The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gag on cops, boot for boss

Lucknow, March 11: The Uttar Pradesh government today warned police against making a mockery of the Varanasi blasts investigation by rushing to the media with every confusing “lead” gained from every source.

The home department transferred district police chief Navneet Sikera for his media revelations and appointed a new superintendent, G.K. Goswami, who will now assist the special task force (STF) with the probe.

Before his transfer order arrived in the afternoon, Sikera had allowed the media to watch part of the interrogation of the two suspects arrested in Hardoi yesterday, and to take their photographs.

The police’s hunger for publicity had already led to TV channels beaming the duo’s pictures since last night, a circumstance that undermined the identification parade in Varanasi today.

“We aren’t sure whether the eyewitnesses were responding from their own memory or being influenced by what they had seen on TV,” an officer said.

The police didn’t reveal what the eyewitnesses had said. But leaks rained despite the government rap, with officers brimming with speculation about the arrested duo and even ready to talk about a new, “more serious lead”.

The last referred to some 300 phone calls made to Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh from a place between Varanasi and Azamgarh during the week before the blasts.

“Every overseas call would be followed by a domestic call to one of four mobile phones,” an officer said.

He added that these four mobiles belonged to four Kashmiri students of a local madarsa who, with a fifth student, had disappeared since the day of the blast.

As for the arrested duo, Sadiq and Ansar, the sources said though they had claimed to be from Muzaffarpur in Bihar, they spoke little Hindi. “We think they are Kashmiris.”

But an STF officer said they could well be Iranian sunglass sellers, many of whom move around the country selling their wares. A cellphone and 250 sunglasses had been seized from them.

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