Dawood long arm strikes in Bangkok
Change of guard not to affect ties: Clinton
RSS resents Atal explanation
Film students seek limelight
Parties agree on model code of conduct
Gujarat SOS to Japan on quakes
Cablemen grab Olympics lifeline

 
 
DAWOOD LONG ARM STRIKES IN BANGKOK 
 
 
FROM DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA
 
Mumbai, Sept. 16: 
He set out to be the saviour of Hindus, but ended up an ordinary gangster.

As confusion prevailed over the murder of Chhota Rajan, shot in a Bangkok apartment yesterday by the hitmen of underworld king Dawood Ibrahim, his bete noire and former mentor, police sources revealed Rajan had fallen out with Dawood after the 1993 Mumbai blasts over “the deaths of innocent Hindus”.

Late tonight, home minister L.K. Advani said Rajan was still alive but grievously injured, adds UNI. Throughout the day, confusion had prevailed over the gangster’s death. In Bangkok, a minister confirmed that he had died. But a senior police officer said Rajan was critically wounded in the shooting, but was still alive when he was admitted into the intensive care unit of a Bangkok hospital.

Dawood, with his brother Anees and Mumbai builder Abdul Razzak ‘Tiger’ Menon, had reportedly planned the blasts that rocked the country’s commercial capital, to avenge the death of Muslims in the ’92-’93 Mumbai riots.

As the police turned the heat on the underworld after the blasts and Dawood demanded his head, Rajan fled to Kualalumpur with his close associates and “remote controlled” his Mumbai operations from there.

Rajan “owed” his career to Dawood. A Dalit from the eastern suburb of Chembur, Rajan graduated from a petty goon to an extortionist and later became a hitman under the wing of Dawood, “who once viewed him as his younger brother,” a source said. Dawood and his wife Mehjabeen even reportedly helped Rajan to get married to his childhood sweetheart Kusum more than a decade ago.

However, Chhota Shakeel, Dawood’s right-hand man, who reportedly ordered the attack in Bangkok, called Rajan a “rat”. He said Rajan was devious and deceptive and had cheated Dawood of a tidy sum in Dubai, before fleeing to Kualalumpur, a charge Rajan’s associates denied.

Sources said Rajan took up the cause of the Hindus to curry favour with the then ruling BJP and Shiv Sena, which were blamed for the riots by the Srikrishna commission. In published interviews, Rajan declared he snapped his relationship with Dawood to protest against the killings of “innocent Hindus” in the blasts.

As the Mumbai underworld became communalised in the wake of the blasts, Rajan and Dawood turned out to be “saviours” of Hindus and Muslims respectively. Rajan’s gang killed Salim Kurla and Mohammad Jindran, accused in the bomb blasts. Rajan also admitted to slaying Mirza Dilshad Beg, a Nepalese politician, for being an ISI agent and supplying explosives, including RDX, for the Mumbai blasts.

“I only kill those who are anti-India. I will kill all the accused in the Mumbai bomb blasts one by one. Let no one think that they can repeat such incidents or get away with such crimes,” Rajan had told an interviewer.

Dawood retaliated, trying to kill then Shiv Sena mayor Milind Vaidya at his house in crowded Mahim in broad daylight. Vaidya, shot and critically injured, escaped narrowly, but two of his visitors were killed and several others were injured in the shooting. Dawood’s gangmembers also killed one Shiv Sena leader and several other men in retaliation.    


 
 
CHANGE OF GUARD NOT TO AFFECT TIES: CLINTON 
 
 
FROM K. P. NAYAR
 
Washington, Sept. 16: 
Dispelling concern that the current upswing in Indo-US ties may be in jeopardy with a change of guard in the White House in January, President Bill Clinton, yesterday, compared the way he has nurtured the blossoming relationship to a football game.

The charismatic President, a wizard with words, delighted Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and his entire delegation when he told their summit in the White House Cabinet room: “I want to leave this relationship in the best possible shape for my successor so that he can pick up the ball and run with it.”

Assuring bipartisan support for Indo-American initiatives, Clinton said: “I think that is the spirit in which we have been working so that this relationship is, indeed, in its best possible shape and that it will be carried through into the next administration and beyond.”

Reinforcing the promise of continuity in ties between New Delhi and Washington, Bruce Riedel, senior director in charge of South Asia in the National Security Council, told reporters that Vice-President Al Gore had endorsed the President’s views in this regard.

At his meeting with Vajpayee, Gore had made it “clear to the Prime Minister that he fully supports the efforts of broadening and strengthening the relationship between the US and India and he pledged that, if elected, he will continue along the same path of trying to build a stronger and deeper relationship between our two countries for the 21st century,” Riedel said.

During the New York leg of Vajpayee’s trip, Republican presidential nominee George W Bush had spoken to Vajpayee on telephone expressing similar sentiments.

On the Indian side, external affairs minister Jaswant Singh confirmed to reporters the bipartisan support for friendship with India. He said Vajpayee’s meetings on Capitol Hill on Thursday were evidence of such support. Singh described Vajpayee’s visit to Washington as “highly successful, marked by cordiality and vision.”

As Vajpayee’s visit to Washington enters its penultimate day, the Indians have reason to be satisfied with its outcome. Riedel told reporters that Clinton’s off-the-cuff remarks on Kashmir on Thursday did not represent any hidden American agenda on the Indo-Pakistan dispute.

The expression “Core issue is, I believe, a phrase frequently used by Pakistani leaders in discussing Kashmir. Let me be clear. The President’s use of that terminology in no way indicated any change in the US position.”

Riedel said Clinton had reaffirmed the American position on Kashmir, which he had laid out in New Delhi in March, to Vajpayee at yesterday’s meeting.

“We do regard Kashmir as an important issue between the two (India and Pakistan), one of the central issues that obviously needs to be resolved. But I think to read into the President’s use of the word ‘core’ any tilt whatsoever would be a mistake.”

Whatever the president told the Prime Minister yesterday and Riedel’s clarification lifted the spirit of the Indian delegation, which had been considerably dampened by Clinton’s use of ‘core,’ the Pakistani four-lettered

word frequently used with reference to Kashmir.

Without entirely endorsing the Indian line that cross-border violence and terrorism have to end before New Delhi resumes talks with Islamabad, Clinton told Vajpayee that he expected the dialogue to be restarted when “the atmosphere is correct” and when “conditions are appropriate.”

Clinton and Vajpayee discussed expansion of the UN security council and the Americans took the view that “India would obviously be a candidate, a strong candidate for security council membership,” Riedel said. But they did not endorse Indian candidature.    


 
 
RSS RESENTS ATAL EXPLANATION 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, Sept. 16: 
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s clarification on his “swyamsevak” status has not gone down well with the Sangh.

Senior RSS leader K. Suryanarayana Rao told reporters in Chennai today that it was “regrettable” that Vajpayee had sought to distance himself from his description of himself as a “swayamsevak” at a function in Staaten Island in the US earlier this week.

“It is regrettable that Atal Behari Vajpayee has distanced himself from the RSS, that too within a fortnight of his declaring at the RSS headquarters at Nagpur that he is proud to be a swayamsevak,” Rao said.

After facing flak from the Opposition and the liberal intelligentsia for his remarks, Vajpayee had been forced to clarify that the word “swayamsevak” meant that he was a “volunteer” in the service of the “nation”, and by implication, not the RSS.

Rao said nobody could deny that Vajpayee was a RSS swayamsevak. “He has denied that he is an RSS swayamsevak only to satisfy his opponents,” he said.

However, an article in the forthcoming issue of RSS mouthpiece Organiser holds a brief for Vajpayee’s Staaten Island remark and asserts that there has been no flip-flop in his stand as was being made out by a section of the media.

“Whether in office or out of it, Vajpayee has been unwavering in his association with the RSS. Although as a thinking person he may have different perceptions on certain issues and has his own inimitable style of articulating them, he has never denied his identity as a swayamsevak whatever the cost,” it was stated in an article titled ‘A swayamsevak is always a swayamsevak’.

However, the writer has criticised the Prime Minister’s Office for its subsequent clarification. “But what was the rationale behind the written clarification issued in his name by his spin doctors? His media advisers must take the blame for prolonging a futile controversy by trying to distance him from his own remarks that were heard by everyone present at the function.”

If Vajpayee has got away from the Sangh net, BJP chief Bangaru Laxman has not been so lucky. The September 17 issue of Organiser in an article titled “Bangaru’s Laxman Rekha” said his presidential address in the BJP’s Nagpur conclave had caused “utter confusion not only among BJP detractors but also within a section of its cadre”.

The author specifically referred to Laxman’s objections voiced to some reporters against describing the BJP as a “Hindu nationalist party” and his claim that it was a nationalist party and not a Hindu party, and remarked that his statement questioned the “very foundation of BJP ideology”.

“He will do well to remember his illustrious predecessor L.K. Advani’s assertions that Hindutva is the BJP’s mascot and that the BJP is a Hindu nationalist party,” the article said.    


 
 
FILM STUDENTS SEEK LIMELIGHT 
 
 
FROM ELLA DATTA
 
New Delhi, Sept. 16: 
The striking students of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, plan to hold a press conference here tomorrow, in the glare of the National Film Awards-eve, to highlight their grievances. The students hope to rope in some award-winning personalities, who are sympathetic to their cause and will speak out for them. Most of the FTII students have been on indefinite strike since August 29, protesting against the newly-introduced course which consists of three one-year modules. They also have a list of three demands. They want implementation of the revised syllabus, which, they say, is forward looking. Two, they want a rollback of the fee hike — a jump from Rs 3,000 to 22,000. They also want the withdrawal of cases against senior students, claiming they are false. The students and institute director Mohan Agashe have been hurtling on a collision course over the system of elimination built into the 1+1+1 structure. While 80 students are admitted to the Basic Course in the first year, the certificate course for the second year will admit only 48 of them. The third year diploma course will have only 32. This, the students claim, is causing tremendous anxiety and hampering their creativity. The students apprehend that all kinds of extraneous elements will work in the pruning process. They are more insecure as there is a provision to admit qualified students directly into the second year. The basic course does not equip them with any real skill, feel many students. First-year student Atul Taishete, a former assistant manager with a foreign bank, is a disillusioned man. Is it for this that he changed his career, he asks. Parashar Barua, formerly with NDTV, is more vocal: “Is it fair to make us guinea pigs in this experiment?” Several film personalities have voiced their concern. Bobby Bedi and Mani Ratnam sent a fax to Agashe in early July, asking him to reconsider the new structure and run long and short courses separately. Among other famous filmmakers, Mrinal Sen has expressed distress at what is happening. But Sen asked the students to stick to their legitimate demands and not become “overbearing”. Another celebrated filmmaker, who did not wish to go on record, expressed his reservation about the elimination process, but he, too, had a word of caution for the striking students. He wanted a compromise to be thrashed out and felt that noted cinema personalities could help bring the warring parties to the negotiation table. He urged the students not to reach a point of no return. However, by publicising the issue and trying to pressure the government, the students are running this risk. But for 40 per cent of the first-year students who face the chop, there are few workable alternatives to air their anxieties. Agashe was not available for comment.    

 
 
PARTIES AGREE ON MODEL CODE OF CONDUCT 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 16: 
Most mainstream parties today reached a consensus that the model code of conduct should come into force from the date of announcement of elections and not from the date of notification.

However, there were some differences among parties over the gap between the date of announcement and the date of notification. While the Congress and Samata Party wanted the gap to be reduced to four weeks, the Telugu Desam Party said it should be reduced to 10 to 15 days. Most parties were for two to four weeks.

Regional parties like the DMK, PMK and MDMK were not in favour of the proposal. Representatives of these parties wanted more time to consult their leaders.

Shambhu Shrivastav, representing Samata Party, made two other proposals. One was that transfer and posting of officials at the senior level be intimated to the Election Commission

Shrivastav also suggested that a Central observer be attached to each chief electoral officer, whose views should be taken into consideration while deciding instances of violation of the model code.

There was a general feeling that the campaign period of two weeks was too little, especially for large constituencies, and that it should be increased to three or four weeks.

Chief election commissioner M.S. Gill promised to consider the request saying that there was some merit in the proposal.

The BJP, initially maintained that the code should be enforced from the date of election notification but later said it could consider implementation of the code from the time of poll announcement, provided the gap between the two was reduced to two weeks.

The Trinamul Congress said the code should be effective for 45 days prior to poll notification.

Describing Naqvi’s stand as a welcome step, Gill said many political parties were of the view that the code should come into force from the date of poll announcement.

The commission had wanted the code to be implemented right from the date of announcement of polls, but the then ruling United Front government had moved a special leave petition before the Supreme Court challenging a Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict that the code should come into operation from the date of poll announcement. The case is still pending before the apex court.

Congress leader Margaret Alva said in a phased election, the maximum period between announcement and notification should be 30 days.

Supporting the commission’s contention that the code should be enforced from the date of announcement of polls, CPM leader Prakash Karat and CPI leader D. Raja said there was a valid justification by political parties that the gap between the announcement and notification should be two weeks.

Other major constituents of the ruling NDA coalition like the TDP, the JDU, Samata Party, Shiv Sena and BJD also supported the commission’s decision of enforcing the code from the date of announcement of polls.    


 
 
GUJARAT SOS TO JAPAN ON QUAKES 
 
 
FROM BASANT RAWAT
 
Ahmedabad, Sept. 16: 
Even as the Gujarat government has sought the services of Japanese experts to deal with the frequent tremors in Bhavnagar, teams from the National Geophysical Research Institute, Hyderabad, and Indian Meteorological Department, New Delhi, have started an intensive study to pin down the causes.

A team of geologists from the Geological Studies Institute is already camping in Bhavnagar. Over the last two months, more than 40 tremors have been reported in Bhavnagar, leading to an exodus.

While some people here left the city, others are living outside their homes.

Balkrishna Rastogi, deputy director of the Geophysical Institute, and S.N. Bhattacharya of the Met department have identified six sites for studies to determine the probable causes.

Some of these sites are in the heart of the city and have been epicentres of the tremors.

Bhattacharya claims to have identified the source of tremors.

Experts from the Geophysical Institute are also studying the fault line on the Saurashtra coast which, according to one theory, might be causing the tremors. Bhavnagar has been identified as a convergence point prone to seismic activities.

The state government has decided to invite experts from Japan to suggest measures to be taken in Bhavnagar.

Chief minister Keshubhai Patel has consulted the Japanese ambassador to seek Japanese technology and expertise to find out more about the Bhavnagar tremors.

The state election commission has decided to postpone civic elections in Bhavnagar to September 26. Elections to five other municipal corporations will be held on Sunday.

The commission’s decision comes in the wake of the state government’s request in view of the entire district machinery being engaged in rescue and relief operations.    


 
 
CABLEMEN GRAB OLYMPICS LIFELINE 
 
 
BY PALLAB BHATTACHARYA
 
Calcutta, Sept. 16: 
An Indonesian television channel, Langsung, has come as a boon for Olympic viewers with the stand-off between cable operators and Doordarshan on the encryption of the DD Sports channel showing no sign of ending.

The two cable providers, RPG Netcom and Siticable, have logged onto the free Indonesian channel, which is beaming the Millennium Games from Sydney live. They blacked out DD Sports after a war erupted over coughing up fees for the pay channel.

A senior Siticable official promised a bonanza for the city’s sports lovers with subscribers receiving the Langsung feed on the prime band in addition to DD 1. Now if viewers are asked to pay for DD Sports, it will be difficult to convince them, he said.

While the subscribers are not losing out on the excitement of the world’s biggest sports extravaganza, Doordarshan is certainly feeling the pinch as almost all cable operators in the country have blacked out DD Sports.

Doordarshan stands not only to lose a huge amount of money in advertising revenues but also faces hostile advertisers who had planned an Olympic campaign, sources said.

The decoder boxes are gathering dust at Dum Dum airport with the two cable service providers refusing to pay upfront the subscription fee till October 31 at the rate of Rs 5.90 per household.

“We have been asked to cough up the huge amount, that, too, at a mere 24-hour’s notice, to beam DD Sports. We are simply unable to do that,” the Siticable officer said.

Both Siticable and RPG Netcom have held Modi Entertainment Network (MEN), which has the distribution right for DD Sports, responsible for the fiasco.

“MEN did not inform the cable operators about encryption of DD Sports even 24 hours before the Olympic started. This is an unfair trade practice. If they (MEN) think the cable operators will be forced to beam the channel because of pressure from the subscribers, they are living in a fools’ paradise,” said a belligerent cable office-bearer.

He accused MEN of trying to force a package of three other channels along with DD Sports.

“It is not that the other channels MEN is dealing with are bad. But this is the question of their viewership, which is not very strong.”

MEN marketing executive Ranjit Kapur said negotiations were on with cable operators throughout the country to solve the crisis.

“It is not our objective to create any inconvenience for the cable operators and subscribers. We are hopeful that the solution will come any moment,” Kapur said.

He added that selling channels in a package is a standard practice and the company has not done anything out of the way.    

 

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