift”, Krushna Behera, a wheel-chair-bound patient, said. A king-size water filter sat on a table placed at the centre of the enclave the size of a tennis court. “We have been told not to drink unfiltered water any more,” Behera explained.

Even the women who lost their husbands to the cyclone said they were leading a better life than before. “We often had to go without food earlier, but now we eat dal and a vegetable curry daily with rice,” Kanak Rana, a widow, said.

Rana gave birth to a baby daughter, her first, on November 16 while she had found shelter in a half-constructed apartment building for port employees. But the new-born did not survive the ordeal, dying a week after she was born.

“I do not want to think about my lost daughter any more. I have two more sons to look after,” Rana said. She said she hoped to find a job as a domestic soon and get on with her life.

Not that the colony can forget the cyclone. “Our lives have definitely been bettered by aid groups, but our personal losses are too great to forget easily,” said Bulu Sahoo, widowed by the storm.

Residents said the Paradip port trust chairman also visited them last month and promised help. He asked them to stand on their own two feet and not beg in the streets. But for that, the colony needs more help, as the supply of food will not last long.

“The leprosy trust has assured us it will provide rickshaws or other means of livelihood. The port authorities have also promised to help. We are hopeful,” Sahoo says. But the rickshaws needed to arrive before the residents slip back into begging and poverty, he reminded.    


 
 
WOMEN BREAK FREE OF LANDLORD & LUCKNOW 
 
 
FROM SUJAY GUPTA
 
Shankergarh (Uttar Pradesh), Jan. 2: 
Even as Parliament witnessed ugly scenes over the tabling of the women’s Bill in December, a group of tribal women from remote Allahabad villages declared independence.

Kol women from 33 villages, who work as labourers in the stone and silica mines, resolved never to beg for government help or accept payment from landlords.

Their source of sustenance: 54 small self-help groups which they have formed. The groups save a small amount every month, out of which loans can be given to members.

They are “free” now, the women say. No MP or MLA, nor any public figure will be allowed into their villages any more. Neither will they work for a landlord. They will not take any help from the administration, including medicine.

The women’s groups will also help their men to fight.

On December 10, the Kols had “captured” 15 mines of the most influential landlord, Mahendra Pratap Singh, after he refused them work contracts.

After the capture, Singh decided to stop all payment to the Kols, and refused to employ them. The Kols, one of the most backward tribes, had little choice: either make up with the “Raja” or fight to the finish.

On December 20, they decided to fight it out.

Amar Saran, a leading advocate from Allahabad and a member of the district bonded labour vigilance committee, said: “From January 1 onwards, 50,000 Kols will be forced to break the law.

“They will again capture the mines, not allow the contractors to work there, and fill up the jails to highlight their twin demands of being given independent contracts and being freed from working for contractors at wages lower than the minimum under the bonded labour Act,” Saran said.

The self-help groups will function as a back-up mechanism during the agitation. They will ensure that while the struggle continues, there is money for food, medicines and even weddings.

Each self-help group has 20 members and each member saves between Rs 20 to Rs 30 a month, raising Rs 500. The money is given as loans for medical expenses, marriages or other family expenditure.

There were two important points on the agenda of the “Central Committee” of the self-help groups which met on December 20. One, to identify those who would be given loans by the self-help societies to tide over their financial crisis because mining contractors had refused to pay them. Two, to give advances to patients who were suffering from silicosis — common among these tribal miners.

Shanti Devi, “president” of a self-help group in Garhwa village in Barha block, is illiterate. But in the past nine months, her group has saved Rs 4,000. After the December 20 meeting of the central committee, attended by all self-help groups, separate meetings of each group were held to give spot loans.

Shanti Devi sanctioned Rs 500 to Mahdei Sakhya to look after her husband, a silicosis patient. She herself took a loan of the same amount for the marriage of her brother-in-law. Chandravati, another villager, was also given Rs 500 for domestic expenses.

No interest is charged on these loans and borrowers are expected to pay back at least Rs 20 a month. However, in view of the current crisis, repayment is not a must.

It will not be an easy struggle because if contractors do not pay, the funds of the self-help groups will diminish.

Allahabad district magistrate Alok Tandon has written to the chief minister’s secretary, Alok Ranjan, asking for immediate intervention. But the state government is not taking the mining-labourers seriously. Both labour minister Dharampal Singh and mines minister Shivendra Singh are away.

But going by the spirit of the Kols, specially the women, the tribals seem to be doing just fine taking their own decisions.    


 
 
CROP SUICIDES STALK ANDHRA AGAIN 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Hyderabad, Jan. 2: 
Over 40 farmers have allegedly committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh over the failure of the kharif crop in several districts.

A spate of suicides had followed the failure of the cotton crop in 1995. The latest setback comes due to changes in the pattern of seasonal rain.

According to farmer leaders, 35 people took their lives in the last one month. The various reasons cited are crop loss, burden of bank loan and steep power bills.

Of the 35 farmers, 23 belonged to Warangal, said V. Prakash of the Telengana Ikya Vedika.

Shaken by the suicides in 1995, the Chandrababu Naidu government had been forced to hold back the hike in farm power rates. But AP Transco, the state power utility, is set to hike the tariff soon.

The Warangal farmers were the worst-hit by the failure of rains in late October.

“The ripe crop dried up and power failure on critical days made their misery worse,” said Sairam Reddy of Parkal village in the district.

On the other hand, unseasonal rains in November hit farmers in Nizamabad, Karimnagar and Nalgonda, causing an invasion of pests into their fields.

The state agriculture department said the kharif crop was grown in over 85 lakh acres. However, grain production was expected to fall below target by over 30 lakh tonnes.

The poor harvest will affect Naidu’s rice scheme, which has already been slashed by 30 per cent due to a World Bank directive.    

 

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