7 killed in J&K army camp raid
Mass pyres for unclaimed dead
Report hints at BSF ?lie?
Atal overdrive with triple charge
Rallies, rain throw city out of gear
Calcutta weather

Aug 6: 
Kashmiri militants took on the Indian army on its own turf shortly after midnight on Thursday, storming a camp of the 3 Rashtriya Rifles in Kupwara and killing a major and six other soldiers.

This is the first time militants have chosen to attack an army camp. It was a soft target because the army has deployed more personnel in Avantipur and Anantnag to beef up security for pilgrims to Amarnath.

Six militants were also killed in the gunbattle after they attacked the camp in Chak Natnussa in the border district with rockets, grenades and assault rifles.

Apart from the major, two Junior Commissioned Officers were also among the army casualties. Ten soldiers were said to have been seriously wounded.

A senior police officer said nearly 40 heavily-armed militants first fired rocket-propelled grenades, then opened fire from assault rifles. According to one account, the militants had actually stormed the camp and fired from automatic assault weapons.

But Major General Kaushal, General Officer Commanding of ?Victor Force?, of which the 3 Rashtriya Rifles is a part, denied the militants had actually entered the camp. He said the soldiers, led by their company commander, the major, took up positions and beat back the attack, killing six militants, including four foreigners.

The police officer described the gunbattle as fierce and said it continued for several hours. The Rashtriya Rifles battalion had radioed for reinforcement and the militants fled in the dark as the army rushed in forces.

In Delhi, the army claimed that among the militants killed was Salim Kashmiri, also known in his area as Chattan. He was a local bodybuilder and a diehard secessionist who has been on the wanted list for some time. Two other militants killed were identified as Abu Tariq and Rizwan. The army suspects they were Afghans and activists of the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Harkat -ul-Ansar outfits. No militant organisation has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.

It is likely that the militants had taken shelter in houses near the Rashtriya Rifles camp before the attack. Gen. Kaushal said villagers had fled in the wake of the gunbattle but they were being asked to return and help in tracing the terrorists.

The camp is at a height of just about 6,500 feet but it is located in an area where militants have intensified their activity since the intrusions in Kargil. An unconfirmed report said the militants had taken the Rashtriya Rifles soldiers by surprise, throwing the security force into disarray for sometime before it regrouped.

An official source said two civilians, Muhammad Sultan and Fazy Begum, were injured by stray bullets inside their homes.

This is the second attack in 25 days on an establishment of security forces in the Kashmir valley. Last month, militants were said to have attacked the sector headquarters of the Border Security Force (BSF) in Bandipore.

?Foreign militants are likely to take such risks,? said Gen. Kaushal. He said it was quite possible that militants would continue with such actions.

He said ?foreign mercenaries? among the militants had been instructed to step up their activities ?and carry out some sensational actions so that an atmosphere of fear grips the valley?.

Security has been strengthened in Kupwara district. Only yesterday, the authorities had withdrawn the army from Kupwara town and replaced it with the Central Reserve Police Force.

The Kupwara incident underscores the observation of intelligence agencies that militants have made deep inroads in parts of Jammu region. The Union home ministry is aware of the situation and has taken up the matter with the chief adviser to the Jammu and Kashmir government, Lt-Gen. Avtar Singh of the Rashtriya Rifles.

Five people, including a soldier and a militant, were killed in Udhampur and Rajouri districts.    

Siliguri, Aug. 6: 
The pyres crackled, the flames flickered and then licked the dark night sky. Disfigured and rotten, the unclaimed dead of Gaisal were given a mass cremation on the banks of the Balason river tonight.

Workers stacked wood from a nearby forest reserve into about 65 pyres laid out on the banks of the river which meanders through the Himalayan foothills.

Almost every pyre had two bodies. In the backdrop of the Kanchenjungha, the bodies were consigned to flames by volunteers in the presence of thousands of local villagers and government officials.

The bodies were brought in coffins, wrapped in white sheets or even polythene. As the religion of those being cremated could not be ascertained, prayers were recited from holy books of all faiths.

The collision between the Avadh-Assam Express and the Brahmaputra Mail on Monday claimed 287 lives.

The state administration ordered the mass cremation as the decomposing bodies were posing a health hazard. Urban affairs minister Ashok Bhattacharya was present.

Two special trains, one from Delhi and the other from Guwahati, carrying relatives of the victims, were to have reached New Jalpaiguri today.

While the train from Delhi reached at four this evening, the other was delayed. The special train brought 200 passengers, but only 60 of them were relatives of victims. Others, like Gambhir Sarki of Naxalbari, hitched a free ride without any qualms.

Zulekha Bibi and Swapan Majumdar were among those who were taken to the New Jalpaiguri railway hospital. They walked past the white shrouds in the morgue. As hospital staffers lifted the sheets to show the faces of the dead, both fainted.

Later, they said it was impossible to identify their loved ones. They were taken to the North Bengal Medical College morgue, where about 150 corpses have been kept. Here, too, Zulekha Bibi studied the bloated remains and finally pointed to one body.

?That looks like my nephew. But I don?t know. In my mind, I picture him lying in a hospital bed with just a minor cut. His parents are dead. His two other brothers may have been with him. I?ll have to check,?? she muttered incoherently.

Most relatives seemed as shocked as Zulekha Bibi. Only five bodies were identified today from the pictures tacked to hospital walls. As district officials said they would not wait all night for identification, arguments broke out between families of victims over bodies. Two families fought over the body of a boy who doctors said would not have been more than 14.

D.K. Jha said he had come to identify his family friends, three brothers and their mother. ?I claimed three bodies and cremated them. When I came to take Kundan, I saw another family laying claim to his body,?? Jha said. The district administration had to intervene.

While they squabbled, others trooped in to take corpses. The government has announced that relatives of victims would get Rs 25,000 each on the spot and Rs 3.75 lakh later as compensation. District officials said one man managed to pocket the money by claiming a body.    

New Delhi, Aug. 6: 
A three-member probe team of senior paramilitary officers has indicated in its report that the Border Security Force had concocted the Bandipore hostage drama of July 13.

According to the BSF, pro-Pakistan militants had raided its residential campus the night before and taken 12 hostages, all of whom were rescued in a dawn operation by National Security Guard commandos.

As a corollary, the report prepared by three inspectors-general from the BSF, Central Reserve Police Force and Indo-Tibetan Border Police, who visited Bandipore, 45 km northeast of Srinagar, has lambasted the commandos for unnecessarily firing three rockets at the BSF building in which the so-called militants were holed up with the hostages.

The BSF had officially stated on July 14 that two to three terrorists of the Al-Badr outfit had entered its campus and killed four persons, including deputy inspector-general S.K. Chakravorty and the wife of a constable. The BSF said its jawans killed one militant and injured another when they tried to flee. The next day, Black Cat commandos moved in and freed the ?hostages?.

The Telegraph had earlier reported that the BSF?s version was full of loopholes and that only one man, believed to be a ?cat? ? a former terrorist-turned-informer ? was killed in questionable circumstances.

The probe team report, likely to be submitted to the Union home ministry in a day or two, has also pointed out that only one ?militant? was killed.

The report does not mention directly that an elaborate cover-up was mounted by the BSF to conceal what is suspected to be the result of an internal problem, but it has not spared the NSG for firing rockets at the BSF building though there were no hostages in it at that time.

The team has hinted that no hostages were taken at all. The report has made adverse remarks on the role played by a BSF officer of the rank of inspector-general.

The inquiry team examined 29 people, mostly BSF officials, including constable K. Munirajappa, whose wife was allegedly gunned down by the terrorists, and quoted several of them as saying that they were terror-stricken when the commandos pounded the building with rockets and automatic rifles, blowing up a large portion of it. Several residents pleaded with the commandos to stop the fusillade.

The report is understood to have said the commandos should have followed procedure by stealthily entering the building, lobbing grenades into the rooms to force out the terrorists ? if any ? and then killing them.

Home ministry sources said the BSF was possibly concealing facts. But what is surprising is that the inquiry team did little to answer some vital questions.

How did Munirajappa and his two daughters survive when his wife was shot? When the terrorists could take 12 hostages, they could have taken Munirajappa and his children as well. But he escaped with minor injuries.

This gives rise to the suspicion that something terrible occurred in the complex for which four lives were taken. Was the DIG killed by terrorist(s) or was it an inside job? The report is silent.    

New Delhi, Aug. 6: 
For a caretaker government headed into elections, the Vajpayee administration has suddenly turned pro-active with a flurry of decisions that would normally take months of dithering.

This week, the government made public the Wadhwa Commission report which virtually exonerates the Sangh parivar from having any hand in the Graham Staines killing, suspended five senior railway officers in a hurry in the wake of the Gaisal train disaster and announced a promotion scheme for 42 lakh Central government employees.

The three decisions were taken clearly with an eye on the ballot box, but there is little the Election Commission has been able to do about them despite the code of conduct that is supposed to have gone into effect with the announcement of election dates.

?The government has found a way of dodging the Election Commission?s strictures,? alleged an Opposition leader. Technically, however, the government seems to have sound excuses to circumvent the code.

On the decision that assures Central staff at least two promotions in their careers, the government argues that it was merely putting into effect a policy recommended by the Fifth Pay Commission.

Railway minister Nitish Kumar?s resignation even before the full extent of the Gaisal accident had sunk in and the ordering of a judicial probe helped the government give the impression that it was being even-handed. The suspension of the officers pre-empts criticism that the Centre is not serious in ensuring accountability.

The Wadhwa Commission report on the murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines has been speedily acted upon. The report was submitted to the home ministry in June. It came to the Cabinet in July and yesterday the government decided to release it. The Wadhwa Commission report has pinned the blame on an individual (Dara Singh) and gives a clean chit to the Bajrang Dal, which suits the BJP. There was enough political reason for the report to be tabled in Parliament without waiting for the convening of the 13th Lok Sabha.

Suddenly the top echelons of power are moving with alacrity and speed, tying up as many loose ends as possible before taking the plunge into a poll campaign in which they hope to hold out an array of achievements before the electorate. Cabinet meetings are being held in a hurry even if all ministers cannot be present. Decisions that could easily have taken months in a non-election year are being taken with amazing speed. If that provokes allegations that populism and political expediency are dictating decisions, Vajpayee and his team are quite willing to brazen it out.

Though the BJP top brass is banking on Vajpayee?s role in the Kargil conflict as the ace up its sleeve in the run-up to the polls, it is also in a hurry to spruce up its image as a performing government.

The reason for going into overdrive now is simple: when it was a de facto government, the pulls and pressures of coalition politics did not let it accelerate. Now that it is free of Jayalalitha, Vajpayee and company find themselves no holds barred.

Even during the Kargil crisis, the Cabinet committee on security used to meet with just four top leaders: Vajpayee, L.K. Advani, Jaswant Singh and George Fernandes. Now quorum is taken for granted if, apart from Pramod Mahajan and Yashwant Sinha, any one among S.S. Barnala, Som Pal, Naveen Patnaik and Ramakrishna Hegde chooses to attend.

After losing the vote of confidence, Vajpayee has been meeting the cabinet committee on prices almost twice every week. The reason that had contributed most to the BJP?s thrashing in the Assembly polls in Delhi, Rajasthan and MP was the soaring prices of onions. After a brief lull, vegetable prices are up again and the Centre is in a hurry to bring them down.

If it has been held back anywhere, it is on the telecom deal, where it has been pushed to the wall with the Opposition demanding that it come clean.    

Calcutta, Aug. 6: 
Rain and rallies returned to torment Calcutta on Friday.

Heavy showers lashed the city for over an hour in two spells this afternoon, clogging the main thoroughfares.

Two rallies also contributed to another day of traffic chaos. Several busy routes were packed with vehicles, trying the patience of home-bound commuters.

A well-marked low pressure developed around noon, resulting in heavy rain in north and central parts of the city. The Calcutta Municipal Corporation pumping stations at Palmer Bazar and Ballygunge could not cope with the downpour, resulting in water-logging at many places.

The flooded areas included Thanthania near College Street, parts of Amherst Street, Free School Street, Elliot Road, Central Avenue (near Mahajati Sadan) and adjoining areas. Until 8 pm, parts of Free School Street and Elliot Road were under water.

Tram services were disrupted after the tracks on Bidhan Sarani and Elliot Road were inundated. They resumed after 5 pm.

?Our pumping stations can drain water out at the rate of a quarter inch per hour. But there was three-fourth inch rainfall in half-an-hour in the areas served by the Palmer Bazar station,? explained CMC deputy chief engineer (drains) Tarit Mukherjee.

The Ballygunge pumping station had to tackle 19 mm and 14 mm of rainfall in the two spells.

The Alipore weather office recorded 45.2 mm of rainfall till 5.30 pm today, while the recording at Dum Dum till the same time was 27 mm, weather officials said.

Low-level clouds and gusty winds are likely to continue till tomorrow morning under the influence of the low pressure.

Adding to the travails, a Trinamul Congress meeting of tempo and Matador van operators, addressed by party chief Mamata Banerjee opposite Metro Cinema, disrupted traffic in the Esplanade area, including S.N. Banerjee Road, Lindsay Street and Dharmatalla Street.

Another rally was brought out to observe Hiroshima Day, anniversary of the 1945 bombing.

The marchers gathered opposite the American library on Chowringhee Road after passing through Theatre Road and AJC Bose Road. Even the normally fast-moving traffic on Red Road slowed to a halt as the chaos spread to the Maidan routes.

Two traffic constables on duty at the Diamond Harbour Road-Burdwan Road crossing were assaulted by Trinamul workers returning on a van from the Metro rally. They were enraged at being stopped for allowing schoolchildren to cross. The policemen were admitted to hospital.    

Today?s forecast: Intermittent rain with heavy thundershowers.

Temperature: Maximum 31?C (2?C below normal)
Minimum 25.9?C (Normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum98%
Minimum 76%

Rainfall: 64.8 mm

Sunset: 6.13 pm
Sunrise: 5.12am

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