Lashkar’s 2010 Plan

In the past few months several countries have been issuing travel advisories against travelling to India. The latest on the list of countries that have issued travel advisories are United States of America, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

Such advisories are being issued in the wake of several reports by Intelligence Agencies against the rising threat in India from terrorist organizations. Sources in the Intelligence Bureau told that the threat perception in India is still very high, but thanks to upgradation of the security system it would be very difficult for terror groups from across the border to carry out a terror strike in India.

In the year 2009, outfits such as the Lashkar have lying low intentionally since there has been a shake up to their infrastructure post Mumbai attacks. The IB says that the year 2010 will be an important year, since terror groups which have been bogged down for so long are desperate to strike.

The main threat that India would face from terrorist groups is a coordinated one by the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Al-Qaeda. While the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda have changed their strategy against India, the Lashkar militants would largely be involved in the logistic part which would be involved during the attack. IB sources say that the shift I policy towards India comes following the growing ties between India and the US. Moreover the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban feels that India is interfering too much in Afghanistan and only a strike would send across a clear message.

What they plan in 2010? IB sources say that the Taliban has already drawn up plans with the Al-Qaeda to strike Western centres located in Indian cities. The attacks would largely focus on hitting out at foreigners within India apart from causing a great deal of damage to the Indian economy. It has been said several times in the past that the Al-Qaeda’s commander, Ilyas Kashmiri who heads the 313 brigade is training Fidayeens for this task.

Apart from this the Lashkar is also planning a series of attacks on the Indian soil. Intelligence warnings would indicate that this time around the outfit would be looking to hit at targets which would destabilize the country to a large extent. Hydro projects and power grids are something that they are planning to hit.

The Lashkar will also be looking to revive militancy in Punjab in a bid to fulfill their long standing promise towards the Babbar Khalsa. Both these outfits are working together on Pakistan soil and efforts are being made to revive militancy in this region. The two outfits attempted to carry out a strike in Punjab during the previous general elections, but the plans were foiled by Indian security agencies. At present the Babbar Khalsa has already commenced its process to infiltrate terrorists into the Indian soil so that attacks could be carried out.

The arrest of David Headley too reveals a deadly plan by the Lashkar to carry out spectacular attacks on Indian soil. His arrest has made it evident that the Lashkar and the Al-Qaeda were planning big attacks in India and in this regard he along with Tawwahur Rana were asked to survey various targets in India.

Currently there are nearly 44 camps operating in Pakistan which are set up to exclusively to target India. IB sources say that off the 44 camps, 36 are active and are prepared to strike at any given time. The rest of the camps have been placed on stand by mode. The worrying part is that there are 2400 militants who are housed in these camps and are awaiting orders to strike on Indian soil

India’s Response to Terror

People did not usher in the New Year of 2009 with great fanfare since the memories of the horrific Mumbai attack was still very fresh in their minds. The year 2009 was by and large peaceful when compared to 2008 when there were blasts almost every single day in the country. It appears that India had learnt its lesson and the security was tight to a large extent and interestingly the arrests of various local terrorists were made in the right manner thus curbing terror activities to a large extent.

The year 2009 had more strategies and there was a lot of damage control exercise that was undertaken in a bid to curb terror activities in India. Let us look back at terrorism in India in the past one year and also how the government has coped up with this issue.

The year 2009 largely focused on the investigations into the Mumbai attack. Four months after the attack the chargesheet was filed and 12 Pakistanis apart from the lone surviving gunman Ajmal Kasab were named in it.

There was growing pressure from the people of the country to act upon terror. It was clear that there was a failure and also lack of coordination among the security agencies which made the job of terrorists easier. The government of India then set up a Multi Agency Centre apart from a nodal agency within the Intelligence Bureau which was made responsible for coordination. Apart from this subsidiary multi agencied were also set up which were handed over the responsibility to maintain a data bank regarding terrorists and their outfits.

On January 1 2009 three blasts rocked Assam in which several people were killed and many other injured. The blasts took place ahead of the visit by the Home Minister to the state. The hand of ULFA was confirmed in the blasts.

On January 3, an important arrest was made in Uttar Pradesh, Mirzapur. The police said that these were members of a local terror outfit sponsored by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. 5200 kilograms of ammonium nitrate, 41 bundles of fuse wire, 300 detonators, 157 detonator chargers, and a locally made pistol, a rifle and some cartridges were seized from them.

On January 5, the government handed over the first bit of evidence to Pakistan stating its role in the Mumbai attack. The government also stepped up pressure on Pakistan to hand over the terrorists it had with them.

On January 7th, the Gujarat police made an important breakthrough in the serial blasts case when it arrested a man by the name Ghulam Mustafa. While his role in the serial blasts was being probed, it also became clear that he had planned on carrying out several attacks in the state. Three days later an ISI agent, Amir Ahmed was picked up in Meerut along with documents having information on anti tank guided missiles.

The Union Government decided to undertake measures to strenghthen local intelligence gathering. The government directed all states to form a dedicated fund so that this machinery could be strengthened.

The year 2009 also saw the formation of the National Investigating Agency. This agency was set up and the role assigned to it was to investigate all cases pertaining to terrorism anywhere in the country. The first chief of the agency was Radha Vinod Raju

In January 2009 there was an important breakthrough that was made in the Bangalore blasts case with the arrest of E. T. Zainudheen alias Abdul Sattar, a native of Malappuram District in Kerala. Sattar was closely associated with Riyaz Bhatkal, a leader of the IM

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) restructured two of its divisions, the Internal Security (IS) and Police. It assigned more senior officers to look into operational aspects of anti-terror operations.

A key SIMI operative by the name Amil Parvesh was arrested in Kerala and he confessed that he had trained several persons in bomb making. He said that he was sent from Madhya Pradesh to southern Indian to train cadres.

In February, the investigation into the Mumbai attack got a boost with the FBI passing on evidence stating that the entire plan was hatched in Pakistan. The FBI handed over details of the VoIP and satellite phone conversation details which indicated that the Mumbai attack was planned in Pakistan.

In March 2009, the Bangalore police made an important arrest and for the first time the ulf link to terror operations in India were revealed. Sarfaraz Nawaz was picked up from Muscat and brought down to Bangalore for allegedly funding the blasts. He confirmed that funds were being raised from several rich persons in the Gulf to facilitate terror attacks in India.

Another interesting development that came to light was that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba had for the first time utilized cadres from Kerala for their Kashmir operation. Fiyaz Ahammed, Sajad Ahammed Reshi and Shabbir Ahammed Tal took part in the terror camp organised by the LeT in Kupwara and Dorusa forest areas in Kashmir.

On March 23, the trial in the Mumbai case commences with Kasab confirming that he was a Pakistan national. The prosecution proposed 312 charges against him

On April 6th another blast rocked Assam in which 6 persons were injured.

In the month of May India expressed displeasure over the manner in which Pakistan was handling the perpertrators of the Mumbai attack. The Home Minister on the release of Hafiz Sayeed had said that Pakistan does not show a degree of seriousness and commitment that it should.

A very important arrest of Omar Madani was made in New Delhi. The Delhi police had said that he had helped various militants cross over from Pakistan to India through Nepal. It was also revealed that he had prepared an accutrate route map which was used by the Mumbai map maker Fahim Ansari.

In June the government decided to increase the number of coastal police stations. It was also decided to take steps to better the coordination between the Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Police of States apart from the intelligence agencies to increase security vigil. The government also set up a high level committee to review the costal security in the aftermath of the Mumbai attack. Further the government also decided to introduce identification cards to the residents of coastal villages. The government said that entire process would be complted by March 10

In July Pakistan for the first time handed over a 36 page dossier and confirmed the Lashkar-e-Tayiba had carried out the Mumbai attacks. The dossier termed Lashkar operations chief Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi as the mastermind and admitting the Pakistan nationality of Ajmal Amir Kasab.

I August, India handed over another dossier to Pakistan on the Mumbai attack. In the dossier it pressed the need to prosecute Lashkar bosss Hafiz Sayeed The dossier, comprising a seven-page summary and 60 pages of annexure, contains replies to queries posed by Pakistan with regard to investigation and legal process involved in the 26/11 attacks which were carried out by Lashkar.

A special POTA court sentenced to death three persons in connection with the bomb blast case of August 2003. The sentence against was pronounced against Haneef Sayyed, his wife Fahmeeda and Ashrat Ansari.

The Union Government informed the Supreme Court that after the Mumbai terrorist attacks, it asked the States to set up anti-terrorist squads, and many States did so. This was in response to a petition which had expressed concern over the police using outdated weapons and being ill-equipped to handle terror attacks.

A paramilitary force called the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) set up 578 security posts on the Butan and Nepal border to curb infiltration by terrorists.

In the month of August, the government proposed to enact a federal anti terror law to give more powers to the NIA. The government also planned on setting up a centralized system to monitor communications on mobile phones, internet and also landlines.

On August 30, Vikki, son of Majid Manihar who is an ISI agent was picked up in Uttar Pradesh. He revealed that counterfeit currency was printed in Lahore and Karachi in Pakistan from where it is sent to Nepal by cargo and then to India. The entire operation is managed by the ISI through its Nepal-based agent Manihar, Vikki’s father. A month later Fake currency worth Rs 209000 brought from Bangladesh was recovered from a youth in Raipur in Chhattisgarh.

Sudhanshu Sudhakar, a dismissed Indian army jawan was arrested for working for the ISI. He had been tipping off the ISI regarding the operations of the Indian army so as to help terrorists infiltrate into India.

October was a turning point for the investigations in the Mumbai attack. The FBI picked up two persons, David Headley and Tawwahur Rana in connection with a plot to attack a Danish newspaper. Later it came to light that the two of them were involved in the Mumbai attack and had carried out a reccee of the attacked targets.

On November 14, a spy from Pakistan was picked up in New Delhi. He was trying to board a flight to Saudi Arabia with important defence documents.

The same month the Home Minister announced that a DNA data bank would be set up. He also announced that there would be a modernization plan which would include the opening of forensic labs and mobile units apart from Global Unique File descroptors.

On November 16, Nuclear installations in the coutry were put on high alert after the FBI found that Headley had them on the radar.

In the same month the BSF picks up T Nasir, a Lashkar operative who had allegedly masterminded the Bangalore blasts apart from sending cadres to Kashmir to fight alongside other Lashkar operatives.

November 26 marked the first anniversary of the Mumbai attack. This event was marred by controversy with the wife of Ashok Kamte, alleging that the Mumbai police had not enough to save her husband.

Two days later the Home Ministry said that Rs 1.47 billion has been sactioned to establish secure online connectivity between various agencies.This was in addition to the scheme of INR 41.85 billion for modernising CPMF to enhance their operational capabilities. Under this scheme, the forces would be equipped with latest weapons, surveillance and communication facilities and body-protection gear.

The Shy Girl Wants A Divorce

Jawaharlal Neheru while announcing the formation of a united Andhra Pradesh had said on the Telangana issue, “an innocent girl called Telangana is being married to a naughty boy called Andhra. It is of their choice to continue or to get separated.

Today the people of Telangana say that the time has come and the innocent girl can no longer stay married to the naughty boy. Several protagonists of the movement say that it is high time the state is given back to them.

Dr Srinivas Raj, one of the protagonists of the Telangana movement has prepared a ready reckoner on the issue. He along with several others have been distributing this booklet among the people of Telangana and convincing the people as to why this movement is important and how their lives would change once their state is given back to them.

In this interview with, Dr Raj gives very interesting about the movement. He also goes into length about the backroom politics that is being played in trying to curb this movement.

Would you like to give us a brief introduction to the entire movement called Telangana?

We talk of Jalianwala Bagh with such great interest. No one wants to even think of the massacre that had taken place in Telangana at the time the Nizam was ruling us. The Hyderabad state was under the Nizam and Urdu was the official language at that time. Right from that period of time, the people of Telangana were being suppressed. The Nizam’s army butchered the people of Telangana who sought for their rights and there were at least 6 Jalianwala Bhaghs at that point of time. The problem is that we continue to get suppressed even today and that is why we feel that a separate state is required.

You had a separate state, then what happened?

Between 1948 and 1956 Telangana was a separate state. Hyderabad had several industries including two airports. There was a lot of concentration on the Telangana region and this area has a lot of infrastructure. The Time Magazine had in 1937 featured V Usman Ali Khan as the wealthiest man in the world. This only speaks of the wealth that there was in this region. Once Andhra and Rayalseema came out of the Madras presidency, the people of those regions thought that it would be best to merge Telangana with their regions. Our Assembly building, the High court building were all from the Nizam’s period. Moreover in 1909 M Visveswaraya, the father of engineering had constructed an underground drainage system in Hyderabad which is being used till date. 69 per cent of the Krishna catchment area is in Telangana region. The revenues that were being generated out of the Telangana region were good too when compared to Andhra and Rayalseema. The very fact that Dr B R Ambedkar had said that Hyderabad should be made the second capital of India speaks volumes about the region. Moreover Hyderabad is a connecting point between North and South India. They wanted ready made infrastructure which was in abundance in Telangana and hence they managed to pressurize the government of India to consider their decision.

Were there promises broken when the Union Government merged Telangana?

Yes the very first promise that was broken was regarding the name of the state. The union government had promised us that the state would be known as the Andhra Telangana state. However overnight the leaders from the Andhra and Rayalseema regions managed to convince the union government to change the name to Andhra Pradesh. This was the first of the promises to be broken. After that the leaders of the two other regions worked consistently to make Telangana a backward region. Another instance of a broken promise is the fact that the Shriram Sagar water project in Nizamabad is lying in the cold storage since the past 40 years.

What is the main justification for seeking a separate state? Do you really think that things would improve?

It is absolutely important that we be given a separate state. Our accent and our culture is different. Our style is very Deccan and we use a lot of Urdu when we speak. We have a mixture of Northern and Southern style. We even celebrate Holi. We have every reason to demand for a state. To be honest, if Telangana is carved out it would be bigger than 100 countries in the world and larger than 18 different states in the country. Once Telangana is carved out it will be 1,14,800 square kilometers.

What we fail to understand is that how did the Government manage to bypass all of you and merge Telangana?

We concentrated more on development and not politics. The simple fact is that we did not have access to the central leadership like the way the leaders of Andhra and Rayalseema had.

How do the people of Telangana region look at the people of the rest of Andhra Pradesh?

The question should be the other way around. Since day one, we have been treated like second rated citizens. Depriving us of development is one issue, but the fact that everyone makes fun of us is also an important point over here. Take the film industry for instance. There are no cinema heroes from our region. Moreover what hurts the most is that the language spoken by the people of Telangana is always attributed to a joker or a villain in the movie.

There has been terrible violence due to this issue. Would you want to justify that?

The violence is not half of what the media has been projecting. I have statistics to support my view. In the Telangana region, the Andhra Pradesh Road Transport Corporation faced a loss of Rs 7 crore due to the protests. This was mainly because the services were shut down and also due to incidents of stone pelting. Whereas in Andhra and Rayalseema the losses were to the tune of Rs 70 crore and this was largely because buses were being burnt. The BSNL too had said that at the Shrikrishna Devaraya university at Rayalseema, students had burnt its optic fibres which resulted in a loss of Rs 2 crore. There was also an incident in which supporters of J C Divaker Reddy in Rayalseema had bombed a railway station.causing a loss of Rs 10 crore. Now it is clear that the people of Telangana have not been protesting in these regions. I can say with gurantee that we have only protested in a democratic manner. All these statistics have never been reported by the media since 95 per cent of the media is being controlled by barons from the Andhra and Rayalseema belts. The media too has been asked to project only incidents taking place in the Rayalseema region. Please understand this is a demand by us for the past 50 years, it is not something that has happened overnight.

What is your view on the flip flop by political parties in Andhra Pradesh?

Both the Telegu Desam Party and the Praja Rajyam Party had said that they would support the bill if it is introduced. Till the 2009 elections, the TDP was against Telangana, but at the time of the polls they joined hands with the TRS since it felt that the demand was very strong. Today due to pressure from the other regions, they are back tracking. There was also this issue when many legislators raised a point saying that the union government had acted in haste by announcing the formation of a separate state during midnight. I would like to ask them whether they had a problem when India got independence at mid night.

This issue has scared off investors. Aren’t you worried that prices will drop and the economy will suffer.

The people of Andhra and Rayalseema have purchased lands from the poor people of Telangana at throw away prices. Over the years they have inflated the prices by 100 times. These persons are worried. There is also the middle class which has invested in land in the Telangana region. I would say for a fact that the prices would drop by half once Telangana is formed. However this is temporary. Once the state is formed and the Telangana government invites investors, the real estate would be back to normal.

Finally, there is a murmur that Jagan Reddy could be behind all this in a bid to overthrow Rosaiah. What is your take on this?

(Laughs), He is very much behind the scene or at least was behind it. He did try and overthrow Rosaiah by escalating the tension. However things went out of control when the movement went into the hands of the Telangana people. He is now in soup since there is pressure from the people of his belt. He is now trying to paint a different picture to come out of the soup.

JAC decides Telangana agitation to be peaceful

A Joint Action Committee formed to address the Telangana issue decided on Wednesday night not to resort to bundhs, which affect public life.
The meeting headed by Telangana Rastriya Samithi Chief K Chandrashekhar Rao also decided to keep the agitation peaceful.

A TRS leader, who was part of the meeting that had leaders from all the parties belonging to the Telangana region, told that they would continue to step up the pressure but would never resort to violence.

The meeting, which just concluded, also decided that there would be dharnas held in the entire Telangana region, but they would all be peaceful. The meeting also revealed its displeasure over the delay tactics being adopted by the Union home ministry.

At the meeting it was decided that they would hold dharnas and protest meetings only to keep reminding the government that their voice regarding the issue has not been lowered. The meeting also decided to adopt a ‘wait and watch’ policy.

“We will wait till January 5 to see what result the meeting of the home minister would yield,” he said.

Several prominent leaders of the Telangana region including former home minister of Andhra Pradesh Jana Reddy were also present at the meeting.

Farewell to Dr Vishnuvardhan

Thousands descended on the streets to give their Sahasasimha, Dr Vishnuvardhan, a grand farewell. Dr Vishnuvardhan, who has acted in over 190 films, was laid to rest at the Abhiman studios in Bengaluru on Wednesday evening.

A state funeral amidst thousands of mourning fans was given to the departed soul. The air was filled with chants of ‘Long Live Sahasasimha!’ as the body was laid to rest.

Apart from family, friends and fans there was also a huge presence of police personnel, who have been battling all day to ensure that everything went on smoothly.

Karnataka Chief Miniser B S Yeddyurappa and several of his cabinet ministers too were present at the funeral. The star’s good friend and rebel star Ambareesh stayed close to the body all through the proceedings. He was even seen helping control the crowd.

The funeral proceedings commenced with the Hindu rites and wad followed by a gun salute by the state police. The star’s brother Ravi finally lighted the funeral pyre at around 8 pm.

Meanwhile, the government has decided to set up a memorial at the Abhiman studios.
It has announced a grant of Rs 10 crore to set up the memorial, apart from granting two acres of land towards the same.

Prior to the body being brought down to the Abhiman studios to perform the last rites, it was taken on a procession in the city. Shutters of all shops in the city were downed as a mark of respect.

The police had been anticipating trouble all day long and had to resort to lathi charge on several occasions. However, the scene got a bit ugly when fans started pelting stones at the South End circle area in Bengaluru minutes before the procession passed by.

Buses and autos were the worst hit as fans threw stones. The police had to resort to a lathi charge in order to quell the mob. The mob fury was quite evident when some persons even pelted stones at the ambulance that was carrying the body of the star.
Even the car of the Commissioner of Police Shankar Bidri was not spared and he too had to bear the ire of the mob. Even minutes before the pyre was lit, fans set ablaze a police van outside the venue at which the funeral was held. The fans were upset that some of them not allowed into the venue.

At Abhiman studios, the scene were simply heart rendering. The star’s wife, Bharathi, put up a brave face while she watched the last rites being performed.

She had to regularly appeal to the fans to maintain calm. She was along with her two daughters, Keerthi and Chandana.

Some of the members of the Vishnuvardhan fans association, who helped in carrying out the last rites, said that the violence in some parts of the city was not something a true fan could have done.

“There are some miscreants who are doing all this. Our hero was a peace loving man and even in his death, we will respect what he stood for,” a member said.

Photograph courtesy: KPN Photos

Girish Kasarvalli pays tribute to Vishnuvardhan

Today, Karnataka has lost one of its greatest actors. The death of the Sahasasimha Dr Vishnuvardhan has left a vaccum in the film industry and many say that this space can never be filled up.

Renowned director Girish Kasarvalli pays a fitting tribute to the superstar and takes us through his thoughts of Dr Vishnuvardhan, originally known as Sampath Kumar.

The Kannada industry has seen many stars. What made Dr Vishnuvardhan unique was his style of acting.

He was effortless when it came to acting. I would say that he is one of the most sensitive actors the industry has ever produced. The manner in which he approached every role was simply amazing. There was a sensitivity that was involved in the manner in which he handled roles given to him and this was one of the primary reasons why he stood above the rest.

Vishnuvardhan had the courage to attempt a lot of roles. He handled the roles with such ease. Look at the manner in which he played an angry young man in Naagarahavu.

Although he was largely accepted at that time as an angry young man, he did not stagnate. Instead, he attempted various other roles and played them with such ease that they were also successful.

I would like to mention two films here, Muthina Haara and Bandhana. The characters played by him in these movies gave his career a new dimension. His role as an army officer in Muthina Haara is worth a mention since it has several shades.

His performance in Bandhana was path-breaking too. He plays a romantic hero and has handled it with such ease. I feel that these are two very important movies in his career, which propelled him to superstardom.

Younger film actors can learn a lot from Dr Vishnuvardhan. Besides his acting skills, I would tell youngsters to follow the way he delivers his dialogues. I feel he had the best dialogue delivery in the industry. The power and ease with which he delivered his dialogues is something that every young and aspiring actor can learn from.

As a human being, Vishnuvardhan was an extremely decent man, who never turned down anyone who needed help. He had many friends in the industry and all of them swear by him till date. That is quite a rare trait for a big star.

The loss is unbearable and terrible. It is impossible for us to reconcile this loss. All I would like to say that he is one of the most popular actors and a noble human being who will be missed by all of us.

‘Sahasasimha’ Vishnuvardhan passes away

Leading Kannada film actor Dr Vishnuvardhan passed away at Mysore in the wee hours of Wednesday following a cardiac arrest.

The 54-year-old actor, popularly known as Sahasasimha, had complained of chest pain on Tuesday night. However, he passed away at around 2.30 am while being taken to Vikram Hospital in Mysore, where he was being treated for a leg problem.

The actor’s body has been kept at National College grounds in Bengaluru for visitors to pay their last respects on Wednesday.

Thousands of fans and celebrities had gathered at Vishnuvardhan’s Bengaluru residence at 4th block, Jayanagar, where his body was first kept.

The actor is married to Bharathi, a Kannada actress, and has two adopted daughters Keerthi and Chandana.

Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa, who was one of the first to reach the residence, said the state had lost one of its greatest actors.

He said he would declare the mourning period in the state and that Vishnuvardhan’s last rites would be done with complete state honours.

Yeddyurappa also called on the Fans Association to maintain calm.

Vishnuvardhan’s wife Bharathi also appealed for calm among the fans, saying her husband was a peace loving person.

Movie theatres in Karnataka will remain shut on Wednesday in respect to the departed star.

Just a day ago, the Karnataka film industry had lost another great artiste, music composer C Aswath.

Vishnuvardhan, who has acted in 190 films, was not only known as one of the greatest actors of Kannada film industry following Dr Raj Kumar, but also as a simple and generous human being.

Two of his films Aaptha Rakshaka — his 200th film — and Aaptha Mithra were to be released shortly.

Born on September 18, 1950, in Mysore as Samapth Kumar, the actor adopted the screen name Vishnuvardhan at the insistence of Puttana Kanagal, who directed him in his film Nagarahavu.

He made his debut in the film Vamshavruksha directed by Girish Karnad. The movie won a National Award.

However, it was the film Nagarahavu that took the actor to meteoric heights of fame.

Prior to becoming an actor, Vishnuvardhan had started off as a singer and has sung for selected films and devotional albums.

Karnataka minister Suresh Kumar said the state was “devastated over the death of the greatest actor of the Kannada film industry”.

Some of his biggest hits were Vamsha Vruksha, Nagarahaavu, Suprabhatha, Leela, Bandhana, Kaidhi, Yajamana and Aaptha Mithra among others.

The actor has also won many prestigious awards, including seven state awards and five Filmfare awards.

Goa was on Headley’s radar

The case pertaining to Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative David Headley seems to be getting murkier with each passing day. The latest on Headley is his Goa connection where he stayed for a couple of weeks and was closely associated with an American couple.

Preliminary investigations by the National Investigating Agency have revealed that Headley and his Moroccon girlfriend had kept in touch with the couple in Goa regularly. They met up quite often and there is nothing to indicate that the couple were aware of his terror plans in India.

Headley visited Goa in 2008 during the last leg of the reccee that he had conducted in Mumbai. Sources in the Intelligence Bureau told that Headley was definitely not on a holiday in Goa, but was exploring the possibility of carrying out a terror strike in the tourist destination.

For the Lashkar, Goa was a backup option to the Mumbai attack. The idea from the very beginning was to carry out a lethal strike in which they could claim the lives of foreigners in particular.

The NIA says it is possible that Headley was using the American couple in Goa as a cover. However, investigators are not ruling out the possibility that the couple could have been in the know of what Headley was up to.

Headley, during his first visit to Goa along with his girlfriend, had visited a shack and a massage parlour that were being run illegally by the American couple. Due to the common nationality it was easy for Headley to get close to the couple. Investigations would show that he had asked them about various places in Goa. This gives the impression that Headley was laying the groundwork for an attack on Goa.

The names of the American couple are being kept a secret for the time being. The information that the NIA has managed to collect is that the couple had been working in Goa since nine years on a tourist visa. They had kept their identity a secret since they were living illegally.

The statements of the couple suggest that they had no knowledge of Headley’s plans. They have not been very forthcoming on their meetings with Headley, but have admitted to having met his girlfriend once in Goa. However, investigations have revealed that Headley had met with the couple, both with his girlfriend and also separately.

The NIA says that they have not yet given a clean chit to the American couple and would continue to probe further to ascertain whether they were in the know of Headley’s terror mission.

Sources in the Intelligence Bureau say that the Lashkar is desperate to target Goa since it believes that such an attack would give them the most attention. They have made several attempts in the past and the last time they got close to attacking Goa was before the arrest of Hyderabad-based Lashkar operative Riazzuddin Nasir.

The IB says that there is no other reason for Headley to visit Goa apart from conducting a reccee, since he would not have taken such a risk for no reason, especially when he was in India on such an important mission.

The NIA says that it would continue its probe against the American couple in Goa and has also requested that the couple be not deported. The Goa Police, however, claim that they do not have any information on this couple. The Goa superintendent of police’s office, when contacted, said they have not yet been given any information regarding this angle to the Headley case.

Al Qaeda and D-Gang operating in Africa

The arrest of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian national who tried to set off an explosive device on board a Detroit-bound flight, has confirmed the United States administration’s fears about the presence of an active Al Qaeda terror network in several African nations including Nigeria and Kenya.

Speaking on the terror network operating inside Africa, sources in the Intelligence Bureau said that some African nations were initially used as hide-out by criminals feeling the law, including members of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim’s gang. Initially, Dawood’s brother Anees Ibrahim supervised the drug trade of the D-Gang, and Nigeria and Kenya were used as hubs to carry out such operations.

However, after the Mumbai serial blasts in 1993, as the police intensified the search for members of the D-Gang, several of them sought refuge in these African nations. The fugitives were led by one Abdul Karim, who was later instructed to supervise the gang’s operations in Africa.

Soon, Pakistan’s spy agency Inter Services Intelligence stepped in and directed the D-Gang to help Al Qaeda set up its operations in Africa. The ISI agreed to help Dawood carry out his drug trade, and members of his gang assisted Al Qaeda in setting up terror bases in the continent.

The first such base was set up in Mombassa in Kenya, under the guidance of Karim. Al Qaeda began recruiting people for terror training, and IB sources suspect that over 2,000 cadres of the terror outfits may be operating in Africa by now. Each of them has been trained in specialised terror activities and suicide strikes, they say.

Al Qaeda, which wooed like-minded extremist outfits in Africa to join its terror mission, called its front organisation the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders.

IB officials point out that Al Qaeda modules operating in African nations planned terror strikes in Europe, while their Asian counterparts like the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Harkat-ul-Jihadi carried out terror attacks in Asia.

Back Home

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.