Call that clinched the case
Police alert on six Pak suspects
Twin corps to kidnap & kill
Cops trace trio’s terror trail
College sets reopen date
The City Diary
Course clean-up act on the trot
Register rule rollback signal
Civic dump raises a stink
Grime masks terror den

 
 
CALL THAT CLINCHED THE CASE 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, Jan. 30: 
The police were at a loss. Four constables had been shot in front of the American Center and there was not a single lead to follow. The situation was as bad as it gets.

But at 4 pm on January 22, luck seemed to swing Calcutta Police’s way. An anonymous caller phoned Lalbazar and said he wanted to speak to police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty. It was urgent, the caller said. He had information on the killing.

The caller (who subsequently revealed his identity but the police are not disclosing it) told Chakraborty he was a resident of central Calcutta and had just stepped out for a morning walk when he found a blue Maruti 800 parked in front of his house.

“It somehow seemed strange that a car should be waiting right there,” he told the commissioner. “There was a middle-aged man sitting inside, looking straight ahead, while a young man waited outside, leaning on the side of the car. I was curious but, nevertheless, I carried on.”

Cutting short his walk — “I was a bit uneasy about the car, so I wanted to figure out what was happening” — the caller returned home at around 7 am. To his surprise, he found a motorcycle had also arrived at the spot. Two men got off the bike, the pillion rider carrying “something inside a cricket bat cover”.

“I have played cricket and I was in the NCC. I can assure you that it was not a bat inside that cover,” the caller told Chakraborty. “It had to be something else. What it was, I had no idea at that point of time. It was only later that I figured out what it was.”

The witness then proceeded to give Chakraborty a description of the four persons, the car, including its number, and the two-wheeler. He also described the cricket bat cover (“It was either purple or mauve”) and the logo on it.

He told the police that the two youths on the motorcycle then slipped into the car with their “bag”, while the one waiting outside made off with the motorcycle “towards Beniapukur”. The car followed.

Of the two men on the motorcycle, he said: “One was fair. He had a moustache and was of medium height; the other was clean shaven and he, too, was fair.”

“This information helped us a great deal,” Chakraborty said. “We drew the first Identikit picture of the two of them on the basis of the information that my caller provided. In fact, it was sheer providence that he managed to observe the entire proceedings so minutely.”

The police commissioner admitted he had no clue about the assailants till the man called up. “He described in detail what he had seen. It was on the basis of his information that we could piece together what transpired after the shootout.”

The caller phoned Chakraborty two more times on January 22. Each time, he provided more information on the killers. “He realised what he had witnessed after he saw the news on television and understood how important it was for him to reach the information to us,” Chakraborty added.

In the next two days, the police got back to him to verify the information received. “After Zahid was killed in Hazaribagh and his photograph appeared in the newspapers, we got back to the caller to check if he could identify him. He told us this was the pillion rider he had seen last Tuesday,” Chakraborty said.

   

 
 
POLICE ALERT ON SIX PAK SUSPECTS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 30: 
There are six Pakistani terrorists holed up in the city, according to police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty.

“We are working in tandem with the Central security agencies and Delhi and Mumbai Police to gather more information on their activities and hide-outs here in the city,’’ he said on Wednesday.

“Detectives have the names of the Pakistani terrorists and their city contacts,’’ Chakraborty said. Police came to know about the presence of the terrorists in the city after interrogating Jamaluddin Nasir.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), too, have alerted sleuths about the presence of “Pakistani terrorists” in Calcutta and its suburbs.

Sources said a special police team had been formed to coordinate with the Central security agencies and the CID. The team will conduct joint raids to flush out the terrorists.

Sources said detectives raided several houses in Beniapukur, Tiljala Road, Topsia Lane, Phoolbagan Lane on Wednesday.

“The raids were carried out on the basis of Nasir’s information. We drew a blank. We suspect he took us on a wild goose chase,’’ said a deputy commissioner of police, who took part in the raid.

Sources said IB officials have identified three of the terrorists. “They are from Lahore, Karachi and Multan. They have changed their identities here,’’ an IB officer said.

Police chief Chakraborty described the terrorists as associates of Dubai-based crimelord Aftab Ansari.

Investigations revealed that Nasir was in close touch with Ansari on the e-mail. “We have information that Nasir had played host to a dozen suspected ISI-trained men in the first week of January. They were here on a specific purpose, which they had to abort at the last moment,’’ a senior police officer said.

Asif Reza Khan and Nasir had bought three apartments in Tiljala and Beniapukur last year, police said. “We had information that the terrorists had taken shelter in these apartments but Wednesday’s raids yielded nothing,’’ a senior officer said.

“We have seized documents, including a detailed map of Calcutta, and papers that had some details of subversive plans during our raids,’’ he added.

“We have pieced together information collected from different security agencies and found that Nasir was closely involved with Asif Reza in Aftab Ansari’s operations,’’ police chief Chakraborty said.

   

 
 
TWIN CORPS TO KIDNAP & KILL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 30: 
Aftab Ansari had two terror groups — one to kidnap, the other to kill.

Major law-enforcing agencies, including Calcutta Police, probing last Tuesday’s attack on the American Center, have discovered how over the years, Ansari has developed a “well-drilled network of separate gangs”, assigned different jobs in eastern India.

“Ansari had one group specifically for abducting people and routing the ransom through hawala chains to Dubai for buying arms and ammunition.

His second action squad, comprising people like Zahid and Salim, killed in Hazaribagh, would eliminate targets and help associates in their operations,” said a senior CID official on Wednesday.

The arrest of Mohammad Naushad, Mohammad Shakeel, alias Rohit, and Mohammad Khalil, alias Rahul, has allowed sleuths to take a closer look at Ansari’s terror network.

The trio’s confession on Wednesday convinced sleuths that the three had been recruited directly by Asif Reza in 1999 for extortion and abduction.

“Asif bhai ne kaha tha ki sab Dubai ka hukum hai, paise khoob milenge (Asif told us that the orders were from Dubai and we would earn a lot of money),” the trio reportedly told interrogators.

Asif, “self-styled commander of the Ansari gang”, had assured the three that in case of any trouble, there was a crack team to sort out matters.

“The killer gang comprised the likes of Asif Reza, Happy Singh, Zahid, Salim and Sadaqat. They were marksmen trained in the use of sophisticated arms and other terror tactics. They would frequently shuttle to New Delhi, Dubai and Calcutta,” said a senior officer probing the case.

On their visits to the city, the killers would spread out in various hideouts of Beniapukur, Tiljala and Beleghata. These bases — normally in highrises — were all arranged and maintained by their local contacts.

The gunmen would come into play when their extortion-and-abduction wing would run into a “target acting tough”. They would coordinate with the likes of Naushad to “intimidate” the businessman in question.

There have been instances — in Bengal and Bihar — of businessmen coughing up the extortion amount under the shadow of the gun.

According to a CID officer, the kidnappers and killers would work in close conjunction.

“Once the abduction was carried out or an extortion bid proved successful, the goons would grab the lakhs and disappear for a while, before resurfacing for their next job. The money from the ransom would invariably reach Dubai, probably through some Burrabazar-based hawala operators. We are keeping close watch on their activities,” said a senior official of the Intelligence Branch.

   

 
 
COPS TRACE TRIO’S TERROR TRAIL 
 
 
BY BAPPA MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, Jan. 30: 
They posed as CBI officers to extort money; they joined hands with local criminals to pull off the Khadim’s abduction; they probably had a behind-the-scenes role to play in the American Center attack.

Picked up two days ago for interrogation, the terror trio — Mohammad Khalil, alias Rahul, Mohammad Shakeel, alias Rohit, and Mohammad Naushad — was formally arrested and charged with an abduction bid. They were produced in court on Wednesday and remanded in police custody till February 12.

Sleuths had been on the trail of the trio ever since they received intelligence reports that Dubai-based don Aftab Ansari had “three more men on the loose in Calcutta”. All in their thirties, the three were recruited by Aftab Ansari to assist Asif Reza, the man allegedly in charge of Terror Tuesday’s operation.

The trio was picked up from a south Calcutta hideout by officers of the anti-terrorist cell two days ago. The CID is now set to ask for their custody for interrogation in connection with the abduction of Khadim’s vice-chairman Parthapratim Roy Burman.

Inspector-general of police (CID) Partha Bhattacharya said “the trio was very much part of the Asif Reza network in the city.” A senior police officer said the three had made elaborate plans of abducting six top businessmen, including a shipping magnate and a garments dealer, prior to the Khadim’s abduction. “We have evidence to back our case that Naushad and company had actively assisted the collaborators of the Khadim’s abduction and had played a key role in the case”.

On September 17, 2000, the trio, posing as CBI officers, approached a Free School Street-based shipping magnate and asked him to accompany them to their office for interrogation on some business deals. The businessman, however, managed to inform the police. “What they did not know was that another extortionist, Abdul Ghani Gaffar, arrested in November last year, had made several attempts to abduct the same businessman and had also shot at him once. The businessman was, therefore, careful about whom he was meeting,” said a top detective department official.

After the failed abduction bid, the trio continued to threaten the businessman and later aborted two more abduction plans, before joining hands with Asif Reza, Happy Singh and Arshad Khan to hatch the conspiracy to abduct Roy Burman.

   

 
 
COLLEGE SETS REOPEN DATE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 30: 
Bengal Engineering College (Deemed University) will reopen on Sunday. The Shibpur institution was shut down on December 24 after a series of clashes between students and local goons.

The reopening was finalised at a meeting of the institution’s board of management on Wednesday. “All the under-graduate hostels will reopen on Sunday,” said P.K. Ray, registrar, adding that students will be allowed to occupy the hostels from that day.

Boarders were asked to vacate the hostels for fear of fresh clashes between the CPM-controlled employees’ union and students. Ray said fresh dates for the postponed examinations will be announced next week.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Sign twist to case against doctors

The trial of the city doctors in the Anuradha Saha death case took a new turn on Wednesday at the Alipore court when registrar of West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC) D.K. Ghosh refused to identify as his own the signature on a document submitted by a respondent. Chief judicial magistrate A.K. Raha is taking the evidence of witnesses in the case. On Wednesday, the registrar was asked to depose before the court, said petitioners’ counsel T.N. Roy Chowdhury.

Earlier, Ashok Chowdhury, president of the council, in his deposition, had said that the signature was the registrar’s and not his. The court then asked the registrar to identify the signature. Recently, the Supreme Court has ordered the Alipore court to complete the trial within four months. Three city doctors are respondents in the case. Kamal Ganguly, Saha’s brother, filed the case against them, alleging that his sister died due to wrong treatment by them.

Fair tubewells draw mayor ire

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee directed municipal commissioner Debashis Som to take penal action against the Book Fair authorities for unauthorised sinking of six tubewells in the fair grounds. The civic water supply department will collect samples from the tubewells on Thursday to check for arsenic contamination. According to the CMC Act, 1980, the minimum penalty per tubewell will be Rs 1,200. “The Book Fair is basically a business platform and cannot claim a privilege over the organisers of other fairs,” said the mayor.

Canal excavation

The government has decided to excavate the canals of central and north Calcutta jointly with the Corporation. The excavation will start soon, according to mayor Subrata Mukherjee. Shanties on both sides of the canal will be removed and the evicted persons will not be resettled. A thoroughfare will be built on the reclaimed land, which will provide faster access to the city centre.

Winners all

The results of the Chancellor Bumper Dhamaka Free Gift Offer were announced. The winners are Anup Banerjee, Anil Shaw, Indrajit Dutta, Ratan Patra, Shambhu Shaw, D. Bhattacharya, Hari Guchi and Altab Giri. The scheme will continue for a month and a half.

Pre-paid privilege

Command, the cellular service provider for Calcutta, has introduced roaming for incoming calls on its pre-paid card ‘Yes!’ in Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The subscriber will have to pay an activation fee of Rs 75. Incoming calls will be charged at Rs 30 and outgoing SMS will cost Rs 15 per message. Incoming SMS will be free of charge. Subscribers opting for the facility can also avail of the national roaming facility as a value-added feature.

Filth protest

Residents of Tiljala put up a blockade on C.N. Roy Road to protest a backflow from the sewerage canal, which was flooding the ground floors of houses in the area. Local councillor and mayor-in-council member Javed Ahmed Khan said putting up a bund in the canal by the irrigation department, without notice to the CMC, was creating problems for the people living there. Irrigation minister Ganesh Mondol called him and his colleague in the council, Rajib Deb, for a discussion on Wednesday night.    

 
 
COURSE CLEAN-UP ACT ON THE TROT 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Jan. 30: 
Wherever there’s a finishing line, there’s the fear of foul play. Wherever there is a race, there is the risk of performance-enhancing drugs. It’s no different at the race course. But turf officials in Calcutta are saddling up to stamp out the menace.

Royal Calcutta Turf Club (RCTC), which has already initiated a series of measures to restore the lost glory of the sport in the city, has also taken the lead in cleaning up racing of the doping stigma.

Following the recent suspension of trainer Peter Locke for a doping offence, RCTC’s strict norms to curb the menace have come into sharp focus. Locke’s licence has been withdrawn till April 2003 for “trying to influence the club’s veterinary officers in switching urine samples, thereby resorting to corrupt practice, and testing positive for a host of prohibited substances”.

RCTC authorities are “really concerned” over the traces of nicotine found in the urine sample of Locke-trained Fencai — a first on the Calcutta course — and are working in close conjunction with various clubs overseas to try and weed out this new threat.

The club is in constant touch with Jockey Club of London, Singapore Turf Club, Hong Kong Jockey Club, Jockey Club of Southern Africa and Racing Victoria, the jockey club of Australia, over this.

“We are committed to keeping the course clean. Article 6 of the international agreement on racing and breeding, which deals specifically with drug control, and of which India is a total signatory, stipulates that any substance that can have an effect on any of the biological or physiological systems of a horse, thereby affecting its performance, is a prohibitive substance,” explains Vineet Verma, secretary and CEO, RCTC.

Any sample taken from a horse, found to contain a prohibited substance, is automatically disqualified and penal action on the professionals is governed by a set of guidelines adopted by the turf authorities in India.

Fines can range from Rs 5,000 upwards and suspension for professionals from 15 days to the withdrawal of licence, depending on the category of prohibited substance used.

“At the RCTC, we follow the guidelines set by the national turf authorities, based on which sampling and testing procedures are undertaken by the club’s veterinary officers,” says Verma.

All horses finishing first, second and third in all graded and important races are automatically tested and the primary samples sent to the Forensic Laboratory of Hong Kong.

In addition, the general convention followed in Calcutta is that failed favourites, unexpected winners and horses showing strange behaviour before or after the race, are among those generally tested.

Sampling is absolutely random otherwise, and the information as to which horse is to be sampled, is sent out to the vet officers at the last moment to maintain total secrecy.

“The principle behind such rigid controls is to ensure that racing remains as free as possible from the misuse of prohibited substances,” says the turf club chief.

If the primary sample comes back from Hong Kong, testing positive to a banned substance, the owner and trainer concerned are given the option to send the split sample to a reference lab in the UK or France, at the owner’s cost. It’s only in the event of the confirmatory analysis of the split sample returning positive that the club considers the horse to have tested positive and the penal action is automatic thereafter.

   

 
 
REGISTER RULE ROLLBACK SIGNAL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 30: 
Barely a month after implementing the new attendance rules, Calcutta University’s (CU) move to improve work culture seems to be suffering a setback.

The university authorities are contemplating revision of timings, following regular complaints from teachers and heads of departments.

Senior faculty members pointed out “certain lapses” in the new set of rules which, they alleged, were hampering academic activities.

A string of protests by the teachers have prompted the authorities to convene a meeting next week to decide whether “any relaxation” in the arrival and departure timings can be introduced.

The university is already embroiled in a controversy after a senior official marked an employee absent, though the latter was present for duty.

The teachers say that due to the new rules, there is a commotion, specially at the end of the day, when employees have to rush, even if they are in the middle of something important, to sign the registers.

The new rules state that an employee can be marked absent if he fails to register his departure timings before 5.15 pm.

“We have sent letters to the secretary and the vice-chancellor, explaining our helplessness. It is now up to them to bail us out,” said Sudakshina Kundu, head of the department of electronic science.

The worst-affected by the system are those who teach laboratory-based subjects. These teachers are very often required to begin classes much earlier than the scheduled time and have to stay back long after classes are over.

Students have also met university officials and sought their help to ensure smooth academic activities.

The new set of rules make it mandatory for the nearly 2,800 employees of the university to sign the attendance registers within 15 minutes of their arrival and departure.

An employee can be marked absent if he fails to sign the register within the stipulated time. Under the new system, the attendance registers are kept at a centralised location on each of the campuses.

The new rules have also taken away the powers of the heads of departments to detain an employee if his presence is required for an important job after class hours.

   

 
 
CIVIC DUMP RAISES A STINK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 30: 
A waterbody on a three-bigha plot in Tollygunge, donated to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) for setting up a swimming pool and a park, is being turned into a dumping ground for garbage by the civic conservancy department.

Following a complaint lodged by Borough X chairman Arup Biswas, mayor Subrata Mukherjee directed municipal commissioner Debashis Som to probe the illegal dumping.

Saroj Mohan Ghosh, chief municipal architect and town planner, on Monday visited the spot on Ashok Avenue, off NSC Bose Road. “We will lodge an FIR in a day or two,” he had said.

Mukherjee was surprised why the process of turning the dump into a park was taking so long. “It puzzles me why the civic authorities could not develop a children’s park and a swimming pool in the past 40 years,” he said.

“The area belongs to the ward of former CPM mayor-in-council member Archana Bhattacharya,” said Shaktipada Ghosh, special officer in mayor’s office. Bhattacharya was not available for her comment.

Biswas pointed out that the plot, donated by H.L. Sarkar in 1962 through a registered deed, was accepted and ratified in the meeting of the civic House subsequently. A search of the estate department records revealed that the plot belonged to the CMC.

“It is not clear how the conservancy department has permitted its trucks to dump garbage there,” said borough chairman Biswas.

Conservancy chief Mala Roy has directed the assistant director of the conservancy department, Borough X, to submit a report on the dumping as early as possible.

   

 
 
GRIME MASKS TERROR DEN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 30: 
A dingy lane leads to the apartment on the ground floor of the multistorey building at 1, Tiljala Lane. The building towers over the single-storeyed, tin-roof structures that dot the area.

On one side of the dirty compound is a cattle shed, on the other a small room where men and women appear busy stitching leather bags.

Not many here are well-off, but the ground-floor flat of Asif Reza Khan tells a different story. The carpet looks new, the sofa sets inviting. The colour TV, the refrigerator, the upholstery, all speak of affluence.

Behind the flat, there is an enclosed space with a shutter that acts as a garage. Here, Zahid and Sadaqat had parked their blue Maruti and a motorbike.

Zahid died after being injured in the Hazaribagh encounter after “confessing” that he had fired on the policemen guarding the American Center on January 22. Sadaqat, police claim, was the rider of the motorcycle that was used for the attack.

They stayed in this house on January 22 and took a taxi to Howrah station the next morning.

According to officer-in-charge of Tiljala police station, Subir Chatterjee, Dilip Singh had built the flats about two years ago.

Singh knew Jamaluddin Nasir — who was arrested today from Calcutta in connection with the attack on the American Center — for the last three years. They had met through “common friends” in the Tiljala underworld. “Nasir had introduced Singh to Asif Reza Khan,” Chatterjee said.

It transpired during investigations that Khan had bought the apartment through Miaz Hussain, a go-between, in December 2000.

“Miaz Hussain was just a go-between. Asif Reza Khan had paid Rs 2.86 lakh for the flat but had mentioned Hussain in the documents,” a senior officer of the detective department said.

Singh has an office in the opposite flat.

According to investigations, Asif and his brother, Amir Reza Khan, had partly financed the construction.

“Asif’s apartment was built as a perfect hideout,” Chatterjee added.

Neighbours were stunned after the police raid. Most of them were tight-lipped, but 28-year-old Salma, who lives in a one-room flat next to Asif’s apartment, said: “They (Zahid and Sadaqat) were strange. Both used to go out at 10 in the morning and return late in the evening,” she said, adding that neither Zahid nor Sadaqat interacted with the neighbours and residents. It was Nasir and Singh who took care of their daily needs.

   
 

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