MPs back under security blanket
VHP raises anti-jihad war cry
Plan for Fortress Parliament
Homage to unarmed saviours
Ignored Opp. opens fire
Foreign sleuths to quiz Afroz
Back with defiant silence
Gogoi harps on toning up intelligence
Meghalaya official sent packing
Tea fest draws tourists with a slice of Raj

 
 
MPS BACK UNDER SECURITY BLANKET 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Dec. 14: 

Entry pass under scanner

The tell-tale marks of yesterday’s violence were still there. Dried bloodstains on the wall of the main entrance to Parliament and bullet holes on the door of the Lok Sabha notice office gave away the story.

A day after gunshots ripped apart one of the highest institutions of democracy, the story of yesterday’s sudden assault lived on by word of mouth — through the responses of the government and Opposition parties and the tightening of security in and around the building.

Last morning, people had casually trooped in, anticipating an early adjournment. The security personnel had done their routine checks, waving at familiar faces.

But this morning, it was a different story — the parking slots were jammed. People had turned up to get a flavour of yesterday’s excitement. The security knot had tightened.

At the entrance to the Parliament building, the guards checked not only the Parliament sticker on the car, but also the pass that allows one inside.

Usually, they do not bother to check passes at the entrance, only car stickers are checked. But, today nobody was taking chances.

Inside Parliament, everyone had a can’t-believe-it look. From MPs to security staff to canteen staff to media persons, everybody was talking about yesterday.

Parliament will take time to recover from the horror of yesterday’s attack. On the surface, there were no ripples apart from a constant buzz about the events, but underneath lurked a shadow of apprehension, watchfulness and a sense of gratitude for being alive.

What could have happened had it not been for the courage of Jagdish Yadav and the security personnel was the common refrain among MPs.

Different versions of what exactly happened yesterday kept cropping up, till the Lok Sabha Speaker’s office issued a note reconstructing the exact sequence of events caught on Parliament’s close-circuit television.

It proves wrong one of the basic hypotheses: The terrorists did not enter Parliament from Vijay Chowk as was reported till this afternoon but came in through the main gate from Parliament Street.

The Speaker’s office also scotched speculations about the exact time of the attack, which was at 11.41 am. By 11.42, joint secretary of security Maheepathi ordered that all entrance gates to the building be closed. Explosives were found but the amount was not specified. The buzz, however, was that it was to the tune of 30 kg.

Parliament was adjourned after offering condolences to the 12 dead.

Vice-President Krishan Kant, who had a providential escape, told the Rajya Sabha that they owed their lives to the bravery of unarmed people who fell to the terrorists’ bullets.

By evening, the army had withdrawn its seven columns posted in the high-security zone of the capital.

Parliament dragged itself back to business but nothing appeared as normal as before.

   

 
 
VHP RAISES ANTI-JIHAD WAR CRY 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Dec. 14: 
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad — which was on a limb after the BJP decided to forsake the Ram mandir to keep a coalition going — has pounced on the terrorist strikes on Parliament as a godsend to do what it is best at: communalise the political and social ambience.

It had decided to observe December 17 as Jagruti Diwas (day of awareness) in the capital. Id would also be celebrated on the same day. The programme would be held ostensibly to condole the death of the seven security personnel who were killed while saving Parliament but its main purpose is to get across the message that unless the Centre goes ahead and smashes terrorist camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir the “battle” against terrorism will be a non-starter. The VHP was quick to read the Prime Minister’s statement in his televised address to the nation yesterday about the battle against terrorism having reached its last phase as “endorsement and acceptance” of its agenda.

The RSS’ militant arm, the Bajrang Dal, has circulated leaflets explaining why an Islamic jihad was “disastrous” for Hindus and Hinduism. Boldly captioned Islamic jihad ke samne ladna padega dharam yudh (A religious war will have to be fought against Islamic jihad), the leaflet said jihad meant “en masse killing of Hindus, demolition of Hindu temples, destruction of Hindu religion and the Balkanisation of India”.

In a set of 11 “statements”, the leaflet alleged it was because of the jihad that Kashmir was bereft of Hindus, Hindu youths took to drugs, counterfiet currency was in circulation, Hindu women were lured to marry Muslims and convert their religion, Hindus were reduced to a minority in the districts bordering Pakistan, and 50,000 cows were slaughtered daily.

But despite the high-pitched rhetoric, senior VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore refused to name Pakistan while speaking to the press today on cross-border terrorism. “I will urge the Prime Minister and the home minister to attack the terrorist training camps in a neighbouring country and declare that country an enemy country. India should snap its diplomatic ties with this country,” he said. When asked to name the “country”, Kishore, who is known for his Pakistan-bashing, turned coy and said: “I am not under pressure from anyone not to take the country’s name but I have to be diplomatic.”

Kishore also met BJP president K Jana Krishnamurthi today to discuss the fallout of yesterday’s suicide attack.

RSS today asked the Centre to “take all the necessary steps to get to the roots of the terrorists, wherever they are and whoever they are”. It also called on the Opposition to rise above “mere considerations of electoral politics in the face of the serious threat posed by the terrorists and display a spirit of accommodation with respect to Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance with the government, which is responsible for the security of the nation”.

   

 
 
PLAN FOR FORTRESS PARLIAMENT 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, Dec. 14: 
Stunned by the ease with which the terrorists stormed Parliament yesterday, the government and Lok Sabha Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi are contemplating an “integrated Parliament complex” to make security as foolproof as possible.

The integrated complex, first conceived by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1987, would comprise a large area covering the main Parliament building, a huge library, which is nearing completion, and the Parliament Annexe. But because of a host of real and imagined problems, the plan was never implemented.

Sources said the Cabinet Committee on Security discussed the matter when it met yesterday and gave Balayogi the go-ahead.

After the September 11 strikes on the US, Balayogi had convened a high-level meeting on steps to enhance security. Among those who attended were urban development minister Ananth Kumar, the chairman of the New Delhi Municipal Corporation, the Delhi Police commissioner, the Lok Sabha House Committee chairman, and secretaries-general of the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha.

Though the meeting was held in the third week of October, the government did not show much interest till yesterday.

Some of the key proposals under the Speaker’s active consideration are:

Closing a section of Talkatora Road dividing the main Parliament complex and Parliament Annexe to traffic.

Arming security personnel (they are at present not allowed to carry firearms inside the House) and strict checking even for MPs and journalists entering the complex with Parliament stickers on their vehicles

Installing more closed-circuit TVs to monitor movements inside the compound. Eight closed-circuit TVs are already in place inside the main complex.

Storing arms in a secret room inside the building with only two or three top officials having access to the key.

It’s doubtful whether some of these proposals can be fully implemented.

Sources said though the urban development minister supported the idea to close traffic on Talkatora Road adjoining Parliament, the Delhi police commissioner and the municipality chairman expressed reservations.

The problem is how to manage the diverted traffic. On an average, 35,000 vehicles use this route during peak hours. Traffic and police officials want the adjacent roads widened first.

   

 
 
HOMAGE TO UNARMED SAVIOURS 
 
 
FROM MONOBINA GUPTA
 
New Delhi, Dec. 14: 
It was one unarmed man who saved hundreds of lives yesterday.

The heavily-armed and specialised security personnel descended on the site of terror much later when Jagdish Prasad Yadav had already averted a bloodbath by taking on the terrorists even though he did not have a shred of protection on his body.

Thirty-two-year-old Yadav, who was on security duty at the Rajya Sabha entrance, was the first man to give the deadly assailants a chase. He was also the first to fall to a spray of bullets.

This afternoon, when Yadav’s body was brought to Parliament, his colleagues wept. The MPs said it was an “unarmed, defenceless” security guard who had saved them and the House.

Yadav’s colleague Kamlesh Kumari, the security officer who frisked visitors and journalists at the Rajya Sabha entrance, was also killed in the encounter. Any regular visitor to the Upper House would remember Kamlesh knitting and chatting with her colleagues at the gate. She, too, was unarmed but brave enough to dash out of the building and give chase.

It was a sombre moment when Yadav’s body was laid down at the Rajya Sabha entrance. Yesterday’s events were still too raw for anybody to forget how Yadav sensed trouble the moment he saw a white Ambassador speeding up the driveway outside the Rajya Sabha with a security man running behind.

The dependents of Yadav will be allowed to draw his salary for the rest of the term of his service, the Speaker announced. A package of Rs 10 lakh for the dependents of each of those killed and Rs 1 lakh for those injured was also announced.

Vice-President Krishan Kant – whose chamber is just next to the Rajya Sabha entrance — was about to leave Parliament. His convoy was waiting outside.

Kant escaped by a whisker because of a slight delay as Yadav, seeing the car rushing towards the entrance, tried to flag it down. But the driver moved into high gear and the security officer had just enough time to pass on the information to his superior on his walkie talkie.

Confronted with Krishan Kant’s waiting convoy, the Ambassador took a sharp turn, hit one of the cars and screeched to a halt. As the terrorists jumped out of the car, Yadav ran after them, shooting out instructions on his walkie talkie to shut all the doors of Parliament before a bullet squeezed out his life.

Today, everybody — MPs, friends and colleagues — talked about Yadav’s courage. The MPs placed wreaths on his body. Later, it was taken out in a procession from Parliament. Film producer-turned MP D. Ramanaidu gave Rs 1 lakh for distribution among the victims’ families.

   

 
 
IGNORED OPP. OPENS FIRE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Dec. 14: 
Seldom have the Opposition and the government spoken in such dissonant tones on a subject like national security.

During the Kargil war, the Opposition, despite all its reservations, stood by the Vajpayee government. More recently, it gave the Prime Minister the go-ahead for inviting Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf for talks.

Now, more than 24 hours have gone by, but the Vajpayee government still has not bothered to share a word with Opposition leaders about yesterday’s attack on Parliament. “What unity is the government talking about? Opposition leaders have been totally ignored in this whole crisis,” said senior CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee.

Home minister L.K. Advani is expected to address Parliament on Tuesday. But Opposition leaders are angry at the way the government has kept them “in the dark” during these crucial hours. Far from “uniting” them, yesterday’s attack has only driven the government and the Opposition further away from each other.

Unlike in the past, Opposition parties are not ready to give the government any quarter on yesterday’s incident. “We strongly condemn the government’s attitude of ignoring us,” Chatterjee underlined.

There is a definite change in the Opposition’s mood. In contrast to earlier times, the Left is openly challenging the government to call them “anti-national”.

When India had gone nuclear, Left parties had initially come up with a tepid response, fearing that vociferous opposition would give the BJP the chance to brand them “anti-national”. During the Kargil intrusion, the Left parties wanted to criticise the government for breach of security but at the same time did not want to appear as if they were praising the aggressor.

This time they seem to have thrown caution to the winds. “The BJP does not have a monopoly over patriotism. Who are they to call us anti-national?” Chatterjee said. The refrain began from the time the Opposition attacked the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance. It has become louder since yesterday’s suicide strike.

The Centre, too, is taking a hard line. Several ministers have dismissed the allegation that the government has not bothered to take Opposition leaders into confidence. They are also saying the Opposition will now have no choice but to support the controversial Ordinance. Chatterjee, however, said: “There is no question of our supporting Poto (the acronym of the Ordinance). This happened despite Poto.”

The CPM MP quoted law minister Arun Jaitley as saying that the Ordinance was not meant for preventing terrorist attacks but for dealing with bail and trial of those detained.

Chatterjee said they were not against a law which would set up special courts for dealing with such cases. “But we cannot support a law which would mean detaining people just like that,” he added.

   

 
 
FOREIGN SLEUTHS TO QUIZ AFROZ 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Mumbai, Dec. 14: 
Australian and British intelligence officials have arrived to question the arrested al Qaida operative, Mohammed Afroz, deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal said today.

Bhujbal, who holds the home portfolio, said the Union home ministry is sending two teams, comprising officers from the CBI, IB and the crime branch of Mumbai police, to UK and Australia.

In another development, the 25-year-old suspect told a court today that he did not need a lawyer as he wanted to confess. Afroz denied his father’s allegations that police had beaten a confession out of him and that he was mentally unstable. Additional chief metropolitan magistrate V.P. Tavre, however, rescheduled recording Afroz’s confession to Tuesday, following his father’s appeal that his son be given more time.

Bhujbal said a Scotland Yard team was in the commercial capital to question Afroz about the failed plots to attack Westminster Palace and the British Parliament. He said a team from Australia was also here as Afroz had taken flight training in that country.

Bhujbal, however, ruled out any possibility of handing Afroz over to Australian or British authorities. “There is no question of him being taken away from India. We have arrested him and he will be tried in this country only.”

Police said Afroz revealed a plot to attack both the British and Indian Parliaments after he was arrested in a Navi Mumbai hotel on October 2. Hours after terrorists stormed Parliament, police commissioner M.N. Singh said if the Union home ministry had taken seriously the report he had sent on the al Qaida plot, the incident could have been averted.

   

 
 
BACK WITH DEFIANT SILENCE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Dec. 14: 
A day after the terrorist attack on Parliament, both Houses met on a sombre note and adjourned for the day as a mark of respect for the six security personnel who were killed fighting the militants. The House will reassemble on Tuesday, Monday being a holiday.

Deviating from parliamentary tradition, the Lok Sabha passed a resolution praising the courage of the security personnel and condemning the “cult of violence”. The House also observed a minute’s silence. “The cult of violence and hatred promoted by senseless elements having no faith in democratic institutions has claimed seven innocent lives,” the resolution said.

Condemning the “cowardly” attack, it said “such attacks reinforce our determination to fight the evil of terrorism. Let us rededicate ourselves to protect the sovereignty and integrity of the country at all costs.”

Sources said some members wanted the House to resume normal functioning from today as they felt adjourning would send a wrong signal to the outside world. But an overwhelming opinion was that the House should be adjourned to pay tribute to the dead security personnel.

The Lok Sabha was packed to capacity with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi and almost all senior Cabinet ministers present.

Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi said the timely action of the brave security staff of the Central Reserve Police Force, Delhi Police, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the Parliament watch-and-ward security foiled the terrorists’ plan to enter the building. His remarks were greeted by loud thumping of desks by the members of treasury and Opposition benches.

Balayogi said he has received messages from several countries condemning the attack. The House also sent condolences to the bereaved families.

The Speaker said this was not just an attack on Parliament but on the “very freedom of the country”.

“The entire nation has stood as one against such attacks in the past and I am sure it will do so again,” he said, adding that this outrageous and dastardly act of hate and terror had shocked the entire world.

Paying tribute to the security personnel, Balayogi said: “In their death, these valiant security personnel have set the highest standards of selfless courage and bravery.”

“Our hearts reach out to the families of these martyrs in this hour of their supreme personal loss.”

The Rajya Sabha resolved to unitedly fight terrorism with grit and determination.

   

 
 
GOGOI HARPS ON TONING UP INTELLIGENCE 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
Dec. 14: 
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today said the intelligence machinery needed to get its act together for the state to be able to effectively counter the threat from militant outfits.

Taking stock of the state’s preparedness for terrorist strikes at an emergent meeting with his council of ministers, Gogoi said security agencies could not function properly without intelligence support. He reiterated this at an iftar get-together at his official residence in the evening.

The Union home ministry had yesterday asked the governments of the northeastern states, especially Assam, to plug all loopholes in security without any delay. The directive was issued in the wake of the suicide attack on Parliament.

Signs of increased security were today visible in Assam’s capital city. More guards were on duty in and around the secretariat complex and the residences of senior political leaders, some of who figure on the “hit list” of militants. Numerous police barricades and checkpoints, one right in front of Janata Bhavan, came up overnight.

Women were carefully frisked at checkpoints, a shift from the earlier policy of allowing them to pass after a cursory top-to-toe glance. Central paramilitary personnel patrolled the streets of the city on foot during the day, stopping anyone they suspected of carrying weapons.

Gogoi said his government had sought additional Central forces for the panchayat elections, but the request was turned down. He said security officials had been asked to use all the resources at their disposal to thwart any attempt by militants to cause trouble in the run-up to the elections later this month.

While the whole of Guwahati turned into a high-security zone, Jorhat police claimed to have busted a “communication centre” of the banned Ulfa and arrested a senior activist of the outfit in the Upper Assam town. District superintendent of police P.K. Saloi said Gautam Neog, alias Prabhakar Sonowal, had set up the “communication centre” in a printing press.

A computer, some floppy discs and incriminating documents were recovered from the press, which was raided early today. Five of Sonowal’s associates escaped before the police team raided the rented house where they were staying, Saloi said. The police had shot dead Ulfa publicity secretary Swadhinata Phukan at a village near Jorhat last year.

Like Assam, the Meghalaya government reviewed the law and order situation in the state this afternoon. Chief minister F.A Khonglam and the home minister met senior police officials to take stock of the security arrangements in the state.

   

 
 
MEGHALAYA OFFICIAL SENT PACKING 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Shillong, Dec. 14: 
The new Meghalaya government has decided to appoint the additional chief secretary J. Tayeng as the acting chief secretary to facilitate an “impartial” inquiry into the controversial Calcutta Meghalaya House deal which unseated the E.K. Mawlong government.

“Present chief secretary J.P. Singh will be going on leave from December 19 to facilitate an impartial investigation,” chief minister F.A. Khonglam, whose government appears set to get cracking with the probe, said.

The People’s Forum of Meghalaya (PFM) Cabinet, which met today, discussed the fixing of a time-frame for an inquiry into the Meghalaya House deal. It will also move court to vacate the stay order on Meghalaya House at Russel Street obtained by the Asian Housing Construction Limited (AHC).

“The land does not belong to us anymore. It is now with the AHC. Therefore, we are seeking legal advice on how to get it back,” the chief minister said. He said his government would move court by December 20.

The minister in-charge of the general administrative department would visit Calcutta soon, he added.

The chief minister parried a question on why he has included “scam-tainted” ministers in his government. He said allegations against these ministers were unsubstantiated.

Deputy chief minister D.D. Lapang chipped in, saying that if members of the new government were found to be involved in the murky deal, “they would go”.

Lapang, however, admitted that the PFM was formed on “the numbers game,” adding that outside the government “it is always the majority which matters.”

He said allegations, particularly against an NCP minister, have not been proved.

Both the chief minister and his deputy agreed to ask NCP general secretary Purno A. Sangma to provide them with the name of and evidence against a certain NCP minister. Sangma had said he had proof of involvement in the controversial deal against one NCP minister.

Sangma had earlier maintained that he has “circumstantial evidence” against one NCP legislator’s involvement in the deal. The government also decided to cut all non-Plan expenditure and it will set up a committee to examine liabilities of its boards and corporations.

   

 
 
TEA FEST DRAWS TOURISTS WITH A SLICE OF RAJ 
 
 
FROM PULLOCK DUTTA
 
Jorhat, Dec. 14: 
For those who have always wanted a feel of life in a tea garden but do not know how to go about arranging such a trip, here is some good news.

The six-day “Jorhat Tea Tourism Festival”, beginning February 4, will offer tourists the opportunity to spend a couple of nights in British-era bungalows and get a rare insight into the almost colonial lifestyle of tea planters.

The festival, the first such tourism-related initiative in Upper Assam, will coincide with the 125-year-old “Jorhat Races”, a localised derby that is a big draw each year.

Additional deputy commissioner Lalit Gogoi, a member of the organising committee, told The Telegraph that tea garden executives would host tourists in their bungalows and show them around. “It is a rare opportunity to get a first-hand account of a tea executive’s lifestyle, which is a mixture of hard work and leisure,” he said.

It is the first time that the tourism department, the culture department, the tea industry and the Jorhat district administration are collaborating in a tourism-promotion campaign. “Tourists generally consider Kaziranga the only place in Upper Assam that is worth a visit. Now that we have organised the tea tourism festival, they will realise that there is more to Upper Assam than just the rhinos of Kaziranga. The historical Jorhat races are an added attraction,” Gogoi said.

The additional deputy commissioner said the tea industry’s wholehearted involvement in the festival was a welcome development.

“The industry and the Tea Research Association have agreed to offer accommodation to tourists and make arrangements for visits to tea gardens,” he said.

The organisers have asked tour operators based in Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Delhi and Calcutta to offer “attractive packages” to tourists interested in the festival, especially those who have already confirmed visits to the Kaziranga National Park. The tariff for accommodation in garden bungalows is, however, yet to be fixed.

”We plan to put up posters and banners at airports, bus stops and railway stations in cities across the country to attract tourists to Upper Assam,” Gogoi said.

   
 

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