Free run before and after strike
BJP shelves Ram till 2004
Munich greeting, not meeting
Money murmurs refuse to go away
Gandhi software ad sparks UK protests
Cong mud on Mulayam
Modi files papers for Sangh stronghold
Punjab bus blast loads poll gun
Divine boost to economic plank
Calcutta Weather

 
 
FREE RUN BEFORE AND AFTER STRIKE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 31: 
The men who struck terror outside the American Center — Mohammad Idris, alias Zahid, and Sadaqat — left for Hazaribagh separately after the attack to avoid detection.

Investigators said Sadaqat, who rode the motorbike during the attack, left the city on January 22, the day of the strike, but they have no clue about how he reached Hazaribagh. The toll in the attack rose to five today with another policeman succumbing to injuries.

“We have interrogated several associates and local contacts of the assailants and found out that Idris had left the Tiljala apartment, where they had taken shelter, for Park Circus railway station on the morning of January 23,’’ said Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner, detective department.

Accompanied by Jamaluddin Nasir, the local contact who arranged their stay, Idris walked to Park Circus station where he boarded a train to Sealdah. “He took a taxi from Sealdah to Howrah station,’’ Mitra said. “We have found a train ticket from Park Circus to Sealdah in Idris’ pocket.”

At Howrah station, Idris bought a ticket to Gaya by the 1159 Up Chambal Express. “But he got off at Koderma, where his accomplices were waiting in a white jeep (BR21A 4020),’’ Mitra said. The police seized the jeep and brought it to the city this evening.

Reconstructing the sequence of events, Mitra said Idris and Sadaqat arrived in the city on January 16 and headed straight for the Tiljala apartment. On January 18, Idris, Sadaqat, Nasir and two youths, who the police are unwilling to identify, went around the city in the blue Maruti seized from the Tiljala apartment yesterday. “The men had come with the brief to attack policemen in front of American installations. But the order was to plan the strike at the spot,’’ an investigator said.

On January 18 and 19, they went around Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Ho Chi Minh Sarani, Park Street, Theatre Road, A.J.C. Bose Road and surrounding areas. “They also shopped at Fancy Market in Kidderpore. We have evidence that they bought three cellular handsets and clothes,’’ Mitra said. The attackers picked the American Center for the strike because “the other American installation is heavily barricaded’’.

On January 20 and 21, they circled the American Center several times to check the level of preparedness of the policemen posted outside. “There are documents to indicate that the attackers reviewed their plan on January 21 evening and decided to strike at dawn when roads would be empty and the policemen could be caught napping after night duty,’’ an official said.

The message was conveyed to alleged mastermind Aftab Ansari by e-mail from an adjoining cybercafe. The duo returned to the Tiljala apartment after the attack. While Sadaqat left the city immediately, Idris stayed behind. “We were almost blank about Sadaqat. After intense interrogation, Nasir claimed to have met Sadaqat when he arrived in the city last year,” an investigator said.

Sadaqat could be hiding in Bihar, Mitra added. “The group had bought and hired houses in the city and in Bihar. Nasir said he had gone to Hazaribagh in January with his wife and had stayed there and in Koderma and Kishenganj for about 10 days,” an officer said.

The Bihar government has requested Calcutta police to send Nasir to Nalanda so that his associates can be rounded up.

A handcuffed Nasir was taken back to the Tiljala apartment today. Mitra and three officers from Delhi police’s crime branch accompanied him in a convoy of four jeeps. “We took a close look around the apartment. Nasir was questioned about other operatives of Ansari in Calcutta,” an officer said.

Nalanda SP Amit Lodha said the police have detained N.N. Prasad, a former passport officer, in connection with the passport issued to Ansari.

   

 
 
BJP SHELVES RAM TILL 2004 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 31: 
Thirteen years after it yoked itself to the Ramjanmabhoomi movement, the BJP today closed the Ayodhya chapter — at least till the Vajpayee government’s term ends in 2004.

The party also warned the VHP, which has set March 12 as the deadline for beginning construction of the temple, of “legal consequences” if it did not obey the court’s verdict.

BJP president K. Jana Krishnamurthi said the party is no longer bound by the Palampur resolution passed at a national executive in June 1989, when it officially associated itself with the Ram temple movement for the first time.

The VHP had launched the agitation in 1985, but the BJP joined it four years later once it became aware of its enormous emotive potential.

“Whatever might have been the stand of the BJP on earlier occasions, the party is now bound by the NDA agenda and it is left with no choice but to respect the court’s verdict or a negotiated settlement,” he said.

The BJP’s tough stand — dictated primarily by the expediency of keeping a coalition government together — appeared to have the desired effect on the VHP, which had recently toughened its stand on the issue.

The Sangh outfit’s chief, Ashok Singhal, said they would continue talking to the Vajpayee government till March 12 — the deadline set by the sants for finding a “solution” to the dispute. Two days ago, VHP general secretary Praveen Togadia had ruled out any further dialogue.

Singhal today said Togadia had made the statement without the knowledge and consent of the organisation. In a further indication of a softening of the VHP’s stance, Singhal said he understood the Prime Minister’s “compulsions”.

“Atalji has his own compulsions because he heads a coalition. He could not have done better than this with all these compulsions,” he said.

Krishnamurthi said the Palampur resolution was adopted in the “context of the situation existing then”.

“Thereafter many developments have taken place. On December 6, 1992, the dilapidated structure that went by the name of the Babri Masjid fell down and the matter is pending before a commission.... As a responsible government, the NDA is bound by the Constitution, rule of law, and its own NDA agenda,” he stressed.

But he kept options open for the future. Asked if the BJP would resurrect the issue after 2004, he said: “Whether it will come back depends on whether we can persuade our NDA allies to accept our viewpoint or whether they persuade us not to stick to it. I can’t say anything right now.”

   

 
 
MUNICH GREETING, NOT MEETING 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 31: 
Brajesh Mishra and Abdus Sattar have known each other for long — the current Pakistan foreign minister was posted in Delhi as high commissioner twice.

When they come face to face in Munich this week, they cannot but exchange greetings. It is highly unlikely though that they will sit across the table and try to build bridges leading to de-escalation on the border.

Mishra, the national security adviser, is going to Munich to attend a conference on security policy with focus on fighting terrorism starting tomorrow. Pakistan, which has never in the past been invited to the conference, has found a place this time by virtue of joining the international coalition against terrorism.

Islamabad has been eager to reopen talks with the immediate objective of unwinding the troop build-up on the border, but Delhi insists that resumption of dialogue is not possible until General Pervez Musharraf stops cross-border terrorism and hands over the 20 offenders listed for crimes committed in India.

Pakistan foreign office spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan confirmed Sattar’s participation in the conference and reaffirmed Pakistan’s readiness to talk. But he was not certain if a meeting would take place.

“We would rather that things were discussed across the table seriously,” Khan said. “If there is a possibility, there will be no lack of enthusiasm from our side.”

The Germans, hosting the conference, are trying to play matchmaker, but signals going out of Delhi suggest a poor chance of success. On his way to Munich, Mishra is expected to meet German foreign minister Joschka Fischer at Frankfurt airport tomorrow, indicating the persisting urgency on the part of the western powers led by the US to arrange a South Asian truce.

Mishra was requested to stop by in Berlin for a meeting, but opted out citing lack of time.

On Tuesday, Pakistan made an offer to start talks on phased withdrawal of troops from the border. India has rejected the overture. Defence minister George Fernandes said that though there has been some decrease in infiltration from Pakistan, it is not significant enough to warrant a rethink on India’s position.

Islamabad “should hand over the 20 terrorists and criminals demanded by India immediately if it is serious about fighting terrorism,” he said.

“Pakistan should behave in a serious manner,” Fernandes added in reference to reports that an over half-century-old case against home minister L.K. Advani in Karachi had been dug up to indicate that Islamabad would demand his handing over.

“It is a joke,” the defence minister added.

   

 
 
MONEY MURMURS REFUSE TO GO AWAY 
 
 
FROM SUNANDO SARKAR AND ALAMGIR HOSSAIN
 
Murshidabad, Jan. 31: 
It is the largest madarsa in Beldanga, the madarsa belt of Bengal’s madarsa district, Murshidabad. It has around 250 residential students, none of whom needs to pay any monthly or annual fee. It maintains, besides the students, a large three-storeyed, L-shaped building in an area where three-storeyed buildings are talked about, not built. It has finalised plans to buy a 54-cottah mango orchard. Local people estimate the cost of the land at more than Rs 35 lakh.

Source of income, according to those who run the institution: donations from the “poor and devout”.

Source of income, according to the administration, if the expenses are kept in mind: “unknown”. In troubled times, the word “unknown” almost always point westwards, more specifically, West Asia-wards.

Not every madarsa in Murshidabad is as rich as the Madarsa Jalilia Islamia Dar-ul-Huda. Some, like the Jamia Anwar-ul-Ulum in Dhuliyan, are poor and show it. But, with whispers about “big Gulf money” becoming officialese in these troubled times when suspected ISI agents are fished out of Murshidabad’s mosques and madarsas with amazing frequency, the district’s centres of Islamic study are under the scanner as never before.

“‘Check our accounts.’ This is what we tell the intelligence officials whose visits have grown more regular,” says secretary of Al-Mahadus-Salafi Educational Complex Md Nayeemuddin. The madarsa, the only one in the district having a separate computer section for its students, is somewhere near the top when it comes to the list of suspected Gulf-funded madarsas.

“Yes, we have received money from the Islamic Development Bank,” says Nayeemuddin. “The grant was routed through the government of India,” he explains. “We have now grown used to keeping our documents ready for intelligence officials,” he says. The documents, however, have not slowed down the visits, he adds ruefully.

The very economics of running a madarsa — illegible to intelligence officials who most often are not from the minority community — adds to the “problem”, says Surulia’s Madarsa Dar-ul-Ulum head maulana Mufti Abdul Quddus.

The madarsa with 300 students and 20 teachers needs a quintal of rice everyday. Muslims of 65 neighbouring villages — the madarsa’s hinterland — account for most of that. “Ashur,” the maulana explains, “makes it compulsory for every Muslim to give over 2.5 per cent of his produce from the land to nearby religious institutions if he produces more than 40 maunds of crop every year.”

Then there is the fetra, which requires Muslims to pay anything between Rs 15 and Rs 22 every day of the Ramzan month, and the zaqat that is 2.5 per cent of a Muslim’s cash and movable property and has to be donated by every believer every year, he adds. “Add that up and you will understand how we can afford annual expenses of about Rs 10 lakh,” says the maulana.

Officials, however, say the balance sheet does not really tally for most of Murshidabad’s madarsas. “Some do really pull through somehow,” a senior intelligence official said. “But you can distinguish between the madarsas having legal and illegal sources of funding,” he claimed. “The strain of having to pull through hundreds of students and teachers and retainers without any unknown source of income has to show,” he said.

According to information the administration has, much of the foreign money coming into madarsas and mosques is routed through the hawala trade. Another source of funding, according to the administration, is the flourishing trans-border smuggling in cattle-hide.

According to police estimates, every truck that goes illegally to Bangladesh carries hide worth more than Rs 5 lakh. “If the 2.5-per cent zaqat theory is true, just calculate the amount of money that goes into the madarsas and mosques if even 100 trucks cross over every day,” the official explained.

Besides, there’s “incontrovertible” proof in the form of the sprouting madarsas and mosques, say officials. Murshidabad has at least 10 times the official madarsa figure of 70; and the official figure of 428 mosques in the district is even farther off the mark.

“If madarsas and mosques are really unprofitable, as almost every other madarsa managing committee tells us, why at least one of either keeps coming up almost weekly?” a senior home department official posted in Murshidabad asked. A sound, logical explanation would stop the visits and interrogations immediately, he promised.

   

 
 
GANDHI SOFTWARE AD SPARKS UK PROTESTS 
 
 
FROM AMIT ROY
 
London, Jan. 31: 
Yesterday, on the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, many Indians in Britain expressed dismay that a British software company was using a photograph of the Father of the Nation to promote its products in a series of national newspaper advertisements.

“He changed the world,” runs the copy. “Our software will transform your business.”

The ad has given widespread offence even though Sage claims it obtained prior written permission for use of the photograph and the text from Tushar Gandhi of the Gandhi Foundation.

The mood among Indians in Britain was summed up by Jacob Abraham, general secretary of the Indian YMCA, a students’ hostel in Fitzroy Square, London. “Gandhi himself would not have liked the idea,” he speculated, adding, “nor will the nation”.

Abraham admitted the hostel used Sage software “for our accounting”. The hostel has had a Mahatma Gandhi Hall for nearly 40 years, he said. “We have a big portrait of the Mahatma which is garlanded every year on January 30.”

“The idea of using him for commercial purposes is just not acceptable,” he went on. “I was very surprised when I saw the ad. He is held in great respect as the Father of the Nation.”

It may be that Indians in Britain are, in some ways, more sensitive and patriotic than their brothers and sisters back home in the Mother Country.

From time to time, there is controversy when western companies appropriate foreign cultural icons and use, say, images of Indian Gods, especially Krishna, to sell everything from shoes to lavatory seats. Though Gandhi is certainly not divine, Richard Attenborough’s Oscar winning film informed a new generation of overseas Indians of their proud heritage.

Shailesh Solanki, executive editor of Garavi Gujarat, a London-based Gujarati weekly, recalled that the confectionery firm Cadbury’s had once been forced to apologise after running an ad for a chocolate which said: “Have another handy, Gandhi.”

Like many Indians, Solanki founded the new Gandhi ad insulting. Solanki’s father, Ramniklal, the paper’s editor-in-chief, was yesterday in Gujarat in the small town of Navsari, near Surat. “The papers here have photographs of Mahatma Gandhi in which people renew their pledge to follow his teachings,” he said. “In no circumstances should his name be exploited for commercial purposes.”

Sage spokeswoman Suzy Goulding acknowledged the company had received “some feedback”.

She said in a statement: “We obtained permission from the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation in India regarding use of Gandhi’s image in this advertisement.”

“Sage’s latest advertising campaign features a number of inspirational figures from world history, who are generally accepted to have made an impact on the world in which we live. This does not imply that we are endorsing any political or ideological beliefs that they may have held. Nor by associating Sage with these figures are we intending to be disrespectful,” the statement said.

“The theme of this campaign is transformation. Sage is not claiming that our products will change the world,” it added.

There was no promise to withdraw the ad.

“The next execution of the campaign will feature other inspirational figures. This is not to say that we may not use the Gandhi image in the future as we still feel it is a valid image for the campaign. However, we will continue to monitor public reaction carefully.”

It is significant that today no western company dares touch anything to do with Islam.

   

 
 
CONG MUD ON MULAYAM 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Lucknow, Jan. 31: 
The Congress today called Mulayam Singh Yadav a “political terrorist” and said it was time to expose those “feeding on the insecurities of Muslims”.

The party also set aside rumours of an alliance “of any kind” with Mulayam’s Samajwadi Party.

Senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid said Mulayam was “instilling fear in the minds of Muslims and fooling them’’ to exploit them politically. “In a way, the Samajwadi is terrorising Muslims,’’ he said.

Admitting that the minority community was “angry’’ with the Congress after the demolition of the Babri masjid, Khurshid said: “But it is the right time for the Muslims to return to the Congress. We should not be weak-kneed in face of adverse situations facing us. We will have to accept the challenges before us and try to remedy things.’’

Khurshid said there was “no chance’’ of an alliance with the Samajwadi even if the latter emerged as the single largest party after the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh. “Why should we support a party which facilitated the return of the BJP to power in the state and hijacked the mandate meant for Sonia Gandhi?’’ Khurshid asked.

The Congress leader said the party made a mistake by helping the Samajwadi to rule in Uttar Pradesh and making Mulayam the defence minister. “The Congress still regrets those terrible mistakes.”

Khurshid added that it was important to target the Samajwadi while attacking the BJP as “Mulayam Singh supported some RSS men in the past and taken in members of the BJP for this Assembly election. It also helped Sakshi Maharaj to become an MP in the Rajya Sabha.’’

Asked on Amitabh Bachchan becoming a factor in the heartland elections, Khurshid said the Congress did not believe in making a mockery of politics in Uttar Pradesh. “Politics here is about hunger and poverty, not about singing and dancing to fetch votes.”

On his return from a tour of Mirzapur where the Lok Sabha byelection will be held following Samajwadi MP Phoolan Devi’s death, Khurshid said the former bandit was a big issue in the constituency. “Mulayam let down Phoolan after exploiting her politically,’’ he said. “The Samajwadi dumped her by denying a ticket to Phoolan’s sister, Munni Devi.’’

Munni Devi is fighting the elections on a ticket of Kalyan Singh’s Rashtriya Krantikari Party.

   

 
 
MODI FILES PAPERS FOR SANGH STRONGHOLD 
 
 
FROM BASANT RAWAT
 
Ahmedabad, Jan. 31: 
Chief minister Narendra Modi filed his nomination today for the Rajkot-2 Assembly constituency, where the bypolls will be held on February 21.

Modi was advised by his astrologer to file his nomination papers at 12.39 pm. But the chief minister’s cavalcade reached the collectorate two hours behind schedule, delayed because of a meeting and other ceremonies.

Before filing his nomination, Modi garlanded the statues of Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and B.R. Ambedkar and offered prayers at three temples.

BJP workers, demoralised by the party’s defeat in district panchayat, civic and two byelections in the last two years, celebrated the day as Kesariya Divas (Saffron Day) by hoisting saffron flags on their residences.

Modi was accompanied on his jeep by former chief minister Keshubhai Patel and much-maligned former revenue and finance minister Vajubhai Vala, who vacated his seat to facilitate Modi’s entry into the Assembly.

Patel, who had raised objections to the manner in which he was asked to step down by the BJP central leadership to make way for Modi, pledged his support to ensure his successor wins with comfortable margin. Patel also said he would campaign for two other party candidates contesting from Vadodara and Mahuva in Surat district.

Rajkot has been a Sangh parivar stronghold for over two decades, except for the last civic election when the Congress wrested power from the BJP in both the civic body and well as the district panchayat.

But the party is still strong in Rajkot–2 where the BJP won 13 out of the 25 wards in the civic elections, even though the Congress emerged as the single largest party in the civic body.

Though the BJP considers Rajkot–2 a safe seat, the party is not taking any chances. It has decided to rope in some stars to campaign for the chief minister in Rajkot-2 which is also likely to witness a galaxy of BJP central leaders taking time off from the Uttar Pradesh elections to campaign for Modi.

Modi, who assumed office on October 7, 2001, must get elected to the Assembly within six months.

There was speculation in the Congress that Modi would dissolve the Assembly and go for mid-term elections. But the the chief minister decided to contest from Rajkot.

   

 
 
PUNJAB BUS BLAST LOADS POLL GUN 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Jalandhar, Jan. 31: 
Terrorism threatened to raise its ugly head again in Punjab with a bomb blast in a bus, killing two persons and injuring seven in Hoshiarpur district.

The cause of the explosion is still being investigated and forensic experts had been summoned to the spot. The blast occurred in a Punjab Roadways bus near Satnaur village in the district.

Senior police officials said the bodies of those killed were charred beyond recognition.

The injured have been hospitalised. The bus was on its way to Chandigarh.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blast. The Congress, however, was quick to call it a return of militancy and a sign of the Akali Dal losing power in the state.

Security has been beefed up in the state. Punjab Congress chief Amrinder Singh has been given Z-plus security cover.

Gurkunwal, daughter of slain chief minister Beant Singh, has also been given additional security.

Punjab witnessed a bloody phase of militancy for over a decade in the eighties.

However, the situation normalised in the early nineties. In fact, in the run-up to the Assembly polls, it was not even an issue.

The Akalis had initially promised to set up a commission to probe the cause of militancy but the Badal regime did nothing about it.

The Congress, too, avoided any reference to the proposed commission in its manifesto for the February 13 polls.

Senior leaders, however, said they would raise the issue if it is confirmed that today’s incident was a terrorist act.

Police began search operations at bus and railway stations minutes after the incident.

The security arrangements had otherwise been very lax in the state.

At the public meetings of Amrinder Singh and other senior Congress leaders, there were less than a dozen policemen.

   

 
 
DIVINE BOOST TO ECONOMIC PLANK 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
Patiala, Jan. 31: 
Congress chief ministerial candidate and strong contender for the top job in Punjab, Captain Amrinder Singh, kicked off his election campaign by seeking the blessings of Mahakali and hopping from one place of worship to another.

But in his speeches, the former Maharaja of Patiala did not mix religion with politics. Citing Chandrababu Naidu and Digvijay Singh as his role models, Singh promised to take the state ahead in bio-technology, information technology and human resources development on the lines of Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Arriving at the Kali temple at the start of his pre-poll pilgrimage, Amrinder pointed out that the temple held a special place for his family. His grandfather, Maharaja Bhoopinder Singh, had received a divine instruction to construct a Kali temple in Patiala. So he travelled to Calcutta to get “Kali mata”.

As the temple was packed with devotees in the evening, Amrinder did not have to canvass hard. His next destination was a Hanuman temple, followed by Gurdwara Dukhniwaran Sahib, Dargah Peer Baba Rodhe Shah, a Shiva temple and the Qila Mubarak Gurdwara.

Amrinder spent time at each place, offering prasad, chadar and chunris and seeking divine blessings.

Once outside the holy places, he sought the people’s mandate on economic issues. Even in street-corner meetings, his speeches revolved around WTO and how Punjab can regain its past glory in the new economic system. He managed to hold the attention of the audience by promising to bring back the days when Punjab was considered the state that was feeding the rest of the country. He did not mention the anti-terrorism Ordinance, militancy, Operation Bluestar, tension on the Indo-Pak border, Ayodhya or any other political issue.

Amrinder defended his thrust on economics, saying: “I know (the) Punjabi psyche. I know what people want. We Punjabis are more concerned about our economic needs.”

Mocking Akali chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s claim that the Congress had harmed “Punjabiat”, Amrinder said the debt trap and suicides by desperate farmers during the Badal regime had greatly hurt Sikh pride. “Have you ever wondered why US President Bill Clinton did not visit Punjab when he came to India? He went to Hyderabad and Bangalore because they are economic hubs,” he said.

Addressing the bar association, Amrinder said he would try to change the farmers’ mindset and urge them to try to benefit from the WTO regime. “Why do we keep growing soft wheat when hard wheat is consumed worldwide?” he asked.

At another meeting near a bus stand, he said Punjab grows so much potato but it rots in godowns because it is high on sugar and low on starch. “If we reverse it, there is no reason why MNCs like McDonald’s will not buy them instead of getting potatoes from far-off areas like New Zealand,” he said.

Instead of blaming the WTO accord, the Badal government should have approached the Union commerce ministry to impose heavy duties on Chinese products like bicyles, selling for as little as Rs 400, Amrinder added. “We can benefit from WTO if we continue research in agriculture and diversify our crops. But it is unfortunate that 76 per cent of the expenditure of Punjab Agriculture University goes for salaries and other overheads.”

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 24.7°C (-3)
Minimum: 13.7°C (-1)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative humidity

Maximum: 96%,
Minimum: 45%

Sunrise: 6.21 am

Sunset: 5.19 pm

Today

Mainly clear sky. Minimum temperature likely to be around 12°C
   
 

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