Delhi weighs deportation option for red-corner Ansari
President speaks in voice of poet PM
Muscle flexing with missile
Mother returns, every evening
Postpone cloud on poll
BJP picks twin planks
Allies bristle at Mulayam
Fear flutters in fortress capital
Three-tier security ring in Valley
Calcutta Weather

 
 
DELHI WEIGHS DEPORTATION OPTION FOR RED-CORNER ANSARI 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
New Delhi, Jan. 25: 
Investigations into Tuesday’s Calcutta killings made little headway today beyond continued detentions, the only progress coming in the form of an Interpol red-corner notice against Aftab Ansari, who claimed responsibility for the attack outside the American Center.

Home minister L.K. Advani said today that the Indian government was in touch with the UAE for Ansari’s extradition, but there is no certainty that he is still in Dubai, from where he made the dramatic phone call owning responsibility.

The CBI is said to have given the Dubai number to the FBI. Advani said the US agency will have no role in the probe other than sharing intelligence.

With the Interpol notice going out, Ansari will be on the international watch list and can be arrested by police in whichever country he is hiding. Despite an extradition treaty, Delhi has seldom succeeded in persuading Dubai to hand over criminals.

Keeping this in mind, Advani said India may request Ansari’s deportation instead of asking for the long-drawn and slippery process of extradition.

“Extradition is a process while in deportation the concerned government takes a decision,” Advani said.

Whether to seek deportation or extradition has not yet been decided. It will depend to a great extent on the case prepared by investigators here.

Calcutta police appear to have reached a dead-end with their probe and senior officers were today reluctant to speak, if at all they could be found.

Extradition lawyer Susheel Bajaj explained the difference between deportation and extradition. While deportation depends entirely on the government and is the sovereign right of a country, extradition is a request, which is examined by the court and can be stopped by the judge or magistrate even if the administration wants to accept the request of another country.

Usually, a person is not deported as a fugitive, but is requested to leave by the host government for any number of reasons. The deported person can be sent out of the country by any flight.

Delhi claims that Ansari travelled to Dubai from Pakistan, where he was provided with a false passport by the ISI. In the normal course, he should be deported to Pakistan, but the UAE is free to send him out at its own discretion. The flight could stop in India on its way to Pakistan for police here to lay their hands on Ansari.

   

 
 
PRESIDENT SPEAKS IN VOICE OF POET PM 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 25: 
In possibly his last address to the nation on the eve of Republic Day, President K.R. Narayanan has done two things he hasn’t done before. One, he quoted Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Two, he departed from his Left-leaning disposition to acknowledge the inevitability of the capitalist system.

Har panchayat mein Panchali apmanit hai (In every panchayat, Draupadi is robbed of her honour),” the President said, quoting from a poem by Vajpayee. So far, he has been quoting poets but not Prime Minister poets.

“She is today not only dishonoured in panchayats but also in the city transport buses, in the city streets and even in her own home,” the address added in trademark Narayanan fashion, making a strong case for gender equality.

The problem of women in India is symbolic of the inequalities and injustices in society, he said.

But the way to egalitarianism lay in this speech in the American model. Narayanan said affirmative action in the private sector would curb social tension and inequality. He said he was not asking private enterprise to accept socialism. “It has to do something like what the Diversity Bill and the affirmative action that a capitalist country like the United States of America has adopted and is implementing.”

Political observers were quick to note that Narayanan had avoided taking potshots at the Vajpayee government. In the past four years, he has used his address to the nation to take an “independent line” on contentious issues like the killing of Christian missionary Graham Staines.

There was speculation that Narayanan may not be averse to a second term in office. Presidential elections are due in July. Rashtrapati Bhavan sources said Narayanan will be open to a second term if there is an all-party consensus. In the main, the BJP and the Congress will have to agree.

In affirmative action and social equality, Narayanan saw the answer to the nation’s problems, including terrorism and extremist violence. “The country would be strong to pursue the policy of peace and co-existence. It will be our democratic answer to the evil phenomenon of terrorism,” he said.

   

 
 
MUSCLE FLEXING WITH MISSILE 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
New Delhi, Jan. 25: 
After deploying its army on the border in full strength, on the eve of Republic Day India flew a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, adding to the worries of the world over South Asia.

But the objectives of test-firing the missile, officially described as a variant in the Agni series, were not clearly spelt out. Official sources in Balasore said it was a variant of the Agni II. It was fired from Wheeler’s Island off the Orissa coast, 80 km from Balasore at 8.50 this morning and its “splashdown” was at a target 700 km at sea.

“For the nation’s security and protection, we are taking several steps and Agni is one among them,” Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said at his residence after the “successful test-firing”.

Pakistan erupted with indignation, asking the international community to take note of the “Indian behaviour”.

“The test comes at a time of tensions when the Indian forces are massed on our borders... On its part, Pakistan favours a policy of restraint in the region.”

The international community took due note, with US secretary of state Colin Powell saying: “I would just as soon they had not performed that test at this time. But I don’t think it will inflame the situation.”

Russia, an old ally of Delhi, showed “understanding” while China, a traditional friend of Pakistan, chose to hold silence.

The 700-km Agni, which “met all mission objectives”, has covered the strike range gap between the surface-to-surface 250-km Prithvi missile and the 1,400-km Agni-I, said official sources.

However, it was not known why the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) should test a short-range missile that is comparable with the Agni I and the Agni II when it was announced last year that the country was ready to go into the production of the Agni II. (The Agni II will be showcased at the Republic Day parade tomorrow). The DRDO was known to be working on developing the Agni III that could have a range of 5,000 km.

“The DRDO keeps fooling around at the low-end of the deterrent when in fact it should be focusing its efforts on long-range missiles of 5,000-10,000 km. That would give the Indian nuclear forces the reach they ideally should have. By test-firing a missile of 700-km range, it has merely confirmed the general impression that India does not want a strategic deterrent but rather is content with a tactical or theatre-level deterrent,” says Bharat Karnad, research professor in national security studies at the Centre for Policy Research.

Technically, it is possible to “disguise” the capability of a missile during a test-fire by increasing its payload (the weight of the warhead) and/or by altering the trajectory of its flight. This means, even a test fire of the long-range Agni III might have been possible. Such a test has been tried in the past. In 1994, the Agni I was tested at a trajectory designed to simulate a range of 2,500 km, with an actual range achieved of 1,450 km. But the litmus test of a missile is its ability to cover the range it is meant for physically with its assigned payload. Strategic studies by missile watchers in the West have noted that India was developing the Agni III.

The Agni III, if developed, can bring targets in Pakistan as well as China within its range from launchpads deep in the Indian hinterland. The DRDO was being expected to test-fire the Agni III by January 2002. As such, the US has been actively discouraging India from going ahead with its missile development programme.

   

 
 
MOTHER RETURNS, EVERY EVENING 
 
 
FROM DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA
 
Anjar, Jan. 25: 
Wrapped in a ripped sari and searing memories, Darshan Bijlani sits on a stool of debris, staring into space.

A few steps away squats the half-broken memorial, which was intact when former US President Bill Clinton placed a palmful of roses on it last April to pay homage to 184 schoolchildren who died in the killer quake during a Republic Day parade exactly a year ago. Bijlani’s 12-year-old son Gaurav was among them.

In the last one year, the mother has dutifully visited the site of the tragedy in the heart of the crammed, dusty town almost every evening. She would not let her memory fade, reliving the horrors of the day when the “world” collapsed around her.

“It all seems so strange, so unreal,” the frail mother said, clutching her daughter Puja, who had survived the parade with deep scars on her mind. “I don’t know why I keep coming back here. I just cannot stop myself.”

Getting over the death of a child bubbling with life is hard. “My son was made of me, just of me. When I sit here, I feel he is sitting by me, talking to me, trying to comfort me with his soft voice and hands.”

Clinton was moved — almost to tears — when he came slicing through mountains of rubble much of Anjar was reduced to on April 4, two months after the tragedy. He held the hands of two wide-eyed schoolchildren who had survived the quake.

The American leader looked sombre as he released the roses on the plaque. He stood still for a minute or two, head down, not saying a word, before speeding away.

The memorial was broken in half immediately after Clinton left. The owner of the land, on which it had been built, had threatened to sue the government for erecting the plaque without his permission. He said the government, in its haste to “please” Clinton, had picked a wrong site, where the tragedy had not occurred.

The controversy and part of the memorial remain, bearing memories of the dead children.

Authorities have decided not to organise any Republic Day parade in Anjar tomorrow — as much to pay respect to the dead children as to avoid a repeat of the tragedy. “You never know what will happen tomorrow,” a municipal official said, echoing the widespread fear of a repeat quake tomorrow.

Kutchhis — as people of Kutch call themselves — are keeping their fingers crossed as they prepare to mourn the first anniversary of the killer quake.

Opposition parties have called a 24-hour strike tomorrow across the region to protest what they called the government’s limited response to the tragedy. But the bandh has evoked fears as people are afraid to stay home on Republic Day, when the 6.9 trembler killed more than 20,000 people and left tens of thousands homeless last year.

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is slated to visit Bhuj and Anjar, where he will light 1,000 candles in memory of the dead children.

More than 300 children were out on a march when the quake struck around 8.46 am, burying them under waves of fallen houses. Besides the 184 children who had gathered from different primary schools, 21 teachers and a school clerk perished.

“We feel sad that no one talks about the teachers who, too, died on that day. It was a big loss to their families,” Mavji Maheshwari, a teacher in a local primary school, said.

A year later, Anjar is still strewn with the debris, despite the government’s claims that the debris were all cleared. Like in Bhuj and Bhachau, little has been done to help the survivors get on with their lives as the government is still struggling to finalise a rebuilding plan.

“This shows the government inaction and callous response to the tragedy,” Nemji Kenia, a resident, said. “Hundreds of crores have poured into Kutch, but where has all the money gone? People have a right to know.”

Kenia said a strong lobby of builders was holding up the government plan to rebuild the devastated town. “The vested interests are stalling all the moves and the government is now suggesting relocation sites to the homeless without carrying out a soil test.”

The grieving mother, meanwhile, is trying to get her daughter — who studied in the same school as her brother and was at the parade too — to shake off the tragic memories she herself is unable to.

“She gets up in the middle of the night and starts to cry. Sometimes, she just goes quiet, refusing to talk to anyone. I don’t know what to do with her,” she said.

The compensation she got for the death of her son — Rs 1.10 lakh — came in handy for her husband, a roadside food vendor.

“My husband had huge loans to pay back, and he has with my son’s money. Our son has helped us even in death,” Bijlani said, breaking down.

   

 
 
POSTPONE CLOUD ON POLL 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Lucknow, Jan. 25: 
Elections in a third of Uttar Pradesh’s 403 Vidhan Sabha constituencies might get postponed if there are not enough electronic voting machines.

The Election Commission has to arrange an additional 70,000 electronic voting machines by February 14. A machine can accommodate only 16 candidates, but in 171 constituencies there are more. In some seats, there are as many as 25 nominees.

The government had earlier released 1.30 lakh voting machines for the 1.17 lakh polling booths in the state, hoping that a surplus of 13,000 would be enough. But the flood of candidates has surprised both the government and the poll panel. About 42 per cent of all constituencies require additional voting machines.

The commission is now hoping that a large number of candidates will withdraw their nominations on January 28, the last date for withdrawal of candidature.

No candidate has opted out so far and the poll panel has rejected only 353 nominations after scrutiny. A total of 6, 615 candidates are in the fray.

Harried officials say there are only two options left for the poll panel — get 70,000 extra voting machines immediately or postpone elections in the “EVM-affected’’ seats.

The third option — printing of ballot papers — has been ruled out because the poll panel says it will be impossible for any agency to print such a huge quantity of papers in such a short time.

The commission says the large number of dummy candidates is causing the problem. Though it says there is not much it can do to penalise such candidates, it is making the “maximum effort’’ to force them out of the polls.

The poll panel has relaxed its earlier tough stand regarding photo identity cards for voters in the Assembly elections. It has now announced that it will recognise 16 other official documents, apart from the government-provided identity cards.

Chief electoral official Noor Mohammad says identity cards are mandatory, but voters can also present ration cards, driving licences, arms licences, PAN cards and passports as proof of identity.

“We have gone so far as to allow a whole family to vote even if one member offers a valid document of identification,’’ Mohammad said. The commission’s earlier stand insisting on identity cards had snowballed into a huge controversy, with the Opposition Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party alleging that this was a BJP conspiracy to keep out the poor and Dalit voters. The Opposition parties had petitioned the poll panel and even threatened to go to court.

   

 
 
BJP PICKS TWIN PLANKS 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 25: 
The BJP has settled the confusion over whether to choose terrorism or local issues as the poll plank in Uttar Pradesh. It has decided to go with both.

Two films — one focusing on terrorism and the history of Jammu and Kashmir and the other highlighting achievements of the state government — will be shown on cable networks as part of the campaign. The films are being shot now.

Party president Jana Krishnamurthi will also launch a website — BJP.election.com — on January 31. All BJP manifestos, the list of candidates, two appeals by senior leaders to voters and donors to support the party, tour programmes of leaders, their photographs, press briefings and questions and answers will be put out on the site.

The BJP headquarters in Delhi will produce a film on terrorism, tracing its growth in Kashmir with help from across the border. The film will stress on how the state is an integral part of India. The footage on local issues will highlight the “good work” done by the BJP government in Lucknow, such as the “efficient management” of Kumbh Mela, “elimination” of kidnappers, a “clean and corruption-free” administration, removal of tainted ministers and legislators and the attempt at job reservation for the most backward classes.

To match the star power of the Samajwadi Party, which is roping in Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan among others, the BJP has lined up Hema Malini, Vinod Khanna and son Akshaye.

Unable to get as many top actors as Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is also trying to bring Ajay Devgan, Kajol and Raveena Tandon, the BJP is counting on small screen actors such as Nitish Bharadwaj and Mukesh Khanna of Mahabharata fame.

Star campaigner Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has been asked to spare 10 days for the crucial heartland state. But security considerations might limit the number to six or seven.

Apart from chief minister Rajnath Singh, campaigners include home minister L.K. Advani and human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi.

   

 
 
ALLIES BRISTLE AT MULAYAM 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 25: 
Mulayam Singh Yadav has left his allies angry. The Samajwadi Party chief, who had left 11 seats each to the CPM and the CPI during the last Assembly polls, has conceded only six and five respectively this time.

Even CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet, known to be a favourite with Mulayam, failed to persuade the Uttar Pradesh stalwart to part with one more seat. And, CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan had to do a lot of coaxing as his party, especially the Uttar Pradesh unit, does not have a smooth equation with Mulayam’s organisation.

Surjeet did some plain speaking with Mulayam, sources say. “He clearly told the Samajwadi Party leader that he was being tight-fisted over seats to the Left and this was going to damage the image of the third front in Uttar Pradesh,” said a Left leader.

The third front, popularly labelled the People’s Front, was supposed to take forward the image of a third alternative in the heartland elections.

However, now Mulayam is eyeing the chief minister’s chair and has already told his party that he is ready to don the mantle once more if the party so desires.

   

 
 
FEAR FLUTTERS IN FORTRESS CAPITAL 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 25: 
From Raisina Hill and Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Rajpath sweeps down to India Gate and beyond on a crisply delicious winter afternoon in the capital. Tomorrow, free India celebrates its 53rd Republic Day with a parade that might not have been, but will nevertheless march through to Red Fort.

On either side of the road, the tricolour flutters from poles; behind the fences, rows and rows of chairs have been laid out for spectators. Not a soul in sight barring uniformed personnel of Delhi police and the Central Reserve Police Force.

The sanitised environs for the celebrations show just how much the republic has to fear. The police have advised the citizenry to carry identity cards. Nearly 400 police patrol vans criss-cross the city. One officer said a patrol van is driving through each crossing in Lutyens’ Delhi every five minutes.

From one o’clock this afternoon, the police have practically taken over some 80 buildings that have a view of the Rajpath and the route to the Red Fort. Many of these are government buildings; some are private. All of them have been “sealed”, to deter possible snipers who might take vantage positions.

The only traffic allowed on Rajpath for the last two days is those that cross the road. From this evening, the police will seal off some of those crossings that are accessible to civilian traffic.

At Vijay Chowk, from where the parade will begin, all traffic is forced to take U-turns where they would normally turn right. Tomorrow, of course, Vijay Chowk will be closed till the parade is over.

The army, navy and air force marching contingents have been slashed because the services have not been able to spare men and material in usual number. The bands will play; the ceremonial units will give of their best. The parade will be commanded by Major General N.S. Pathania, general officer commanding, Delhi area. Most of the army contingents in it will be from units in the capital.

But there are still highlights of the parade that will stick to the mind — the Republic Day parade must show muscle for that is its raison d’etre. A flypast by the multi-role Sukhoi 30 combat aircraft of the IAF will mark its end. The Defence Research and Development Organisation will showcase its “Nishant”, remotely piloted vehicle on a hydro pneumatic launcher; a mechanically launched multi-span mobile bridge called “Sarvatra”; and the operational surface to surface Agni II intermediate range ballistic missile that can carry a warhead of 1,000 kg over 2,000 km.

Last year, as the President took the salute, Gujarat was rocked and thousands were killed. This year, afterthe government worried over the preparations on the border and had second thoughts on holding the parade, the army — that is at the heart of the celebration —swore, come what may Republic Day can be shaken, not stirred.

   

 
 
THREE-TIER SECURITY RING IN VALLEY 
 
 
FROM MUKHTAR AHMAD
 
Srinagar, Jan. 25: 
Heavily-armed security forces patrolled the deserted streets of the capital city and major towns in Kashmir as fear kept residents indoors on the eve of Republic Day following a strike call by a militant leader.

“The security forces are on red alert across the valley,” said a senior police officer, summing up the tense mood in the aftermath of the militant strikes on the state Assembly, Parliament and the American Center in Calcutta. Troops are keeping watch from all high-rise buildings in Srinagar.

The Bakshi Stadium, venue of the main Republic Day function, has been taken over by commandos. “We have a three-tier security force at the stadium. We have deployed specially-trained commandos, Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force and state armed police personnel in and around the stadium,” the officer said.

All roads leading to the stadium have been sealed. For the past two weeks, security personnel have been combing areas surrounding the stadium, while local residents were subjected to repeated identification parades.

Hardly a soul ventured out on the streets today as a complete shutdown called by Al-Umar Mujahideen chief Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar against alleged atrocities by security forces crippled life in the Valley.

Zargar was one of the three militants released by the government in exchange for passengers of IC 814 that was hijacked to Kandahar in 1999.

The strike ensured that all shops, business establishments, government offices and banks in the capital city remained closed.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 24.9°C (-2)
Minimum: 15.2°C (+1)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative humidity

Max: 93%
Min: 41%

Sunrise: 6.24 am

Sunset: 5.14 pm

Today:

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

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