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News Watch 05 Dec 2008

HEADLINES

  • India has 'proof of ISI involvement' But it also wary of walking into trap of escalating hostility (IE)
  • Signs are Israeli hostages tortured, strangled: Police (IE)
  • 17 terrorists set sail from Pak, seven went back (TOI)
  • Taking RGV, Riteish to terror spot was a mistake: Deshmukh(IE)
  • Pranab will go to Sri Lanka soon, PM assures TN CM (IE)
  • 65% cast vote in Rajasthan (TOI)
  • 68.22 per cent voting in 3rd phase in J&K (HINDU)
  • Inflation falls more, to 8.4% (AA)

LEAD

Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Rakesh Maria on Thursday said there are indications that the Israeli hostages at Nariman House were tortured by the terrorists and some of them died due to strangulation. Replying to a question, Maria said, "Yes, there are indications that they were indeed tortured although we are yet to receive medical reports. However, the signs are that some of the deaths were caused due to strangulation and not from bomb or bullet injuries." The bodies were handed over to the relatives of the victims without conducting autopsy following a request by the Israeli Consulate. Judaism does not permit autopsy or embalming of bodies. (IE)

  • New Delhi: Deccan Mujahideen the unknown terror module first heard of during the recent Mumbai attacks is now said to be posing one of the deadliest threats to Indian aviation. Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai airports, in particular, have been put on the highest possible alert following specific intelligence reports that this group, or foreign terrorists using the name as a front, may target one of the three airports on or around December 6 the 16th anniversary of Babri Masjid demolition. Based on intelligence reports, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) issued a terror alert on Wednesday night, saying: "There could be a terror attack between December 4 to 7, around the Babri Masjid demolition anniversary, at Chennai, Bangalore or Delhi airport. It could be in the form of a hijack attempt or explosives concealed in personal gear like coat etc." (TOI)
  • New Delhi: With intelligence inputs saying terrorists could strike through the aerial route after the maritime attack in Mumbai, the IAF has cranked up air defence measures to thwart any copycat attempt of al Qaida's 9/11 strikes. "This is based on a warning which has been received...We are prepared as usual," said Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major on Thursday, a day after defence minister A K Antony reviewed the "preparedness to deal with any terror strike from the air" with the military brass here. From deploying additional surface-to-air missile batteries and "sensors" around "vital assets" in different cities to maintaining round the-clock ORPs (operational readiness platforms) in the shape of fighter jets at various airbases, the IAF is trying to make the country's airspace as impregnable as possible. "If a threat is detected, fighters will be scrambled to intercept, escort and force a hijacked plane to land at a preselected airport," said a senior officer. (TOI)
  • New Delhi: The govt is toying with the idea of reducing the price of petrol by up to Rs 10 a litre double the amount by which it was raised in June diesel by Rs 3 and cooking gas by Rs 20 per refill in the wake of crude prices looking set to hover around $45 a barrel in international markets. A reduction in fuel prices has been in the offing since September when crude started to slide from its mid-July peak of $147/barrel. But the higher amount being considered for reduction is part of an overall strategy to put money into people's pockets in the hope that it may spur demand or help in taking some pressure off other areas. A set of proposals, outlining the economics and combinations for reducing fuel prices, may be taken to the Cabinet next week by when the results of all state elections except J&K are out. The imperative for a hefty cut in fuel prices also increases as it is expected to bring some cheer in the aftermath of the attacks in Mumbai. (TOI)
  • NEW DELHI: Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar on Thursday expressed confidence that 1,500 MW of nuclear power would be added to the national grid in 2009 as the country was poised to benefit from the civil nuclear cooperation agreements with Russia, France and United States. He was addressing the 11th India Power Forum meet here. Dr. Kakodkar said he envisaged nuclear power plants comprising 6-8 units of 1000 MW each built over the next 9-10 years. (HINDU)
  • New Delhi: An extra dose of Rs 17,400 crore in social spending and a fiscal package, spearheaded by an interest subsidy of 2.5 per cent to fix home loan interest at 9.5 per cent, are likely to be announced on Saturday to boost the slowing Indian economy. At a meeting with the Cabinet Secretary today, it was decided to push for an interest rate subvention on new home loans which would, in turn, provide the stimulus to the housing and construction-related sectors such as steel and cement, said sources. The subsidy would be available for home loans below Rs 25 lakh but sources said that the cut-off point would be decided by the high-powered committee on economic crisis headed by PM Manmohan Singh. (IE)
  • New Delhi: Ashok Chavan has emerged the top choice of the Congress legislature party in Maharashtra after a central team carried out an assessment exercise among the MLAs, MLCs and MPs on who should succeed Vilasrao Deshmukh as CM. As indicated by TOI, the majority view, top sources said, backed state industries minister Ashok Chavan while the second choice was former Shiv Sainik and revenue minister Narayan Rane. Despite finishing second best, Rane continued to lobby hard in a spirit of do-or-die. He is threatening not to work under Chavan. While Chavan should get the top job, the central leadership has to discuss the report of senior leaders Pranab Mukherjee and A K Antony with ally and NCP chief Sharad Pawar which would be followed by final endorsement from Sonia Gandhi. Pawar has been lukewarm towards Chavan and it remains to be seen how he reacts now, after his first choice of union power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde was ignored well before the race began. Congress has clearly plumped for a Maratha to lead the party in the state, and has ignored the NCP view that it go for a non-Maratha to set right the social combination.(TOI)
  • The Mayawati govt's decision to name a traffic roundabout on Lohia Path, near the Gandhi Setu, after Dr Ambedkar has ruffled a lot of political feathers in the state. The Congress and the Samajwadi Party (SP) this as an insult to other great leaders and have accused the Mayawati govt of insulting the non-dalit political icons. The Lucknow Municipal Corporation (LMC) on Wednesday named the traffic roundabout near Gandhi Setu after Dr Ambedkar. The other crossing across the newly-constructed eight-lane bridge has been renamed as the Samata Mulak crossing. This was earlier known as the Uptron crossing. A proposal for renaming these two crossing was sent to the LMC by the PWD department, a few days ago. Officials of the LMC said that the decision for changing the names was already taken by the state administration and they merely had to comply.(AA)
  • New Delhi: Union Home Minister P Chidambaram seems to have begun on a sound note as he got a qualified go-ahead from the opposition BJP on the idea of a federal investigating agency, when he called on former Union Home Minister and NDA's prime ministerial candidate L K Advani, here on Thursday. Chidambaram is reported to have stressed on a "tougher approach" to tackle Terror in his 30-minute meeting with Advani, who, in turn, is learnt to have said that a "stringent anti-terror law, with provisions of expeditious trial and conviction both of terrorists and those who assist them, was fundamental to this approach and country's fight against terror". The Home Minister is then learnt to have discussed the basic features of the federal agency under consideration, with the BJP leader. "Call it by any name, a tough anti-terror law is a must to supplement the idea of a federal investigating agency," Advani is learnt to have said. (IE)

BJP

BJP set out the agenda for extending cooperation to the govt over combating terrorism by calling for immediate suspension of the peace process with Pakistan, enacting stern anti-terror laws, revamping police training and Coast Guard and sharing information of the Mumbai attacks with the international community. The party said it supported a federal investigative agency, but also insisted on a federal security law. Such a law would be needed to give teeth to an agency having a pan-India remit. The BJP core group met on Thursday after the conclusion of polling in Rajasthan to take a view on its political approach to the Mumbai terror attacks. The party said it would support building a consensus on terrorism but this could come about only if the govt fully shared facts with the main Opposition. In what could be a controversial proposal, BJP also mooted restrictions on media, particularly TV, coverage of live action of anti-terror operations and disturbing scenes of violence. If the pictures were showing blood and in other instances, there were shots of a communal riot in progress, it could be very counter-productive, said a core group member. (TOI)

LEFT PARTIES

Attacking the BJP and a section of the media for advocating a U.S.-type response to the Mumbai terror attacks, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Thursday said such a move would only result in what terror outfits such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) wanted. Observing that after the attack on the Twin Towers, the Bush administration had waged a war against Iraq which had "nothing whatsoever" to do with the terror strike, the party said military strikes against targets in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) "will surely provoke a war" with Pakistan. "The result would be exactly what the extremist outfits like LeT want," CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury said. In an editorial in the latest issue of People's Democracy, he said what was required was not to go to war with Pakistan "but to ensure that strong action is taken against terrorist organisations and personnel in that country." (HINDU)

I. CURRENT AFFAIRS

Ashok Chavan is top choice for Maha CM: Maharashtra industries minister Ashok Chavan has emerged as the top choice of the Congress legislature party for Maharashtra CM. The choice of Chavan, a Maratha, will be put up before ally NCP. Former Sena rebel Narayan Rane is the second choice for the post.(TOI)

Free legal aid for terror-hit: Victims of terror will now be provided free legal aid. The Union Cabinet has approved a proposal to provide free legal aid to senior citizens, dependents of security personnel who die in terrorist or extremist violence, and victims themselves.(TOI)

Blasts in Philippines, 5 injured: Two powerful blasts rocked Isulan city on Mindanao island in the southern Philippines late on Thursday, injuring at least five people, officials said. Muslim rebels are believed to have planted the crude bombs in a shoe box in a bag.(TOI)

STATES

ANDHRA PRADESH

In a chilling revelation, intelligence department officials have said that at least 40 young men from the Old City have 'disappeared' since the Mecca Masjid blasts in May last year. According to the officials, this list of 40 does not refer to those reported missing by the family or those the police want to round up for questioning with regard to their involvement in any subversive activities. "These are youths from the old city's lower middle class families. They are young and easily influenced by extreme Islamic teachings which glorify jihad and martyrdom. We suspect that they have slipped out to training camps either within or outside the country with the intention of returning and causing trouble," said one official. Viquar Ahmed, who was involved in the shooting incident in Santoshnagar on Wednesday and who is still at large, was one such missing youth. "Ever since the Mecca Masjid blast, he was not traceable in Hyderabad. He surfaced only 10 days ago and we still do not know where he was during this time. But the fact that he is now carrying weapons and is accompanied by other armed accomplices makes us suspect that he has been busy," said the official.(TOI)

DELHI

With US help, India is said to have collected evidence that points to the role of the Pakistani ISI in the Mumbai Terror attacks. Pressure is now being mounted on Islamabad to ban the Muridke-based Jamat-ud-Dawa, which fronts for the banned Lashkar-e-Toiba, and move against its leader Hafiz Saeed. Sources said New Delhi believes the Mumbai attack was an operation of the Pakistani Army, its intelligence agency and Lashkar cadres and that the civilian Govt there was not kept in the loop. India has asked Pakistan to act against the perpetrators but has not submitted any list of Indian fugitives to Islamabad after the attack. Sources said New Delhi was demanding Islamabad initiate action not only against the Lashkar but also those within the ISI who actively conspired in the Mumbai attacks.(IE)

J&K

Election authorities on Thursday said that 68.22 per cent polling was recorded in third phase of election in five Assembly segment of Kupwara district after final compilation of the figures. "With reference to the presiding officers diaries of the five Assembly segment of Kupwara district, which went to polls on November 30 in third phase of elections in the State was recorded as 68.22 per cent," an official statement said. Giving further details, it said that 80.41 per cent of votes were cast in Karnah segment followed by 75.47 per cent in Handwara, 68.46 per cent in Lolab, 62.60 per cent in Kupwara and 61.46 per cent in Langate segment. The poll percentage in the third phase has gone up by more than six per cent from 61.32 to 68.22 per cent, an official spokesman said. He said the final figures were compiled after all the presiding officers submitted their reports to the election authorities. (HINDU)

MADHYA PRADESH

A Madhya Pradesh court on Thursday handed over an alleged terrorist, wanted for the Ahmedabad blasts, to the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of Gujarat, the police said. "Qayimuddin alias Musa alias Rizwan, who was nabbed on November 10 from Ujjain, was granted police remand for 15 days. Later, the Delhi Police took him for questioning in some cases. He was presented in the Ujjain court by the Delhi Police on Thursday. The court on the request of the Gujarat ATS handed him to it on police remand till December 18," a police official said.(HINDU)

RAJASTHAN

Rajasthan recorded a high turnout of between 65% and 68% on Thursday in a fairly peaceful poll with reports of only some stray incidents of violence. Although polling started on a slow note it was only 40% by 3 pm it picked up steam towards the end, and the total turnout ended up by being higher than that in 1998 (63.39%) and probably the same as in 2003 (67.18%). Poll pundits, however, are still very uncertain about the possible outcome, mainly because of the presence of a large number of rebels (both BJP and Congress) who are contesting as Independents. Chief Electoral Officer Vinod Zutshi said, "Stray incidents of booth capturing and malfunctioning of EVMs and violence were recorded. Based on this report, we would recommend repolling in some booths after scrutinising the documents on Friday." According to the initial reports, the highest polling was reported in Hanumangarh at 78% followed by Jaisalmer at 75%. The six mobile booths in Jaisalmer that were introduced for the first time registered 69-88% polling. The lowest polling percentage was reported in Dungarpur at 48%.(TOI)

WEST BENGAL

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said here on Thursday that the ongoing agitation by a section of the tribal population in West Bengal's Paschim Medinipur district "is not a political agitation." "The agitation is for peace and in protest against the atrocities committed on the adivasis who continue to be exploited," Ms. Banerjee said. Women were being attacked in the name of raids against Maoists, she said.(HINDU)

II. INDIA & THE WORLD

 
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