Delhi set to nail Nepal on Pak terror base
Court spares life of ‘butcher of Trilokpuri’
Cong sees poll plank in hijack
Centre to decide on Kathmandu flights today
Hostage horror on IC814.com

 
 
DELHI SET TO NAIL NEPAL ON PAK TERROR BASE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 5 
Delhi will not forfeit the opportunity to brand Kathmandu as the springboard for Pakistan’s intelligence agencies to mount anti-India operations.

At the forthcoming Indo-Nepal joint working group meeting, it is likely to ram home the point that Kathmandu is the happy hunting ground for the Inter-Services Intelligence to recruit agents for a destabilise-India mission, senior government officials said.

The special secretary-level meet —- significant in light of the Indian Airlines hijack and the recovery of fake Indian currency notes from a Pakistan embassy official —- will be held any time in Kathmandu.

The Indian team will be led by a special secretary in the home ministry. Nepal will be represented by its special secretary in the foreign ministry.

Home ministry officials said the “entire gamut of security issues” will be discussed. But they added that the “choice lies with Kathmandu” on whether it will allow Pakistani intelligence agencies to operate from its soil against a third country or heed Delhi’s repeated warnings on Pak-sponsored terrorism in Nepal.

Delhi will also insist that issues relating to border management be looked at afresh, and special emphasis laid on evolving a mechanism to issue travel documents to citizens of both countries or introduce a visa regime.

The home ministry is also likely to push for a pact which will oblige Kathmandu not to turn a blind eye to the ISI and other underworld activities flourishing in its territory.

“Earlier we used to implore with the Nepalese authorities. This time, it will be a different ball game altogether,” an official said.

Delhi will also drive home the point that the hijack could not have taken place without the connivance of Nepalese officials at Tribhuvan International airport. This, along with the mushrooming in the activities of Pakistani intelligence agencies and the Dawood Ibrahim gang, as well as the fake currency racket, will feature in the talks.

Indian officials have drawn up a list of Nepalese political leaders who have had a hand in legitimising ISI activities and of people alleged to be Dawood’s henchmen. The home ministry has enough evidence to prove that the ISI recruited Dawood gang members for anti-India activities.

Apart from Wasim Saboor, an upper division clerk in the Pakistan embassy in Kathmandu from whose house the police seized Rs 12 lakh worth fake currency notes, the home ministry has prepared a list with which it will confront Nepal.

On the list are the names of Jaffar Abbas Shah, another upper division clerk; Jameer Shah, who runs Space Time Network, a cable TV network in Nepal’s Terai region; Naeem Shah and Tahir Shah. Most of those listed are Nepalese working for Dawood and “suitably” used by the ISI. Their activities are being monitored by Indian security agencies.

India will, however, also be expected to do some soul-searching and beef up its security machinery along the porous 1751-km border with Nepal.

There are only 98 police stations and 80 border outposts in the border districts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.

Though home ministry officials say the number of police stations and outposts have increased over the past few years, there are far too few personnel to tackle the organised smuggling rackets.    


 
 
COURT SPARES LIFE OF ‘BUTCHER OF TRILOKPURI’ 
 
 
FROM OUR LEGAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 5 
In the second such judgment in less than a month, the Supreme Court has commuted the death sentence on the ‘‘butcher of Trilokpuri’’, accused of killing a number of Sikhs during the 1984 riots, saying it was not the ‘‘rarest of rare’’ cases that merit capital punishment.

The division bench of Justice K.T. Thomas and Justice D.P. Mohapatra upheld his conviction but commuted the sentence to life in prison. Last mont, the bench had similarly lessened the death punishment awarded to Jaggu and Mannu for wiping out a family in Trilokpuri.

Kishori, who earned the sobriquet ‘‘butcher of Trilokpuri’’, was accused in seven cases of murder, but was acquitted in four for want of evidence. The trial court handed out the death penalty in the remaining three cases. The order was upheld by the high court.

But the Supreme Court division bench disagreed. While saying that ‘‘we find no ground to interfere with the judgment of the high court’’, the apex court held that ‘‘the acts attributed to the mob of which the appellant was a member at the relevant time cannot be stated to be a result of an organised systematic activity leading to genocide’’.

The riots broke out on November 1 and 2, 1984 after then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. Around 2,500 Sikhs were butchered in Delhi. Kishori has been held responsible for carrying out a series of killings in Trilokpuri. ‘‘Many houses were gutted and many persons were burnt alive in the area,’’ the judges said.

Describing the crime as the ‘‘rarest of rare’’ cases, the high court, while confirming the death penalty, had said: ‘‘The sentence has to be commensurate with the degree and gravity of the offence so that a required message is sent.’’

Differing with the order, the Supreme Court said: ‘‘We can visualise to the extent that there was unlawful assembly and to the extent that the mob wanted to teach a stern lesson to the Sikhs, there was some organisation; but in that design, they did not consider that women and children should be annihilated which is a redeeming feature. When an amorphous group of persons comes together, it cannot be said that they indulge in any systematic or organised activity.’’

‘‘On the totality of the circumstances, we are of the opinion that this is not a case which can be called the rarest of rare cases warranting the maximum punishment of death sentence,’’ the bench added.    


 
 
CONG SEES POLL PLANK IN HIJACK 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, Jan. 5 
Sensing the BJP’s discomfiture over the decision to release three militants in exchange for 160 hostages, the Congress plans to corner the government on the hijacking in the coming Assembly polls in Bihar, Orissa, Haryana and Manipur.

The Congress Working Committee (CWC) is meeting tomorrow to set in motion the party’s poll campaign. The hijacking and poll preparations will dominate the CWC deliberations.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has sought a report from AICC general secretaries in charge of these states about the party’s preparedness and prospects. The leadership will subsequently formulate guidelines for selection of candidates. CWC sources said the selection would be based on recommendations of the A.K. Antony Committee.

For the Congress, the stakes are high as the polls will be a test of Sonia Gandhi’s leadership and her ability to attract votes.

If the party fails to win in any of these states, Sonia and senior AICC functionaries will come under attack from the rank and file.

An internal assessment has, however, projected a grim scenario. Even in the Congress-ruled state of Orissa, the leadership is not confident of retaining its hold. In Bihar, where the Congress has not gone in for a tie-up, it wants to create a support base with an eye on the future.

But Congress managers are upbeat about Haryana where the party had been routed in the recent Lok Sabha polls. The state Congress today tried to project a united face when all factional leaders attended a lunch hosted by state party chief Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

Besides the Assembly polls, the CWC will also discuss the hijack and the Vajpayee government’s handling of the crisis.

Indications are the CWC will come up with a formal resolution criticising the government. The working committee will, however, back the government’s efforts to get Pakistan declared as a terrorist state.

Senior Congress leaders are critical of foreign minister Jaswant Singh’s move to escort the three militants to Kandahar. Pranab Mukherjee, Natwar Singh and Arjun Singh have questioned the logic of Jaswant’s visit to Kandahar when India does not have diplomatic relations with the Taliban government.    


 
 
CENTRE TO DECIDE ON KATHMANDU FLIGHTS TODAY 
 
 
FROM DIPTOSH MAJUMDAR
 
New Delhi, Jan. 5 
The Union Cabinet will decide tomorrow on the contentious issue of resuming flights to and from Kathmandu. Restrictions were imposed on all Indian Airlines flights to Kathmandu and back on Christmas, the second day of the hijack.

With pressure building up from regular commuters to Nepal, several Cabinet ministers are expected to request Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to allow resumption of flights on this route.

Cabinet sources said a number of ministers, especially from Bihar, like communications minister Ram Vilas Paswan, water resources minister C.P. Thakur and civil aviation minister Sharad Yadav have been petitioned by businessmen, traders and travel agents, who said that the withdrawal of flights had cut them off from their source of income and that it is not in the interest of the country to delink itself from Kathmandu because the hijacked flight took off from there.

The senior Cabinet ministers will argue tomorrow that Kathmandu will always have greater links with Indian cities than any city in Pakistan. Nepal will continue to have a greater tourist flow from Delhi or elsewhere in India than from Islamabad or Karachi. Under the circumstances, Indian Airlines flights should be resumed at the earliest.

As a precaution against the recurrence of such a crime in mid-air, specially-trained National Security Guards commandos should be deployed on the flights originating from Kathmandu. This step was discussed in one of the Cabinet meetings during the hijack drama.

The ministers feel that the government would do better to help Nepal strengthen its airport security. There are many loopholes which need to be plugged, and the civil aviation ministry can prepare a list of suggestions that can be routed through the external affairs ministry to the Nepalese government.    


 
 
HOSTAGE HORROR ON IC814.COM 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 5 
Some of the freed hostages of the Indian Airlines Airbus are getting together to recount their trauma on the Net. The plan to launch a website, IC814.com, to narrate the hijack episode over eight days, pinpoint where the government went wrong and pose many questions rankling them to the Vajpayee administration.

Anup Sharma, the Mumbai-based executive who is putting together this site, is a strident critic of the government’s failure to act on time. Co-passengers like Rajinder Singh and Romesh Grover, who are partnering him in this unique venture, are not as vocal, but would not mind helping Sharma launch the site. They might even tone down Sharma’s vehement stance.

Sharma said the website is essential because the government has not yet responded to several pertinent questions. The Vajpayee administration will be asked again on the Net why Delhi could not immobilise the plane in Amritsar and carry out a rescue operation. “Forty-five minutes is a lot of time,” Sharma said, implying that if a government cannot put together a commando team and carry out an operation within this time, it should not run the country. He also wondered: “Why the National Security Guards alone? Why not the army?”

Among other questions, the site will ask the Prime Minister and his aides why it failed to act even in Dubai. The hostages understand the difficulties in para-dropping commandos or carrying out a full-fledged military operation in Kandahar. But in Dubai, where the plane stayed at the military airbase for almost three hours, both diplomatic channels and security forces could have been brought into play and the hostages should have been freed.

If Sharma manages to give the site the shape he wants to, the Vajpayee government will in for some serious embarrassment. Sharma hopes to make the site functional as soon as he reaches his workplace in Mumbai later this week.

However, the site will not just be about government-bashing. It will help traumatised passengers keep in touch and narrate all the manifestations and symptoms of their psychiatric problems. “We will e-mail each other and post the prognosis of all cases on the site,” Sharma said.

There were several computer-friendly passengers on board and Sharma’s brainwave has inspired them. The ordeal has made them lifelong friends and, contrary to popular belief, they do not want the IC-814 story to fade away. They want people to remember it and share with them what they had gone through, though they are not certain that they will emerge unscathed. The site will help them keep alive their memories and share the trauma with others.    

 

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