Temple turns terror war zone
PF rate cut in new swipe at salaried
Poet PM points fingers inwards
Tragedy in actor’s pool
Calcutta Weather

Srinagar, March 30: 
The Raghunath temple in a bustling bazaar in the heart of Jammu was the scene of a bloody encounter this morning when militants struck, killing eight people.

Security forces posted at the 150-year-old shrine retaliated and killed two militants but not before one of them rushed inside the temple complex, his gun blazing.

The attack was the most lethal in the run-up to the strike-prone summer months when militants find it easier to sneak in from across the border.

An obscure Pakistan-based militant outfit, the Islamic Front, has claimed responsibility, prompting chief minister Farooq Abdullah, who visited the temple later, to call for international sanctions on Pakistan.

The chief minister’s son and Union minister, Omar Abdullah, appealed for peace and said the attack was an attempt to whip up communal frenzy. State police, however, said the target of the militants appeared to be the security forces deployed at the temple, not the shrine.

Divisional commissioner Anil Goswami and Jammu range police chief P.L. Gupta said the fidayeen militants attacked the temple guards at 10.20 am and shot dead two members of the paramilitary Special Services Bureau.

“The militants also resorted to indiscriminate firing on civilians, killing several, including a woman,” an official said. The woman was identified as Ratna Sharma from Gwalior. PTI reported that four worshippers were killed inside the temple. The condition of six of the 15 injured is said to be critical.

Police sources said the militants drove into Jammu’s Raghunath chowk bazaar and started spraying bullets. One militant was shot dead outside the temple while the other entered the temple complex.

The militant, who was firing from his gun, was blown apart in an explosion. “The grenades he was carrying exploded, killing him on the spot inside the temple during the exchange,” said a police source. It was not clear whether a bullet from the security forces ignited the blast or the militant activated one of the grenades.

The attack triggered a wave of condemnation. Jammu and Kashmir Freedom Party president Shabir Ahmad Shah termed the attack a “painful act”. The VHP and the Shiv Sena have called a Jammu bandh tomorrow.


New Delhi, March 30: 
The Centre today delivered another blow to the salaried class when it reduced the rate of interest on special deposit schemes and the general provident fund by another 50 basis points to 9 per cent from 9.5 per cent.

The new rate of interest comes into effect from Monday, April 1.

In April last year, the government had reduced interest rates on provident fund and other deposits by 1.5 percentage points from 11 per cent to 9.5 per cent.

The second provident fund rate cut within a space of 12 months is worrisome for salaried persons who are running out of investment options as the interest rates on a variety of instruments and deposits continue to tumble.

The fresh rate-signalling measure comes just weeks before the Reserve Bank announces its slack season credit policy where it is widely expected to cut the bank rate. Last October, the bank rate was cut to 6.5 from 7 per cent

In his budget presented just a month ago, finance minister Yashwant Sinha slashed the administered interest rates on small savings schemes, postal savings schemes, National Savings Certificates, National Savings Scheme and the public provident fund by 50 basis points to 9 per cent.

He said the rates were being pruned because these would now “be benchmarked to the average annual yields of government securities of equivalent maturities in the secondary market”.

But the government provided some relief to its employees, cutting by 50 basis points the interest rates on advances and loans for buying and building a house, purchase of vehicles, bicycles and computers. Finance ministry sources said the actual interest rate on these loans would vary depending on the basic salary and the loan amount.

Both Sinha and the RBI have been pushing for a softer interest rate regime, which is a worldwide trend and becomes warranted because the annual rate of inflation has dipped below the 2 per cent mark.


New Delhi, March 30: 
Mixing poetry with politics, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said today his government was responsible to “some extent” for the BJP’s rout in the Assembly as well as in the Delhi civic elections and called on the party to “introspect”.

The admission amounted to an endorsement of a view held by Delhi BJP leaders that the Union budget was a big factor in the poll debacle. In their analysis of the results, the Delhi brass had picked on Yashwant Sinha’s decisions to hike LPG and kerosene prices, scale down subsidies and reduce tax relief to the salaried class.

“To some extent, the Centre is also responsible for the recent outcome of the Assembly elections in four states as well as local body polls in Delhi,” Vajpayee told reporters while holidaying in Nainital. “I think there is need for introspection and analysis of these results”.

Party sources interpreted the observation as a “clear-cut” signal to the finance minister to reconsider all those announcements seen as “politically counter-productive”.

Though the government had announced a Rs 20 rollback in the LPG price days before the polls, Delhi BJP leaders were unhappy with the 50 per cent cut and demanded restoration of the original cost. But Sinha has so far stuck to his guns and made it clear he would not repeal his policies, however “unpopular” they might be.

A BJP office-bearer, however, said that “going by the feedback from the ground, it looks like we will not be able to take tough decisions”. The BJP leader said Sinha should have “packaged and hardsold” his budget more like a “politician and less like a former bureaucrat”.

The Prime Minister listed the reasons behind the defeat in Punjab and Uttaranchal but did not comment on Uttar Pradesh.

On the humiliating drubbing in the Delhi municipal elections, Vajpayee said though there were apprehensions, “we did not expect that the results would be so bad for the party”.

A poem titled I do not sing a song, which the Prime Minister recited for the press, reflected his pensive mood and referred to a “town of glass (that) lay broken”.


London, March 30: 
The London home of top Asian actor Art Malik was being searched for drugs today by police with sniffer dogs after his daughter’s boyfriend was found drowned in the family’s swimming pool following celebrations to mark her 21st birthday.

The body of Daniel Williams, the 23-year-old boyfriend of Malik’s daughter, Jessica, was discovered just after 7 am at the actor’s £1-million home in Cranes Park, south-west London. The couple had been going out together for seven months.

Williams, who had completed his training to be a London fireman only a fortnight ago and was obviously fit, was rushed to a local hospital by partygoers and members of Malik’s family who tried initially to resuscitate him. But Williams was declared dead at 8 am.

Malik has long been seen as an important actor on the Asian scene in Britain. He made his name as the British-educated Indian, Hari Kumar, in Granada Television’s adaptation of Paul Scott’s novel The Jewel in the Crown, which is generally regarded as among the finest examples of British TV drama.

However, he had not lived up to the promise he showed 20 years ago.

Malik, 49, starred in David Lean’s A Passage to India, the James Bond film, The Living Daylights, and also played an Arab terrorist in True Lies opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger.

He was born Athar al-Haque Malik in Bahawalpur, Pakistan. He moved to London aged three when his father began work at Moorfields Eye Hospital. He won a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he met his wife, Gina Rowe. The couple has two daughters. His marriage temporarily broke up in 1985 and he faced bankruptcy in 1993.

He was only saved from his vast debts by his part in the film True Lies. His wife was fined £350 for growing cannabis in her attic in 1996, which she claimed was to combat her loneliness and depression when her husband was away filming.

The death of his daughter’s boyfriend appears to be a tragic accident, although police have confirmed that their searches at Malik’s home have turned up a small quantity of cannabis.

The celebrations for Jessica’s 21st birthday had started with a party for 100 guests at the Mitre Hotel, 15 minutes’ drive from the three-storeyed Malik residence. Malik had hired a room for his guests who consumed £1,500-worth of alcohol and danced at the disco but had been considered by staff to be relatively restrained. At midnight, about 25 guests returned to the house to continue the festivities.

Today, the house and the swimming pool remained cordoned off by police.

Malik, his family and other guests are being interviewed by police.

A post-mortem examination was being carried out at Kingston mortuary to establish the cause of death. Detective Inspector David Way said: “We are investigating the circumstances surrounding this unexplained death.

The circumstances surrounding his death are not clear at this stage. However, the victim was found unconscious in the early hours. What was supposed to be a celebration ended in tragedy.”

Malik emerged from the house at one stage to read out a prepared statement for the TV cameras. He said: “We wish to express our deepest sympathy to Dan’s family. We can only imagine what they are going through at the moment and our thoughts are with them.”

He added: “Dan was a very special person and we very much considered him part of the family. He had been Jessica’s boyfriend for seven months and they were very happy together. Yesterday, he gave her a beautiful bracelet to mark her birthday — a gift she will now always cherish. She is clearly upset and distressed by what has happened.”

Describing the events of the previous 24 hours, Malik said: “Yesterday was a special day as we celebrated Jessica’s 21st birthday. We organised a special celebration at a local hotel and everyone had a wonderful time. Jessica and a few of her friends came back to the house and some went swimming. At some point in the early hours of this morning, those who were in the water decided to leave, but Dan stayed in. This morning his body was discovered in the pool.”

Williams’ family issued a statement last night saying that his death had left them “completely devastated. Daniel recently qualified as a firefighter and we were all very proud of his dedication and achievement. Daniel loved life and was loved so much by lots of people. We can never fill the gap we sare left with.”




Maximum: 34.3°C (-1),
Minimum: 24.2°C (+1)



Relative humidity

Maximum: 93%,
Minimum: 49%

Sunrise: 5.34 am

Sunset: 5.47 pm


Partly cloudy sky with possibility of light rain accompanied by thunder in some parts towards the afternoon or evening. Maximum and minimum temperatures likely to be around 35°C and 24°C, respectively

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