Attackers come alive on video
America’s Calcutta dilemma
When it’s time to shoot, scoot
Enter, FBI Agent X
Ansari up for most wanted list
Sen forever in Trinity
Calcutta’s Dawood suave and cyber-savvy
55 questioned
CBSE cosies up to curriculum changes
Calcutta Weather

Calcutta, Jan. 23: 

Frame I: Policemen loitering in front of the American Center on Chowringhee, some lolling on chairs, a few boarding a black van parked by the pavement. The street is virtually empty; a car and a scooter pass each other but no one takes any notice. There is no sense of urgency and a general sense of peace prevails.

The camera stops rolling, there is a blur as it focuses on the empty street for about three seconds, then starts panning again.

Frame II: A motorcycle enters the picture. It carries two persons wearing crash helmets, the pillion rider has a shawl draped around him. Then the screen explodes.

As the bike nears the north gate, the pillion rider draws aside his shawl, whips out an AK-47 and starts spraying bullets. There are four or five shots, a few policemen are hit and, as they slump and fall to the ground, the shooting gathers momentum. Some of the securitymen hold their bleeding stomachs and helplessly stumble around, others dive for cover, the rest rush behind the van for protection.

The camera freezes once again for three seconds, swinging away from the scene of action, and the picture turns into a blur.

Frame III: More shots, more panic and more policemen slumping to the ground. Then the motorbike disappears from the screen.

Frame to frame, the entire episode lasts about 40 seconds.

On Wednesday afternoon, five officers of Calcutta police had a ringside view of the shooting, captured by the American Center’s closed circuit TV camera. The camera had been installed to capture images of demonstrators; on Tuesday it recorded a terrorist attack.

Given the position of the camera — the exact location is not being disclosed for security reasons — the pictures are top shots. It has recorded a part of the shootout, automatically panning away on its rotor to a part of the frame where there is no action.

But it has managed to accomplish three vital tasks for the police: the faces of the attackers are visible; the motorbike number has been recorded; and the reaction and preparedness of the policemen have been brought home to their bosses.

“Though the visibility was not too good because of the early morning fog, it has still served our purpose to a significant extent,” said an officer who has watched the recording. “I would say the visibility was about 70 per cent, but under the circumstances that is enough for us.”

Officials said the recording has been enough to identify the killers. “We are now checking our records to see if any of them are on our wanted list,” the official said. Given the Khadim’s kidnap angle to the incident, the police are checking with the CID, which has collected several documents and pictures.

Where the closed circuit camera has failed is in picking up the second motorbike, which the police say was almost certainly there. Besides the eyewitness accounts — which police concede can be fuddled under such circumstances — there is enough circumstantial evidence to establish the presence of the second bike.

The police have picked up 54 empty cartridges which account for two magazines of an AK-47 rifle. Within the given time span — 40 seconds — it is not possible for a single person to fire that many shots. Experts said that from a single AK-47, only 37 shots can be fired in that period, which leaves 17 shots unaccounted for. Neither was there enough time for the shooter to replace an empty magazine. So where did the second bike disappear?

The most likely explanation, police say, is that the second bike made its appearance when the camera had turned away and then missed it once again while it had periodically shut off and turned into a blur.


Washington, Jan. 23: 
In dealing with the strike outside the American Center, the US government is showing the same caution that it displayed in proceeding against the plotters of the September 11 attacks.

Even though the FBI is already on the job, bureau chief Robert Mueller has so far declined to describe Tuesday’s incident as anything beyond “a horrible tragedy and an assault on police officers”.

The parallel to the September 11 attack is that after the biggest investigation and manhunt in history, the Americans have so far charged only one man with being part of the conspiracy, Zacarias Moussaoui.

Although President George W. Bush referred to the Calcutta incident when prompted by reporters, he walked a fine line in his remarks. Asked whether it was “an attack on our country”, Bush was evasive.

He merely said: “We’re gathering more information about it, to find out exactly what the facts are. Terror is terror, however — it doesn’t matter whether it’s an attack on us or an attack on other people. You’ve got to work together to fight off terrorists.”

Underlying such careful characterisation of the Calcutta incident is the dilemma Washington faces in its aftermath.

If the American government publicly acknowledges that it was, indeed, an attack on the US, its interests or its facilities, it would become incumbent, under the Bush doctrine as applied in Afghanistan, to take action against those who perpetrated the attack.

Without doubt, Washington would then have to go by the Indian version of events: after all the Indians are primarily investigating the incident and they have the full facts.

If the Indians eventually link the Pakistanis with the incident, what happens to the cosy arrangements between Islamabad and Washington?

Here again, there is a parallel between Tuesday’s strike and September 11. The removal of the Taliban from power was not an objective of the US.

Al Qaida was Washington’s target, but the administration was swept up by events it could not control. The White House wants to avoid that eventuality in the case of Calcutta.

In the immediate aftermath, the administration sought to calm domestic fears. A spokesman emphasised the point that no harm had been caused to Americans by the attack and that security had been stepped up at all US facilities in India.

Secretary of state Colin Powell called foreign minister Jaswant Singh after the incident “to express our sincere condolences”.


Calcutta. Jan. 23: 
A day after the terrorist strike outside the American Center, investigators solved the mystery why no shot was fired in resistance by policemen on duty, and wished it had not learnt the ugly truth.

Police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty was shaken when he came to know while conducting a review that his officers carrying firearms and on duty at the spot had actually bolted from the scene when the assailants opened fire.

“I’m ashamed that not a single shot was fired in retaliation. This absence of counter-response has given us a bad name,” said Chakraborty at a meeting that was called to reconstruct the crime and assess the quality of action of the policemen on duty at the centre.

No matter how hard chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, also overseeing police affairs, tried in public to defend the force in the past 48 hours, the revelation that the police officers carrying arms had actually exposed unarmed constables to the vicious attack, forsaking the oath they had taken at the time of joining the service to stand by their men in all situations.

In private, Bhattacharjee exploded at the scandalous and cowardly dereliction of duty by the officers and sought an explanation from the police top brass as to why there had been no retaliation, officials said.

Of the 64 personnel on the scene, two were inspectors and four sub-inspectors who had revolvers in their belts. About 16 constables had rifles, but unlike the .303s, these guns are always loaded and just needed putting off the safety catch.

Instead of drawing their weapons, the officers ducked and then moved out of harm’s way, leaving their men, some of whom were unarmed, to fend for themselves.

Another shocking revelation was that a sergeant sitting in the cabin of the radio flying squad van, ironically codenamed Tiger, did not order his driver to chase the assailants. “The six men in the van did not do so out of fear,” the police chief was informed.

The same sergeant, however, gave a detailed account of how he and his men were within striking distance of the assailants in the FIR he lodged later.

He and his men had seen the whole incident from the secure confines of the police vehicle but were frozen into inaction. The Tiger turned into a meek deer when the motorbike-borne terrorists, apprehending that the policemen in this vehicle might do something, fired some shots at it before turning into Middleton Street. The shots had the desired effect. The policemen turned around and sped off in the other direction.

Yet another inglorious act was by the officer who was supposed to oversee the switch in shifts of policemen at the centre. The armed officer got off a taxi at the Park Street-Chowringhee crossing — he did not ride up to the centre to save money — and began to walk towards his destination a few hundred metres away when he heard the shots ring out. He dived into the safety of a car park of a multi-storeyed building he was going past.

When the administration sought an explanation from him, his reply to his superior was: “Boss, you must be knowing, with a wife and kids, who would want to invite trouble? I understood what was happening when I heard the shots. So I took the precaution.”

No less scandalous was the role of the two officers, one in charge of the incoming shift and the other of the outgoing. The first came in late, while the other had left early. “We are investigating everything and everybody,” a senior official said.


Calcutta, Jan. 23: 
Agent X is here. Or, was here.

But, unlike the agent in the Bruce Willis blockbuster Die Hard, he was not here to declare: “I’m in charge”.

An FBI officer today moved from room to room in Writers’ Buildings, meeting chief secretary S.N. Roy, home secretary A.K. Deb and Bengal police chief Dinesh Vajpai and trying to make sense of yesterday’s attack in front of the American Center.

No one was willing to reveal his name. Neither US consul-general Christopher Sandrolini, who was with Agent X, nor state officials would disclose anything more than to acknowledge the presence of the officer. “We are working nicely with the state government,” Sandrolini said.

An official of the embassy in Delhi was the third of the trio that interacted with state officials today. Sandrolini said he was in touch with ambassador Robert Blackwill, but did not name the embassy official accompanying him.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has had an office in Delhi for some time now, but this is the first time it is being officially admitted in Left-ruled Calcutta that an FBI man is in town.

Before visiting Writers’, the tall but round-faced — not the square-jawed toughie of Hollywood — FBI officer in a green shirt and black trousers visited the American Center and spent a few minutes on the pavement where the killings took place without speaking to any of the policemen present there.

He did not get in touch with any senior police officer either. “We know that an FBI officer is in the city. If they want any help, we will be glad to be of assistance,” Somen Mitra, detective department chief, said.

From accounts given out by bureaucrats, he appeared to have mostly held his silence during the talks at Writers’.

“We had no separate conversation with the FBI officer but he was present throughout the discussions we had with the consul-general,” the home secretary said. Asked if the FBI’s help was being sought, Deb said this was for the state government to decide in consultation with Delhi.


Jan. 23: 
The Centre has sought evidence from the Bengal government of the involvement of Aftab Ansari in the attack in front of the American Center here yesterday in order to put his name on the home ministry’s most wanted list of terrorists currently sheltered in Pakistan and seek his extradition.

Information available with the investigators suggest Ansari shuttles between Karachi, Islamabad and Dubai. A senior police officer said investigators have collected a copy of Ansari’s Pakistani passport.

“He has a Pakistani citizenship number, which indicates he has a house in Lahore. Moreover, we have traced the location of cell phone calls made by Ansari, which indicate his presence in Pakistani cities,’’ he added.

Bengal police chief D.C. Vajpai is preparing evidence of the involvement of Ansari in yesterday’s attack, in which four policemen died, and in the kidnapping last year of Khadim’s owner Parthapratim Roy Burman.

A person claiming to be Aftab Ansari had owned responsibility for yesterday’s attack. While passing on the message, he had told The Telegraph he was speaking from Dubai.

If he is camping in Dubai, Delhi will ask the United Arab Emirates for his extradition. Before the request is made, procedure requires a chargesheet be prepared. This is a critical element where India has been found wanting in the past, particularly in the case of the UAE. The charge has to be specific and not a litany of allegations from kidnapping to terrorist acts, as Indian police are wont to do.

First the government will have to decide whether the attack was a terrorist or a criminal act.

Police in Calcutta today interrogated more than 55 people, but no one was arrested. A few of those picked up from the fringe areas of the city were said to be suspected activists of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami, the outfit held responsible for the strike.


London, Jan. 23: 
In a couple of weeks, Trinity College, Cambridge, will have a ceremony to unveil the portrait of its 36th Master, now possibly the most famous academic in the world but whom, ironically, the admissions tutors initially rejected when a shy 18-year-old Bengali boy applied for a place way back in 1953.

These days things are different, of course, for 68-year-old Amartya Sen.

Life would be frenzied enough if he were simply Master of Trinity, a post for which he was chosen in January, 1998, after an elaborate process involving all 150 fellows of the college, the Downing Street Cabinet secretary, the Prime Minister and even the Queen. But the Nobel Prize for Economics in October, 1998, made his schedule manic.

Tradition decrees that each Master should have his portrait painted so it can hang in the imposing Great Hall of Trinity, alongside those of previous Masters and the dominating painting of King Henry VIII, who founded the College in 1546.

So modest was Sen that he told The Telegraph on being asked about his portrait: “I wouldn’t like to have it up while I am still Master. I think I will have it stored so it can be unveiled when I am gone.”

But tradition is tradition and the Master has given in gracefully. But first there was another involved process, involving the College Council, whereby the right artist was chosen for what would be a prestigious commission.

An Englishwoman, Annabel Cullen, was picked. In the way that wives do, Sen’s wife, Emma Rothschild, herself a fellow next door at King’s, had some influence over the final choice. Husband and wife had a look at the National Portrait Gallery in London, which exhibits one of Cullen’s works, that of Baroness (Tessa) Blackstone, now a minister for the arts in Tony Blair’s government.

It helped that Cullen had painted a few Cambridge dons, including the Masters of Christ’s and Selwyn colleges.

“I hadn’t done an Indian before,” Cullen emphasised. “I found him wonderful."

The 4ft by 3ft oil shows a relaxed Sen, dressed in an open-necked purple shirt, corduroy trousers, with graceful hands holding a book. Looking at his “gentle beautiful hands”, said Cullen, it was clear “he has never done any washing up”. She hadn’t quite realised he was a Bengali Babu.

The red of the fabric on his favourite chair in the huge drawing room of the Master’s Lodge had the effect of a halo. “Oh, dear,” commented Cullen. “He might not like that but he is a sort of saint of economics.”

It was not easy painting Sen, disclosed Cullen, a 48-year-old painter whose studio is in her south London home. He sat for her in two sessions last summer, when Cullen spent a couple of weeks at Trinity.

“He would sit on the chair but he couldn’t be still. He was so busy, working with a co-author on a book, taking telephone calls, dictating letters, meeting visitors” she explained.

What Sen thinks of the portrait is not entirely clear, though he told The Telegraph: “I didn’t want to look too serious.”


Calcutta, Jan. 23: 
Farhan Malik is good with computers. He even owns cybercafes in Dubai and Rawalpindi, police here say.

The man who called The Telegraph office yesterday to claim responsibility for the American Center attack in a polished voice had introduced himself as Aftab Ansari. This is the same person as Farhan Malik, who police describe as “extremely suave” and “an angry young man” in his mid-thirties.

His friends in the twilight zone where militancy meets the underworld know him as neither. “Farhan Pathan” is what they are familiar and comfortable with.

In a suburb of Allahabad – where he was born – Farhan cut his teeth in crime in 1985.

“He was like any other boy of his age. In fact, reports of his early age are quite encouraging. It was when he was doing his graduation from Benaras University that Farhan started to mix with the bad guys of Uttar Pradesh,” said a senior intelligence official.

His first brush — and a lucky encounter it was — with law was when he was arrested on charges of dacoity and rioting in Varanasi some time in the late eighties. Farhan was let off for lack of evidence, but he did not leave crime.

In Delhi, he met a young boy who had just passed his higher secondary examination from a central Calcutta college. There began a decade-long relationship that was broken only when Asif was killed while in Gujarat police custody in Rajkot. Such was the depth of the friendship that Farhan described yesterday’s attack as revenge for Asif’s killing.

“Asif told us during interrogation that the duo spent a lot of time together from 1992 onwards. Both had a destructive bent of mind and both shared jihadi outlooks. Farhan was enraged by the Babri masjid destruction and sought revenge,” a senior police official said.

Around this time — and after the Bombay blasts and Dawood Ibrahim’s rise to fame and subsequent disappearance from the country — Farhan was spotted by Dubai-based dons, who allegedly have connections with Pakistan’s ISI. They saw Farhan as a “good investment” and his trips to Dubai began.

His first known act of abduction — of diamond merchant Bhaskar Parekh — was in Rajkot where he collected a big ransom. Asif was part of that operation, so was another person named Shahid Azmi.

Kidnapping was again the motive that brought Farhan to Calcutta. The police believe Farhan had parked himself here in the days running up to the abduction of Partha Roy Burman, the owner of shoe company Khadim’s, and left for Dubai on completion of the operation on July 25, 2001.

By that time, however, he had become a permanent resident in the twilight zone where money from crime was funding terrorist activities. The jump from pure criminal to terrorist took place in 1994, at least according to police records.

That year, the first “major assignment given to Farhan and Asif by the ISI was to cause a major disturbance in Calcutta. They had hatched a nefarious plot to blow up the Calcutta Stock Exchange”.

The operation never took place because the conspiracy was blown apart with the arrest of both at the last minute.

Arrested in Delhi under the now-defunct Tada, both were put in Tihar jail where they met Maulana Azhar Masood, the Jaish-e-Mohammad leader, and Sheikh Omar, both of whom were freed in exchange for the release of passengers of IC 814 that was hijacked to Kandahar in December 1999.

They “struck an instant rapport”. “In jail, Masood brought to life the jihadi in Farhan and made arrangements for trips to Karachi, Rawalpindi and Peshawar, once he got out of jail,” police sources said.

According to them, Farhan met ISI functionaries in December 1999, a few months after his release. He was put up in an apartment in Dubai and his ties to jihadi outfits Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, the newly-formed Jaish and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami, based in Bangladesh, began to develop.

Since early 2000 — when Masood had also become free and entered Pakistan — Farhan has travelled to India and Pakistan several times. “He holds several passports, including one from Bihar and another from Gujarat, apart from one in Pakistan, which we understand he got in a day’s time,” an intelligence official said.

“He has also shipped several arms consignments for jihadis in India, one was stopped at Rajasthan. His operations stretch from eastern Uttar Pradesh to Gujarat, New Delhi and now Bengal,” the official added.

After yesterday, what Dawood is to Mumbai, Farhan is to Calcutta.


Calcutta, Jan. 23: 
Police today said they have obtained “significant leads” to last morning’s attack on the American Center after picking up more than 50 people, including a few suspected Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami activists, in raids across the city and its fringe areas.

Deputy commissioner (detective department) Soumen Mitra said the police have “managed to identify the suspects”. “We are close to tracking down the terrorists. Within a couple of days time, everything will be clear,” Mitra said.

Though more than 55 people were interrogated, the police did not arrest anyone. “All those picked up were Indians and were from different communities and have not yet been arrested,” Mitra said.

The CID, in a separate raid early today, picked up five suspected Bangladeshis from Haroa, where Khadim’s owner Parthapratim Roy Burman was kept after being abducted. Two were released after questioning.

“We are exploring all angles at the moment. They have not been able to give us any satisfactory explanation that they are Indian residents. Their antecedents are being examined to find out their links with subversive elements,” a top CID official told The Telegraph.

The city police have sought help from all intelligence agencies in the country, including RAW and the Intelligence Bureau, for inputs on the Harkat’s network in Calcutta and its fringe areas. “We are ready to co-operate with the FBI also,” Mitra said.

The deputy commissioner added that there was still some “confusion” about the second motorbike, as claimed by some eyewitnesses. “The camera had captured only one motorbike with two killers seated,” he said. “The killers who were described as slim and clean shaven were wearing crash helmets.”

Raids that had started late last night continued through the day in several pockets of Beniapukur, Sealdah, Kidderpore, Park Circus, Barasat and Basirhat. An officer said extensive raids were conducted in several eastern suburban divisions of Calcutta following reports that six Harkat members, who had broken into small groups, had infiltrated the area a few weeks ago.

Around 10 in the morning, a police team picked up Ali Reza Khan (28) and Imran Reza Khan (16), brothers of Asif Reza Khan, the prime suspect in the Khadim’s abduction case. Asif Reza was killed in an encounter with the police in Rajkot.

The two were brought to the city police headquarters and were questioned on their whereabouts when the motorcycle-borne assailants fired on the unsuspecting policemen. “They have been giving us conflicting statements which need to be cross-checked. We are also trying to find out if they have any connection with any militant outfit,” a senior official said.

Principal secretary (home) Ashok Bhandari and the police commissioner visited the American Center today.


New Delhi, Jan. 23: 
All of a sudden the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is receiving bouquets instead of brickbats. The new syllabus and guidelines seem to have done the trick.

Welcoming the NCERT’s new curriculum, G. Balasubramanian, the Central Board of Secondary Examination (CBSE) academic director, said: “It is a step in the right direction. Our curriculum committee is studying the documents in detail — after which we will come up with a response.”

The CBSE usually accepts the NCERT’s suggestions. The board represents the maximum number of schools in the country.

Since the past few years, the CBSE had been receiving petitions from schools, teachers and parents to cut down the social science curriculum. In its new syllabus, the NCERT suggests that students till Class X will study only one social science textbook that will span four subjects — history, geography, civics and economics.

Some schools, however, seem upset with the slash in the syllabus. For its part, the CBSE said people are resistant to change and, with time, will come to accept the new syllabus which is long overdue.

The NCERT director has said efforts are on to structure the syllabus in a way that will help students to link the subject to their experiences. The CBSE agrees with him.

“We want to start mathematics laboratories,” said Balasubramanian. For instance, instead of just handing down the concepts to students, they should experience them. “In a maths lab, for example, a student can know the weight and the look of a kilo of rice,” said a CBSE official.

According to the CBSE, the main problem is that the syllabus does not encourage innovative experiments. The new guidelines have thrown up a range of suggestions with an emphasis on projects that, if implemented, can change the situation.

The CBSE is also studying the feasibility of examination reforms backed by the NCERT. The guidelines have proposed grades instead of marks and a system of continuous evaluation.

“We are yet to decide which will be the correct system of gradation. There are many ways of grading,” said CBSE officials.

The board officials, however, feel that the present examination system alone is not responsible for the psychological trauma of students before and after the tests.

“There is also peer pressure, parents’ expectations — all of which compound the strain on them,” point out CBSE officials.

They feel that any examination reforms will also have to take into account the quality and competence of teachers — since they will have a more difficult job of continuing evaluation and giving grades instead of marks.




Maximum: 22.4°C (-5)
Minimum: 19.4°C (+5)


3.4 mm

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 93%,
Minimum: 76%

Sunrise: 6.24 am

Sunset: 5.13 pm


Generally cloudy sky, with light rain in some parts. Minimum temperature likely to be around 19°C

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