They are not meant to dance or smoke cigarettes so that some heartless Kalandar can earn his bread and butter. Speaking of Kalandars and bear dances this is now history. Just five days back, Raju the last dancing bear in India was rescued from Belgaum, Karnataka and brought to the Bannerghatta Bear sanctuary.
Wildlife SOS, which has been undertaking this operation country wide has a centre in Bangalore. At the Bannerghatta national park they run a bear rehabilitation camp which at the moment houses around 90 bears of whom have been rescued from the Kalandars across the country.
Raju the last of the dancing bears currently is in the camp and one must say there is both sorrow and joy when one sees him. We feel happy that he is out of that horrible world that he was in and the sorrow is when sees that very obviouos trauma that he has gone through. His nose has been injured and he is extremely dull. The people at the camp say that he is yet to get used to his new environment and there is another 3 to 4 months before the acclimatizing process comes to an end.
Each bear in the camp has a story to tell. Dr Yaduraj of Wildlife SOS who took us around the camp says that there are various levels before a bear is completely fit to roam around with the other bears in the sanctuary. After the bear is rescued he is brought to the camp and first quarantined. Most of these bears suffer from various ailments and TB is most the common. Once he is treated, he goes through the acclimatization process. He is kept in isolation in the beginning and only after a couple of months is he allowed to meet with the other bears in the camp. Each bear has a different nature. The new bears are first allowed to mingle with the friendly bears. Once they get used to the company, they are permitted to mingle with the rest of the bears. This process goes on for a couple of months and only once they are fully ready, they are sent to the bear sanctuary along with the rest of the bears.
The transition is amazing. It breaks your heart to see a bear that has just been rescued. However once they are allowed to mingle, the bears are more active. They are friendlier towards the other bears and are responsive when you call out to them. However the real achievement is when these bears are sent to the sanctuary. One could say that they become bears once again and all the natural characteristics are visible. A jeep filled with watermelons makes its rounds through the sanctuary and this exercise is known as fruit feeding. As we drive through the sanctuary, these bears recognize the sound of the jeep and just out of no where the entire road is filled with the bears who come running to the jeep. We are asked to lower the windows since most of these bears stand right up to you in the anticipation that we would be feeding them today. However once they are given their watermelon, they don’t appear to be bothered about your presence. The characteristics too are very natural once in the sanctuary. They are pretty aggressive and there is this regular fight among each other for space, which is only an indication that they have become bears again after suffering all these years of trauma at the hands of the Kalandar.
Dr Yaduraj says that it is quite a process and they have to deal with them with extreme care. We ensure that the bears forgets everything about his past and we also give it new names other the one which was given by his Kalandar or handler. Some bears adopt very quickly but there are others who take a while longer. Even the feeding pattern we are particular about. Most of these bears come here with no teeth since they are pulled out. We give them a lot of porridge and once they become normal, they are given fruits, he says.
The Bannerghatta bear rescue centre is one of the four centres which has been set up by Wildlife SOS in association with Free the Bears Fund from Australia, Britain’s International Animal Rescue and One Voice Association from France.
Rescuing these bears has not been an easy task. Most of the Kalandars were promised that they would not be arrested if they came up voluntarily and handed over the bear. Raje Saab, the handler or the Kalandar of Raju was given Rs 50000 to give up the bear. This money was given so that he could start a new life. He says that he is happy that he could give up the bear to a place where he would be taken care of. I can now start my life afresh with the money I have been given, he says.
The extradition of arrested American national and Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative David Coleman Headley is likely to take place only after the Mumbai police files a supplementary chargesheet against him in connection with the 26/11 terror attacks case.
The National Investigating Agency has submitted proof to the Mumbai police regarding the role played by Headley in the Mumbai attacks.
A senior official in the home ministry told rediff.com that a lot of information that has been handed over to the Mumbai police is specific to the attacks at Mumbai.
“We are very much on the extradition trail and the process would speed up once the supplementary chargesheet in the Mumbai case and a chargesheet in the rest of the cases is filed against him. We would also wait and see what course the courts in the United States would take in this case and also plan our next course of action,” the official said.
Counsel for Headley, John T Theis, told rediff.com that the evidence against Headley is still being reviewed and it would not be right for him to comment anything on the current status of the case against his client.
“Laws in the US mandate that it is the duty of the government to prove the guilt of the defendant. If they cannot do that with competent evidence, the defendant must be found not guilty,” Theis said.
“I must also add that I have seen some stories in the Indian and the US media which speculate on the evidence and other aspects of this case. I would prefer to have this matter unfold in the courtroom, not in response to news articles, some of which are based on guess and conjecture,” he added.
A source in the Mumbai police said that they will verify the information that has been passed on to them. “We will file a supplementary chargesheet for sure, but the contents of it would be decided only after we verify the facts of the case,” he said.
A lot of the information provided by the NIA to the Mumbai police is based on the findings by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Sources in the Intelligence Bureau say that the FBI has depended a lot on the statements given by Headley in custody and drawn conclusions from them.
“Our agencies too have some amount of information specific to the Mumbai attack, but the Mumbai police will have to conduct detailed investigations before they file an additional chargesheet,” IB sources said.
The Mumbai police, which has already commenced its investigations into the David Headley link to the Mumbai attacks, have not been able to find any local link relating to him.
The initial findings indicate that during all his visits to Mumbai, Headley had carried out a reccee all by himself without developing any local contact.
The Telangana Rashtra Samiti, which has spearheaded the movement for a separate state in Andhra Pradesh, is furious over the Centre’s apparent backtracking over the issue.
In an interview with rediff.com’s Vicky Nanjappa, TRS general secretary Subhash Reddy states that the party is willing to give the government some time to resolve the issue, but will rest only after they “get their state back”.
What is the next course of action regarding the Telangana issue?
They (the Centre) want a consensus and we will do our best to give them one. We have convened a meeting of the Joint Action Committee. We will discuss this issue with various people and decide on the next course of action.
What will be the main focus of your discussion?
Fixing a time frame (to resolve the issue). It is important that the government tells us clearly by what time they will return Telangana to us.
How long are you ready to wait for a separate state?
The government will get a maximum of five to six weeks to start the process. The TRS will ask the government to commence the process in the next session of Parliament. We want them to discuss this matter seriously and not take us for a ride. The process has to start by then and there should be no flip-flop after that. By the time the next session of Parliament is convened, the government should have an action plan on the issue.
Both the state and the Union government have declared that there can be no Telangana without a consensus on the issue.
See, consensus is not the issue here at all. The state has been taken away from us and it should be returned. The voice of the people needs to be heard and everyone in the Telangana region wants their state back. Why isn’t anyone taking that into consideration?
Let the government appoint some educated people or form a committee under a Supreme Court judge and find out what the people want. In a democracy, the opinion of the people should be considered, not the opinion of the political parties.
Why do you think the political parties are creating a fuss over this issue?
The Telugu Desam Party chief (N Chandrababu Naidu) belongs to Andhra, (Praja Rajyam chief) Chiranjeevi belongs to coastal Andhra. Though the Congress chief (D Srinivas) belongs to Telangana, a majority of the party’s leaders seem to be opposed to it. It is sad that all these people are more concerned about their next political battle rather than the development of Telangana and the aspirations of the local people.
How do you think Chief Minister K Rosaiah handled the situation?
Very poorly. But that was expected since he belongs to coastal Andhra.
What is your take on the demand to make Hyderabad a Union territory?
This is not acceptable at all. How can an integral part of Telangana be shared or taken away? We will never accept this at any cost. Just give us our state back and end the matter.
Incidents of violence have repeatedly marred protests and agitations on this issue.
Our chief K Chandrasekhara Rao has said that there shall be no violence. What can we do if some politicians are stage-managing or sponsoring it? On Wednesday, when the home minister (P Chidambaram) made the statement (that the situation had altered and political parties are divided on Telangana), we had decided to protest peacefully. But then so many people came out on the roads and started protesting; all this was stage-managed to show the country that we are making a demand through violent means.
Our people did come out on the roads and protest in a peaceful manner, but then some anti-social elements joined in.
Why did the government turn a blind eye when we were seeking Telangana through peaceful means? We will continue to protest in a peaceful manner, but will not settle for anything less than a separate state.
Do you think that the government has betrayed you?
To a large extent, yes. The Government of India was serious about giving us a separate state. But then there was the influence of billionaire Congress members of Parliament, who have large-scale real estate interests in Hyderabad. They are the ones who made the government change its mind and hence it backed out at the last minute.
The link between the Pakistan army, its Inter Services Intelligence directorate and the Lashkar-e-Tayiba was strengthened after Lashkar operative Sabahuddin Ahmed confessed to the police that he had met several high-ranking Pakistan army officers including someone named Colonel Kayani.
Sabahuddin, a native of Bihar who was arrested for his role in the January 1, 2008 attack on the Central Reserve Police Force camp in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, is currently being probed for the role he played in the Mumbai attacks.
He told his interrogators that he took to terrorism after the December 6, 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid and revealed that he had helped Fahim Ansari survey likely targets for the Mumbai attacks.
Sabahuddin repeatedly told his interrogators that he had met a senior Pakistani officer named Kayani. These statements find mention in his 40-page confession statement, which is in the possession of rediff.com
Investigators are unable to verify if the man Sabahuddin is referring to is General Parvez Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan’s army chief.
IB sources say they cannot rule out the possibility that he may be referring to the Pakistani army chief, who served as the ISI director before being elevated to his present position.
In his confession Sabahuddin said he met with Kayani in 2002. At that time, General Kayani was Pakistan’s director general of military operations.
‘I met him along with other ISI officers. I was told by the Lashkar that I would be working for the ISI in Pakistan, but would be touch with the Lashkar too. Kayani, along with other ISI officers, supervised my training programme in Pakistan. Kayani even gave me Rs 25,000 before I left Pakistan. He sent his man along with me to the airport and ensured that I got out safe from Pakistan,’ Sabahuddin revealed in his statement.
He starts off his confession by disclosing that he had met with Zaki-ur-Rehman Laqvi, the Lashkar’s main terror-planner, at the home of another Lashkar terrorist named Muzzamil.
Sabahuddin met with Laqvi after he had completed the Daur-e-Khas (specialised training) in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. After this, Muzzamil took Sabahuddin to meet with a man named Abul al-Qama in Islamabad.
‘I was then introduced to a man by the name Abdulla Mujahid who is a coordinator between the Lashkar and the ISI. It was here that both Muzzamil and Laqvi asked me whether I would be interested in joining the ISI. I was then taken to the Markaz Tayiba, the Lashkar headquarters at Murdike, around 50 kilometres from Lahore.’
Sabahuddin says Markaz Tayiba is where the Lashkar’s terror leadership, including Mohammad Sayeed, Abdur Rehman Maki and Abdus Salam Ghuti are based.
‘From here I returned to Lahore where I was introduced to Colonel Kayani in the year 2002. Kayani was a top brass in the ISI at that time. Apart from this I was also introduced to other ISI officials, Abdul Majid and Subedar Babar. I was trained by these men in the gathering of intelligence, surveillance and also reconnaissance,’ he notes in his confession.
‘I took a flight out of Lahore to Doha and from there I flew to Kathmandu by Qatar Airways on March 17, 2003,’ he adds.
‘The ISI officials had told me that I needed to get back to India and they even arranged a passport in the name of Mohammad Shafiq. They mentioned a fake address mentioning my place of residence as Faisalbad, Punjab, Pakistan. I was taken to the Nepalese embassy in Islamabad personally by Subedar Javed, an ISI official. He ensured that I was able to get a visa under the guise of a carpet businessman from Pakistan,’ says Sahabuddin
‘Throughout my stint in Pakistan I was told that I would be working for the ISI but at the same time, I had to be in touch with the Lashkar,’ he said.
Further, he reveals that once he reached Kathmandu he tore up the passport and flushed it down the toilet.
‘I then took up a room at the Hotel Kamal and identified myself as a businessman from Delhi. On several occasions I tried to get into India, but failed. I then mailed a person in the Pakistan army by the name Captain Malik Zafar, expressing my inability to cross the border. Zafar responded to my mail and immediately sent across a youth by the name, Vinod. I was told that this person would help me cross the border,’ Sabahuddin said.
Vinod, a resident of Nepal, Sabahuddin later realised, was an ISI agent and an associate of Lashkar’s chief accountant, a man named Yakub. ‘Vinod paid a Nepali youth Rs 65,000 to help me cross over. Finally, I managed to enter India.’
The Bengaluru police will seek the custody of Soofiya Madani, wife of Kerala-based Islamic leader Abdul Nasser Madani, in relation with the Bangalore blasts case.
Sources say Soofiya, who stands before a court seeking bail, is fast becoming a major link in several terror operations undertaken both in Karnataka and Kerala.
The investigators stumbled upon the links while interrogating T Nasir, an accused in the Bangalore blasts case.
The first part of the investigations suggests that the woman had directed Nasir and his accomplices to burn down a bus in Kalamassery so that a message could be sent out to the then Tamil Nadu government.
“Our investigations show that both Nasir and Abdul Sattar, the man who manufactured the bombs, were in contact with Soofiya,” Bengaluru police sources said.
Moreover, there is ample proof, they say, to indicate that both Nasir and Sattar were part of the Madani camp.
Both these persons were closely associated with Nasir after they joined his Islamic Sewak Sangh which was established in Kerala.
Nasir’s interrogation reveals that Soofiya had played an active part in the bus-burning incident. Besides, he told interrogators that she had also directed him to plant a bomb at the Press Club of Coimbatore in retaliation to her husband’s ill-treatment in jail.
There seems to be a tussle between India and the United States of America over Pakistan- born American national terror suspect David Headley’s extradition. While Indian agencies indicate Headley was a double agent of the Central Intelligence Agency, the American agency denies any such news.
C D Sahay, former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, feels that extradition is a legal process, not a political one. In this interview with Vicky Nanjappa, Sahay says that there could be certain legal issues involved and the best way to go about it is to get relevant inputs through backchannel arrangements.
India is finding hard to extradite David Headley from the US. Does that mean that all is not well between the two countries?
Extradition is a legal process, not political. Each country has a clearly defined procedure for initiating an extradition process. I do not think that process has commenced as yet. And I do not consider this is indicative of the state of relationship between the two countries
It is said that Headley was a Central Intelligence Agency agent who turned rogue. Do you think that is why the US denied India from questioning Headley?
There is no official statement yet on Headley’s CIA credentials. In fact, the CIA has denied this proposition. If he indeed was, it could be one of the considerations. Even on the question of granting access to Headley, certain legal issues could be involved. Normally in such situations, it would be more convenient to get relevant inputs through back channel arrangements.
According to the FBI, Headley moved around in India freely and visited various places including those targeted during the Mumbai attack. Do you consider this to be an intelligence failure on India’s part? Was there a lack of coordination with the US agencies?
I would not go to the extent of calling it “intelligence failure’. Perhaps, this calls for immediate upgradation of our immigration monitoring system to ensure that such activities to get ‘flagged’ for on ground enquiry.
Ilyas Kashmiri, an al-Qaeda operative, says that India’s meddling in Afghanistan would lead to a series of attacks on Indian soil. What should be India’s approach towards Afghanistan?
In my view, al-Qeada’s operations or objectives in India are not driven by our Afghan policy since we are not doing anything beyond what is permissible under the norms of diplomatic activities and defined by the terms of bi-lateral cooperation.
Is the US serious about defeating ISI-sponsored terrorism on Indian soil?
The ISI-sponsored terrorism in India, I firmly believe, should be our concern. We should deal with this on our own and not expect others to do it for us. Indeed any cooperation in these efforts would be welcome.
How different is the world after the Mumbai attack? Do you think intelligence-sharing and co-ordination between India and the other countries in terms of intelligence sharing has improved? If not, what should India do?
I can’t comment on the current status and intensity of intelligence-sharing on terror-related issues.
Post 26/11, there was talk of going to war with Pakistan. Do you India should have carried out surgical strikes?
This matter is raised every time a major terrorist incident takes place. Even after the attack on our Parliament, the issue was debated in the media and elsewhere. I believe that war or surgical strike will not solve the problem; it may only get aggravated.
Do you think that al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Tayiba have come together and will be successful in launching global jihad as they have been proclaiming?
Their agenda and resolve are well stated. How far they would succeed will depend on how well prepared we are in meeting the challenges.
How serious is the threat from internal groups in India like the Indian Mujahideen when compared to terror groups across the border?
It is serious, but quite often they tend to complement the designs of the terror groups from across the border
Former prime minister of Britain Winston Churchill has unfinished business at the Bangalore Club.
The Bangalore Club is considered to be one of the most elite clubs in the country and was started in 1868 by a group of British officers.
Churchill is one among the 17 defaulters named in the ledger entry dated June 1, 1899. Lt WLS Churchill’s name accompanied by his photograph comes third in the defaulters’ list.
Secretary of the Bangalore Club Colonel Krishnan Dakshina Murthy told rediff.com that the issue has gained significance since Churchill went on to become the prime minister of Britain.
He had arrived in Bangalore in 1896 as an army officer and left the city in 1899 to fight in the North West Frontier, which is now Pakistan.
“This is a rare case,” says Colonel Murthy.
“Who would have thought back then that he would become the prime minister of Britain? He also adds that the dues that Churchill owed to the club were discovered posthumously and after it had become public several visiting British citizens offered to clear off the dues.
Churchill during his stint in Bangalore spent many evenings at the Bangalore Club drinking whiskey. He may have accumulated this sum due to this.
Churchill had also mentioned in his memoir My Early Life that Bangalore was a “third rate watering place” with lots of routine work to do, without society of good sport.
Former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao is back in the news with the All India Muslim Personal Law Board accusing him of being equally responsible for the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. The board says that Rao could never be forgiven for the demolition of the mosque.
Dr S Q R Ilyas, convener, Committee on Babri Masjid of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, told rediff.com’s Vicky Nanjappa about Rao’s role and also on what should be done to put to rest the entire controversy.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board is of the opinion that without the tactical help of people in the Union government at that point of time, the demolition would have not been possible at all. Narasimha Rao was the prime minister and had all the information regarding the demolition, despite which he did nothing to stop it.
Is it something that you just realised or did you know it all along that the ruling government was aware of this plot?
No, it is not something that we have just realised. In fact, we had known this all along. A couple of days before the demolition of the Babri Masjid, we had even met with Rao and expressed our fears to him regarding the same.
What did he say then?
He assured us that nothing would happen and there was nothing for us to worry.
It could have been a failure of the intelligence also. Why blame Rao alone for this?
I am not blaming him alone. There was no failure of intelligence. Rao had all information through the Intelligence Bureau. This fact has been indicated by the Liberhan Commission report too. I can say for a fact that the Union government then was equally responsible for this incident. Being the head of the state, Rao ignored the warnings. He was in a position to stop the act, but sadly that did not happen.
Do you think that Rao had intentionally not acted despite having specific warnings?
I would not say it was intentional. In fact at the moment I cannot say that he had not acted intentionally. However, it is on record that he did not act despite having all information and also absolute control over the situation.
So do you think that the Union government at that time was the main culprit?
No I don’t think so. We still maintain that it was the Bharatiya Janata Party, which was the main culprit.
What about Atal Bihari Vajpayee?
Vajpayee is also responsible for this incident. He was heading the BJP at that time. However, we would like to point out that there has been a flaw in the Liberhan Commission report. Despite naming him, he has not been issued with a notice. We demand that a notice be issued to him and he be called on to explain what he thought of the situation at that point of time.
What is the demand of the board at this moment?
The board has always and will continue to demand that Section 120 (B) of the Indian Penal Code (Conspiracy) be included in the chargesheet against those involved in the incident. We demand that those responsible for this incident, and who continue to walk free, be brought to book.
In this case there is so much emphasis on the courts, which are seized off the matter. Why is that none of you are even bringing the judiciary into this issue?
We demand that the cases against the accused be expedited in the various courts that are hearing the matter. The very fact that despite so many years these persons walk about freely, is an indication that the legal system is not working properly.
What everyone tends to forget is the core issue. Bringing these persons to justice alone will not solve the problem. Do you agree with this?
Yes I do. The core issue is the title suit which is still pending before the Allahabad high court. Once this issue is resolved, only then there will be a solution to the problem.
What is the progress of the case?
One of the judges in the bench has been transferred and the hearings have been postponed after that. There needs to be a day-to-day hearing of the matter so that the matter is closed as soon as possible. A new bench needs to be constituted immediately, and despite several demands, it has not been done as yet. Prior to one of the judges on the bench getting transferred, we were hopeful that that the matter would have ended soon.
What do you expect from the BJP leadership in such a situation?
The BJP has no role to play now. It is the Union government which should act upon the report, and also ensure that the case is settled immediately. Everything depends on how the Union government deals with the matter, and even the state government has no role to play in this anymore.
When do you think this entire issue will end?
The day the people responsible for the shameful act of demolishing Babri Masjid are punished and the matter pertaining to the title suit is disposed off.
The leak and tabling of Liberhan Commission report has created a big turmoil in the country. While most of the sides have been shouting hoarse about their own position on the issue, not much has been talked about the future solution of this vexed problem.
We recall that the mosque built by Mir Baqui around five centuries ago has been deliberately dragged into the controversy. At the time of Independence it was a mosque, no political party had claimed anything to the contrary. As per the understanding in the constitution, the status of 1947 was to be maintained in cases of places of worship. The installation of Ram lalla idols by deceit in midnight of 22nd Jan 1949 sowed the seeds of controversy. Later in 1975 the dispute between two local groups was taken up by Vishwa Hindu Parishad and in 1989, BJP decided to make a political issue out of it. The tragic demolition and the making of makeshift Ram temple there have added new dimensions to the issue.
It is around this issue that Hindu and Muslim communalists raised the emotional pitch and the tragedies which followed, the demolition, the post demolition communal violence and communalization, polarization of society along religious lines are too well known by now. The court case regarding the same is dragging from last several years without any outcome so far.
Where do we go from here? Do we let this sore to continue on the body politic of the nation? This may act as the trouble spot for the future. It is time that we look at all the aspects of the issue and try to bring a peaceful solution to the issue.
The first step in the issue is to realize that it the communal forces from both communities which have claimed that they represent the community and so they will decide on behalf of Hindus or Muslims respectively. The fact of the matter and, this has been confirmed by Liberhan Commission report, is that these communal groups neither represent the community nor reflect the opinion the communities as a whole. It is imperative that we look forward to the liberal sections, leadership from these communities to come forward and talk in the language of reconciliation. The liberal sections are those who have so far been ignored, but they are the one’s who have talked of peace and accommodation. The election results have also shown that those claiming to represent the aspirations of a particular community have been routed in popular elections. The elected representatives of the area have a major role to play in bringing the consensus. We cannot undo the past but we can definitely chart a peaceful path for future. The peaceful talks between these sections along with the local people of Ayodhya are the central core for solution.
The people of Ayodhya have also been the victims of the demolition and other offshoots of the dispute. What they think should be done at the site has to be taken seriously. They have to be taken on board along with the liberal leadership of the communities. Today the most amicable solution has to veer around respecting Ram and Allah both. Both temple and mosque can be accommodated in the area, with equal importance and respect.
Along with temple and mosque in the same spot we need to bring up a museum dedicated to the great tradition of Ayodhya. Ayodhya has not only been popular for Lord Ram, but it had also been a place for Buddhists and also people of other faith as well. It has been a sort of ‘No War zone’ (A- no, Yudhya-War, Ayodhya- A no war zone), and that spirit has to be cultivated all around. The emotive and divisive appeals need to be rejected by the nation as a whole. In that light the museum-memorial has to be the one of syncretic traditions, of saints who were followed by Muslims and Hindus both, of Sufis who again were respected by Hindus and Muslims both. While the history has been made to degenerate into hoarse shouting, a cool reasoned archeological based understanding should help us to go further. The negotiations between the communities have to be encouraged to the last.
The second line of action has to relate to the court verdict. The court verdict should be final for all of us. The formulation that faith will decide the birth place of the Lord has no place in a society governed by law and reason. The community leaders must give undertaking to respect the court verdict and act accordingly. Those not having faith in the courts cant be the part of the process of reconciliation as reconciliation has to be done in the framework of Indian Constitution. We have invested too much in this issue and it is time that not only this but even other such issues are not given any importance to ensure that the country, nation, can focus on the issues related to bread, butter shelter, employment and health.