Film producer with mob link arrested, murder plot cracked
Buddha leash on babus and purse
After oops! and a month, it’s Bush
Atal between Ayodhya and allies
Sangh temple plan next to site
Calcutta Weather

Mumbai, Dec. 13: 
Police today busted a mob plot to kill Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgan, picking up a producer with alleged links to Dawood Ibrahim.

Nazim Hassan Rizvi, producer of the forthcoming blockbuster Chori Chori Chupke Chupke — starring Salman Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta — was arrested by crime branch officers at his Andheri office around 3 pm for allegedly plotting the attacks on the stars and funnelling mob money into his film.

The police said the attack was planned by Chhota Shakeel, the Dubai-based righthand man of Dawood, living in Karachi under the protection of the Pakistani intelligence agency.

Other than Shah Rukh and Devgan, Rakesh Roshan was on top of the underworld’s hit list, the police said. The gang had planned to kill the actor-turned-director to put an end to the flourishing career of his son Hrithik the Rage Roshan.

Rakesh Roshan was shot and wounded by the hitmen of Abu Salem, a Dawood confidant, in Mumbai on January 21 after he refused to sell overseas rights of Hrithik’s debut film Kaho Na Pyar Hai to “parties” the gang had suggested.

The police said Rizvi had picked out Shah Rukh because the star had rejected his offer to work for his film and “would not listen to him at all”. Devgan was targeted after he refused to delay the release of his first production, Raju Chacha, due for release on December 29.

Rizvi wanted Raju Chacha’s release stalled till his movie, scheduled to hit the screens on December 22, tasted box-office success. The police said Chhota Shakeel had also threatened Kumar Mangal, personal assistant to Devgan, for not rescheduling the release.

After he was picked up, Rizvi was taken to Empire Studio, where the production of Chori Chori Chupke Chupke was being finalised. All prints were seized and the release was banned.

Rizvi has been booked under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, passed early this year by the Congress-led government to empower the police to fight the Mumbai underworld.

Under the law, known as mini-Tada, the police can try an accused in a special criminal court, where cases are dealt with fast. Getting bail is also difficult under the law.

The producer, who has very few films to his credit, has also been charged with extortion and conspiracy and attempted murder under the Indian Penal Code.

The police said it had evidence the producer was funnelling mob money into Bollywood. They claimed D Company had spent at least Rs 22 crore making the blockbuster.


Calcutta, Dec. 13: 
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has kept his promise to improve efficiency in the administration with the government today issuing orders asking its staff to be punctual in attending office and disposing files. The government also announced stringent measures to cut costs.

A separate circular is expected to be issued soon, listing measures to ensure accountability of state employees and punishments in cases of dereliction of duty.

Today’s order says: “All officers and employees in government offices, undertakings and civic bodies should sign attendance registers sharp at 10 am, noting time of arrival and departure. Reporting for duty after 10.15 am would be marked late. No employees would be allowed to leave office before closing hour without prior sanction of the superior officer.

“A diary should be kept to record performance of employees daily in all secretariat departments. Employees should now compulsorily write in the diary what they have done before leaving office each day. It is now mandatory for superiors to check the daily performance report of their department employees.”

The government says its aim is to ensure efficiency in administration. However, most employees’ unions pointed out that there was nothing new in the order. Similar orders were issued several times earlier with no result.

Detailing the cost-cut measures, the order says no new telephone connection will be sanctioned. All telephones given to officers without prior approval of the finance department will be taken back.

A complete ban has been slapped on use of cellphones and pagers at government cost.

The government also imposed a ban on buying of new cars and use of official or hired cars on holidays by officers. All overtime and tiffin allowances have been reduced to a bare minimum.

The order also prohibits serving of snacks in official meetings. Only tea or coffee may be served. The order asks officers not to convene any meeting on holidays or at lunch time to avoid unnecessary expenditure on overtime and food packets.

Foreign trips by government officers have been banned except in cases where any other agency has agreed to bear the expenditure. All visits outside the state, except meetings convened by the Centre, are also banned. Officers will have to take permission of the chief secretary for attending meetings convened by the Centre outside the state.

No homeguard or police personnel can be posted in any officer’s residence without the chief secretary’s order. The charges of all lodges and circuit houses in the districts will be increased.

Bengal polls

West Bengal has suggested April 11 or 12 as probable dates for the Assembly elections. But the Election Commission is yet to finalise the dates.    

Washington, Dec. 13: 
Without explicitly ruling in favour of George W. Bush, America’s highest court last night handed the White House to the Republicans for the next four years.

Al Gore, the Democratic party candidate and outgoing vice-president, is expected to opt out of the race at 9 pm on Wednesday (7.30 am IST on Thursday) in a nationally televised address. He suspended his efforts to recount the Florida votes this morning.

After deliberating for 34 hours, the US Supreme Court added to the confusion attending the presidential poll by sending the case back to Florida’s justices and setting impossible conditions for completing the vote count. In doing so, the court has made it possible for Bush to strain at a victory, which history will judge as doubtful.

Adding to Republican advantage last night were two factors: one, the first signs of open dissension in the ranks of Gore supporters. Gore “should act now and concede”, Ed Rendell, general chairman of the Democratic party, said soon after last night’s Supreme Court ruling which practically ended the recounts and the 36-day deadlock.

Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli said: “Clearly the election has come to an end.” Second, a decision by Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature to nominate its own list of pro-Bush members of the state electoral college, irrespective of the outcome of court battles challenging the November 7 election. The next day Bush was named the winner by TV networks, only to eat their words.

Ignoring Democratic warnings that choosing electors “will set a dangerous precedent which could lead other states doing the same”, Florida Republicans took out an insurance policy for Bush on Tuesday. Bush will now have Florida’s 25 electoral votes through legislative fiat whether he wins or loses the count.

The deeply divided Supreme Court decided that there was no time for further recounts before the electoral college convenes in six days to choose the head of state. Yesterday was the deadline for formally constituting the electoral college.

Two hours before that deadline expired, the highest court reverted the case back to the state court and asked judges in Florida to devise a uniform standard for vote count in the state. It was a miracle that the Florida judges were asked to perform.

Jesse Jackson Jr, a member of the US Congress and son of the Black civil rights leader of the same name, described the federal Supreme Court’s action as a “velvet legal coup” in which the judges acted as “a willing tool of the Bush campaign”.

Such was the division in the Supreme Court between conservative and liberal judges that there was no formal judgment.

The main opinion or procurium was unsigned and said in a compromise: “The recount process, in its features here described, is inconsistent with the minimum procedures necessary to protect the fundamental right of each voter.”

There were four dissenters in the nine-member court. One of them, Justice John Paul Stevens, said in his strongly-worded dissenting note: “Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”

Although the ruling was confusing, aides to Bush appeared to conclude their man was the winner and would become the next President. Former secretary of state James Baker, who coordinated Bush’s legal effort, said in a brief statement that Bush and his running mate Dick Cheney were happy with the ruling.


New Delhi, Dec. 13: 
When Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee responds to the debate on the Ayodhya controversy in the Lok Sabha tomorrow, he will abide by the resolution of the National Democratic Alliance adopted at the meeting last Sunday.

Vajpayee will have to do some tightrope walking because he will not retract his first statement that the Ayodhya movement was a “manifestation of nationalist feelings” and that the task had not been completed yet.

Government sources said this balancing act was the decision the Prime Minister had arrived at after discussions with senior leaders like home minister L.K. Advani and his key aides. He will iterate the NDA resolution and defend to the hilt his three colleagues — Advani, human resources development minister M.M. Joshi and sports minister Uma Bharti — whose resignations are being demanded by the Opposition.

Even the allies, who were critical of Vajpayee’s statement, which they believed would lead to communal tension, have agreed to stand behind the three ministers.

With none of the critical allies — the Telugu Desam and the Trinamul Congress — having spoken today in the Lok Sabha — Vajpayee has few options.

He will try to explain that when he clarified his previous statement by saying at the iftar party of junior minister Shahnawaz Hussain that a resolution of the dispute was possible only through the Supreme Court’s verdict or by agreement between Hindus and Muslims that a Ram mandir should be built there, all he had in mind was to find a way out of a dangerous stalemate.

The sources explained that with the allies still fidgety and apprehensive, Vajpayee will adhere to the principal aspects of the NDA resolution. He will say that his government remains committed to upholding the rule of law, which is its constitutional duty.

He will have to assure the Opposition that status quo will be maintained until the Supreme Court verdict. The resolution, at the insistence of railway minister Mamata Banerjee, had even included a paragraph which said: “The NDA iterates its unambiguous commitment to the protection and promotion of secularism. It remains unreservedly committed to implement its national agenda without any deviation.”

The resolution also said the NDA “had consciously left out all issues of contentious nature in order to create an atmosphere for dialogue and consensus on such issues and promote harmony between all communities”.

Vajpayee can get away by suggesting that he was earlier trying to create this atmosphere which could lead to a dialogue between the two parties.

The Opposition will be unhappy with his explanation because he will not backtrack from his previous statements that triggered the controversy. It remains to be seen whether the Prime Minister is able to please his allies.


New Delhi, Dec. 13: 
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) looks determined to push through its decision to begin the Ram temple construction in the first half of 2001 after the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) announces a date at its dharam sansad (religious parliament) in January.

But keen not to rock the Vajpayee-led NDA coalition, the Sangh claims that the construction will be adjacent to the disputed site, according to the Rajendra Singh formula. The former sarsanghchalak had suggested the formula to P.V. Narasimha Rao two days before Babri was brought down on December 6, 1992.

This adjacent area used to house small temples which were razed to the ground when the BJP first came to power in Uttar Pradesh in 1991.

The RSS saw no problem in implementing the formula because it maintained that this “neutral territory” was owned by the Centre which could be transferred to the VHP-affiliated Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas by an executive order. Satyanarayan Bansal, the prant sarsanghchalak of the RSS’ Delhi unit, said: “The Centre can go ahead and give permission to start construction on this adjacent site which does not include the disputed area.”

On whether the NDA government faced a threat if the “secular” allies start protesting, Bansal said: “That is why we have worked out a formula which will ensure that the government and the temple can co-exist peacefully.”

RSS sources claimed that the “neutral territory” included 2.77 acres — “land big enough to hold a considerable portion of the grand Ram temple”. According to the Sangh’s blueprint, in phase one of the construction, the VHP will put up the pillars and other fittings to demarcate the parikrama encircling the actual sanctum sanctorum.

A makeshift temple already stands on the mosque site and the Sangh’s oft-repeated challenge to others is: “Will any of them, including Sonia Gandhi, have the guts to pull down this temple and put up a mosque?”

RSS sources stressed that nobody, “not even the Samajwadi Party”, could possibly reject the formula because it would not hurt the minorities’ sentiments.

“Neither the court nor the allies can have any objections either,” they said, adding: “If Rao had some sense it should have accepted it eight years ago and spared the country all the turmoil and violence that followed after December 6.”

However, the Lucknow-based legal counsel of the All-India Babri Masjid Action Committee (AIBMAC), Abdul Mannan said that any construction — even outside the disputed site — would violate the Supreme Court’s orders. In a telephonic conversation, Mannan pointed out that the apex court in its ruling of October 24, 1994 had attached 7.5 acres in and around the Babri structure. This included the 130ft by 70ft land which housed the demolished masjid. It had appointed the Faizabad district commissioner as the receiver.

“Till this order is operative, not even a stone can be placed anywhere in the vicinity of the mos-que. If the VHP is so keen it can start construction somewhere else in Ayodhya,” Mannan said.

The VHP has announced that it will unveil its construction schedule at dharam sansad. The RSS’ decision and the stamp of legitimacy placed on the mandir issue by Vajpayee seem to be well synchronised with the VHP’s agenda.

A piece, “Righting the Historical Wrongs”, on the mandir-masjid debate in the RSS mouthpiece Organiser (December 17) reflected the Sangh’s aggressiveness. It said: “As long as the wrong-doers do not acknowledge the guilt and instead accuse the victims of communalism and violence, there can be no true reconciliation, no true integration.”




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