Plot revealed, not Pak direct role
Powell, Delhi on middle path
Teacher twist strikes terror
Historians parade to back text deletions
Troops foil militant bid on BSF hub
Laloo bail-plea rejection scares aides away
Gogoi leads Games chase
Calcutta Weather

 
 
PLOT REVEALED, NOT PAK DIRECT ROLE 
 
 
FROM MONOBINA GUPTA
 
New Delhi, Dec. 16: 

Jaish and ISI added to list of suspects

Delhi police today said they have cracked the Parliament attack conspiracy, claiming a “clear connection” between the assault team and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.

However, the police conceded that none of the arrested has directly implicated Pakistan.

Showcasing a blow-by-blow account of how the attack was planned and executed, the police reeled off a list of accused that included a college teacher and an Indian Airlines plane hijacker who killed Rupin Katyal, a passenger who was on his honeymoon, in 1999.

The police pinned the blame on two Pakistani terror groups, clubbing Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Toiba, which was the prime accused till yesterday.

Delhi police commissioner A.R. Sharma said the Jaish and the Lashkar had struck on directives from the ISI. “The ISI connection is very clear. Though none arrested in the case has said Pakistan directed the operation, evidence suggests Pakistan’s hand,” Sharma said.

Home minister L.K. Advani, despite saying “all options are open” on India’s response, too, underscored that Delhi so far has “conclusive proof” against the two militant outfits, not Pakistan.

“When I say conclusive, I mean the two organisations and I am not referring to whether the Pakistan government has been involved in it or not. That is another phase altogether,” Advani told a television channel.

The police said all five youths killed during the attempt were Pakistanis and active members of the Jaish. They were supposed to have targeted the airport, but for “reasons best known to them” zeroed in on Parliament.

The youths have been identified as Mohammad (group leader and the hijacker), Hamza, Haider, Rana and Raja . A delay in communication between the suicide strikers and an accomplice outside bungled the plot, Sharma said. He added that the attackers had planned to kill “as many VIPs as possible”.

Delhi police have reconstructed the events and the run-up to the attack, based on clues provided by those arrested, who include Jaish coordinator Mohammad Afzal and his cousin Shaukat Hussain.

The plot, hatched over the last five to six months, spanned Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi. Investigations by the police revealed that Abdul Rehman Gilani, an Arabic lecturer in Zakir Hussain College, was the pointsman of the strike team.

Gilani was picked up yesterday after the police kept tabs on his home in Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar. He unravelled the crux of the plot, giving out the names of the terrorists’ accomplices. Two of them are Afzal and Shaukat, both from Baramullah in Jammu and Kashmir.

It was at Shaukat’s house, also in Mukherjee Nagar, that the final plan crystallised. His wife, Afsan Guru has admitted that she was aware of the plan. Based on her statement, the police arrested Afzal and Shaukat in Srinagar.

Afzal told the police that he was trained by the ISI for a month in a PoK camp after he joined the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front in 1990.

Later, Tariq, a conduit for Jaish commander in India Ghazi Baba, roped Afzal in. Tariq told Afzal that “under ISI pressure, Masood Azhar and Zaki-ur-Rehman of the Lashkar had combined to launch an attack in Delhi. Lashkar would give all the necessary support”.

It was left to Afzal to induct Shaukat and Gilani. The strike team landed in Delhi in the first week of December with a cache of arms. Two days before the attack, they bought the white Ambassador that fooled the guards.

   

 
 
POWELL, DELHI ON MIDDLE PATH 
 
 
FROM SEEMA GUHA AND AGENCIES
 
New Delhi, Dec. 16: 
On a day the US accepted India’s right to self-defence but advised caution, highly-placed sources in the Centre said an American-style strike on terrorist hideouts across the border was the last option being considered by the Vajpayee administration.

US secretary of state Colin Powell said the Indian government has a legitimate right to self-defence “but I think we have to be very careful on this because, if in the exercise of that right of self-defence, states are going to be at each other, it might create a much more difficult situation which could spiral out of control”. He said the tense situation “has the potential of becoming very dangerous”.

Powell told NBC Television that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is “taking action against two organisations that have been tentatively identified as the ones which might have been responsible for this”.

Powell did not spell out the “action” but other reports suggested that Pakistan had asked Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad to “lower their profile”. The US had asked Pakistan to arrest the Lashkar leaders, a demand voiced by India after the Parliament attack.

Powell said Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee has made it clear that he is allowing some time in order to get a reaction from the Pakistani government. “The Pakistani government,” said Powell, “is taking more steps now.”

While not ruling out an attack, Vajpayee’s close aides said no decision would be taken in haste. “We will go into attack-mode only when we find all other avenues shut. For now, we are also considering taking the issue to the UN Security Council,” a senior aide explained.

If Pakistan refuses to crack down on the Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Lashkar-e-Toiba, India can take the matter to the Security Council. A resolution passed after the September 11 attacks makes a member’s refusal to act against terrorists punishable by sanctions. Pakistan, like India and the rest of the UN members, is a signatory to this resolution.

However, India’s investigators will need a water-tight case proving Pakistan’s links with the terrorists before Delhi can seek action.

Though India has identified all five terrorists involved in Thursday’s attack as Pakistani citizens and talked of the role of Islamabad’s Inter-Services Intelligence, the government has hinted that the proof gathered so far is mainly circumstantial.

The Delhi police chief said the suspects have provided substantial evidence against the ISI. But he conceded that they have not said that the Pakistan government had directed them to carry out the attack.

However, it is not known if the police chief has put all the evidence on the table for public consumption. The government could hold back sensitive information for later use.

But taking the issue to the UN could also backfire. Pakistan could use the opportunity to hammer home its demand that a third party is needed to solve the Kashmir problem.

   

 
 
TEACHER TWIST STRIKES TERROR 
 
 
FROM SUJAN DUTTA
 
New Delhi, Dec. 16: 
A frisson of fear runs through Delhi’s academia as it contends with the arrest of one of its own — lecturer Abdul Rehman Gilani — on charges of having been among the conspirators who planned the attack on Parliament on 13/12.

Gilani, in his mid-twenties, is a lecturer in Arabic in Zakir Hussain College, one of New Delhi’s older institutions that is now among its better known B- grade colleges. But his arrest has repercussions that go beyond the confines of the building near the Ramlila Ground and sweep through campuses. Many in Delhi’s academia have political biases that flow into their academic achievement but do not necessarily retard scholarly merit.

But since the arrest of Gilani was publicised, his colleagues and acquaintances are afraid to go on record about him. “Even three days ago, I would not have batted an eyelid and just said ‘oh yes, he’s a colleague’. But now I do not want to be identified among the people who have known him, at least not till he is acquitted of the charges,” one acquaintance of Gilani said.

Four years ago, a selection committee found Gilani fit for appointment as lecturer in Zakir Hussain College’s Arabic studies department. He has been at the job since 1997, occasionally dabbling in human rights movements and sometimes seen with secular groups affiliated to the Left and even the Congress in broad programmes of protest since the BJP-led government came to power. He was certainly not among the front-ranking intellectuals of various hues who have often combined to protest against the NDA government’s policies. His colleagues say he generally maintained a low profile.

Zakir Hussain College principal M. Riyaz Omar was stunned yesterday when a journalist told him that a subordinate of his has been detained by Delhi police for questioning in connection with the attack on Parliament. “Has he really been held?” the principal asked, consternation in his voice. “Please let me know where he is. I want to help him. His family does not stay with him here. Where is he? I want to help him.”

Gilani is a relative of the London-based Kashmiri secessionist leader Syed Nazir Gilani. He lived in Pitampura, northwest Delhi and was researching for his Ph.D, which he would be submitting to Delhi University. His research guide is M.N. Khan, head of the department of Arabic in the university.

The police said Gilani headed the Indian section of the Jammu and Kashmir Human Rights Council, an NGO.

In Srinagar, Gilani’s brother alleged that he was “falsely implicated” in the case and whereabouts of four members of his family were not known, adds PTI. Abdul Rahim Gilani told reporters at his Tawheedgunj house in Baramulla that his brother was “innocent”.

“We have no news about Gilani’s wife, two children and a brother who were staying with him in Delhi,” Rahim said.

   

 
 
HISTORIANS PARADE TO BACK TEXT DELETIONS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Dec. 16: 
Historians and archaeologists close to the BJP’s viewpoint on rewriting history have called a news conference on December 21 to elaborate their “version” why the recent deletions in high-school texts are justified.

The panel includes S.P. Gupta, M.G.S. Narayanan, Maheep Singh, K.S. Lal and Devendra Swaroop. Gupta, who is the chairperson of the Archaeological Society of India, and Lal have written extensively on the Ramjanmabhoomi issue and attempted to “prove” that a temple was razed on the spot on which the Babri masjid stood. Swaroop is a regular contributor to the RSS’ Hindi weekly, Panchajanya.

The BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP and former high commissioner to the UK, L.M. Singhvi, will also share the dais.

Swaroop and Gupta, however, denied that the BJP or the Vajpayee government had anything to do with their news conference.

They said the panelists were members of the Indian History and Cultural Society which was set up in 1977.

“It has been called to explain to the media why the changes in the NCERT texts were necessary. For the last several months, a virtual campaign is on to whip up opinion against the changes in the history texts and it’s high time we spoke up,” said Gupta. He explained Singhvi’s presence as: “We are old friends from the Allahabad University days. So why shouldn’t he come?”

BJP sources, however, admitted such a forum was necessary to purvey its stand. Sources felt the only person speaking up for rewriting history was human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi.

Whenever the issue was brought up in the winter session by the Congress and Left, the only other person to defend the deletions in history books was V.K. Malhotra.

There was an admission that while the Opposition had credibly got across its point of view, the BJP was branded “fundamentalist” at the end of the debate. The Opposition had described the exercise as the “saffronisation” and “Talibanisation” of education — words which left the government red-faced.

The news conference, sources said, would harp on the ‘M’ factor, which in the Sangh’s parlance means the combined effect of the Macaulayites, Marxists and madarsas in shaping history texts.

Former editor M.V. Kamath, who has a column in the RSS’ English mouthpiece, Organiser, wrote on the controversy in the latest issue: “The BJP may have its own agenda — didn’t the Nehruvians and Marxists have one of their own? — and its own vision of India which certainly should be open to question. But to question its integrity is in poor taste and exhibits bias of the worst kind.”

   

 
 
TROOPS FOIL MILITANT BID ON BSF HUB 
 
 
FROM KUKHTAR AHMAD AND AGENCIES
 
Srinagar, Dec. 16: 
Four militants were killed when BSF troops foiled attempts by a group of heavily-armed militants to storm the headquarters of the 120 battalion of the BSF in Tral this evening.

“Alert Border Security Force troops foiled a Fidayeen (suicide squad) attack when they shot dead four militants who tried to storm the camp at Tral,” a BSF spokesman said.

The raiding Fidayeen hurled grenades and opened indiscriminate fire in an attempt to storm the BSF headquarters in Tral town, 40 km from the state capital, BSF spokesman T. Acharya said.

The sentry posted at the gate of the headquarters reacted swiftly and returned fire, resulting in the death of four militants. Two BSF personnel sustained minor injuries and were admitted to the hospital.

The spokesman said the raid was foiled because of the quick reflexes of the alert guards.

Security forces immediately sealed off the area and mounted a search operation.

This is the second time in the last four days that militants have unsuccessfully mounted raids on the BSF headquarters in Tral, in southern Pulwama district.

A large quantity of arms and ammunition were recovered from the slain militants.

Three militants made an abortive attempt to storm the BSF headquarters in Tral on December 13, resulting in the death of one extremist. Two remaining members of the raiding party, however, managed to escape.

A special police officer (SPO) and two civilians were killed and 12 others wounded when militants ambushed the main bus stand in Tral yesterday.

LeT commander killed

Troops killed two militants, including a Lashkar-e-Toiba commander, while trying to infiltrate into India from across the Line of Control in Rajouri district, official sources said.

Army personnel opened fire on sighting the infiltrators near the LoC, resulting in the death of one militant. The other extremist was killed while trying to escape by turning back.

Sources said one of the slain militants was identified as Wasim Kashmiri, a Lashkar commander.

The army recovered five kilos of explosive, a pistol, six rounds of ammunition and some documents from the site.

   

 
 
LALOO BAIL-PLEA REJECTION SCARES AIDES AWAY 
 
 
FROM RUDRA BISWAS AND SHASHANK SHEKHAR
 
Ranchi, Dec. 16: 
Laloo Yadav’s lawyers and loyalists have run for cover fearing a tongue-lashing from their leader.

Such was the intensity of Laloo’s anger after his bail papers were rejected yesterday on technical grounds that most Jharkhand RJD legislators have left the MLAs’ Hostel for the safety of their constituencies.

Laloo’s bail bonds were rejected by CBI special court judge H.C. Mishra.

Some of the MLAs told The Telegraph that they planned to reach Ranchi only after Id. However, they said they would be present in the CBI trial court here on December 20 when Laloo will appear in another fodder scam case.

Laloo’s brother-in-law and RJD legislator Subhash Yadav lashed out at counsel Prabhat Kumar after hearing the CBI verdict, saying it was his “silly mistakes” in completing the bail papers that had led the court to reject the bail bonds. Subhash had airdashed to Ranchi yesterday by a specially chartered plane to carry the Jharkhand High Court orders to Patna’s Beur jail and get Laloo released at the earliest.

Laloo’s lawyer has reportedly asked Subhash not to reveal to the RJD chief the real reason for the rejection of the bail papers. Subhash, who had already incurred heavy costs of hiring a private plane to come down to Ranchi, seemed to agree with Laloo’s counsel that concealing the facts would be safer for him. The cellphone rang and Subhash explained to the caller that every thing had gone wrong at Ranchi.

Hurried consultations seemed to go on at the other end, probably from Patna, when the caller informed Subhash that a more senior lawyer would be despatched from the Bihar capital on December 19 with all required documents to ensure Laloo’s freedom from Beur jail at the earliest.

A Bihar minister said his “boss” was furious at the blunder in Ranchi. He said that as part of the strategy decided by the Patna bosses, only responsible lawyers would be sent from Patna to represent Laloo in all the other fodder scam cases, pending in Ranchi, Dumka and before the other courts in Jharkhand. The minister explained that the boss had given instructions to ensure that such mistakes were not repeated.

Another senior Bihar minister told The Telegraph that the “mishap” in Ranchi had been caused by “sycophants”, who have been vying for attention of the RJD chief and are always at loggerheads with one another.

However, the minister claimed that in times of crisis, these people are never to be found.

   

 
 
GOGOI LEADS GAMES CHASE 
 
 
FROM UMANAND JAISWAL
 
Guwahati, Dec. 16: 
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi has said the focus of the state’s troubled youth could shift from violence to constructive activities if the 2004 National Games were to be held here.

Making an elaborate slide presentation at the Indian Olympic Association (IOA)’s general body meeting on November 18, the chief minister said Assam deserved to host the National Games in 2004 for several reasons.

“Our frustrated young boys and girls are not only wasting their natural talent, but also their precious lives, by being lured to various insurgency groups in this region. The National Games will help us curb this dangerous tendency. There will be enormous social benefits at the local, state and regional levels, which will greatly reduce the feeling of alienation in this underdeveloped area,” he said.

The chief minister, who is the president of the Assam Olympic Association (AOA), had indulged in a bit of dinner diplomacy (reported exclusively in The Telegraph on November 16) the night before. He even donated Rs 10 lakh for the IOA Bhavan in Noida.

Present at the dinner were bigwigs of the national hockey, basketball and athletics federations, Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi, Assam transport minister Anjan Dutta and legislator Robin Bordoloi.

It is too early to say whether Gogoi’s initiative has convinced the IOA bosses that Assam — the other contender is Haryana — deserves to host the Games. But two “positive” developments have fuelled hope in AOA officials.

AOA secretary Mukut Medhi told The Telegraph that Assam had a good chance of being allotted the Games.

“IOA president Suresh Kalmadi has announced that the office of the organisation’s Northeast chapter will be located in the proposed Assam Olympic Bhavan in Guwahati. The office is now at the residence of former Mizoram chief minister Lalthanhawla. The new office will be funded by the IOA. Another reason for optimism is that Kalmadi will attend the felicitation of sportspersons from Assam who won medals at the National Games in Punjab. It will be held in January,” he said.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 26.8°C (0)
Minimum: 15°C (+1)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative Humidity

Max: 96%
Min: 50%

Sunrise: 6.16 am

Sunset: 4.50 pm

Today

Mainly clear sky. Minimum temperature likely to be 15°C
   
 

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