Editorial 1 / Steel frame
Editorial 2 / Wrong skills
The final compromise
Fifth Column / Many fingers in the local pie
Troublemakers in the new court
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / STEEL FRAME 
 
 
 
 
Tariff walls, which are mercantilist economic instruments, are often used in the 20th century to serve political ends. The high tariffs that have been imposed on steel imports into the United States of America are an illustration of this. In the US, the steel industry, a declining one for many decades, has been badly hit by the global downturn and the US recession. Nearly 30 steel companies in the US have shut down and over 20, 000 persons have lost their jobs. Moreover, US steel is the most expensive in the world and would not hold out against competition. The obvious answer to this is a complete overhauling and restructuring of the US steel industry. But such a step has an obvious political price tag which the US president, Mr George W. Bush, is not in a position to risk. Mr Bush has opted to sing to his constituency and to keep the steel lobby happy. The champion of free trade and globalization has decided to take the retrograde step of protecting the country’s steel industry by imposing high tariffs on steel imports into the US.

This decision is not without implications. It will not affect the Indian steel industry because the anti-dumping duties slapped on hot rolled coil products had already had an adverse impact on Indian steel exports to the US. In this fiscal year, till November, India’s exports to the US were worth only Rs 219 crore. But this has been compensated for by the opening up of new markets in China and southeast Asia, and Indian steel exports have registered an increase of 4.85 per cent between April 2001 and January 2002. But with high tariffs in the US, this new market will become subject to greater and stiffer competition. Competition in the remaining open markets will make international prices plummet. This is bound to affect Indian steel producers. At a different level, the US tariffs make irrelevant the talks in Paris aimed at reducing the glut of steel. The European Union’s agreement to cut production was predicated upon the US’s decision to keep its markets open. The glut is thus likely to continue. The US decision has ramifications beyond the world of steel. It could signal the beginning of a global trade war. This could abort a possible recovery of the world economy. The US position is riddled with contradictions. It has no economic justification. Its only rationale is protection of the domestic steel industry: a position that is completely out of tune in an era of free trade and a global economy governed by the World Trade Organization. Yet this did not stop the US trade representative, Mr Robert Zoellick, from describing the EU threat of retaliation as a “nuclear weapon” directed at the world trading system. What is even more ominous and worrying is the conclusion that suggests itself from the US’s decision: the US has opted to act unilaterally in politics as well as in economics.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / WRONG SKILLS 
 
 
 
 
Examinations are a necessary evil. But a look at how schools and students relate to them leads to more fundamental questions of education. Candidates for this year’s Indian Certificate for Secondary Education and Indian School Certificate examinations have expressed chagrin over some unexpected occurrences. Some of these were irregularities like confusing schedules and bewildering errors in the papers. Such mistakes and mismanagement are inexcusable. These have been rightly brought to the council’s notice, and should not be repeated. But when, in the same breath, students and teachers protest against questions repeated from last year’s paper, then something is wrong with their general attitude to learning. The logic behind the protest is simple. In their preparation for the tests, students generally “leave out” — and are made to leave out by their teachers — the topics which have already been “covered” in the previous year’s question papers. Teachers and students, and no doubt private tutors as well, train themselves to become experts at detecting “trends”. And the teaching and revisions are structured accordingly. This is clever, but demoralizing. It goes against every acceptable notion of the love of learning, a phrase that sounds out of place in the exceedingly worldly business of public examinations.

It is still understandable that the students would find means of having to work a little less for examinations. But it is unfortunate when such strategies are publicly endorsed by schools as well. Some of Calcutta’s most elite schools have done this, and more, by appealing to the board for leniency in marking the papers in which questions have been repeated. The justification of such an appeal by the principal of one of these schools shows her awareness of how unacceptable such selective methods of study could be. She declares that her school does not encourage students to omit the previous year’s topics; but nevertheless, she does feel that repeating questions puts examinees at an unfair disadvantage. This makes the examinations more a test of cleverness and memory than of the ability to think and express oneself in an original manner on a particular topic. It is significant that the repeated questions which flummoxed the students were part of the history paper. The ability to strike the right balance between memorizing facts and being able to interpret human events is the basic requirement for a subject like history. Officially endorsing such unscrupulous methods of study, and expecting the boards to fall in line with them, are the surest ways of destroying such critical skills and the principles on which they ought to be founded.

   

 
 
THE FINAL COMPROMISE 
 
 
BY SHAM LAL
 
 
Why did the Ram temple issue again become so explosive as to make the country incur vast expense of money and spirit to defuse it? The obvious answer to the question is that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, smarting at having been left out in the cold, was keen to take over the centre-stage to play to the hilt its role as the main defender of Hindutva. It did manage to hog the headlines for two weeks and keep both the government and the country on tenterhooks.

It was largely the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government’s fault that things came so dangerously near to re-enacting the 1992 mayhem in another form. The crisis could have been easily averted if it had gone to the Supreme Court much earlier to secure an unambiguous interpretation of its interim order to maintain the status quo with regard to both the disputed land and the area acquired by it. But it felt inhibited by the fear of alienating a member of the sangh parivar and making it lose face.

For this dithering it had to pay through its nose. Only after kar sevaks started pouring into Ayodhya, feelings over the construction of the temple were worked up to a new level of frenzy, and the Gujarat riots brought home to the Centre the gravity of the developing crisis, did it start taking the necessary action to prevent the situation from getting out of control. All the big shots in the government kept telephone lines busy for long hours negotiating with the main players in the temple drama. The whole country kept its fingers crossed until the last moment. It was only when the shila daan ritual on March 15 passed off peacefully was it able to breathe freely.

The final compromise, though it managed to keep the peace, was marred by a certain deviousness. At one time, the man who was to offer the shila threatened to commit suicide and the prime minister, in sheer fright, agreed to send an emissary from his office to accept the sacred stone. The gesture, later interpreted by the VHP as a token of the government’s approval of the temple project, invited much criticism from some of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s own allies in the ruling coalition. A similar disingenuity was on display when the attorney-general, though arguing on behalf of the government, was made to project the more controversial parts of his statement in the court reflecting the VHP’s stand, as his personal interpretation of the court’s earlier order.

In any case, what the government has won so far is no more than a temporary respite. The dispute over the site of the temple has yet to be resolved peacefully and, judging from some statements by VHP leaders, it is far from certain yet whether the more uncompromising proponents of Hindutva would abide by the court’s final verdict if it goes against them. The conduct of the VHP and Bajrang Dal hooligans, who ransacked the Orissa assembly the other day, raises serious doubts about the plans of these maverick organizations.

That these two and other front organizations of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have driven the prime minister to the point of venting his spleen against them and warning them that enough is enough, exposes the intensity of the continuing war of nerves between different members of the sangh parivar. The pertinent question is whether the leaders of the more militant organizations could have carried their vendetta against the BJP-led government to this point without a nod of approval from the sarsanghchalak.

There is indeed some reason to believe that the ideological mentor of the parivar, though not so dumb as not to be aware of the coalition government’s compulsions, is not too happy at the way the BJP has blurred its identity and, in some ways, even erased it. The more aggressive attitude of the VHP, the Bajrang Dal and the Swadeshi Jagran Manch may be his way of changing the balance of power within the sangh parivar, which had pronouncedly tilted in favour of the BJP.

But can the RSS chief force the BJP to insist more forcefully on implementing its agenda without cutting short the coalition government’s career? If he is far more discreet in criticizing the prime minister than the VHP and others, it is because he is not quite prepared yet to take this risk. Judging from the current balance of political power in the country, and the continued process of fragmentation, the chances of one party getting a majority in Parliament on its own are more remote than ever. And with the tide of opinion turning against the BJP, even the sangh parivar’s best bet is to keep the coalition going as long as it can.

The BJP has been put on the defensive by its critics in the parivar because of the ground it has yielded to its opponents in one state after another, its most humiliating loss being in Uttar Pradesh where its presence in the new assembly has been reduced to a half of that in the old. This has given some hardliners in the sangh parivar a new stick with which to beat the party and blame the erosion of its base on its failure, as the dominant partner in the ruling coalition at the Centre, to push its own agenda hard enough.

Nothing could be more wrong-headed than this reasoning. The erosion of the BJP’s base is in fact largely a result of the continued fracturing of the national polity. Where the BJP government is not constrained by the compulsions of coalition politics and followed a more partisan policy, as in Gujarat, it has not only weakened its own position but also queered further the pitch for national integration. Its handling of the anti-Muslim mass rioting in the state, in the wake of the Godhra provocation, has only inflicted new wounds on the body politic which will take many years to heal.

The tragic irony marking the career of the sangh parivar lies precisely in the divorce it has brought about between means and ends. Though its main aim is supposed to be aiding the forces of national integration, its public rhetoric, priorities as well as actions are designed to deepen the divide between the two major communities, when the best beginning for reversing the ongoing process of fragmentation of public life into ever smaller splinters would be to build a new relationship of goodwill and mutual trust between them.

In a society like India’s where religion has deep roots, secularism means less a complete divorce between religion and politics than a political culture which pays equal heed to the rights and sensitivities of all groups, whatever their creed or sect. How far this accords with competitive democratic politics of the vile type now in vogue, which encourages groups to exploit inter-communal, inter-caste and inter-ethnic hatreds to create a multiplicity of small vote banks, is a question which needs to be probed in greater depth.

It is no accident that recent advances in science and technology have gone hand in hand with the eruption of irrational forces and the rise of fundamentalist creeds. If the one spells prosperity and new social security for a few countries, the other expresses in a perverse way the frustration of the victims of new inequalities and new hegemonic military and economic structures.

In the same way, two contrary dynamic processes are at work in a poor society like India’s. Whereas new communication and entertainment technologies are bringing people closer together, the politicization process is aggrandizing sectarian, caste and ethnic identities and conflicts. While the strengthening of the national market makes for greater cohesion, the widening of income disparities, thanks to both globalization and the spread of the market theology, makes for a deeper divide between the winners and the losers in the new economic game.

It is easier to blame the Constitution-makers for failing to see the troubles a system based on competition would have in store for future governments. Few students of political science or development economics at the time of independence understood either the populist pressures implicit in a democratic system based on adult franchise or the increased fragmentation of polity inherent in a society divided by innumerable barriers of religion, sect, region, language, class, caste and ethnicity. Few even took into account a demographic explosion on a scale no government in the past had ever to cope with.

Tragically, the new processes at work have confronted the country with the task of national integration in the midst of increasing fragmentation, putting the economy on a fast growth track in the face of crippling shortages of capital, and ensuring strong and stable governments at a time of fractured electoral verdicts. Disturbing the peace of the country in the name of religion in these daunting circumstances means not only an inexcusable trivialization of politics but also ending the very possibility of effective governance, rapid economic growth or distributive justice.

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / MANY FINGERS IN THE LOCAL PIE 
 
 
BY ANURADHA KUMAR
 
 
A month before the recently concluded panchayat polls in Orissa, the two parties that make up Orissa’s ruling combine, the Biju Janata Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party were locked in an almost surreal war of words. Eventually, the two parties agreed to go it alone, but the chief cause of their disagreement was one that had little bearing on local level polls. The chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, who was accused by Juel Oram, the BJP cabinet minister from the state, of not knowing Oriya, a necessary pre-requisite for contesting local level polls, was not even contesting these elections. But it was the Congress that had the last laugh, turning in a substantially improved performance in the 854 zilla parishad polls, which were contested on a party basis.

Conducted almost simultaneously to the four assembly elections held last month, Orissa’s local level polls spread over five days between February 19 to 25, were held to choose 87,539 ward members, 6,237 sarpanches, 6,227 panchayat samiti members besides the 854 members to the 30 zilla parishads.

Dismal performance

Compared to previous ones, these elections were marked by a qualitative change. The polls recorded an impressive turnout, even in areas of western Orissa where Naxal groups had called for a boycott. Electioneering was more intense than during previous polls, with leaders and party workers fanning out into villages and remote areas for canvassing. The larger number of village-level meetings was also a new feature. Most of the candidates, for the first time in the history of panchayat polls in Orissa, also distributed leaflets and put up posters.

Although the BJD topped the list winning 302 seats, the victory was dismal, for the Congress bagged an impressive 267 seats. The BJP managed only 179. The rest of the seats were shared by the independents (49) and other political parties (38). The Congress is in a position to form 10 zilla parishad councils, while the ruling BJD-BJP alliance, now that amity has been restored after the poor show, will form seven and four councils respectively.

For the BJD, the results were worrisome in other ways too. Across several districts, the BJD portrayed a house divided, helped by breakaway groups like the Nalini Sena formed by former BJD legislator, Nalini Kanta Mohanty, and the Orissa Gana Parishad, headed by the former minister, Narasingh Mishra, that put up as many as 256 candidates in several seats. In the end, these were able to make little impact.

Tribal troubles

Further, in areas of southwestern Orissa, the BJP and the BJD wrangling over seats clearly benefited the Congress. In Koraput, the ruling combine had already seen its popularity erode due to its failure to tackle distress paddy sales, hike in the prices of kerosene and fertilizers and so on. The polls in the Kashipur block of Rayagada district also fell through, after leaders of the Jhodia Pagaja community boycotted the elections demanding the reestablishment by the government of their tribal status, instead of as people belonging to other backward castes, which effectively stopped the benefits they had for long enjoyed. While the Congress recorded impressive wins across regions, the BJP registered an improved performance in northwestern and northern Orissa. The BJD prevailed in the southern Orissa districts of Cuttack, Kendrapara and Jajpur.

For the first time in these polls, an organization led by tribals, Dalit Samaj, has bagged a sizeable number of seats in the Raighar block of Nabarangpur district in the west. There have been three clashes in this region last year involving tribals, Bengali settlers and the police.

Land alienation is not the only cause for resentment. Tribals have increasingly felt that along with refugees, illegal immigrants have also come to stay, adding pressure on scarce land and resources. Besides, their anger is also over the scheduled caste status granted to the Bengali settlers and of the total absence of any kind of developmental programmes, for their own benefit. With even a little bit of tribal representation, some of the problems can be expected to be redressed.

   

 
 
TROUBLEMAKERS IN THE NEW COURT 
 
 
BY OINAM SUNIL
 
 
After nine months of president’s rule that witnessed one of the country’s most intense mass uprisings, Manipur today has a government to rule its people. But the basic question of “instability” continues to haunt Manipuris. Okram Ibobi Singh, a man no one dreamt would head this trouble-torn state, has now taken on the responsibility of tackling Manipur’s complex problems.

The Secular Progressive Front led by the Congress took over only on March 7. But the front is already facing a host of problems, each of which has the potential of toppling the government — severe cash crunch which makes it impossible for the state to even pay its employees, chronic insurgency problem, under-development and ever-rising unemployment.

The prime issue, however, is the state’s territorial integrity which continues to be threatened by the ongoing peace-talks between the rebel Naga outfit, the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) and the government of India. Manipuris feel threatened by each move the Centre and the NSCN(I-M) make to resolve the decades-old Naga insurgency.

A slight mistake by the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre in June 2001 over the extension of the NSCN(I-M) ceasefire beyond Nagaland had caused serious repercussions in Imphal, leading to the loss of lives in Manipur. The state assembly was burnt down by some 80,000 protestors on June 18, 2001, along with the state secretariat and many other government buildings. The NDA government at the Centre had to finally make a U-turn on the issue.

Since every Central government since the time of P.V. Narasimha Rao has been ambiguous about the matter, Manipuris are still suspicious of the Centre’s intentions. Ibobi Singh now faces the difficult task of handling Manipuris when the issue of the ceasefire extension comes up again on August 1 this year. The SPF’s main worry is: will the Centre again consider extending the NSCN(I-M) ceasefire to other parts of the Northeast?

Naga organizations in Manipur like the United Naga Council and the All Naga Association, Manipur, are however supporting the extension of the NSCN(I-M) ceasefire to Manipur. The UNC’s controversial Sonapati declaration, where all Naga candidates except for the former chief minister, Rishang Keishing, signed in order to promote the Naga cause on February 7, 2002 would now make the situation more complex for the new Congress-led government.

The Congress now has to take a clear stand on the issue. The Naga candidates who fought the just concluded assembly elections are signatories of the Sonapati declaration in which they pledged to support and raise the issue of ceasefire extension in the assembly. They had also agreed to resign from their position as members of the legislative assembly for the Naga cause as and when asked by the UNC.

Every Naga MLA knows what the UNC’s diktat means as links between the organization and the NSCN(I-M) are an open secret. Keishing lost his Bhungyar seat for the first time as he dared to challenge the UNC and the NSCN(I-M). So also Gangmumei Kamei of the Federal Party of Manipur, who was defeated for opposing the cease-fire extension last year. The Naga MLAs have to obey the UNC diktat, “even under duress”, if they do not wish to face the fate of Keishing and Kamei.

But resentment against the NSCN(I-M) and the UNC is growing among the Naga MLAs as many of them have won the election despite opposition from and interference by the Naga militants. If the resentment grows further, it could end the NSCN(I-M)’s hold over Naga political leaders as in neighbouring Nagaland.

The Congress has emerged as the single largest party in a hung assembly and teamed up with the Communist Party of India, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Manipur State Congress Party to form the coalition government. In spite of playing the “valley card” in this election, the Congress failed to make an impact in the 40 seats of the valley controlled by the majority community, the Meiteis. Its soft stand on the Naga issue has failed to convince the Meiteis. Of the 20 seats the Congress bagged, 10 were from the valley and 10 were hill seats dominated by tribals like the Nagas, Kukis, Paites and Hmars.

The territorial issue is important, but the problem has been worsened by the political situation. Corruption, defection and horse-trading have been rampant. And there is no guarantee that the newly elected representatives will shy away from the old habits. Hunger for power has made every politician mad about ministerial berths. Though the state governor, Ved Marwah, has asked Ibobi Singh to have a small ministry given the state’s acute financial crisis, the new chief minister has shown that he has no intention of following the advice. Every SPF MLA wants a place in the ministry. The politicians seem to have forgotten that Central rule was imposed on June 2, 2001 due to a political crisis arising out of a never-ending series of defections. That 42 legislators lost the elections is not a surprise if one looks at Manipur’s tradition . Also remember that legislators were virtually banished from the state during the violent ceasefire agitation. This time also, many heavyweights lost the electoral battle — former chief ministers like Keishing, W. Nipamacha Singh and Radhabinod Koijam and former deputy chief minister, L. Chandramani Singh, speaker Sapam Dhananjoy, Gangmumei Kamei, H. Bidur Singh, Thounaojam Bira Singh and H. Borababu Singh. Even while voting for change this time, the electorate did not favour any party, thus keeping the field wide open for further permutations and combinations.

Marwah has rightly said, “muscle and money power cannot influence Manipur’s voters”. The governor was indirectly referring to the results where the electorate chose to teach the political bigwigs a lesson. This is a clear sign of resentment against leaders who have failed to lead the state. “You either perform or face the music”, this seems to be the message the electorate has tried to convey to their newly elected leaders. But, public memory is short. The new leaders are bound to forget the lesson and indulge in usual politics of betrayal.

Many argue that the NSCN(I-M) ceasefire extension did not play a role in the voting pattern despite every political party making the issue its top electoral plank. Others, however, say that the electorate did not entrust the duty of protecting the state’s territorial integrity to one party alone, but to all parties that have made the issue number one in their election manifestos. Formed by anti-ceasefire activists, the Democratic People’s Party has failed to utilize the ceasefire issue for its electoral gains. Though the DPP managed to open its account with two seats, the electorate has clearly warned that the territorial integrity issue will be fought by the people of Manipur as a whole.

In the fractured mandate, as many as 10 parties figured in the final tally, giving smaller groups more room to bargain in the formation of the new government or in the future toppling game. The FPM followed the Congress with 13 seats while the remaining eight parties won single digits. The FPM has turned out to be the most unlucky party in the state’s history. Being number two in the scoreboard, it had the chance to head the government with the NDA desperately trying to stop the advancing Congress. But its president, Chandramani Singh, and vice-president, Gangmumei Kamei lost the electoral battle.

Besides politics and the emotive issue of territorial integrity, the state’s main hurdle is to prevent its economy from sinking further. As the state cannot survive economically without Central help, the SPF government has to find immediate cash to ease the situation. Ibobi Singh has to show his sincerity in bringing Central funds to the state.

As internal debt and loans from the Centre has already crossed Rs 1,000 crore mark, the new government cannot sit idle. The proposal of a one time waiver, put forward by Congress leaders here, cannot be mantra now as the Centre is unlikely to invest unless the state improves its revenue collection. The state’s exchequer is now empty and Ibobi Singh had to plead before the Centre to release funds to pay government employees. In a situation where development takes the backseat, any government is bound to become unpopular.

Be it an emotive issue like territorial integrity and ceasefire extension or the acute liquidity crunch, Manipur politicians continue to play around as they have done in the past. The hard economic reality of the country has affected this tiny state and the new regime has to pull up Manipur from sinking further. Otherwise, new problems could pile up. On the territorial integrity front, “emotional integrity” should precede any step. As the history of the world tells, unless the people are united, no one can guarantee a permanent boundary.

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Not among equals

Sir — Asians in Britain seem to be getting a raw deal, be they business tycoons or ordinary citizens. The latest slight against the community comes from no less than the royal family. Prince Charles, chief guest at the recent “Rich List” dinner, agreed to attend the function provided he was not photographed shaking hands with Lakshmi Mittal, Indian born steel tycoon, or any other “controversial” Asian businessman (“Prince won’t touch Midas Mittal”, March 20). That Asians have become the favourite whipping boys of Britain can be seen from the recent statements made by the home minister, David Blunkett. He claimed that Asians had to possess a minimum knowledge of English to get citizenship and had to stop importing marriage partners from India. These statements are both intrusive and offensive. Such incidents only drive home the point that Asians will always remain second-class citizens in Britain.

Yours faithfully,
Ratna Saha, Guwahati

Point, counter-point

Sir — With reference to the report, “The slip that let Ansari strike” (The Telegraph, March 10), I am to state as under:

One, it is totally incorrect to state that the Central Bureau of Investigation “slept” on any request of the West Bengal Criminal Investigation Department to take action in the Aftab Ansari matter. The CBI was constantly making all out efforts to secure the arrest/deportation of Aftab Ansari. The note received from the inspector general, CID West Bengal, contained some information about him which was also used. Besides this, the CBI had a lot of information which was duly communicated to the authorities concerned in time, much before his deportation.

Two, it is also to be noted here that it was the CBI which provided the first lead to the West Bengal police in the Parthapratim Roy Burman case. The lead provided by the CBI led to a major breakthrough in the case and the arrest of accused persons. Three, a team of the CBI and Mumbai police visited the United Arab Emirates in October 2001. The role of Aftab Ansari and the Parthapratim Roy Burman case was also discussed in detail with the authorities there. It was impressed upon them that Aftab Ansari forms part of the Indian crime syndicate operating from UAE and Pakistan and prompt action was required. The UAE authorities assured all cooperation in this regard.

Four, after the Calcutta shoot out, the CBI constantly pursued the Aftab Ansari matter with the UAE authorities directly and through the Indian diplomatic mission there. The painstaking efforts by the CBI and the Indian mission resulted in his deportation. Five, it is totally incorrect to state that request for a red-corner notice was sent to the Interpol headquarters after the Calcutta incident. The fact is that the matter was already with the Interpol headquarters and the notice was issued within record time due to continuous follow up by the Interpol wing of the CBI.

Yours faithfully,
S.M. Khan, deputy principal information officer, Central Bureau of Investigation, New Delhi

Saumitra Banerjee replies:

A few days before a team of CBI officials left for Dubai to fetch the American Center attack mastermind, Aftab Ansari, in February, the office of the director general of police, West Bengal, received an urgent message from the CBI. The Central investigating agency wanted a “dossier” on the Dubai don.

The CID, which had been investigating the Parthapratim Roy Burman case and had compiled several files on him, prepared some information sheets on Ansari and had them sent to the CBI, once again through the DGP’s office.

If the CBI had been “alive” to the workings of Ansari right from the kidnap case, then where was the need to send an SOS to the West Bengal government just before its officers left for Dubai? Surely, they should already have had enough information on the Dubai don and not started scrambling for details after the American Center had been attacked and Ansari taken the credit for it.

Were they caught unawares when the Federal Bureau of Investigation director, Robert Mueller, on a trip to Dubai, “impressed” upon the UAE authorities to deport Ansari and CBI officials had to suddenly rush there to bring him back?

Besides, much of the information provided to the CBI in February was contained in a three-page letter that the CID had sent to the CBI director, P.C. Sharma, as early as November 20, 2001. That could have provided the CBI with much of the information that they required — unless it was gathering dust, forgotten in some corner. As some CID officials had contended, the CBI had scoffed at the CID when it had informed the Central investigating agency of Ansari’s “jihadi connections”. Did the CBI suddenly wake up to it after the American Center attack when US officials entered the scene.

Also, the CBI is curiously silent about the vital “lead” that it claims to have provided the CID. There are no details appended and no hint of the nature of assistance that it has provided. What are we to assess then? CID officials are equally flummoxed. The question that they ask is: “How can they provide us a lead when they did not have a clue as to what was happening and were not even investigating the case?”

Sources indicated that the “lead” that the CBI is hinting at is in providing access to the Interpol and the investigating agency of another country. But, surely, that does not constitute a “lead” by any stretch of the imagination. As the only wing of the government that is entitled to deal with international police, it was merely fulfilling a statutory obligation.

As to the claim that the request for the red-corner notice was sent to the Interpol “much earlier”, we reproduce the conversation between The Telegraph and CBI director, P.C. Sharma, before the article was published:

The Telegraph: When was the request for a red-corner notice against Aftab Ansari made to the Interpol, before or after the American Center attack?

P.C. Sharma: We made the request after the American Center attack, but they responded in record time and it was issued within 24 hours.

So, why the confusion? Was Sharma kept in the dark by his own officers or are they unaware of when the request was made?

Letters to the editor should be sent to:

The Telegraph
6 Prafulla Sarkar Street
Calcutta 700 001
Email: [email protected]
Readers in the Northeast can write to:
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All letters [including those via email] should have the full name and full postal address of the sender
   
 

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