Hunt for rider after dawn raider death
Roar to whip up temple wave
From seat of learning to crucible of conspiracy
Torn between two worlds
Mystery Indian in Charles love life
Film fires up UP elections
Distress call to Marandi
Delhi in Pak POW bind
Delhi puts trade over diplomacy
Calcutta Weather

Hazaribagh, Jan. 29: 
After Mohammad Idris, alias Zahid, Sadaqat is the man police want.

In his so-called confessional statement before dying yesterday, Idris had said Sadaqat drove the motorcycle as he, riding pillion, opened fire on a group of policemen outside Calcutta’s American Center on January 22.

In an early morning raid conducted on Monday jointly by Delhi and Hazaribagh police on a house at Khirgaon here, Idris and an accomplice, Salim, were killed. Police here say they have evidence to suggest Sadaqat — said to be from Mumbai — was also in the house until Sunday afternoon and left in one of two vehicles the group was known to use — a black Suzuki Shaolin motorcycle or a blue Maruti 800.

Neither of these was recovered from the house but a third one — a Zen — was found with a Delhi registration number (DL6C B9329) etched on the windscreen. In possibly another link between the group that mounted the January 22 attack and the gang that kidnapped Parthapratim Roy Burman last year, Calcutta police suspect that this blue Maruti was used in despatching the Khadim’s owner home after the ransom was paid. Idris is believed to have driven that car.

“Yesterday, we had the specific location of Sadaqat but before we could reach the destination, he was tipped off and fled. Two police teams are on the lookout for Sadaqat,” the SP of Hazaribagh, Deepak Varma, said.

The police are also searching for Jamaluddin Nasir, alias Emam Hassan, who had taken on rent the Khirgaon house where Idris and Salim were found.

Idris had said in his confession that he had fired from an AK-56 in front of the American Center, the same rifle that was recovered yesterday after what the police call an “encounter” outside the Khirgaon house.

Varma today clarified that the statement taken from a wounded Idris was not a legally tenable recorded confession but information that came out through interrogation. “We did not have sufficient time, so we extracted the maximum possible information from him,” Varma said.

“The dying terrorist was speaking in chaste Punjabi that the Delhi police officers understood. We asked him about his identity and residence and then about the Calcutta shooting. He told us he and Salim were from Pakistan and he was the main shooter while Sadaqat was driving the motorcycle.”

A difference of opinion has arisen here between the visiting team of Calcutta police — which had no inkling of Monday morning’s operation — and the local police. The Calcutta team has gathered information that a motorcycle-rider handed over a long sports-kit bag to the occupant of a Maruti some distance from the Khirgaon house when the raid was in progress. The team was told the bag might have contained weapons.

Hazaribagh police deny this, saying they had placed policemen in every corner of the locality and such an exchange could not have taken place without their knowledge. “Not even a bird escaped our attention,” Varma said.

He said Calcutta police should submit a written requisition if they want to take back the rifle. The request will be filed in a court, which would decide whether the recovered items can be handed over. “The bodies will be buried if no one claims them,” Varma added.


New Delhi, Jan. 29: 
The VHP today vowed to begin work on the Ram temple in Ayodhya “anytime” after March 12 and “under any circumstances”, hardening its stand with the warning that it does not care if the Vajpayee government “stays” or “goes”.

The tough stand, endorsed by its supreme governing council and board of trustees at a meeting here, fuelled speculation that the outfit was out to polarise “fence sitters” to help the BJP improve its tally in Uttar Pradesh. Some analysts, however, suspect a wedge has been driven between BJP moderates and hardliners.

VHP international general secretary Pravin Togadia ruled out further talks with the government. “There is no question of postponement of the deadline. Our decision is final. The sants are not coming to Delhi again for talks,” he said.

Togadia also refused to give “any more time” to the government. “We are not bothered whether any government stays or goes,” he said. “How can the sacrifice of one government be a big thing for Ram bhakts?”

He denied the reported statement of NDA convener George Fernandes that the sants, in their Sunday meeting with Vajpayee, had agreed to either a negotiated settlement or a court verdict. “The solution … is simple,” he said. “Parliament should enact a law paving the way for the construction of the temple. If the Cabinet can take a decision on the construction of the Somnath temple, how can it not do so about Ayodhya?”

Analysts feel the VHP wants to provoke a reaction to hype the issue and create a “Ram wave” to bail out the BJP, now struggling to retain power in the heartland. The strident stand, they say, is also intended to coerce the law ministry into giving a favourable opinion to the government.

The VHP’s immediate goal is to somehow acquire the “undisputed” land around the sanctum sanctorum. Togadia claimed that the land could be transferred by an executive order “within one minute”.

The temple cry evoked a sharp response from the Babri Masjid Coordination Committee. It demanded a ban on the entry of VHP leaders and activists into Ayodhya and wanted the land to be put under army control.


Biharsharif, Jan. 29: 
All roads in the Calcutta conspiracy lead to Nalanda.

The Bihar district, associated with Buddhism and more recently with Union ministers George Fernandes and Nitish Kumar, has emerged as the focal point in the probe into the American Center attack.

After the Nalanda address on alleged mastermind Aftab Ansari’s passport, the district popped up again in the investigation as home to one of the conspirators, Ibrahim Shah.

Nalanda also offers a link, if tenuous, between the Calcutta conspiracy and the December 13 strike on Parliament. The family of Abdul Rahman Gilani, an accused, once lived here and the Delhi University teacher has been a regular visitor, intelligence officials said.

Investigators from Calcutta, now in Hazaribagh, tipped off the police here yesterday that Ibrahim had obtained his driving licence (no 7576) from Nalanda.

The police raided the district transport office (DTO) from which the licence, signed by one D.K. Singh, was supposed to have been issued. But a search revealed that no officer by that name was ever posted there. The licence number also does not tally with DTO numbers. Officers explained that the number of licences issued from the town could not be more than 1,000.

Though the licence turned out to be fake, the police claimed to have gathered other vital clues. They got the name of Ibrahim alias Mohammad Ibrahim’s village — Chhabilapur. About 20 km from the district headquarters, Biharsharif, the village is close to the ruins of Nalanda University and to Nitish’s village, Nahabatpur. Nalanda is Fernandes’ constituency.

The police also stumbled upon names of two members of Aftab Ansari’s gang — Jamaluddin Nasir and Akeel. Both are from the same village. While Akeel has been arrested, Jamaluddin is absconding. “Whatever we have unravelled so far might be just the tip of an iceberg,” Nalanda superintendent of police Amit Lodha said.

Officers are confident that Ansari’s gang had links with Gilani, whose house is in a village called Gilani near Chhabilapur.

The professor is also being linked to two other persons having ISI connections, who were arrested from Phulwarisharif in Patna in April last year. Identified as Laddu Mian and Samim Sarvar, the duo was allegedly involved in a plot to blow up the US embassy in Delhi. Laddu Mian, who is from Nalanda, and Sarvar had two houses in the district.

“You add the two different incidents — Delhi’s December 13 strike and Calcutta’s American Center attack. The two were carried out by the same gang, whose tentacles were spread over Nalanda,” said a senior Central intelligence officer who was in Nalanda yesterday.

In the passport case, Nalanda police have arrested five persons, the superintendent said. Lodha is interrogating deputy superintendent of police Z. Ahmed. Ahmed’s assistant, Paramanand Rai, has also been picked up.


Murshidabad, Jan. 29: 
The name — Al-Mahadus-Salafi Educational Complex — with its rather uncomfortable mix of Arabic and English suggests a tension between two worlds. So, in fact, does the curriculum.

The only computer-teaching madarsa in Murshidabad, the district which has the largest number of unaffiliated madarsas in West Bengal, is perhaps the finest example of an education system that cannot yet decide where it is headed: to a medieval past or to the age of computers.

It has as its managing committee’s secretary a doctor who studied in R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital. But the managing committee also has a fair sprinkling of men who are more at ease with words from religious texts.

The madarsa introduced English at the beginner’s level much before the wisdom of teaching an international language dawned on the Left Front government. But it cannot remove its emphasis from the Nizamiya section that teaches only the Quran and Arabic literature.

It has a better student-teacher ratio than most of the state’s board-affiliated schools. But teachers still expect their students to follow the rigours of the traditional system where a male student, if told, has to wait indefinitely on his tutor.

The list of apparent discrepancies could go on. But behind these seeming contradictions is an effort to stand between two disparate worlds, admits managing committee secretary Md Nayeemuddin.

“We have a self-financing vocational section which is growing,” he says with pride. “It has over 100 students now who learn skills ranging from tailoring to repairing diesel pumps.” The computer section — with hands-on training for the 40-plus students on nine sets — is also expanding.

But this tilt towards modernity among Lalgola’s largely below-poverty-line populace is balanced by an inexplicably increasing student strength in the Nizamiya section (above 70 now).

Nayeemuddin, however, is worried despite the rising numbers in the two very disparate sections. The junior high section of the madarsa, which now prepares 250 boys and 100 girls for their board examination two years later from other government-recognised schools and is considered middle ground between the Quran and the computer, is shrinking.

More and more students are dropping out before class IV to shift to government-recognised schools much before they are ready for class IX, admits Nayeemuddin. Students now want to get rid of the “unaffiliated madarsa” stamp as soon as possible, their teachers say.

Another madarsa, the Jamia Rahmania at Dhuliyan in the extreme north of the district, which had bigger dreams than Al-Mahadus-Salafi, is facing an even more immediate threat to its survival. The student rolls now have 250 names — down from the 700-mark a few years ago — and teachers of the institute have now almost forgotten what the madarsa, when it was set up in 1984, was supposed to become.

“The founders had plans to make this an Islamic studies university,” Shagir-uz-Zaman, a teacher, said. There were also plans to set up vocational and computer wings, he said, adding that times were bad.

Students and teachers of Jamia Anwar-ul-Ulum, however, have no such worries. Situated at Islampur, a stone’s throw from Jharkhand and a much poorer belt, the madarsa with more than 400 students is still seeing a rising student population.

Despite having introduced English and Bengali in the curriculum, the five-year-olds are more interested in learning the Quran by heart.

“Eighty per cent students belong to the Hizb section (which deals with only religious literature) and come to us before they are five,” say their teachers.

But this battle between English and Arabic and computers and the Quran that is manifested in the dark interiors of the madarsas actually has its origin in the battle for supremacy between two distinct sects and trains of thought in the overwhelmingly Sunni population among Muslims in Murshidabad, say religious leaders.

The madarsas that have introduced English or geography are almost always run by the Al-Hadis sect; and those that still teach only Islam and Arabic are run by the Hanafis. “It’s actually a battle between the Al-Hadis and the Hanafi sect that is behind the change-versus-tradition debate within madarsas,” a senior maulana, not willing to be quoted, said.

But, at least for now, it seems to be tradition’s victory all the way. More than 80 per cent of the district’s madarsas are run by the Hanafis, leaving the Al-Hadis madarsas way behind.


London, Jan. 29: 
Prince Charles was once “emotionally involved” with an Indian woman, it has been disclosed in a new royal book just published in London.

It is well known that the Prince of Wales is fond of India and things Indian but no one had hitherto guessed that this weakness had stretched to actually having an Indian girlfriend.

In Royal: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, brought out to mark the 50th year of her reign, author Robert Lacey tells of how Charles developed the spiritual side of his life in the 1970s.

“The prince also became emotionally involved, for a time, with a persuasive Indian woman who introduced him to Buddhism and eastern philosophy,” says Lacey, a heavyweight author with a long list of royal books to his name.

He adds: “Gripped by her ideas, Charles became persuaded by the arguments for vegetarianism and against the killing of animals.”

His parents and staff at Buckingham Palace apparently were none too bothered about his many other sexual conquests since they were upper class English women. “It was when the prince gave up shooting at Sandringham that his parents finally seem to have taken alarm,” Lacey goes on. “The abstinence did not prove permanent, but it revealed a son and heir who was travelling on a very different track.”

Contacted by The Telegraph, Lacey admitted his source for the story was a biography of Charles, The Prince of Wales, written by the broadcaster and journalist, Jonathan Dimbleby, in 1994, and also published by Little, Brown and Company, his own publishers.

To coincide with his book, Dimbleby had done a TV interview with Charles in which the prince had admitted adultery with his long-time mistress, Camilla Parker-Bowles. This provoked such reaction that the line about the Indian girlfriend was overlooked by everyone, explained Lacey.

“It’s a mystery who she is,” he said. However, the story must be true, Lacey pointed out, “because every line in Dimbleby’s book was read and personally vetted by Charles”.

Although Dimbleby was not immediately willing to name the girl, his biography says that in his spiritual quest, Charles “was introduced in 1979, to a book called The Path of the Masters, a comprehensive guide to the spiritual wisdom of the Eastern gurus”. According to Dimbleby, “The book had been given to him by a young Indian woman who telephoned Buckingham Palace relentlessly until he finally accepted her call. She told him her mission as a Buddhist was to convert him to an understanding of the role of the Masters.”

Dimbleby then writes: “Instead of extricating himself, the Prince was so intrigued that he arranged a meeting. At once, the two began a relationship that on both an emotional and a spiritual level swiftly became so intense as to send a frisson of alarm through the household.”

In English code, this suggests that the two had a physical relationship. Or, at the very least, the reader is not steered away from that conclusion. Dimbleby concludes the section by writing: “Evidently fearing that her hold over the Prince had become so powerful as to jeopardise his sense of perspective, his new private secretary, Edward Adeane, confided to more than one friend, ‘it’s got to be stopped’.”

Soon afterwards, the relationship did indeed cease, but not before the Prince had been persuaded by her arguments in favour of vegetarianism and against the killing of animals to change his own habits accordingly.”


Lucknow, Jan. 29: 
Scene one: Phulwa, a character bearing an uncanny resemblance to Phoolan Devi, is talking animatedly to “CM saab” about social justice and how her voice is being smothered under the rubble of dirty politics. “CM saab” sneers at her and says, “If I can close your files and make you a leader of my party, I can also reopen your files. Where will that leave you? It is best for you to shut up.”

Scene two: Dubey, a close confidante of “CM saab”, whispers three reasons why Phulwa should be killed. As “CM saab” listens attentively, sipping what looks like whiskey, Dubey says, “Iske teen phayde hain. (The murder has three benefits.) First, the MBC issue will get silenced in the face of such a tragedy, and that will be highly beneficial to you. As she belongs to your party, the sympathy, too, will be with you. Her sister wants to be an MLA, you can always project her as Phoolan’s successor. Don’t worry, everything has been taken care of. Her guards will be changed at the last minute.”

The scenes from a 11-minute teaser of Post-mortem: the Bandit Queen murder, a “fictional film with a lot of independent research”, has stoked political embers in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh.

The film, which stars newcomer Snehlata, implies that the leaders of her own party had conspired to kill the bandit queen.

Soon after the film’s preview at Lucknow Press Club, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav labelled the film as a BJP conspiracy to malign him.

Directed by Lokendra Singh, a former reporter for Doordarshan, and produced under the banner, Royal Prince Films, Mumbai, it is slated for release just before the Uttar Pradesh elections.

Singh denies any political party was behind his “journalistic and academic” venture, saying, “a lot of in-depth research has gone into the making of the watershed film”

He claims to have started research on the project last August and spent over three months talking to over 60 politicians and policemen regarding the murder, including Samajwadi Party leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh, chief minister Rajnath Singh, former chief minister Kalyan Singh and a host of top-level police officials in Delhi.

“It is a BJP conspiracy to malign me,” an angry Mulayam said, adding: “The BJP has gone to many quacks and pretenders to give it a remedy for the disease it is facing in UP. This is just another instance. But everything will fail.”

Mulayam also said he would not take any legal action against the filmmaker and leave it to the Election Commission to decide if the film was a violation of the election code of conduct.

The Samajwadi Party has denied tickets to Phoolan’s husband, Umed Singh, and sister Munni Devi.

While Munni Devi, who now alleges that the Samajwadi Party is behind her sister’s murder, is contesting from Mirzapur on the Rashtriya Krantikari Party ticket, Umed, who had filed his papers as an Independent, had his nomination rejected by the Election Commission.

Claiming the 11-minute preview was just the tip of the “mystery iceberg”, Lokendra Singh said the film in its full length would shed more than enough light on the truth behind Phoolan’s killing. Singh also claimed that it was for security reasons that he was not showing the whole film today.


Dumka, Jan. 29: 
In front of a room full of people at the circuit house, Laloo Yadav dials a number and says: “Hello, I am Laloo Prasad. Johar (a greeting in Santhali). I came to know about the conspiracy. If U.N. Biswas becomes the Governor, he will completely damage your political career and destroy Jharkhand. For your own sake, please talk with the Prime Minister and oppose the move. Take care.”

Laloo said he was speaking to Babulal Marandi in Ranchi. Late tonight, the chief minister’s office in Ranchi confirmed receiving a call from the Rashtriya Janata Dal leader but did not disclose details of the conversation.

Laloo also put through a call to President K.R. Narayanan in New Delhi and, in broken English, urged him to thwart the “plot” by the BJP-led government to appoint Biswas as the Governor. Later he instructed his key lieutenant in Delhi, Raghubansh Prasad Singh, to call on the President and request him to stall any such move.

The RJD leader, who reached Dumka from Deoghar this afternoon, wanted to speak to the Jharkhand chief minister the moment he reached the circuit house. But since the circuit house telephone did not have STD connection, the call was made through the conference facility and routed through an STD booth.

Though Raj Bhavan has denied that Governor Prabhat Kumar has put in his papers following the CBI disclosures in the Flex Industries case, speculation is rife in the state capital as well as New Delhi that a hunt is on for a replacement. Biswas, who retires this month, is believed to be a frontrunner for the post.

Political observers said if Biswas does become Governor, it could add to Laloo’s problems. The super-sleuth has been the chief investigator in the fodder scam cases involving Laloo and many of his RJD aides. Most of the fodder cases have been transferred to Jharkhand following a Supreme Court order.

Laloo is scheduled to appear before the CBI special court in Dumka tomorrow in a fodder case. Sources close to Laloo said the RJD leader sniffed a “conspiracy” by the BJP-led government at the Centre to appoint Biswas, who is the CBI joint director (east), as Governor.

On his way to Dumka from Jasidih, Laloo visited almost all temples like Baba Baidhyanath at Deoghar and Baba Basukinath at Dumka where he offered special pujas.

After a short stay at the circuit house, Laloo left for Tarapith in West Bengal. “Lalooji directly took the blessing from God and came to know about the conspiracy of making U.N. Biswas the new Governor,” said RJD legislator from Godda Sanjoy Yadav. The RJD’s Dumka unit, which had organised a welcome reception at Dudhani Chowk, had to postpone the function as Laloo refused to waste time.


New Delhi, Jan. 29: 
Having snapped its road, rail and air links with Pakistan, India is finding it difficult to make travel arrangements for families of Indian prisoners of war wanting to visit that country.

About 54 POWs are believed to be lodged in Pakistani jails. But neither country knows anything much about them or the jails they are lodged in. Only some NGOs claim to have talked to them.

The POW issue has been bothering Delhi for a while. It was raised last summer when President Pervez Musharraf came for the Agra summit. Musharraf had assured Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee he would look into the matter and promised that any Indian POWs in Pakistan would be promptly returned. But there has been no progress.

Officially, Islamabad maintains that it does not have Indian POWs. But their family members — who had taken out processions during the Agra summit to force the government to raise the issue with Pakistan — insist they are alive and in jail.

Foreign ministry officials in touch with families wanting to go to Pakistan are trying to work out how they should proceed after they reach that country.

They are being advised to go through jail records and tipped off about the prisons they will get access to.


Mexico City, Jan. 29: 
The tail is wagging the dog, at last, if not in South Block, along the south side of stately Rajpath.

When minister of state for external affairs Omar Abdullah sets out on his long journey to Latin America this week, his ministry which has claimed a monopoly on India’s foreign affairs will yield to its neighbouring commerce ministry in setting New Delhi’s agenda for the region.

In doing so, India will join much of the world in making trade and commerce the focus of its external relations, at least in a region which is peripheral to New Delhi politically but important in economic terms.

There has been much talk in South Block in the last 10 years about economic diplomacy, but very little by way of any concrete action.

The commerce ministry, on the other hand, has responded to changes, at least in Latin America.

While the ministry of external affairs still has an unwieldy Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) division dealing with almost three dozen countries, the commerce ministry has responded to global changes.

It has set up a pioneering North American Free Trade Area (Nafta) division, which now deals with Mexico, Canada and the US, arguably the world’s most dynamic trading bloc.

The commerce ministry has also created “Focus LAC”, a programme for increasing trade with and investment in Latin America and the Caribbean. The programme will run till March next year.

“Focus LAC” has created an information database, activated Joint Economic Commissions and Joint Business Councils between India and countries in the region, set up commercial offices in Indian missions in LAC and enabled participation by Indian companies in fairs, buyer-seller meets and market surveys.

In Bogota, Colombia, where Abdullah will meet heads of Indian missions in the LAC region, much of the talk will be on trade.

Latin America is the world’s second fastest growing region and accounts for five per cent of the world’s total trade.

But India’s share of this trade has remained minuscule, except for Mexico, the region’s most dynamic economy.

India’s exports to Mexico have soared from US $87 million four years ago to US $288 million, but still accounts for a mere 0.17 of Mexico’s total imports at a time when this country’s economy is virtually being integrated with that of the US.

The huge potential for bilateral trade has led to demands here from those keen on importing from India that the focus of New Delhi’s current drive to enter this region should be on Mexico and then ROLA as a separate bloc.

ROLA is colloquial acronym here for Rest of Latin America, underlining how Mexico stands apart from the rest of this region in both growth and potential.

The commerce ministry, which has recognised the region’s importance and pioneered the drive to get a foothold for India here, too, seems to have recognised the need to discriminate within LAC.

The axiom in Indian business circles here about New Delhi’s attempt to focus on all of LAC is that it will lead to lack of focus.

Recognising this perhaps, its efforts in the next one year will be to concentrate on Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago, India’s larger trade partners within LAC.




Maximum: 22.2°C (-6)
Minimum: 13.7°C (0)


2.4 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 98%,
Minimum: 63%

Sunrise: 6.22 am

Sunset: 5.17 pm


Generally cloudy sky. Possibility of light rain. Minimum temperature likely to be around 16°C

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