Amarnath ashes on Agra debris
From pinnacle to police station
Hizb speaks in Musharraf’s voice
Payback for savings dud advice
Go-it-alone Mamata in Delhi go-slow
Calcutta Weather

 
 
AMARNATH ASHES ON AGRA DEBRIS 
 
 
FROM MUKHTAR AHMAD
 
Srinagar, July 21: 
Bombs exploded on the Amarnath yatra route this morning in the first big strike since the Agra Summit, killing 13 people, including six pilgrims.

The pilgrimage has been suspended after the pre-dawn attack in southern Anantnag’s Seshnag, 19 km from the shrine.

Those killed included three women, two pilgrims from West Bengal — Asim Ghosh and Surojit Konar – and a suspected militant. Till late this evening, police had identified the body of one more pilgrim — Tuka Ram Kore from Maharashtra.

No militant group has claimed responsibility for the assault but a government spokesman said the rifle of the slain militant bore the label of the Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Lashkar had earlier assured Amarnath pilgrims that they would not be targeted, but the militant group had warned of stepped-up violence after the Agra Summit’s perceived failure. However, the group had not made any specific threat to the pilgrims. Union home minister L.K. Advani is sending a Central team to the spot tomorrow.

No pilgrim was allowed to leave for Pahalgam from Jammu. Nearly 300 people en route have been stopped at Anantnag and lodged in heavily guarded camps.

In the attack, two police officers and four porters were also killed. A police spokesman said 14 people, including five state armed police personnel, were injured.

Police sources said that around 1.30 am, an explosion rocked Seshnag, killing a pilgrim on the spot. As deputy superintendent of police Parveen Kumar rushed to the site of the blast with assistant sub-inspector Sakhi Mohammad and some pilgrims, there was another explosion followed by intense firing. The two police officers were killed and six people were injured.

The government spokesman said: “A militant who was hiding in the area opened fire again around 7 am while trying to escape from the army cordon, causing more casualties.” The militant was gunned down by the troops, the spokesman said.

The rebel looked like a “non-Kashmiri who had tried to disguise himself as a sadhu by wearing a saffron head-band” and keeping a beard.

“The AK-47 rifle he was carrying bore the label of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and a note in Urdu found on him indicated that he belonged to LeT,” the spokesman said. “The note made no mention of Kashmir or any movement there,” he added.

The attack comes a day after Pakistani troops rained shells on Indian positions in Kargil. Pakistan said tonight it reserved the right to “retaliate” if its troops were fired upon.

Security forces have launched a combing operation along the route to the shrine to flush out the militants. “We will allow yatris on the route only after it is completely sanitised,” said a police officer.

The administration has handed over the security of the shrine to the state police and withdrawn the CRPF, following an alleged brawl between the two forces.

Gloom gripped Ramanath Bhattacharya Street in Belur today when police informed Madhusudan Ghosh that his 25-year-old son Asim had died in the blast, adds a staff reporter in Calcutta. Since then, Ghosh, a railway employee, has hardly spoken. The scene was similar at Surojit Konar’s house.

Asim, a master’s degree student in history, and Kanwar had left for Amarnath on July 16 along with three friends.

Bandh over name

The BJP enforced a bandh in Jammu today to protest the naming of a bridge after Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah. The party said it was not against Sheikh Abdullah but the bridge should have been named after some leader from Jammu.

   

 
 
FROM PINNACLE TO POLICE STATION 
 
 
FROM SATISH JOHN
 
Mumbai, July 21: 
Former UTI chairman P.S. Subramanyam has been ordered to spend the next six days in the custody of law, away from his eighteenth-floor apartment in Cuffe Parade’s Maker Towers — an eyrie of bankers and one of Mumbai’s most expensive addresses.

Subramanyam, two executive directors of UTI, M.M. Kapur and S.K. Basu, and stockbroker Rakesh Mehta were arrested today, lengthening the list of high-fliers of high finance who have crashlanded.

They have been charged with cheating, criminal conspiracy and misappropriation of public funds by investing Rs 32.8 crore in Cyberspace, a little-known company whose share price went up in smoke.

The CBI told a sessions court that “it is gathered from sources that Rakesh Mehta was paid Rs 50 lakh by Cyberspace for prevailing upon UTI to subscribe shares at Rs 930 per share”. The shares are now valued at Re 1.

The UTI trio had marshalled the services of lawyer Satish Maneshinde, who represents film stars and other luminaries, but special judge S.R. Mehra rejected the plea for bail.

The defence counsel wanted his clients to be kept in the CBI’s custody at Kitab Mahal, where the economic offences wing is located, but the judge left the decision to the agency.

The accused were eventually taken to the Azad Maidan police station, where they will spend the night. The court, however, has allowed them to have home-cooked food, medicines and clothing.

Subramanyam, who was summoned by the CBI on Friday and questioned for five hours, was called again on Saturday afternoon before he was arrested around 2 pm.

The defence counsel argued that Subramanyam had an unblemished record of 37 years of service with several leading institutions and, on many occasions, had to take big business decisions.

The lawyer said his client could not be held responsible when the transactions made profit or loss unless there is evidence of mala fide intentions.

He said nothing incriminating was recovered from Subramanyam’s residence. The search memo had mentioned jewellery valued at Rs 98,000, personal belongings like appointment diaries and data on computer hard disks, he added.

Acknowledging the stature of the accused, the CBI desisted from the usual practice of whisking them to the car after the court order. Subramanyam walked to the car with a hand in his trouser pocket.

In the application for custody, the CBI said: “They have not revealed the truth and they are trying to put the blame on one another.” The agency said the accused could not give any plausible explanation about the sudden reversal of their decision against investing in Cyberspace within four to five days.

The judge said officers of UTI were expected to be above board. “Allegations against them are serious. It would be in the interest of the state and investors to remand the accused at this juncture,” he added.

CBI prosecutor M.R.P. Bapu alleged that the accused were not cooperative.

   

 
 
HIZB SPEAKS IN MUSHARRAF’S VOICE 
 
 
FROM ASHIS CHAKRABARTI
 
Rawalpindi, July 21: 
His trademark blue cloth cap and flowing black beard half-soaked in sweat, Syed Salahuddin sat in the small room, flanked by two carbine-carrying young men standing guard. The venue: the media centre of Hizb-ul Mujahideen near College Chowk of Satellite Town.

If his summit meeting with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has brought the arc light on Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, the supreme commander of the Hizb-ul Mujahideen, too, had his miniature media event here this afternoon.

A la Musharraf, he grabbed the moment to send out his message through the media: there would be no cessation of mujahid operations in Kashmir, despite the India-Pakistan talks. The reason: you can’t trust India; agreements and declarations at Simla, Tashkent and Lahore did nothing to stop Indian “atrocities” in Kashmir.

He would like the diplomatic exercises and the “field operations” to carry on simultaneously, “as happened in Vietnam and Afghanistan”. Going one step further, he matched the threat held out by the Lashkar-e-Toiba to “strike at any time, at any place within our access if the Indian security forces continued to strike at our civilian population”. It was the “volcanic” situation in the fields and the international community’s concern over the confrontation between two nuclear powers over it that have put pressure on Vajpayee to start the dialogue.

Picking up the thread, as it were, from President Musharraf’s bouncy breakfast with Indian editors at Agra, the supreme commander of the Mujahideen was unusually liberal with his time and his views for some visiting Indian journalists.

But that was only a superficial parallel. As he took pains to explain the mujahid position on the Agra summit, he sounded more and more like Musharraf’s voice. “Musharraf and Vajpayee had a sincere wish to reach a consensus about having Kashmir as the main focus of the summit, but Vajpayee eventually surrendered to the Indian hawks.” But it was good that the “ice was broken and the two sides would continue the talks”.

On India’s charge of cross-border terrorism, Salahuddin’s was the argument that echoed, in spirit and semantics, Musharraf’s remarks at the press conference last evening: “It’s an unrealistic statement. The whole world knows there’s a freedom struggle going on in Kashmir.”

And he paid Musharraf back, almost with the same words the Pakistan President used last night. “President Musharraf had done what no Pakistani politician had done before — bringing Kashmir back to the focus of the dialogue.”

He would like, in Musharraf’s manner, the talks to be tripartite with the involvement of the Kashmiris. But he would not stand in the way of India and Pakistan first setting the agenda. But there would be no “final solution” without the consent of the Kashmiris, who would be represented by all “freedom fighters”, including the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and “all those in the jihad in Kashmir and all over the world”.

   

 
 
PAYBACK FOR SAVINGS DUD ADVICE 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, July 21: 
For lakhs of Indians who have lost their life’s savings in the stock market recently, here is some news from the “mother of bourses” which may kindle some hope.

A doctor from Calcutta has forced Merrill Lynch and Co. Inc., the leading US brokerage firm, to compensate 80 per cent of the losses he suffered in one stock market deal, according to reports in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Lawyers in New York and Wall Street watchers are aghast that Merrill Lynch agreed to pay for the losses suffered by the investor, Debasis Kanjilal, a pediatrician in the Big Apple.

They fear it could open the floodgates of such litigation at a time when dotcom companies are collapsing here like packs of cards and stock markets are reeling from a downturn in the US economy.

But a Merrill Lynch spokesman merely told the media that “the matter was resolved to avoid the expense and distraction of protracted litigation”.

The spokesman’s hopes may be illusory. Kanjilal’s lawyer, Jacob Zamansky, has tasted blood from the settlement and has asked other clients to bring claims to recoup their equity losses.

His immediate targets are Morgan Stanley and Salomon Smith Barney, two other leading brokerage firms.

Zamansky has singled out Mary Meeker, an analyst at Morgan Stanley and Jack Grubman, analyst at Salomon Smith Barney, for losses suffered by clients.

In Kanjilal’s case, too, the lawyer had threatened to haul Henry Blodget, a top analyst at Merrill Lynch, to the court to press the Indian-American doctor’s claim for damages.

Zamansky made out a heart-rending case for compensation for Kanjilal. The doctor had set aside half-a-million dollars for his daughter’s education and her future, but on Blodget’s advice, the money was put into InfoSpace Inc., an Internet company floated by another Indian-American here.

When Kanjilal held the stock, InfoSpace shares were valued at $132, but this week they were worth no more than $3.29.

The settlement reached with Merrill Lynch enables him to get back $400,000 or 80 per cent of his investment. Zamansky had made a claim for $10.8 million in damages.

Throughout the stock’s precipitous decline, Blodget advised Kanjilal to hold on to his portfolio. In addition, the doctor was advised to invest yet another $300,000 in JDS Uniphase Corp. of Canada and he lost that money as well.

Zamansky claimed that Merrill Lynch were investment bankers to Go2Net, a web company bought by InfoSpace last year. This, he argued, represented a conflict of interest.

Besides, it was never revealed to clients that the brokerage firm would lose its investment banking fees if InfoSpace’s value declined before closing of the Go2Net deal, the lawyer maintained.

   

 
 
GO-IT-ALONE MAMATA IN DELHI GO-SLOW 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, July 21: 
Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today sought to scotch speculation about her immediate return to the NDA, saying she was not going “anywhere” and vowed to continue a political fight against the ruling Marxists “on the basis of our own strength”.

Without going into her party’s relationship with the Congress, Mamata made it clear that she would rather go it alone in Bengal. Her decision came in the wake of Trinamul’s strained ties with the PCC and the state BJP’s continued tirade against her.

“We do not require Delhi’s help in our battle against the CPM’s misrule and terror. I am not going anywhere, but will try to avenge the martyrdom of our party workers by launching a relentless struggle on the soil of Bengal,” she told a mammoth rally organised here this afternoon on the occasion of “Martyrs’ Day”.

Mamata also gave the call for the formation of a broad-based anti-CPM platform while elaborating her plans to strengthen her party at the grassroots level. “Let us all come together on a common platform to fight the CPM which rigged the polls with the help of the administration and armed cadre,” she told the gathering.

Panja ‘NDA’ panel

Suspended Trinamul MP Ajit Panja today announced the formation of a state-level “NDA core committee” at a thinly-attended rally at Chinsurah in Hooghly as proof of his “unflinching support” to the coalition.

“We have decided to consult the Prime Minister and NDA convener George Fernandes on the modalities of the core committee. Unlike Mamata, we intend to broaden our base and include the BJP and other NDA partners into the panel,” he said.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum:31.1°C (-1
Minimum: 26.2°C (0)

Rainfall:

8.8 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 97%,
Minimum: 79%

Today

One or two spells of light rain
Sunrise: 5.05 am
Sunset: 6.21 pm
   
 

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