Hijack horror in Delhi
US puts Kashmir terror in gunsight
Hasina to hit streets for fresh polls
Bush deploys Big Two in diplomatic offensive
Roundabout way to suit the will
Bangla faces turmoil as Hasina springs boycott
Weeping Farooq calls for war on Pak
Grieving Gwalior readies for funeral, coronation
Iskcon off the hook in child abuse case
Calcutta Weather

 
 
HIJACK HORROR IN DELHI 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT AND AGENCIES
 
New Delhi, Oct. 3: 

Flight from Mumbai snatched, two hijackers and 52 hostages on board

An Alliance Air Boeing 737 flight from Mumbai to Delhi was hijacked late tonight, according to civil aviation minister Shahnawaz Hussain.

The minister said a hijack distress call had been received by the air traffic control in New Delhi where the plane had landed around 1 am.

The number of passengers on the flight (No. CD7444) was put at 46 and crew six. The hijackers are said to number two. Initial reports said they knew “little English”.

The plane took off from Mumbai at 11.15 pm. The first information about the hijack was received at 12.15 pm through a distress call from a passenger. The plane was in touch with ground control till it was flying close to Ahmedabad.

At 2 pm, the plane was parked in an isolated bay area near runway 1D. A fuel truck has been placed in front of the plane to prevent it from taking off. Commandos of the National Security Guard have surrounded the aircraft. A crisis management team has started functioning at the airport. Initial report said all the passengers are safe.

Unconfirmed reports said the cockpit seemed to have been sealed and the hijackers have not yet forced their way inside.

The pilots have radioed for “one or two” engineers to come on board. The Prime Minister has been informed and the aviation minister has reached the airport.

Hussain said soon after the flight had taken off from Mumbai, an anonymous call was received that the flight was going to be hijacked. A little later, the pilot had radioed to air traffic control about the hijack.

The first official confirmation of the hijack came from an airport official. “An Alliance plane from Mumbai to New Delhi has been hijacked,” Brijender Shekhar, an official at the Air Traffic Control at Delhi airport, told Reuters.

“I have got a message that the last flight from Mumbai, an Alliance Air flight, has indeed been hijacked. I am checking on these reports,” Indian Airlines chairman Sunil Arora told Reuters.

Delhi police commissioner Ajai Raj Sharma has reached the runway where the plane is parked. The bomb disposal squad of Delhi police has also arrived at the scene.

The plane has 4,990 litres of oil – enough to fly for another one-and-a-half hours. Earlier reports had said the plane was headed for Lucknow, but turned round later. Lucknow airport was then put on high security alert and commandos were called in. But since it was raining hard, the plane could not land, airport sources said.

The hijack comes less than a year after an Indian Airlines plane was hijacked from Kathmandu and taken to Kandahar, the spiritual headquarters of the Taliban.

The Jaish-e-Mohammad, which had reportedly threatened to hijack a plane within two days on Sunday, was formed after Maulana Masood Azhar was released to end last year’s hijack crisis.

Home minister L.K. Advani had asked Pakistan earlier in the day to hand over Masood.

“Pakistan has dissociated itself from the terrorist strike on the Assembly, saying ‘we have nothing to do with JeM (Jaish-e-Mohammad, the organisation of Masood)’. But the Pakistan government cannot deny that Masood, the leader and founder of JeM, is in Pakistan,” the home minister read out from a statement after visiting the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, which was attacked on Monday.

“If they (Pakistan) are really earnest in fighting terrorism, let them hand over the JeM leader to India so that he is brought to justice,” he added.

The Jaish-e-Mohammad had initially claimed, and then denied, responsibility for the Assembly attack in which 38 people died. Advani also asked the US to include Jaish on its list of banned terrorist organisations.

   

 
 
US PUTS KASHMIR TERROR IN GUNSIGHT 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, Oct. 3: 
For the first time since terrorists struck at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the US has held out the explicit possibility that America’s current campaign against terror could extend to Pakistan-sponsored violence in Kashmir.

Speaking to reporters jointly with foreign minister Jaswant Singh after their 30-minute meeting here yesterday, US secretary of state Colin Powell said: “We are going after terrorism in a comprehensive way, not just in the present instance of al Qaida and Osama bin Laden, but terrorism as it affects nations around the world, to include the kind of terrorism that affects India.”

Hitherto, India has been insisting, on the basis of private assurances from the Bush administration, that America would go after Kashmiri terrorists based in Pakistan once Washington’s primary goal of eliminating bin Laden and al Qaida is achieved.

India has been arguing that unless that is done, terrorism will rear its head again in different forms at different places. Since Pakistan is a frontline ally of the US in its pursuit of bin Laden, Americans have been coy about acknowledging the pursuit of Pakistan-sponsored Kashmiri terrorists as part of its agenda.

Monday’s suicide-bomb attack on the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, seen here as a symbol of democracy in the state, changed all that and persuaded the Americans that they had to go public. Singh’s presence here helped.

Referring to the incident, Powell said: “This clearly was an act of terror. We are going after the al Qaida network, in its various manifestations, and Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants who are in Afghanistan, in the first instance... we are going to be conducting a campaign that goes after terrorism, and we’ll use many tools — financial tools, intelligence, law enforcement, diplomatic and political tools — to accomplish the mission that the (US) President has set before us.”

Singh extended an olive branch to Pakistan. “If the leadership of Pakistan and if Pakistan were to abandon the path of violence and of terrorism and join the rest of the international community in its fight against this evil, it would be a development that India would welcome.”

At his meeting with Singh, Powell expressed the “condolences of the American people and my personal condolences over the events that took place in Kashmir yesterday, that terrible terrorist act, that heinous act, that killed innocent civilians and also struck at a government facility. It is this kind of terrorism that we are united against.”

Later in the day, defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld echoed Powell’s views as he met Singh in his capacity as defence minister.

In Islamabad, the United Jihad Council, an umbrella for militant groups, dismissed as ridiculous the US assurance to India.

   

 
 
HASINA TO HIT STREETS FOR FRESH POLLS 
 
 
FROM ASHIS CHAKRABARTI
 
Dhaka, Oct. 3: 
Bangladesh looked all set to plunge into another spell of political uncertainty as the Awami League today demanded that Monday’s elections be cancelled and fresh polls ordered under the direct control of the President. Party workers will be out in the streets from Friday to press the demand.

Setting at rest doubts about the participation of the 62 elected party candidates in the new parliament, Sheikh Hasina announced no one would take oath.

From Friday till October 9, League activists will organise protest meetings across the country to press for cancellation of the elections. From October 10, they will put up road blockades. If their demand is not met by then, the party will launch a bigger, “non-cooperation” movement.

The League agitation comes at a time of political transition. Not only will the new government of Khaleda Zia take over, replacing the caretaker regime, but the new parliament has to elect a new President.

   

 
 
BUSH DEPLOYS BIG TWO IN DIPLOMATIC OFFENSIVE 
 
 
FROM AMIT ROY & IDREES BAKHTIAR
 
London & Islamabad, Oct. 3: 
America has mounted a diplomatic blitz, whose scale and sweep match the massive military build-up in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, sending a top defence official to West Asia, persuading its closest ally to visit Pakistan and holding direct talks with the opposition alliance in Afghanistan.

US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld landed in Saudi Arabia tonight as part of a support-building tour that will also take him to Oman, Egypt and Uzbekistan. British Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to arrive on Friday in Pakistan, the only country still recognising the Taliban, to cement further Bush’s coalition against terrorism.

Sources in Delhi said Blair, who will also visit Moscow, may touch down in Delhi if a schedule is worked out. Blair, who will meet foreign minister Jaswant Singh who reached London today, spoke to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during the day.

Though the noose appeared to tighten around the Taliban, the presence of Blair and Rumsfled in the region is likely to give the Afghan militia some breathing space before a possible US military strike. It is unlikely that Washington will launch any operation until both have left.

Analysts said the time window for military action in Afghanistan is narrowing fast and several indicators point to a possible strike any time from early next week.

Pakistan said it had received from the US the first batch of evidence that Washington says links bin Laden to the attacks. But Pakistan added that it could not yet say whether the first instalment proved his guilt.

   

 
 
ROUNDABOUT WAY TO SUIT THE WILL 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, Oct. 3: 
If there’s a will — better still, Black-will — there’s always a way. It’s just as well that the United States consular staff in Calcutta found one. Otherwise, there would have been a few black — sorry, red — faces around in this city. And not in the consulate alone, when the US ambassador, Robert D. Blackwill, landed up here on his first visit.

Only a few weeks old in India, the envoy, who used to teach at Harvard, wished to meet people that he wanted to meet across — should it be around? — a round table. That sent the staff here running round in circles. They made the rounds of every five-star hotel in the city, trying to see if anything round could be found.

“We made discreet enquiries at every five-star hotel in the city,” the local United States Information Service director, Rex Moser, said.

The round table has its significance in diplomacy. It symbolises the spirit of a meeting where the participants are on equal terms. Which is possibly why Blackwill willed for a table of that shape.

For the consular staff, though, the hunt for a round table turned out to be a search for perfection. And, why not? In literature, round is taken to be the symbol of perfection. The quest ended finally at The Park, just days before Blackwill set foot in Calcutta.

“We found that no one except The Park could show us a table that met our requirements,” Moser said.

“The specifications we received said there were to be about 16 persons,” a diplomatic mission member said. Every five-star hotel in the city was approached “unofficially”.

Almost every hotel said it had a round table but not one, except the one finally chosen, could promise a table which could seat that many people with the type of elbow-room and leg-space that was being sought, the consulate spokesperson said.

Although no other hotel would admit the ‘diplomatic’ coup by The Park – the most commonly-heard explanation was that it was not asked “officially” and that there was no record of such enquiries – mission staff confirmed that the round tables, if any, at the others didn’t satisfy the bosses.

“A round-table discussion is one in which the participants don’t take sides,” Moser explained. “Our ambassador to India willed that the table where he sat down to talk with Calcutta’s intellectuals should physically match the standards of the discussion he was going to have,” he added.

No indication of the standards since the discussions today were off the record. But one thing was clear: the spirit was not enough without the physical attributes of the table. A round-table discussion – made famous for Indians by Gandhi’s talks in London — had to have a round table.

The round table has its origins in the Arthurian legend where King Arthur confabulated with his knights always at the Round Table at Camelot. It was round in shape so that no individual knight had precedence.

It has quite a history at The Park also. In the 1970s and the 1980s, former chief minister Jyoti Basu used to insist on this particular table whenever he chaired a meeting at the hotel. The list of admirers of the table, which then would have been found at the hotel’s VIP Room, included Swraj Paul, a hotel spokesperson said.

There was no Camelot today – the table is now to be found at the much humbler and squarish conference room at the hotel business centre – and there wasn’t any King Arthur. Nor any knights in shining armour, but Calcutta’s reputation was saved any way.

   

 
 
BANGLA FACES TURMOIL AS HASINA SPRINGS BOYCOTT 
 
 
FROM ASHIS CHAKRABARTI
 
Dhaka, Oct. 3: 
Bangladesh looked all set to plunge into another spell of political uncertainty as the Awami League today demanded that Monday’s elections be cancelled and fresh polls be ordered under the direct control of President .

Party workers will be out in the streets from Friday to press for the demand.

Setting at rest any doubts about the participation of the 62 elected party candidates in the new parliament, Sheikh Hasina announced after a meeting of the party leaders here this evening that none of the party candidates would take oath as member of the new parliament.

From Friday till October 9, the League activists will organise protest meetings across the country to press the demand for the cancellation of the elections. From October 10, they will put up road blockades. If their demand is not met by then, the party will launch a bigger, “non-cooperation” movement .

The League agitation comes at a time when the country will pass through a critical stage of political transition. Not only will the new government of Khaleda Zia take over, replacing the caretaker government, but the new parliament has to elect a new President.

It is certain that the present President Shahabuddin Ahmed, who has held the office since 1991, will be replaced by someone closer to the BNP. It is therefore unlikely that either Ahmed or his successor will do anything to satisfy the Awami League. If the League MPs do not join the parliament, the government will have no option but to order fresh elections to fill the vacancies. The League will boycott those elections too.

Although the BNP has refrained from reacting to the League’s rejection of the polls, the former’s supporters may get into confrontations with their rivals once they launch their agitations. The BNP has tried to restrain its activists so far by asking them not to take out victory celebrations.

   

 
 
WEEPING FAROOQ CALLS FOR WAR ON PAK 
 
 
FROM MUKHTAR AHMAD
 
Srinagar, Oct. 3: 
Tears fell inside and slogans rent the air outside as the stricken Jammu and Kashmir Assembly limped towards recovery today after Monday’s suicide siege.

“We have waited for 12 long years and enough is enough,” said a tearful chief minister in an emotionally-charged speech. “Till what time should we wait? Till we all die?” Several legislators were seen wiping their tears as Farooq Abdullah appealed for a full-scale war against terrorist camps in Pakistan.

Outside the House, however, employees of the Assembly staged a sit-in and shouted anti-government slogans. The employees alleged that neither the chief minister nor the Speaker had bothered to visit those injured on Monday.

Thirteen employees of the Assembly and the legislative council were among the 38 killed in Monday’s terrorist attack. The protesters alleged that most of their colleagues had died in firing by the security forces.

Wednesday’s session took place amidst unprecedented security around the Assembly. The road leading to the complex remained off-limits. Hundreds of paramilitary Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and police personnel were deployed across the rest of the state capital.

Sobbing uncontrollably, Abdullah said Kashmiris had been sacrificing their lives for the unity and integrity of the country and to maintain communal harmoney in the Valley, but Pakistan was misinterpreting this as “weakness”.

“Our patience has run out, our tolerance has reached its limit and we must now prepare for war,” Abdullah said. “India must now attack Pakistan and destroy all the training camps in the country.”

“We have to teach Pakistan a lesson,” the chief minister said, adding that India should work towards ousting the Musharraf regime and replacing it with a friendlier government in Islamabad.

“If General Musharraf thinks he can grab Kashmir, then I tell him your country will disintegrate,” he said. “Pakistan cannot grab even an inch of our land. They fought three wars but were defeated.”

The chief minister also lambasted leaders of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, charging them with treason. “They are being protected by us and they support those who are responsible for the bloodshed in the valley,” he said.

Abdullah called for more security on the borders. “We must strengthen our borders so that innocent people are saved,” the chief minister said. “We should not be afraid of America and we should teach Pakistan a lesson.”

The House observed a two-minute silence and paid tributes to those who died in Monday’s explosion and subsequent firing. Later the Speaker adjourned the Assembly sine die one day ahead of schedule.

Agitating employees of the Assembly, on the other hand, accused Abdullah of “shedding crocodile tears” and said the state government was not doing enough to help the injured.

“Our injured colleagues need immediate specialised treatment and they should be shifted outside,” said Naseema, a senior reporter of the Assembly.

She also blamed the security forces for causing the maximum damage. “The security forces fired five grenades towards the Assembly complex which resulted in death and injuries to our colleagues,” she said.

Police, however, denied the charges. Deputy inspector general of police K. Rajendra said: “We evacuated them safely even when the firing was continuing.”

   

 
 
GRIEVING GWALIOR READIES FOR FUNERAL, CORONATION 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI AND SUCHANDANA GUPTA
 
Gwalior, Oct 3: 
Hands folded, with garlands and flowers, men, women and children streamed into Rani Mahal inside Jai Vilas Palace to pay their last respects to Madhavrao Scindia. Some wept uncontrollably.

Scindia’s wife Madhvi Raje, son Jyotiraditya, daughter Chitrangada, and other family members sat around the body — a picture of controlled grief. Mohsina Kidwai was also seated with the Scindia family members.

After the mourning, 32-year-old Jyotiraditya will be crowned the new king of Gwalior and his six-year-old son will become the crown prince.

Outside, it was raining. “Maharaj ne aasman ko bhi rula diya,” was the common man’s sentiment as the skies continued to drizzle for the third consecutive day in Gwalior.

The drizzle continued till mid-afternoon. But even in the rain, preparations went on in full swing for tomorrow’s funeral.

The entire Congress Parliamentary Party will be here tomorrow. Sonia Gandhi will arrive with 150 MPs. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, too, will be there with senior leaders as well as foreign dignitaries.

Members of royal families from all over the country are already camping here. The hotels are cramped, because the palace has accommodated only a select few.

Like all his ancestors, Madhavrao, too, will be cremated at Chhatri, the Scindias’ 50-acre crematorium for family members.

Madhavrao will be cremated less than 50 feet from where his mother was cremated in the last week of January.

Barricades have been put up. More than a thousand-strong police contingent has already been deployed inside the Chhatri grounds. The state bomb squad is on high alert.

Though Gwalior was limping back to normal, with shops reopening, they will down shutters again tomorrow. Educational institutions will also remain closed.

A 3,000-strong police contingent will be deployed all over Gwalior city from early tomorrow morning. At 9.30 am, Madhavrao’s body will be taken from Jai Vilas palace to the Chhatri which is 1.5 km away. The last rites will start from 11 am.

Royal purohit Chandrakhant Shinde will perform the various rites. Shinde will also be the master of ceremonies at the crowning of Jyotiradtiya.

Madhavrao was crowned king in 1961 after his father Maharaja Jiwajirao Scindia died. Madhavrao was just 16 then.

Jyotiraditya will be the tenth Maharaja of Gwalior. In 1726, Ranoji Scindia set up the empire.

   

 
 
ISKCON OFF THE HOOK IN CHILD ABUSE CASE 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, Oct. 3: 
A class action suit filed in Texas last year claiming $400 million in damages from the Hare Krishna movement for alleged child abuse in its gurukuls, mainly in Mayapur and Brindavan, was dismissed yesterday.

The suit, filed by 44 plaintiffs, residents of the US, Canada and the UK, had threatened to bankrupt the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon).

The celebrated case, filed by Windle Turley, a lawyer who has also taken the Catholic church to court for sexual abuse, had argued that “in a conscious effort to avoid policing and scrutiny by US child protection agencies, Iskcon took a large portion of its boarding school activities overseas to India. The Indian schools were among the worst offenders and abusers of minor boys and many of the Indian school teachers and leaders were also teachers, leaders and abusers in the US schools”.

It alleged that Iskcon leaders knew of widespread abuse in their institutions, but had condoned it.

Turley fought the case under a law which normally targets criminal organisations, not religious ones.

Its outcome was closely watched here as a precedent for possible similar cases. The dismissal will come as a relief to religious organisations and exonerates Iskcon which suffered bad publicity on account of the case.

Iskcon lawyer David Liberman was quoted in the ethnic Indian media in Texas as describing the outcome of the case as “a victory for religious freedom”.

He said a verdict against the Hare Krishna movement “would have opened the door for church and religious institutions across the country to be attacked in a way never intended by the Congressional authors of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations law”, the vehicle Turley used to pursue the case.

Anuttama Dasa, Iskcon’s spokesman, was quoted as saying: “We are greatly pleased and relieved...(the) decision will protect innocent families whose temples were threatened with closure by this overreaching suit.”

He added that Iskcon remained “committed to assure the safety of our children and will continue to reach out proactively to help any young person who may have suffered in the past”.

The movement has already set up the Iskcon Office Of Child Protection, where professional staff work on child protection programmes, provide financial support and counselling for abuse victims and investigate and adjudicate allegations of past abuse.

Iskcon at no stage denied the charges, but only argued that these were exaggerated.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 28.8°C (-3)
Minimum:25.0°C (0)

Rainfall

3.5 mm

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 97%
Minimum: 87%

Today

Light to moderate rain, accompanied by thunder, in some parts.
Sunrise: 5.32 am
Sunset: 5.19 pm
   
 

FRONT PAGE / NATIONAL / EDITORIAL / BUSINESS / THE EAST / SPORTS
ABOUT US /FEEDBACK / ARCHIVE 
 
Maintained by Web Development Company