Calcutta conspiracy cracked
Shy of video in hour of glory
Merchant of medicine & murder
Few takers for modern syllabus
Ghetto’s phantom guests
Pakistan pours scorn
You’ve got postman & banker
Defence-development tightrope
Executive shot
Calcutta Weather

 
 
CALCUTTA CONSPIRACY CRACKED 
 
 
FROM ANUPAM SHESHANK
 
Hazaribagh, Jan. 28: 

Killer confesses before dying in Hazaribagh

At 6.36, Mohammad Idris had struck outside the American Center in Calcutta, killing four policemen. Six mornings after, at 6.35, he fell to police bullets at Hazaribagh along with an accomplice, Salim.

In neither case, Calcutta police got to fire a single shot.

Early this morning, Delhi police — backed up by their Hazaribagh counterparts — shot dead Idris, alias Zahid, and Salim in a densely-populated area in the heart of the town. According to the police, Salim died on the spot and Idris died later after making a confession in which he admitted having taken part in the Calcutta shooting. Calcutta police had no knowledge of the raid — called Operation Dawn.

The police said that both Idris and Salim were Pakistanis, the first from Khanewal in Multan and the second from Punjab.

Pakistan described the allegation as a “joke”.

Acting on a tipoff, the police surrounded a one-storeyed house at Khirgaon, predominantly inhabited by the minority community, and asked the residents to surrender on a loudhailer. The police claimed to have also sent a messenger inside.

When the duo tried to escape by climbing over a boundary wall, the police opened fire, eyewitnesses said. The police said the two were killed in an encounter after they opened fire, forcing the commandos to retaliate. Mohammad Adil, a local resident and witness, said: “The police shot them down while they were trying to flee.”

Idris, hurt in the firing, was put in a cot and carried to the main road to an ambulance. Before taking him away to the hospital, where he was said to have died of his injuries, the police recorded his confession.

Manzoor Alam, a government employee holding the job of block development officer, who lives in one part of the house that Idris and Salim inhabited, was present at the time. Alam said he heard Idris say he was from Khanewal and the other from Pakistani Punjab.

Local residents who had gathered there said: “We were allowed to go near the spot only after the injured youth was taken into the ambulance. We could not hear what the injured terrorist was saying.”

The operation was led by Delhi police assistant commissioner (crime branch) Ravi Shankar Prasad, who had brought with him a seven-member team. They recovered a sky-blue Maruti Zen (WB12 A5703), one AK-56, which they suspect was used in the Calcutta shooting, cartridges, cash of Rs 22,000, maps and a driving licence issued from Nalanda in Bihar.

Aftab Ansari, who had claimed responsibility for the Calcutta killings, had got a passport issued to him from Patna, citing an address in Nalanda.

A used railway ticket was also found, indicating that one of the two had travelled the day after the Calcutta attack from Howrah to Gaya. There was a consumer card of a Hazaribagh gas agency in the name of Idris.

Police in Calcutta said the car number was fake. On learning of the incident, two teams were sent from Calcutta to Hazaribagh.

A senior Jharkhand police officer said two accomplices of the terrorists had left Hazaribagh for Nalanda yesterday. He said a retired official of Central Coalfields Ltd was acting as the “conduit” for the terrorists. In Nalanda, a local policeman, Raja Ram, was arrested.

If Idris is the pillion-riding gunman who had opened fire on a group of policemen outside the American Center, as the police are saying, the driver of the motorcycle is still free. He was described as Sadaqat.

“We had a tipoff following the confessional statements of Asif Reza and Arshad Khan arrested in Delhi some time back. They divulged information about Idris and Salim — that they had taken shelter in Hazaribagh. Accordingly, a strategy was chalked out and we got them,” Prasad said.

He said Asif, killed at Rajkot in Gujarat in an encounter, and Arshad had also confessed about Ansari applying for an Indian passport from Nalanda.

   

 
 
SHY OF VIDEO IN HOUR OF GLORY 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 28: 
Last Tuesday, home minister L.K. Advani was first off the block in pointing fingers at the ISI for the Calcutta attack.

Less than a week later, Advani was among the first to announce — at a book release function — the Hazaribagh “breakthrough” this morning.

On Tuesday, Advani’s seemingly hasty conclusion had raised eyebrows, especially with the visiting FBI chief saying it was too early to speculate who was responsible for the attack.

However, unlike last week and in the immediate aftermath of the attack on Parliament, the home ministry was better prepared this time. Advani instructed home secretary Kamal Pande to brief the media as soon as the news broke today.

The overriding theme of Pande’s briefing: both men slain in Hazaribagh were Pakistani nationals working for the ISI.

For a change, police were able to come up with the suspects’ names and their hometowns. This was in sharp contrast with the lack of information on the antecedents of those charged with the attack on Parliament.

But old habits die hard. In Hazaribagh, the police lost a golden chance to secure a more convincing trophy — a videotape of the confession. Officials conceded in private that they were hoping to have the Hazaribagh confession recorded on video but it could not be arranged in the “confusion”.

Sources in Delhi said Calcutta police had no role in tracking down the two in Hazaribagh.

The tipoff came from the Intelligence Bureau in Delhi which worked backwards through telephone numbers and e-mail addresses used by the attackers. Officials said the Delhi team decided to concentrate on Bihar because of a statement made by Asif Reza, a kidnap accused who was killed in an encounter in Gujarat. Dubai-based gangster Aftab Ansari had claimed that the Calcutta strike was to avenge Asif’s killing.

They said Asif had talked of an ISI network in Bihar and revealed addresses of safe houses. The Intelligence Bureau was crosschecking the information when the Calcutta strike occurred and it chanced on a “pinpointed lead” on the “terrorist module” in Hazaribagh, the officials claimed.

   

 
 
MERCHANT OF MEDICINE & MURDER 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Jan. 28: 
From healer to killer. Mohammad Idris, shot dead by police in Hazaribagh this morning, was the “doctor” who had tended to an injured Parthapratim Roy Burman, the kidnapped owner of a shoe company, police sources said.

Masquerading under several aliases — Waqar, Wajid and Zahid — Idris was a “direct recruit” of Dubai-based don Aftab Ansari, who claimed responsibility for the attack on the American Center in Calcutta last Tuesday.

Idris had arrived in Calcutta shortly before the kidnapping of Roy Burman and had been sheltered in a house on Gorachand Lane by Asif Reza, Ansari’s “prime mover” in the country before he was shot dead by Rajkot police.

The police said Idris had been working in close association with central Calcutta resident Asif, alias Rajan, in carrying out the Khadim’s owner’s abduction. He was part of the team that had picked up Roy Burman from in front of his shoe factory at Topsia on the eastern fringe of the city. This had emerged during Asif’s interrogation by the CID after he was arrested.

Asif had also told the police that it was Idris who had administered first-aid, injection and drip to an injured Roy Burman after he was shot in the arm during the kidnap.

“He had received extensive training in preliminary medical matters while he was at the Lashkar-e-Toiba’s training camp in Bahawalpur in Pakistan,” an official said.

“All recruits are imparted basic training in these matters since they have to operate in difficult and hostile conditions where they are called upon to look after themselves.”

The police said he was present in the house at Haroa in North 24-Parganas where Roy Burman was being held, tending to his injuries and making sure he was alive while the ransom was being collected in Hyderabad. It was also Idris who had driven the blue Maruti van to Beleghata while Roy Burman was being “delivered” back to his family after the ransom had been paid. At that point of time, he had two assault rifles and two pistols with him. After this, Idris simply disappeared without a trace.

It was around December the police got information that he was in Varanasi and was operating out of there. A CID team rushed to the city, but by that time Idris had fled. “By the time we reached, the bird had flown,” an officer said.

“His information networking seemed to be pretty good.”

It was after the American Center killings, and Aftab Ansari’s claim, that Idris emerged in the picture once again. “If Ansari’s claim was genuine and he was behind the killing of the four policemen, then he had to have someone really reliable to carry it out,” an officer said.

Who other than Idris could fit the bill? It was then that interest in Idris, who had almost been given up as a lost case, emerged once again. According to the police, there were only three close associates of Ansari who could have planned and carried out a job of this nature. On top of the list was Idris.

The CID, acting through the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau, passed on all information relating to Idris to the Intelligence Bureau in Delhi. The IB did its own investigations which led it to Hazaribagh.

   

 
 
FEW TAKERS FOR MODERN SYLLABUS 
 
 
FROM SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta/Behrampore, Jan. 28: 
1988-89 — The state government, alarmed at the ‘obscurantist’ syllabi followed by madarsas in West Bengal, pushes through a series of reforms. A few hundred madarsas are granted affiliation by the West Bengal Madarsa Board and the syllabus is updated to reflect changing times.

2002: The same government, which once gave affiliation to numerous madarsas, is confronted by a rising number of madarsas which don’t apply to the Madarsa Board for affiliation. The syllabus they teach is similar to the one taught in madarsas in 1987 before they were recognised as participants in a bona fide educational system. The government, which kept its eyes shut to the problem for more than a decade, suddenly wakes up and talks tough.

Honest intentions recoiling or vote-bank calculations gone awry?

The upgradation of the syllabus for Bengal’s madarsas more than a decade ago has actually “pushed” students into the arms of unaffiliated madarsas in four districts having the largest concentration of centres for Islamic studies, the results of a survey conducted by the Union government reveal.

This, according to senior home department officials, is the single report that forms the basis of the administration’s “anxiety” over the mushrooming of unauthorised madarsas in Murshidabad, Malda and North and South Dinajpur.

The growing number of such madarsas — opened without the administration’s permission and over which the state has no control at all — indicates their popularity and the abiding attraction of the curriculum that concentrates purely on Islamic and Arabic literature.

And, for once, the maulvis teaching in the madarsas of Bengal’s madarsa district — Murshidabad — agree.

“We have witnessed a growing interest in Islamic studies,” says a senior faculty member of Jamia Anwar-ul-Ulum, an unaffiliated madarsa operating out of a village near Dhuliyan, one of the state’s poorest regions.

The “pressure” on the madarsa to accept students is more because of the area’s proximity to Pakur — famous for its stone quarries — which is an equally poverty-ridden belt now falling within the boundaries of Jharkhand, he explains.

“Most Muslims, even today, want their children to have a thorough grounding in Islamic literature,” the elderly maulvi says, corroborating the Union government report. “The number of mosques and madarsas is increasing and there is a dearth of well-taught maulvis and ulemas,” he adds.

The Bengal government brought the syllabus of the state’s madarsas on a par with that taught in the Madhyamik course in the academic year 198889 and granted affiliation to most of them.

The purely Islamic and Arabic syllabus made way for subjects such as maths and geography, with only a 350mark chunk of the 1000mark syllabus reserved for Arabic, and government appointed teachers were sent to the madarsas in an effort to modernise education.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is undertaking a similar exercise now.

But it’s an effort that looks defeated in Bengal. The mushrooming of Murshidabad’s unrecognised madarsas started in the early 1990s. “A section of Muslim parents waited for some time before deciding that old was gold,” Baharuddin Ahmed, a teacher at a madarsa in Dhuliyan, said.

ShagiruzZaman, a teacher at the neighbouring Jamia Rahmania madarsa, bears out his colleague’s statement.

Zaman, who passed out from the institute where he is a member of the faculty now, says he himself is an example of the state government’s “ill directed” efforts to “streamline” madarsa education.

Some things are best left to Allah, he says, as he explains that his madarsa’s recent efforts to introduce English and Bengali as subjects along with the Quran and other Islamic literature could be behind the exodus it has seen over the past few years.

“We now have only 250 students, down to almost a third of the 700 figure we had even a few years ago,” he says. “Many Muslims still like places where their children will learn only Islam,” he adds.

No one, however — neither officials nor the teachers of Quran — would acknowledge the economic angle to the growth of religious schools.

Madarsas are often the last resort of children from poor families because they at least get a decent meal – almost gratis — thrice a day.

Add to that the promise of a fixed salary — in another unaffiliated madarsa or the local mosque — in times when postgraduate degrees are no longer guarantees for government jobs and you have a milieu that encourages subterfuge and obscurantism.

   

 
 
GHETTO’S PHANTOM GUESTS 
 
 
FROM ANUPAM SHESHANK
 
Hazaribagh, Jan. 28: 
In ghettoised Khirnagar, the two were strangers in more ways than one.

“We hardly saw them four times in the last four months when they were first seen,” said one of the youngsters of the locality in the heart of Hazaribagh town.

Mohammad Adil, Rizwan, Shahid and Munna were sure only about one thing: that the duo who were shot dead by police early this morning were, like them, young.

Idris, alias Zahid, and Salim -- the occupants of one part of the single-storeyed house belonging to Majid Khan, who owns a battery shop in Rourkela – were known more by the purr of their Maruti Zen than their appearance.

They were rarely seen and never seen talking to anyone in the locality. “They came once or twice in their Maruti car and left. Mostly, they came at late hours when most of us were asleep. We can say this as we heard their car,” said the quartet of local youth.

“The car had a doctor’s insignia on the windscreen and the neighbours thought they were doctors. Even their next-door neighbours had not seen them,” said a police officer.

He admitted that little information about the two could be gathered from the locality.

Manzoor Alam, a block development officer who had rented one part of the house, said: “We have never seen them before.”

Alam may have missed them because he is posted outside Hazaribagh but even his family members who live here had not seen the youths. “The two terrorists must have come here late last night,” he said.

But since, by his own admission, he is only an “occasional” visitor, Alam’s version that Idris and Salim came to the house only last night was not corroborated by others in the locality.

Tinku runs a small grocery shop in a house next to where the two lived. “One of the killed youths had come day before yesterday and asked for Surf Excel.” That in itself was surprising for Tinku because in this slum area no one had the money to buy Surf Excel that, according to him, costs Rs 180 a kilo here.

“When I said I don’t keep such costly detergent powder, the young man asked for cream biscuits and cakes. When I said again I didn’t have any of these, he bought candles and match boxes.”

Power cuts are part of life in Jharkhand. Tinku described the young man as fair, tall and around 25 years of age. “The well-dressed youngsters did most of their shopping from the main market and only occasionally came here.”

At the time of their death, Salim was wearing a track suit and sneakers and Idris trouser and shirt.

Alam said Majid Khan had rented out the house to someone named Emam Hassan for 11 months at Rs 1,500 a month. Emam had said he had business interests in Hazaribagh.

“About five months ago, Emam moved into the flat with his wife and younger brother. He said that in Calcutta he owned a factory that made slippers and that he hailed from Kagzi Mahalla in Bihar Sharif,” Alam said.

“His wife and brother went back after living here for about a month. Emam has been living alone since. He was last seen about four-five days ago,” he added.

   

 
 
PAKISTAN POURS SCORN 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR
 
Islamabad, Jan. 28: 
Pakistan has termed as “ridiculous and funny” the claim that two of its nationals have been implicated in the Calcutta strike and gunned down in Hazaribagh.

“It’s a joke, it’s a mockery,” Pakistan government spokesman Syed Anwar Mahmood said.

He advised Indian officials to come out of their “cynicism and obsession” with the ISI, adding that Pakistan was being seen behind “everything that happens or does not happen in India”.

“To make outlandish claims could satisfy preconceived designs of someone, but nobody with wisdom is prepared to believe in them,” the spokesman said. “The whole thing smacks of a melodrama of the first order, a cooked-up matter, ab initio (from the beginning),” he added.

He pointed that Indian officials had first blamed the ISI and then detained five Bangladeshis. The Bangladesh government made a strong protest, he added. “Suddenly now, Indian law enforcement agencies claim that two of the suspects were Pakistanis, and they are killed in the alleged encounter.”

“Even today, the initial reports were that two arrests were made. Then it was said that one out of two suspects has been injured, and now the new reports are that one had died and the second made a confession before death.

“The entire drama borders on absurdity and fails to register with any thinking person,” Mahmood said.

“Rather than to continue blaming the ISI and Pakistan for all acts of terrorism, it is about time that the Indian leadership should look inwards for answers and clues within,” the spokesman said. He added that over a dozen insurgencies and movements are going on in various parts of India, and instead of facing facts, Indian officials find it easy to blame Pakistan.

   

 
 
YOU’VE GOT POSTMAN & BANKER 
 
 
BY ANIEK PAUL
 
Calcutta, Jan. 28: 
Post offices may soon become the hub of activity they once were before e-mails and courier services got in the way. But it won’t be because of the department’s conventional business.

The department of post is trying to reinvent itself by developing new businesses, leveraging its huge network across the country. It will soon begin hawking consumer-banking products like credit cards, loans and insurance policies.

The department is in the process of tying up with a number of banks, including Standard Chartered, UTI Bank, HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank, to sell consumer-banking products. Tie-ups between the department and the Standard Chartered group and American Express have recently been finalised. More are in the offing.

A Standard Chartered spokesperson said: “We intend to set up counters at various post offices within a month. In the beginning, we will deploy our employees to run these counters, but will simultaneously train postal employees so that later they can run the operation on their own.”

B.N. Som, secretary to the department of posts, said: “Conventional operations are not going to be our bread-and-butter business any more. We are introducing financial services using our network. Even the Reserve Bank of India is examining whether we can remit funds through our network on their behalf.”

The tie-up with American Express will lead to post offices selling foreign currency travellers’ cheques and credit cards issued by the bank. The department already remits funds into and outside the country through an alliance with Western Union.

The department has around 26,000 major installations across the country, and around 1.27 lakh sub-post offices reaching remote areas. This is a much bigger network than that of State Bank of India, the country’s largest bank with 9,000-odd branches.

If it has enough funds, the department plans to connect 14,000 outlets through its electronic network over the next two to three years and use it to transfer funds, Som said. Even the National Stock Exchange – the country’s largest bourse – has approached the department seeking an alliance for use of its network to transfer funds.

A senior stockbroker with operations in upcountry regions of Bengal said: “Any arrangement, which allows investors to transfer funds from upcountry centres instantly will help extend the market’s reach.”

Investors now have to pay within three days of buying shares, which is difficult without an electronic platform for remitting funds.

   

 
 
DEFENCE-DEVELOPMENT TIGHTROPE 
 
 
FROM M. RAJENDRAN
 
Sipat (Chhattisgarh), Jan. 28: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today signalled that his government will make no trade-offs between its defence-related investments and development expenditure and that neither will be made at the expense of the other.

“Our investments to beef up security along the border will be made in tandem with public spending on infrastructure and social sectors,” Vajpayee said at a rally here after laying the foundation stone for a super thermal power project.

The Prime Minister ruled out the possibility of talks with Pakistan in the near future and said: “Terrorism within the country and the security threat along the border will be dealt with a firm hand. Killing of innocent people, particularly children and women, cannot be tolerated. There is no place for terrorism in a civilised society.

“Let’s face it — expenditure on armament purchase is bound to increase because of the prevailing situation on the borders. However, development in the country will not be allowed to suffer as a result. Peace is important for development. But even in the shadow of the guns, we will have to push ahead with the process of development. We have made developments in all fields but now the pace of development has to be hastened since the world is developing at a rapid pace.”

The government has earmarked Rs 65,000 crore for defence expenditure this fiscal, but by all accounts, spending will exceed the figure. This has raised fears that the cash-strapped government will have to cut corners to be in a position to funnel more funds to the defence establishment with the axe poised to fall on social spending.

While trying to allay fears on this account, the Prime Minister urged Pakistan to focus on its own development plans and not attempt anything adventurous that could compromise development in the region.

“Let them (Pakistan) develop as a country. We, too, want to develop; they should realise that they can change friends but not neighbours,” Vajpayee said.

Launching an attack on Pakistan for its failure to create a conducive environment for talks, Vajpayee said: “Our neighbours are not sincere in their efforts to secure peace in the region. My bus trip to Lahore with a proposal for peace and to improve the bilateral relations was responded by attacks in Kargil. But we still invited them for talks.”

Vajpayee mocked at President Pervez Musharraf for his inability to be inspired by the Taj Mahal, a symbol of love, to improve relations between the two countries. “We had invited them to Agra hoping that a visit to Taj will inspire him to promote peace. He came and visited Taj and liked it too, but failed to accept our proposal for peace.”

The Prime Minister, who was here to lay the foundation stone for the Rs 8,721 crore project of the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) called upon the state governments to hasten power sector reforms.

For the first time in India, the project will use the super critical technology that will considerably bring down pollution levels.

   

 
 
EXECUTIVE SHOT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 28: 
A senior manager of a liquor company was shot dead in front of his house at Lake Gardens tonight.

Witnesses said 39-year-old Pranendra Roy Choudhury had stepped out of his house and taken his seat next to the driver when the killer walked up to the Ambassador.

The driver, Binod Mahato, said the assailant asked Roy Choudhury for Rs 25,000. “Even before saab could react, the man pulled out a revolver and shot him in the head.”

The killer shot at the driver, too, before escaping. “I ducked and the bullet grazed my left chin,” Mahato said.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 21.2°C (-7)
Minimum:19.5°C (+5)

Rainfall

18.1 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 96%,
Minimum: 54%

Sunrise: 6.23 am

Sunset: 5.17 pm

Today

Partly cloudy 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