Mystery website dangles lakhpati bait for Rajan lead
Mulayam counts UP blessings
JMM threatens to pull the rug
Medha holds fast, Roy joins in
Solitary rebel soldiers on with brave face
Banking on rains for daily glass of water
Desam on warpath after BJP rap
Constable killed in freak firing

 
 
MYSTERY WEBSITE DANGLES LAKHPATI BAIT FOR RAJAN LEAD 
 
 
FROM DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA
 
Mumbai, Oct. 26: 
Kaun banega lakhpati? Anybody who knows the answer to one question: The whereabouts of wounded mobster Chhota Rajan.

As Rajan recuperates in an undisclosed Bangkok safehouse from a deadly attempt on his life by rival mafia boss Dawood Ibrahim, a mysterious website offers $ 1,00,000, nearly Rs 47 lakh, for information on Rajan’s whereabouts.

Launched by unnamed “secular forces” determined to “bring fundamentalist forces to book”, the site, called “1 lakh dollars” and registered with yahoo.com, asks for “tips” on Rajan and his associates, who, it says, are “trying to divide India on communal lines”.

In Mumbai underworld, Rajan had projected himself as a “Hindu don” after he fell out with his one-time boss Dawood Ibrahim in the wake of the 1992-93 bomb blasts triggered by the D-company.

Rajan’s hitmen selectively targeted the blast accused and killed some of them in the past seven years as the gangster threatened to “eliminate” all those involved in killing “innocent Hindus”.

Ibrahim called Rajan’s “pro-Hindu” stance a sham and accused him of trying to “curry favour” with the previous Shiv Sena-BJP government. “Save India and earn 1 lakh US dollars,” the site says, asking people to e-mail their information on Rajan. It does not say who will pay the informant or how he will receive the amount. It is also quiet about what it will do with the information, though the motive appears obvious.

Headed “Wanted”, the home page, in red, has a mugshot of Rajan, in a suit and bow tie, speaking on the phone. In another page, it carries a photo of Guru Narhari Satam, Rajan’s right-hand man, looking after his operation. The site says Satam, who hails from Mumbai’s Lower Parel area, owns a departmental store in Singapore.

A senior police official said they suspected the site to be the handiwork of Chhota Shakeel, second-in-command in the D-company. Shakeel gave interviews immediately after the September 15 attack, admitting he had sent gunmen on the order of his boss to “take out” Rajan in a Bangkok apartment. Rajan was shot and seriously injured in the attack, while one of his close aides, Rohit Verma, died on the spot.

By announcing a hefty award on the Net, the official said the Dawood gang was trying to keep up “the heat” on the wounded gangster so he remained “in a state of panic”. Shakeel pledged to tracked down and get Rajan killed after the failed attempt on his life.

The website also has two published reports to “establish” Rajan’s alleged links with Indian intelligence agencies. “The central intelligence agencies of the Indian government are working hand-in-hand with the Rajan gang. Their mission is to eliminate some businessmen and politicians belonging to minority communities,” it says.    


 
 
MULAYAM COUNTS UP BLESSINGS 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, Oct. 26: 
The BJP has a hunch that Rajnath Singh’s anointment as the Uttar Pradesh chief minister would consolidate its upper-caste vote bank, but the Samajwadi Party (SP) is gloating over the fact that the predominantly upper caste leadership of the saffron brigade would help the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) close ranks behind Mulayam Singh Yadav.

“We can’t ask for a better situation. The BJP has a Brahmin Prime Minister in Atal Behari Vajpayee, a Brahmin to head its Uttar Pradesh unit in Kalraj Mishra, and now they have brought a Thakur. If this is not enough, they are shouting from rooftops that Rajnath has been brought in to check the upper castes from gravitating towards Mulayam. What message will the OBCs and the Dalits receive?” asked a senior SP legislator from eastern Uttar Pradesh.

The OBCs, who form a little over 50 percent of the voters, have divided their loyalties between the SP, the BJP and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the post-Mandal era. In the last Lok Sabha elections the combined rebellion of two BJP OBC leaders — Kalyan Singh and Sakshi Maharaj — helped Mulayam expand his backward caste support.

The BJP worsened things for itself by expelling Kalyan and replacing him with an upper caste Bania chief minister, Ram Prakash Gupta. Strategists felt it could have contained the post-Kalyan damage by making an OBC leader like Om Prakash Singh the chief minister.

Om Prakash has begun grumbling at Rajnath’s induction and BJP sources believe he could emerge as the focal point of a fresh bout of dissidence.

The marginalisation of Uma Bharti, another OBC leader, has added grist to the anti-OBC charge against the BJP.

The BJP’s internal problems apart, even the creation of Uttarakhand could go to Mulayam’s advantage. The new state is almost completely swamped by the upper castes and has just a two per cent OBC and Dalit population.

The anti-Mandal banner was first raised in the hills in 1994 when as the chief minister Mulayam had implemented the Mandal Commission recommendations.

With the BJP trumpeting the formation of Uttarakhand as a major achievement and stressing its being a premier political formation in the new state, observers believe the upper caste-OBC divide could further sharpen.

The upper caste population in Uttar Pradesh will diminish by two per cent, giving the OBCs and Dalits an advantage in the power sweepstakes.

The increased Mandalisation of the state has led sections of the BJP to express dismay at the high command’s projecting an upper caste leadership.

“It is high time they rectify the damage and think of propping up a serious OBC leader,” said an OBC MP. He scoffed at the central leadership’s claim of using Bangaru Laxman in election campaigns to “correct” the “social imbalance” and said: “He is a Dalit all right but few in the state will fall for his claims when there is already a powerful personality like Mayavati towering on the scene.”    


 
 
JMM THREATENS TO PULL THE RUG 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, Oct. 26: 
The battle for the throne of Jharkhand is turning bitter with the JMM threatening to quit the NDA if party leader Shibu Soren is not made chief minister.

A delegation of JMM leaders, including Soren’s son and MLA Durga Soren, general secretary Prasant Mandal and MLA Hemlal Murmu, left for Delhi today to meet NDA convenor George Fernandes and thrash out the issue. “We are fed up of hearing the claims of the NDA constituents that the chief minister would be chosen from their party. We now want to hear it from the horse’s mouth,” Durga said.

JMM vice-president and Soren’s advocate R.K. Anand said his party will not waste time urging the NDA leaders to make Soren the chief minister. “We have made our stand clear. Either Soren will have to be made chief minister or the JMM will sit on the Opposition benches of the new Assembly,” he said.

Even as the storm clouds darken, Soren has taken shelter in Bokaro, away from the heated political temperature of Ranchi, on the advise of his aides.

After initial discussions, the BJP had said that since it enjoyed numerical superiority, its was entitled to choose the chief minister. The JMM then tried to muster popular mandate for Soren by holding a rally on October 22. This failed to impress the BJP and party chief Bangaru Laxman told reporters in Delhi that the new chief minister would be from his party.

Upset with the BJP over the public snub, the JMM got in touch with Samata Party leaders. They apparently made light of the issue, asking Soren not to read too much in the BJP claim. A restless and alienated JMM has now pinned hopes on the meeting with Fernandes.

The meeting, expected tomorrow afternoon, is crucial as it was Fernandes who had persuaded Soren to join the NDA on the eve of the power struggle in Bihar with the promise of the top post in Jharkhand. If Fernandes pleads inability to deliver now, the JMM may pull out, even as early as a day after Diwali.

Samata leaders like minister of state for railways Digvijay Singh and several BJP leaders are against the JMM quitting the coalition.

Singh maintains that if the JMM walks out, the ruling combine in Ranchi will be left with a razor-thin majority. “Only with the JMM can we ensure a stable government, a dire necessity to pave the way for economic development of the region,” he said. The BJP leaders hold that keeping the JMM out will invite unrest.

The JMM is striking a belligerent pose in the run up to the meeting. “As members of the Opposition, JMM MLAs would not sit passively. We will be a rallying point for a bigger political combination,” a senior JMM leader said.    


 
 
MEDHA HOLDS FAST, ROY JOINS IN 
 
 
FROM SUCHANDANA GUPTA
 
Bhopal, Oct. 26: 
As the rest of the country celebrated the festival of lights, activists of the Narmada Bachao Andolan spent it in darkness.

Armed with slogans and posters, demonstrators from the Narmada valley shunned festivities and continued with their protests against the Supreme Court verdict of October 18.

Booker-winner Arundhati Roy joined Medha Patkar on the second day of her five-day fast at the dharna site this afternoon. Seven others, including a teenage girl, a farmer from the Narmada valley and a sympathiser from Ker- ala, are fasting with the NBA leader.

Though Patkar did not speak much, she was still spitting venom against the Supreme Court and the state governments.

“The states have now been armed with a hathiyar (weapon) by the Supreme Court. The states cannot protect their people. On the one hand, they talk of development and on the other, they throw the poor and the weak out of their homes and land,” Patkar said.

“After this judgment, the state’s priority will be to destroy and destroy more. In Gujarat, they are evicting people from their homes to instal a statue of Sardar Patel,” she added.

“The strangest thing about Justice B.N. Kirpal’s judgment are his condition for the state,” Patkar said.

According to Justice Kirpal’s judgment: “The permission to raise the dam height beyond 90 metres will be given by the Narmada Control Authority, from time to time, after it obtains the above-mentioned clearances from the Relief and Rehabilitation Sub-group and the Environment Sub-group...We direct...Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat to implement the award and give relief and rehabilitation to the oustees in terms of the packages offered by them and these states shall comply with any direction in this regard...”

Said Patkar: “The Madhya Pradesh government in its affidavits has clearly stated that it does not have land to rehabilitate.

“Justice Kirpal’s judgement has refused to take any cognisance of serious issues like cost benefits, environmental aspects of the project, along with the larger displacement problem. Not even the sworn affidavits of the governments of Madhya Pradesh were taken with full seriousness and honesty. It, in clear terms, admits non-availability of cultivable land to resettle the people who are affected by the already-built dam. It is clear that the dam is not even going to benefit the drought-prone areas like Kutch and Saurashtra, in whose name the dam is being pushed ahead.

“So who is going to get the benefits of the dam? People, who need water, or the consumerist society? And who is the government working for? The court has betrayed the tribal and peasant communities in the country at large and specifically, those in the Narmada valley.”    


 
 
SOLITARY REBEL SOLDIERS ON WITH BRAVE FACE 
 
 
FROM MONOBINA GUPTA
 
New Delhi, Oct. 26: 
Saifuddin Chowdhury is not down and out as his mentors in the CPM would like to believe. At least so claims the former MP who was recently expelled from the party.

“We have already stopped the flow of support to Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress,” says Saifuddin.

Early next month he will put together a new forum in a bid to occupy the slot of an alternative in Bengal politics.

Regardless of his claims, Saifuddin however, cuts a lonely figure. His friends, like Subhas Chakraborty, who had spurred him on in the inner-party debate and promised solidarity have done an about-turn, ditching the expelled leader and singing peans of the party at its just concluded special conference in Thiruvananthapuram.

But Saifuddin is trying to keep up a stoic face. “It does not really matter to me whether they come with me or not. If they do it is fine, if not that is also fine,” he stresses. He does not feel Subhas and his cronies have “let him down.”

In fact, Saifuddin seems to have little to quarrel with the party apparatchik who have dismissed him as an “irrelevance”.

“He is not the first one to have left the party. Far more prominent leaders had left and are now nowhere,” said CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet.

This is the party’s trump card — stalwarts like Nripen Chakraborty and Gowri Amma who had quit the party are now lost in their own politics.

“I am not disagreeing...it is a fact. Where are these leaders today?” asks Saifuddin.

In the next breath he adds: “In any case why should the CPM mind if I get lost. Let me get lost,” he says.

He aggressively defends his “hobnobbing” with the Congress — he recently shared a dais with the party in a seminar.

“I may even have some electoral understanding with the Congress,” says Saifuddin, adding: “What is wrong with that?”

Two years ago the CPM was going all out to install a Sonia Gandhi led government at the Centre. “Was that not supporting the Congress?” asks Saifuddin.

His fall from grace had begun in 1993 when the party had censured Saifuddin for “moving close” to the Congress.

Three years down the line the same leaders were ready to back, give or take the support of the Congress, to keep the BJP out of power.

But Saifuddin had to pay a heavy price for his “political deviation”.

Now that he is on his own he is free to experiment. His aim is to tap the youth. “Let the CPM have its 42 per cent vote share. What about the rest?” he asks. He does not want a confrontation with the party he was associated with for three decades.

“If the CPM means what it has said in its amendment to the party programme — of being committed to a multi-party democracy — it should let us be,” says Saifuddin.

In a multi-party democracy, he goes on to say, all parties have a right of peaceful co-existence.    


 
 
BANKING ON RAINS FOR DAILY GLASS OF WATER 
 
 
FROM SUCHANDANA GUPTA
 
Bhopal, Oct. 26: 
Here is a man who’d trust God and nature rather than the government with his glass of water.

Amarnath Balwani works as a research assistant with the Madhya Pradesh government’s water resources department and the directorate of irrigation, lives at the department’s staff quarters, but refuses to gulp down the department’s water.

Every year when dark clouds gather in the skies in June, it is time for jubilation in the Balwani home. The terrace is lined with huge black plastic water tanks. For the last four years, from June to October, the household has collected enough rain water to last them through the year.

Residents of Shahjahanabad in Bhopal, the Balwanis were faced with severe water scarcity. “During summer, this city always faces a water crisis. I was also aware that the impurity level of water goes up to more than 75 per cent as the level of the Upper Lake, from where the city is supplied its water, goes down,” the research assistant said.

“That’s not water we get from the taps. It’s poison,” he exclaims.

“You may well imagine what you drink with Hamidia General Hospital dumping its garbage, excreta, medical impurities and surgical waste into the lake. Added to this are the chemicals from the factories,” Balwani said.

“Then there are buffaloes cooling off in the summer sun, the dhobi ghats, the sweepers dumping waste, people bathing, passers-by urinating and a major portion of the city’s excreta being deposited into the lake,” he continued, making a face that suggested he could throw up any moment.

“The water department puts an excess of chlorine to ‘purify’ the water and you gulp it down as the source of life. I can’t drink that and I won’t allow my wife and children to either,” the research assistant added.

Earlier, Balwani purified tap water and would not allow his family to drink it unless he was satisfied it was safe. “But as the water scarcity became unbearable in 1997, I decided to start my own water storage system. I got the tanks and as the monsoon clouds roared that June, my family and I entered a new era with God-given pure drinking water,” Balwani said.

Initially his wife was not in favour of her husband’s “madness”. “She said rain water fell from the skies carrying all the germs in the atmosphere. Then there was dirt on the rooftops,” Balwani said. “I told her that rain water was pure as it fell from the skies directly into our tanks, whereas tap water is the same rain water collected in the excreta-laced bada talab.”

The Balwanis collect 3,000 litres of rain water for a family of four. “This is just for cooking and drinking. For washing and bathing I have to use tap water as I can’t store that much,” he said.

But doesn’t the water get stale or gather moss? “No,” claims Balwani. “The tanks are black in colour and sealed so that no light passes through. You need light for algae or moss to gather. The sun’s heat kills bacteria,” he explained.

Doesn’t the water evaporate? Balwani replies in the negative. “That’s why I seal the containers with an air tight cover,” he said.    


 
 
DESAM ON WARPATH AFTER BJP RAP 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Hyderabad, Oct. 26: 
The Telugu Desam and the BJP are heading for a split. Desam leaders are furious over senior BJP officials criticising the party at the meeting of the state executive in Karimnagar.

“It is really unfortunate that the BJP, which gained a lot because of its alliance with the Desam, should resort to such back-stabbing,” said party general secretary Lal Jan Pasha at Vijayawada.

The BJP state executive criticised the power tariff hike of the Chandrababu Naidu government as an “unwanted burden on the common man”. It also accused the Naidu government of diverting funds for populist schemes.

Senior party leaders like Union minister of state for home K. Vidhyasagar Rao were critical of Naidu’s alleged “blackmailing” of the state BJP in the name of support to the NDA government.

Desam leaders also criticised the East Godavari district tour of the Union minister of state for external affairs U.V. Krishnam Raju. Desam MP from Kakinada M. Padnabham took objection to the BJP not including him in any meeting of the ministers. Furious at being treated in this manner, the district unit of the Desam boycotted the minister’s tour.

Agitated senior party leaders spoke to Chandrababu Naidu, who is away in Japan. The chief minister asked his party colleagues to remain calm.

The state home minister and Desam politburo member said the BJP had begun political life in Andhra Pradesh with Desam support. “The BJP improved its representation in Parliament from one seat to 8 and in the Assembly from two to 12 only because of the alliance with the Desam,” he said, adding that the BJP should reciprocate the sentiment and should not criticise the Desam in public.    


 
 
CONSTABLE KILLED IN FREAK FIRING 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Oct. 26: 
A police constable, Uttam Mazumdar, was killed in a freak mishap in South Tripura yesterday.

Sources said a patrol party of armed jawans was heading for R.K. Nagar from Manu Bazar police station in South Tripura. When the vehicle was passing through the remote Thakurcherra area, a .303 rifle held by constable Sushanta Debbarma suddenly went off and a bullet hit his colleague Uttam Mazumder, who died on the spot.

The jawans, led by sub-inspector Shibu Chandra, was on their way to Manu Bazar police station area for a special operation. The sources described the killing as “accidental” though a probe has been launched.

In another incident yesterday, a mob lynched one Swapan Saha for “acting as collaborator” of the banned All-Tripura Tiger Force.

Sources said Saha was suspected to have been working for the Tiger Force and had visited rebel-infested interior places even at the “height of ethnic tension involving tribals and non-tribals”. They said the Bengalis of Khowai town suspected that Saha was providing supplies to the rebels who were not able to visit the town.

Saha was lynched when he was spotted loitering about the motor stand in Khowai. He was admitted to G.B. Hospital here where he was pronounced dead. No one has been arrested in this connection .

In another development, Bangladesh Rifles and the BSF authorities continued to differ on the presence of camps and hideouts of rebels in Bangladesh. At a meeting with his Indian counterpart, BDR chief Alm Faizur Rahman said despite having conducted combing operations, the BDR could not trace any rebel camps.    

 

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