Freed militant floats new jihad force
Hope and fear gag Bhopal fraud victims
CBI at dead-end in Kapil case
Blood stains Rabri debut
BJP sees no threat in Eelam
Quit notice on British dog-lover
Sonia cracks whip on dissidents

New Delhi, May 26 
Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, one of the three militants freed to secure the release of hostages on the hijacked Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu, has launched a terrorist outfit inKashmir.

Zargar is the second militant after Masood Azhar to float an outfit of foreign and Kashmiri militants. Soon after reaching Karachi from Kandahar, Masood declared jihad on India and the US and launched Jaish-e-Mohammad, an outfit of Afghan and Pakistani mercenaries belonging to the Harkat-ul-Ansar and Hizbul Mujahideen.

There are reports that Jaish-e-Mohammad has pushed in terrorists into Kashmir Valley though home ministry officials refused to admit it. A terrorist, in fact, drove an explosives-laden truck to the army’s 15 Corps headquarters in Badami Bagh cantonment in Srinagar a month-and-a-half ago.

According to communication intercepts and other intelligence reports, Zargar, alias Mohammad Latram, is based in Dudhnial in PoK and launched his organisation in mid-May with 900 mercenaries. Intelligence inputs dub the outfit a “jihadi force” waiting to infiltrate into Kashmir.

Zargar has set up training camps at Shard, Tejian and Domel close to the Line of Control. Intelligence inputs say batches of 60-70 mercenaries undergo training at the camps at any given time.

Zargar is reported to have crossed over into the Kashmir Valley two months ago and approached youth on the Indian side of the LoC to join his organisation. Security agencies, including the state police, are trying to track down the number of Kashmiri youth who may have opted for training at Zargar’s camps.

The home ministry has decided to “pursue” the freed militants, particularly Masood, and get them back to India to stand trial. A move is also on to secure extradition of the five Pakistani hijackers according to international conventions on hijacking. Pakistan is a signatory to the convention.

Intelligence agencies have been asked to keep tabs on Masood’s movements, both within and outside Pakistan. Security agencies have been asked to keep close watch on Afghanistan and Islamic countries in West Asia where Masood might go to raise funds. “We also have the option of officially approaching Islamabad for his extradition,” an official said.    

Bhopal, May 26: 
A last-minute promise of remedy, combined with fear of income-tax scrutiny, kept most of the 15,000 people of Bhopal allegedly cheated by three companies away from a meeting called to work out a strategy to recover their money.

Less than a hundred people turned up for the gathering at Iqbal maidan in the old city area.

The three private financial companies — Al Fahad, Al Falah and Alround Tejarati — had collected over Rs 50 crore and the depositors fear their money is lost forever. Promoters of the three unlicensed companies are missing.

Before the depositors’ meeting, a secret rendezvous was organised by an agent of Al Fahad this morning. According to Mohammad Mansoor, the owner of an automobile marketing company and an investor in Al Fahad, an agent of the company, identified as Shakir Siddiqui, held a meeting of 30-40 victims and promised all investors Al Fahad shares equivalent to the money they have invested.“They called those people who would never have understood the meaning of shares,” Mansoor said.

“What shares? There is a procedure under which a company issues shares in the market. A fraud financial company cannot float shares in the market. Khud paise lo, aur phir khud ka share khud becho. What do they take us all for? They think they can fool us over and over again? They did not call us obviously because we understand how the share market works. This is another dirty game played on the victims. These guys who attended the meeting in turn spread the word around that the company is coming out with shares and they would earn much more than they invested as Al Fahad’s shares will sell like hot cakes in the market,” he said.

As news of the ray of hope spread like wild fire, the victims decided to avoid the Iqbal maidan meeting.“What a way to mislead people. A company which floats shares gives the antecedents of the company, its directors. So how is Al Fahad going to introduce itself to its shareholders — that it is a company of frauds?” asked Mansoor.

“The majority of the people are also scared of the income-tax department,” said Firdouz Jahan, who invested Rs 38,000 with Al Fahad. “My money is small and I can account for it. Most people put their black money with these companies and now do not even want to talk about it for fear of income-tax raids. My neighbour, who invested Rs 4.5 lakh, does not even dare talk of his money being returned,” she added.

Mansoor and the handful of victims who gathered for the scheduled meeting this afternoon, however, still refuse to give up.

“We will go meet the local Reserve Bank official here. After that, we will lodge a complaint with the police. This will not be so easy but I want my money back. And not in fake shares. I want it back in cash,” he said.    

New Delhi, May 26: 
Caught in the dramatic twist of events of the past one month — which saw charges and counter-charges fly between former cricketers Manoj Prabhakar and Kapil Dev — an exasperated CBI has almost given up hope of filing a criminal case.

CBI sources said today that, as a last resort, investigators will interrogate Kapil Dev before taking a final decision on lodging a regular case. It is a virtual admission that the agency is yet to come across any solid evidence on the basis of which it could file a case against the World Cup-winning captain.

Since being given the job of probing allegations of match-fixing on May 2, the bureau has so far examined seven persons, including Prabhakar, former India team manager Ajit Wadekar, ex-BCCI president Inderjit Singh Bindra and former opener Navjot Singh Siddhu.

But none of those examined has been able to provide substantial documentary evidence. Apart from those they have already spoken to, the investigators will also get in touch with Mohammed Azharuddin, Nayan Mongia, Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri.

With a furious Kapil spewing fire at a news conference yesterday, the CBI’s admission that it would have no option but to close the ongoing inquiry for lack of evidence is going to land both Bindra and Prabhakar in trouble.

Kapil, who has denied having approached the former Delhi all-rounder with a Rs 25-lakh “offer” for “under-performing” in a 1994 one-dayer against Pakistan, has sued Bindra. Yesterday, he declared he would file a defamation suit against Prabhakar as well.

Though the agency has made it clear that it has begun speaking to former and present cricketers who have got involved in this duel, it is obvious that circumstantial evidence has to be corroborated by documentary proof to be admissible in a court of law.

The bureau has so far watched bemused the media-war between the two. “That is a war for popular esteem and support,” said a CBI official. “It has nothing do with our investigation.”    

Patna, May 26 
At least six persons were killed and 12 injured in sporadic incidents of violence and police firing in today’s bypolls to three Assembly constituencies.

There was unusually heavy turnout in all the three constituencies. Raghopur, where chief minister Rabri Devi is a candidate, had registered a turnout of over 65 per cent.

According to an official source, the reason for the heavy turnout at Raghopur is the polarisation of upper-caste votes against Rabri Devi.

Three persons were killed in three separate incidents in Raghopur during the polls. Polling had to be stopped in a number of booths after voters complained of intimidation, abuse, forcible blocking of booths and ballot snatching. Voters alleged that in the Doab area of the constituency, booth-grabbers had a field day while the police turned a blind eye.

At 9.30 am, about 20 armed men stormed one Jaggu Rai’s house in Dhanoti village and forced his family to stay indoors. When he complained to the police and wanted to come out to vote, the gang attacked the booths in the Yadav-dominated village and opened fire on Jaggu’s family. Jaggu was shot dead and two others were injured.

At 10.30 am, a gang raided the house of Shanti Devi, an Independent Rajput candidate. They dragged out her driver, Birendra Singh, and shot him dead in her presence. Shanti Devi’s husband, Mahesh Singh, was shot on May 18. He is still undergoing treatment in a hospital.

The gun-toting Rajput gangsters were angry with Shanti Devi for her refusal to support the consensus Rajput candidate Veena Devi. They believed that Shanti Devi’s candidature would split Rajput votes and help Rabri Devi to win.

In another incident at 4 pm, a 35-year-old voter was killed in a crossfire between rival groups who were trying to capture booths.

Jamui Assembly constituency in Munger also witnessed stray attempts to capture booths. At 3.30 pm, two rival groups tried to capture the Bhimain Primary school booth in Khaira by exploding bombs to scare away the voters.

Police intervened only to be stoned. In retaliation, the police opened fire, killing three and injuring 10.

However, there was brisk polling in Jamui constituency. The key candidate here is the brother of irrigation minister Jayprakash Yadav, who is facing an arrest warrant in connection with the education scam.    

New Delhi, May 26: 
Departing from its known posture, the BJP today softened towards Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka, saying “Eelam” is not a “threat” to India.

The party, however, iterated that it respected the “territorial integrity” of Sri Lanka.

“What way is Eelam a threat to us?” asked senior vice-president Jana Krishnamurthy. “The Tamil Nadu people are as patriotic as anyone else in the country. With 5,000 guerrillas, can they (LTTE) invade India? Eelam is not such an easy thing to attain”, he added.

Support to the LTTE by some of its Tamil Nadu allies, especially the Vaiko-led MDMK, and the “tough stance of the Lankan government” appear to be behind the shift in the BJP’s stand, party sources said.

BJP leaders had a meeting with the party’s Tamil Nadu unit on Monday and the feedback is that though there is not much support for the LTTE in the state, there is a groundswell of sympathy for the Lankan Tamils.

Krishnamurthy said the state BJP is anxious to see that Tamil aspirations are honoured.

BJP sources said the Vajpayee government is unhappy with Colombo’s treatment of Tamils in the island.“Tamils must enjoy equal rights, equal treatment and equal opportunities,” said Krishnamurthy.

The BJP had suggested to the Lankan government to show some gestures towards the Tamil minority. The party also sought autonomy for the Tamil-dominated northeastern province.    

Panaji (Goa), May 26: 
Sonia Hillidge, a 30-year-old British animal rights campaigner who spent the last three years tending to stray dogs and cats in Goa, has been served a notice to quit the country.

On April 19, she was sent a notice from Delhi, asking her to leave India “immediately”.

Hillidge challenged the order in Goa High Court, but had to give up after being made to report to the police daily and “being treated like a criminal”.

“At one stage, the authorities told the court that my presence was a threat to national security,” Hillidge said.

When the judges asked for evidence, the prosecution altered the charge against her to not having registered with the police within 14 days of entering India, she said.

“Earlier, we would register in 180 days’ time if we were to stay over six months. The rules were changed and we failed to notice the fineprint. But we had already gone to the police and paid fines to rectify that,” Hillidge said.

“I believe Maneka Gandhi could have intervened. She was aware of it, but she said she had no connection with the home department,” she said, adding: “I am upset and heartbroken. But as long as the animals are all right, it’s fine.”    

New Delhi, May 26: 
The Congress high command today issued a veiled threat to Rajesh Pilot and Jitendra Prasada asking them not to “test the patience” of the leadership and indicated that disciplinary action would be initiated against them if they continued to challenge Sonia Gandhi’s authority in public fora.

Congress general secretary Sushil Kumar Shinde said he would personally speak to both Prasada and Pilot to work out a rapprochement between them and Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Salman Khurshid. But he made it clear that remarks against Sonia would not be tolerated.

The Congress leadership has taken strong note of Pilot’s remarks on BBC, equating the party with the Labour party and projecting himself as a Tony Blair. Throughout the day, Sonia’s managers made hectic efforts to get Pilot’s denial but he was untraceable.

A large number of fence-sitters in the Congress are keenly watching the battle for supremacy between the Sonia camp and the Pilot-Prasada combine. If the dissident duo gains momentum, many would join them but, at present, the dominant mood among malcontents and fence-sitters is to hedge their bets. As of now, the Congress chief enjoys support of a majority of working committee members, chief ministers, pradesh Congress committee chiefs and other party functionaries. However, loyalists and dissidents alike are concerned over the party’s future, which appears bleak.

Sensing disquiet in the Congress, rebel leader Sharad Pawar has swung into action, instigating desertion to the “real” party — the Nationalist Congress Party — which is observing its first birthday on June 10. Pawar, P.A. Sangma and Tariq Anwar are making efforts to stage a grand show but, so far, they have not got any firm commitment from any Congress leader to join them. Pawar is so desperate that he is willing to accommodate his one-time bete noire V.N. Gadgil, who is also disillusioned with Sonia.

According to the Sonia camp’s assessment, Pilot and Prasada will continue to make provocative noises. “The organisational polls are due. If they (Pilot-Prasada) continue to be marginalised, they would not even figure in the next CWC,” a party MP said.

However, sources close to Pilot and Prasada denied the charge that their efforts were directed at pressurising the leadership to gain plum posts. They said Pilot and Prasada were “genuinely” concerned about the condition of the party and firmly believed that if the downslide continued, the Congress would not be able to reoccupy the centrestage of politics for at least a decade.    


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