Mumbai claims arrest of Abu Salem
Harkat blood stamp on Pakistan terror trail
Bollywood breaks steel barrier
Sangh does a U-turn on US
Calcutta Weather

Mumbai, Oct. 24: 
Abu Salem, the estranged righthand man of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, was arrested in Sharjah early this morning, sources in Mumbai police said.

The sources added that they have received the information from Interpol, but cannot make an official announcement till Delhi confirms it.

The ganglord, who lives in Ajman, the smallest of the emirates that make up the UAE, is the prime accused in the murders of music mogul Gulshan Kumar and actress Manisha Koirala’s secretary as well as in the Mumbai blasts.

Maharashtra deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal said on a TV channel that Salem had been arrested in a “Gulf country”. He said he had learnt of the arrest from his sources, but was awaiting confirmation from the Centre. “Since I have not got the confirmation, I should not divulge details of the arrest,” he said.

Sources in Mumbai, however, claimed that Salem had indeed been picked up in Sharjah following a tip-off by Mumbai police.

News of arrest and killing of underworld dons have proved incorrect in the past, the most recent such instance being the rumour about the capture of Chhota Shakeel.

There is as yet no official announcement either by the authorities in Delhi or in Sharjah of the arrest. A CBI team, headed by joint director D. Shivanandan, was in the UAE recently to pursue the case against Salem.

He informed the authorities there of the over 20 cases in which Salem is wanted. Mumbai police are saying that the CBI team handed over a list of “safe houses” used by Salem in the UAE. He is believed to have been arrested from one of these places.

The police are not quite celebrating news of the arrest because Salem is no longer a Dawood aide. The two fell out in 1999 as Chhota Shakeel moved closer to Dawood and it’s Dawood Mumbai police want more than anyone else.

Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh is expected to move the Centre shortly to press for Salem’s extradition.

India signed an extradition treaty with the UAE last December. But neither a treaty nor an arrest is a guarantee that India will be able to lay its hands on Salem.

Nadeem, also wanted in the Gulshan Kumar murder, has escaped the Indian authorities because the extradition case against him fell through in a London court for lack of evidence.

Mumbai police commissioner M.N. Singh blamed on the Abu Salem gang the murders of Gulshan Kumar and Manisha’s secretary Ajit Dewani. He also alleged that the group had plotted an attack on actor Aamir Khan.


Oct. 24: 
India’s allegation of a terror route running through Afgh-anistan and Pakistan to Kashmir found strength today in the report that 20 members of the Harkat-ul Mujahideen were killed in a US strike on Kabul.

Harkat is one of the most active militant outfits in Kashmir and was accused of hijacking an Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar in 1999. “We have unconfirmed reports that 35 fighters have been martyred,” a Harkat spokesman said in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Bodies of eight militants killed in the US raid were smuggled home today after border guards barred their return.

A source close to Harkat said the bodies were brought in through Mohmand Agency, a tribal area on the border. Two bodies were brought to Rawal-pindi where prayers were held. However, they were not buried in Rawalpindi but were to be taken to their hometowns, sources said.

Mourners, who prevented cameramen from taking photographs, shouted slogans like “The war will continue until America’s destruction”.

“We have the names of 20 people who died in the attack,” the Harkat spokesman said. It was the highest death toll in a single attack in the group’s history.

Among the commanders killed was Ustad Farooq from Lahore, a fact which, if proven right, would be embarrassing for Islamabad and offer fresh fuel for Delhi’s charge of Pakistan’s ties to terrorist outfits.

After the recent Kashmir Assembly suicide bombing, Jaish-e-Mohammed – that claimed responsibility – had said the bomber was a Pakistani.

The list of dead included six commanders of Harkat that has long been on a US list of terrorist organisations.

Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Riaz Mohammad Khan told a news conference that the government had no information to confirm or deny the Kabul incident or whether any Pakistanis had been killed there.

“For quite some time the Pakistan government had impressed upon the Afghanistan government that they should not allow any Pakistani to be part of any of their forces... to go inside Afghanistan for any so-called training purposes.

“We had been very firm on this matter. We had also been requesting the Afghanistan government to apprehend and hand over a large number of people who have been indicted by courts here,” Khan said.

Harkat has long been believed to send its guerrillas into Afghanistan for training at the many camps there. India says these militants are then pushed into Kashmir by Pakistan to carry out terrorist attacks.

Powell damper on Pak

US secretary of state Colin Powell has ruled out a dominant role for Pakistan or any other nation in Afghanistan’s post-war government, reports AP. “The next government of Afghanistan cannot be dictated into being by Pakistan,” he said. With the UN taking the lead, all of Afghanistan’s neighbours, and also such countries as China and Russia, must be consulted, Powell said.    

London, Oct. 24: 
Bollywood made history in London last night when steel barriers, flanked by burly British policemen, were erected outside the Warner Village Cinema in Leicester Square for the world premiere of Shah Rukh Khan’s Asoka.

A screening from which Srichand Hinduja and Lakshmi Mittal, two of the richest men in Britain and indeed the world, were in imminent danger of being ejected because they could not find seats at a typically oversubscribed Indian function must be considered a success.

Credit where it is due. Shah Rukh Khan produced just the right amount of controlled chaos for passersby in Leicester Square to wonder what all the fuss was about.

Steel barriers were erected in one of the busiest tourist spots in London to hold back the curious. This is normal procedure for Hollywood movies but the first time it has been done for Bollywood.

The name of the game on such occasions is star spotting. Until Shah Rukh himself arrived, looking cheeky and chirpy in a dinner jacket with hair slicked down, the greatest excitement was caused by a young woman who was instantly recognised by English bystanders.

“Oh, that’s Narindar from Big Brother,” declared a young Englishman knowledgably.

Big Brother is a TV programme in which a group of people is locked up in a house and watched 24 hours a day by hidden cameras.

One of the group is a Sikh, Narindar Kaur, who won fame by baring her bottom to the nation. On coming out, she said the thing she had missed most was sex with her husband.

Last night she bared her top in the way Hollywood starlets do when they want to be noticed by movie moguls with fat cigars.

“This is an Asian occasion so I think it’s important to support it,” Narindar noted generously. “I would like to go into Bollywood eventually. Ever since I appeared on Big Brother, I have had lots of fan mail from Asian girls who compliment me on being a role model.”

Just then, a jaunty looking Srichand Hinduja walked past — and immediately pointed out he had sponsored Bollywood long before Indian films had become “cool” in the West. “We were the first people to distribute an Indian movie overseas back in 1958 — that was Shree 420,” he pointed out.

“We also handled Mother India and Sangam (after which his holding company in Britain is named),” he added proudly.

The A-List white celebrities, who are usually keen to support Hollywood, failed to materialise. One exception was Paul Blackthorne, the actor who played the rough, tough Captain Russell in Aamir Khan’s Lagaan.

He agreed Asoka was different from Lagaan. “It has more horses,” he remarked shrewdly.

An Indian lawyer, Usha Sood, who had come all the way from Nottingham for the premiere, praised Blackthorne for his role in Lagaan. “You were a wonderful villain,” she gushed.

Lit up on the cinema outside were the words: “Asoka — Gala premiere in the presence of Shah Rukh Khan.” It made him sound royal, which, in a way, he is — at least, for Indians.

The man’s arrival was heralded by suitably loud female shrieks. He was charm itself as he patiently gave interviews to the prettiest girls and then addressed the cinema audience.

“Step into the spotlight,” someone shouted. He obliged by stepping out of the darkness into the bright lights. Actually, he has been very much in the spotlight this week in the British press, which is developing a craze for Bollywood.

Being an Indian occasion, more tickets were distributed to VIPs for the premiere than there were seats available in the theatre. When a hundred hapless Asian glitterati, including S.P. Hinduja and Mittal, waited to be accommodated somehow, a rude usher announced on the louspeaker: “Please leave if you are not seated — you are holding up the film for others.”

In the end, a few parents did ask their children to leave so that seniors could be fitted in. The consensus at the end of the evening was that Shah Rukh and his director, Santosh Sivan, who was also present, had made a hugely enjoyable film.

This is heartening news for Shah Rukh since he is distributing no fewer than 84 prints of Asoka in Britain alone, where the normal figure for a Bollywood movie is 20-25.

“But please don’t compare it with Kurosawa,” pleaded Ahmed Jamal, a London film director.


New Delhi, Oct. 24: 
The starry-eyed Sangh parivar, which had hoped the US would embrace India before launching its offensive against “Islamic” terrorism, is having second thoughts about Washington’s intent.

Chastened by the new geo-political reality in which Pakistan, rather than India, has emerged as the front-line state for America, the BJP and the RSS have begun voicing their reservations against backing the offensive uncritically.

The signs of a turnaround in the Sangh’s pro-US tilt were seen after the visits of Tony Blair and Colin Powell. Both made it clear that Kashmir would not figure on the anti-terror agenda now and Pakistan mattered more to them than India did in the war against Afghanistan.

Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee had taken the lead in signalling that the US would not dictate India’s Kashmir and foreign policies. He said he had not sought US permission before taking action in Kashmir. During the Kargil war, when there was pressure to give away land in Pakistan’s possession in occupied Kashmir, India had refused to cave in, Vajpayee added.

RSS mouthpiece Organiser was quick to pick up the cue. The cover of its latest issue has the headline: “Battle against terrorism: Let us fight our own war”.

The accompanying blurb says India would like to be an ally of the US, but on its own terms. “It is now absolutely clear that America wants a special relationship with both India and Pakistan. New Delhi will have to tell Washington that the latter would have to make a choice,” it says.




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