Caste taunt drives Bihar officer to death
Blast at holy meet kills 11 in Kashmir
Kesri puts off homecoming
Yeh dil cricketers ko na maange
Rajbanshis gear up for ‘do-or-die’ agitation
Advani target of Coimbatore blasts: Report

Vaishali, June 2 
The suicide by a Harijan officer following his humiliation by upper caste contractors has brought to the fore the influence wielded by the mafia in this ancient seat of republicanism.

Ajay Pratap Rajjack (27) took charge as Block Development Officer in December last year, but he was inexperienced in tackling corrupt contractors with powerful links.

Rajjack’s problems began after he refused to clear payment due to a contractor, Mathura Singh, without scrutinising the papers. On May 3, Mathura (a Bhumihar by caste), accompanied by hired thugs, stormed Rajjack’s office and abused him, saying: “Dhobi BDO banta hai? Bomb se ura denge (A low caste dhobi has become a BDO? I will blow you up with a bomb).”

This was followed by a series of scuffles between Rajjack and Mathura, who dragged the officer to court accusing him of demanding bribe to clear the payment.

Shocked by the humiliation, Rajjack slipped into a state of depression and killed himself by swallowing an overdose of sleeping pills on May 21.

But it was not until May 26, when the family discovered a suicide note in the almirah, that the murky saga unfolded.

The incident took a political hue after the name of a state Cabinet minister figured in the case. Veena Shahi, the Congress MLA from Vaishali, allegedly interfered in the tussle between the contractors and Rajjack and asked the officer not to file a case under the Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act. She reportedly called up the Vaishali police station and directed it not to register the case under Section 307 which deals with murderous assaults.

In his suicide note written on May 20 and addressed to his father, Rajjack said: “Perhaps I don’t fit in this system of caste discrimination. I have realised this after carrying on a futile battle against the society that surrounds me. I have seen similar incidents happening to you. This casteist society would not let me live. God made me a human being but the same human beings around me snipe at me as an untouchable Harijan. This social hatred will never end in Bihar. Please forgive me....”

Confirming the May 3 attack by Mathura and three of his goons, Vaishali circle inspector Heera Muni Prabhakar said: “I don’t know the reason for the dispute. But after the BDO threatened to call the police, they (contractors) ran away.

“Apart from the hooliganism that we face, our equations with others depend on which caste one hails from. Even in government office, we are not treated at par,” he added.

Rajjack’s father, Deeplal Rajjack, a retired inspector-general of police, says his son was suffering mentally after the May 3 attack.

“Ajay was not the same person any more. He was stung by the insult on him for being a Harijan. He was restless,” he says.

Deeplal said his son wanted to file a case against the contractor, but was persuaded by the minister against doing so. But instead the contractor filed a court complaint alleging that Rajjack had demanded a 25 per cent commission in lieu of clearing the bill.

“This shattered Ajay. He did not know how to get out of this rut. The bills that the contractor wanted to be cleared dated back to his predecessor in office. Ajay just wanted time,” his father said.

On the night of May 20, a distraught Rajjack returned to his Patna home. He did not sleep and at 6 am he woke up his mother, complaining of chest pain and nausea. He died the following afternoon in Patna Medical College.

The BDO’s suicide has triggered howls of protest from political parties, especially the Left, which have demand an inquiry and a probe into the role of the Cabinet minister.

Shahi said that although she knew Rajjack, she was not aware that he was suffering from depression. “He told me about his fight with a contractor. I told him not to be cowed down by anyone for his name was Ajay (undefeated),” she said.

Referring to the allegation levelled by the officer’s father, Shahi said: “I don’t know why he is dragging my name. He is perhaps trying to gain political mileage from his son’s death.”

The minister, however, admitted that BDOs in the state often have to face threats from contractors.    

Srinagar, June 2 
Eleven civilians were killed and 35 injured, including former minister and prominent Shia leader Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, when a bomb exploded at Gund Khawaja Qasim in northern Barramullah district, nearly 30 km from here.

The explosion sent shock waves through the Shia-dominated pockets in the city and other towns, even as the administration rushed in paramilitary troops and police reinforcements to maintain law and order.

Police sources said in Srinagar, groups of Shia youth gave vent to their anger hurling stones at passing vehicles, but were later chased away.

The sources said the bomb exploded at the venue where the maulvi was addressing a religious congregation of several thousand Shias. The area was cordoned off immediately, they said.

“There was a deafening explosion and the earth shook under my feet,” said 40-year-old Ghulam Hassan, one of the injured. “I fell down under the impact.”

Hassan, who was helped to his feet by an old man standing next to him and is now admitted in a hospital, said: “there was a huge crater with the dead lying in pools of blood. There were scores of injured”.

The bomb, he said, had been planted under the makeshift podium. “They had built the podium under the shadow of a Chinar tree. There were policemen around. The CRPF was guarding the former minister and Shia leader,” he said.

Another injured, Mohammad Akbar, who was sitting only two metres away from podium said the dust nearly blinded everyone around. “For several minutes I did not know what happened as I could not see anything”.

He said the bomb exploded minutes after Ansari began addressing the gathering. “Everyone was shell-shocked and I saw scores running for security”. “Cries of women rent the air. I saw the maulvi falling down along with others on podium”.

Iftikhar, a former housing minister was dropped from the Cabinet in December last year. He was elected to the Assembly from Pattan constituency where he has a strong following among the local Shia population.

The chief minister visited Ansari at Soura medical institute After his arrival the Chief minister took a high level meeting and the situation was reviewed. The meeting ordered beefing up of the security in the entire Valley.    

Danapur, June 2 
Former Congress president Sitaram Kesri today set at rest speculation that he was bidding goodbye to the corridors of power, saying he had no plans to “escape from Delhi”.

“I’m not an escapist. I have fought many a battle in my seven decade-long association with the Congress. I will involve myself more with the activities of the party’s frontal organisation and live like a true Congressman,” he told The Telegraph over phone from New Delhi.

Some reports today said the 83-year-old former Congress president was considering settling down in Danapur. Murmurs that Kesri was about to take political sanyas began after he was denied a Rajya Sabha ticket. The speculation gained ground following his recent visit to Patna where he met a number of political leaders, including Laloo Yadav, who is believed to have requested the leader to join his party.

According to Moin Ansari, who accompanied his friend to Danapur, Kesri told his relatives to spare a room for him so that he could settle down at his place of birth. Even his son Amarnath Kesri is confident his father will stay here for good after being away from the family for over three decades.

“Papa will now be reunited with the family after 35 years. He will spend his last days peacefully with us,” he said.

But Kesri senior apparently had a change of heart. He asserted today that “there was no question of leaving Delhi, but definitely I will frequent Patna to catch up on the lost moments with my near and dear ones”. His family members are, however, still hopeful that he would return to Danapur and are refurbishing his sprawling room in the ancestral house.

Kesri’s meeting with Laloo a few days ago triggered talks of a possible union of chacha and bhatija. Laloo, who has a lot of respect for the Congress leader for his “social justice theory”, offered Kesri a Rajya Sabha ticket from Bihar.

Aap is umar me kahan jayenge? Kyon na hamare saath de, aapko humlog izzat karte hain (Where will you go at this age? Why not join us? We all respect you),” Laloo is believed to have said.

But Kesri is not interested. “Bahut dekh lia subkuch. Hum to tiranga se shuru kiye. Isme hum marenge bhi (I have seen enough in life. I began my career as a Congressman and I want to be draped in the tricolour when I die),” he replied.

But isn’t he unhappy at being sidelined in the party he once headed? “In my career as a politician, I have myself distributed so many tickets. I am not bothered at all,” he said. There was, however, a tinge bitterness about the younger generation’s attitude towards him. “I was given the post of AICC president in 1997 by Narasimha Rao and thereafter I won the AICC post by votes from Congressmen. But the way I was shooed out pained me,” he said.

A section of party workers in Patna felt that Kesri’s veiled announcement that he was leaving Delhi was aimed at pressuring Sonia Gandhi who is due to visit Dhanbad tomorrow.

Kesri, however, laughed off the suggestion. “These do not bother me anymore. I have now decided to divert my energies on organisations like Khadi Udyog and Seva Dal,” he said.


New Delhi, June 2 
If you’re still watching cricket — perhaps not eating, drinking and sleeping it too, not any more — there’s something you must have missed. Worse, not noticed it either.

Data collected by media tracking outfit Coft during Tuesday-Wednesday’s India-Bangladesh Asia Cup match show that around 237 advertising spots were aired. Of these, only 13 — or less than 6 per cent — featured cricketers.

In pre-Cronjescam days, when Coft, whose services most media planners use, or anyone else did not track cricket ads specifically for there was no reason to. Second, there was too much of it anyway. Rough estimates suggest cricketers then appeared in anything between 30-40 per cent of the ads, especially during match time.

Since then Sachin Tendulkar and Shah Rukh Khan have parted company, aha. Shah Rukh is still there, thank you very much, though Hrithik Roshan — metallic teeth glinting briefly, but menacingly all the same — may not feel too reassured.

Pepsi is not re-airing the Sachin-Shah Rukh ad and Coke is playing safe with hunk-heartthrob Hrithik.

Kaho na cricketer se pyar nahi hai. Neither of the cola czars are saying it, though.

Companies as well as advertising agencies obviously don’t want to say they have dumped cricketers. It’s not time yet, perhaps, to publicly say goodbye with tears to the golden goose called cricket. So, they are saying everyone is innocent until proved otherwise, and that there has been no conscious decision to remove cricketers.

But numbers, as you have seen, don’t lie.

Once in a while a Yamaha ad whizzes by or Konica unrolls — starring Ajay Jadeja, whose name has appeared in bribery allegations. Britannia is still crackling on screen in London chalo with Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly.

Kapil Dev, the man in the thick of the trawl through muck, has disappeared from ads. So has Azharuddin. Even Sachin The Clean Tendulkar.

Media planners said since the World Cup last year, cricketers have been making big bucks signing contracts for anything and everything coming their way. And, why not? “Many of them seemed to have changed professions, as they were seen more often in commercials than on the field,” they joke. But the joke could well be on them soon.With icons falling like nine pins, there won’t be many left to put in ads. Dark hints have been dropped about involvement of Bollywood characters, too.

Companies and ad agencies are still hedging. Navroze Dhondy, CEO, Percept Advertising, which handles S. Kumars, said: “Kapil is very much part of S. Kumars. There is a certain plan for the ad, according to which we stopped airing the commercial almost a month ago. Also, who will buy suitings at this time of the year?”

Mudra Advertising, which handles Samsung (kya main khana nahi paka sakta), offered similar reasosn. “Kapil Dev was signed mainly for the World Cup. Now, the strategy is to use Tabu for home appliances,” said Samit Sinha, vice-president, Mudra.

Some admen, however, admit this is not the time to connect bat with ball. “When ad agencies see contradictory opinions, especially in testimonial ads, they will keep them aside,” said Bashab Sarkar, managing consultant, The Media Network, which is part of O&M.

The Media Network had conducted an informal study to assess the mood of the audience towards cricket. “Several people did not know who’s playing whom, or that India had won a match (against Bangladesh). It seems to us that interest in cricket does not seem to be high,” said Sarkar.


Siliguri, June 2 
The Kamtapur People’s Party has launched a special donation-collection campaign for what it describes as a “do-or-die” agitation for a Kamtapur state for Rajbanshis living in the plains of north Bengal.

The drive coincides with the Gorkha National Liberation Front’s (GNLF) fresh threats regarding Gorkhaland.

On May 19, three KPP representatives had met GNLF leaders in Darjeeling. None of the sides has disclosed the details of the meeting yet. Before the Darjeeling meeting, the Kamtapur party also held parleys with the pro-Gorkhaland Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists, which is planning to send a delegation to Delhi soon.

Kamtapur leaders were present at a convention of Rajbanshis in Kishengunj in Bihar on May 21. Rashtriya Janata Dal ministers and MPs attended the session.

Justifying the fund-raising campaign, party president Atul Roy today said: “We are collecting funds because we are preparing the Rajbanshi people for a do-or-die movement.”

He refuted allegations by CPM leaders and state ministers that Kamtapur activists were involved in extortion of money from tea planters and businessmen. “We accept money from those who voluntarily support our cause,” he said.

With the beginning of the Kamtapur party’s donation campaign, observers say it is possible that supporters of Gorkhaland and Kamtapur may begin simultaneous agitations.

Recently, the GNLF said it would launch a series of programmes, including a three-day general strike, after its delegation visits Delhi sometime this month. It wants the Centre to create Gorkhaland along with Jharkhand, Chattishgarh and Uttaranchal.    

New Delhi, June 2 
The one-man inquiry commission headed by Justice (retd) P.R. Gokulakrishnan has confirmed in its report that home minister L.K. Advani was the target of the Coimbatore serial blasts which killed 60 people and injured more than 200.

The report said that the Al Umma, the fundamentalist outfit which engineered the explosions, sent human bombs to the rally ground where the BJP leader was to address a gathering on February 14, 1998. Advani had a providential escape.

Gokulakrishnan said that confessional statements of some of the accused have revealed that Al Umma chief S.A. Basha had personally authorised the use of human bombs. The meticulously-planned conspiracy, he said, was not only to eliminate Advani but also to trigger communal violence in Coimbatore and other parts of Tamil Nadu.

According to the report, Amanullah, one of the accused who was picked up following the blasts, confessed that in January six people had met Basha in Chennai to chalk out plans to “avenge the death of 18 Muslims” who were massacred in the riots that broke out in Coimbatore in November-December the previous year.

They were Ansari, Nawab Khan, Ozir, Mujibur Rahman, Siddique Ali and Jahir Hussein, he said.

Amanullah also confessed that on February 7, he had an exclusive meeting with the Al Umma chief who “told him that Advani was coming to Coimbatore”. Basha, he said, asked him “whether he could finish him (Advani)”. When he agreed, Basha ordered him to act as a human bomb, the report said.

Basha also gave him Rs 600 and sent two other persons — Rafique, alias Shanmugam, and Amjath Ali. The plan for February 14 was that Amanullah would approach Advani and trigger the bomb hidden on him, but only after the first set of explosions.

But the ploy flopped. With metal detectors installed all over the place, neither Amanullah nor any of his accomplices could reach anywhere near the dais.

They left the rally venue after learning that Advani would not attend the meeting.

Besides Amanullah, the commission chairman also took into account the confessional statements of seven other accused. Some of them confessed during interrogation that the human bombs were instructed to get as close as possible to the car from which Advani would alight and then detonate the explosive devices for maximum impact.

Some others were even instructed by Basha to hurl powerful bombs at the dais itself.

The probes have revealed that the plot was not hatched by the Pakistan-based Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

According to the commission report, the bombs and other explosive devices were procured from an explosives manufacturing unit in Mysore.

Quoting the sworn affidavit of an officer of the Special Investigating Team (SIT) formed to probe the blasts, the judge said that Al Umma’s aim was to “unite all Muslim fora to react violently whenever Islam was humiliated”.

“Further,” the commission chairman said, “they also planned to kill Hindu fundamentalists and destroy the properties of the majority community.”

He said Basha and some of his accomplices had “brainwashed” young Muslims to target members of the majority community after the 1997 riots.    


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