IMC-USA Weekly News Digest – November 29th, 2010

In this issue

Communal Harmony

Communal harmony march to kickstart from Ayodhya (Nov 22, 2010, DNA India)

In a bid to spread message of peace and communal harmony, prominent

social activists will flag off a march which will kickstart from Ayodhya

and culminate at Mahatma Gandhi’s birth place Vardha in Maharashtra.

“The 10-day national communal harmony march, to kickstart from December

10, will be flagged off by noted social activists Swami Agnivesh, Tista

Sitalwad, Prashant Bhushan, Sandeep Pandey and Arundhuti Roy,” the march

convener Yugal Kishore Sharan Shastry said.

The march will see

participation of over 200 people, including author Ram Punyani and

reformist-writer and social activist Asghar Ali Engineer, he said.


is grappling with threats such as separatism, terrorism and communal

violence. Its diversity and tradition of peace are undermined by the

divisiveness encouraged by communalism…The main aim of the event is to

strengthen the Hindu-Muslim brotherhood and to give a message to those

who believe that multi-religious society cannot exist in India,” Shastry


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News Headlines

CBI gets Asimanand custody in Mecca blast case (Nov 26, 2010, IBN)

Swami Asimanand, an accused in the 2007 Mecca Masjid bomb blast case,

was on Friday remanded in CBI custody for seven days by a local court.

The prosecution had sought 15-day police custody of Asimanand, but the

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate allowed CBI to interrogate him

for a week beginning tomorrow. Magistrate K Sudhakar, in his order,

noted that the 59-year-old accused had earlier said he had no objection

to police remand.

The absconding Swami, whose real name is Naba

Kumar Sarkar, was arrested by CBI on November 19 from Haridwar in

connection with the blast at the historic masjid here on May 18, 2007.

Nine persons were killed in the explosion. The Magistrate had earlier

asked CBI to specify reasons for seeking custody of Asimanand after

defence opposed the Central agency’s application on the ground that it

had already questioned him and did not specify any reason for his

further interrogation.

The CBI then submitted a case diary file in

the court detailing the status of the probe and reasons for seeking

custody of the accused, who is in judicial remand till November 30 and

lodged in a special cell at the Chenchalguda Central Prison here.


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Details sought on Zadafias appearance before Gujarat riots panel (Nov 23, 2010,


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Shift Sohrabuddin case out of Gujarat (Nov 27, 2010, The Hindu)

The Gujarat High Court Tuesday asked the advocate general to take

instructions from the Justices G.T. Nanavati-Akshay Mehta enquiry

commission, probing the 2002 riots, on the nature of the impending

deposition of former Gujarat minister Gordhan Zadafia. The bench

comprising Chief Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya and Justice Akil Kureshi

sought to know from Advocate General Kamal Trivedi as to whether Zadafia

was summoned by the commission as a witness or as a person against whom

it had found some material and it wanted to clarify something.


the former minister was called as witness, then the Jan Sangharsh

Manch, an NGO, which is seeking to cross examine Zadafia and others,

will have a right of cross examination. If not then, they will not have a

right to cross examine them, the court said. The commission, probing

the 2002 post-Godhra riots, on Nov 19 questioned Zadafia in camera for

almost 90 minutes.

The commission has tabled the first part of

its report on 2002 riots on the Godhra train burning incident in the

state assembly and is now probing various aspects of post-Godhra riots

in which more than 1,000 people were killed. Zadafia was earlier

questioned by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team

(SIT) in connections with the riots. The matter has been adjourned till

Dec 15.


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2G scam has put all other scams to shame: SC (Nov 24, 2010, IBN)

The 2G scam has put “all other scams to shame” the Supreme Court

today said, brushing aside Centre’s argument that it should not monitor

the case and Subramaniam Swamy’s letter to the Prime Minister cannot be

treated as a complaint. A Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly

made some sharp comments while reserving its judgement on Swamy’s plea

for a direction to the Prime Minister to grant sanction for prosecution

of former Telecom Minister A Raja in the scam.

“The Prime Minister

did not take it lightly, obviously he was concerned,” the Bench

observed when Vahanvati repeatedly asserted that Swamy’s plea was only

in the form of a letter and cannot be considered as a complaint. “Your

written submission never said that the petitioner did not file a proper

complaint. We don’t need to tell the learned Attorney General the subtle

distinction,” the Bench quipped. The Bench pointed out that no such

argument was taken in the affidavit filed on behalf of the Prime

Minister. However, the AG stuck to his argument and said that, “I filed

the affidavit on the same facts.”

But the arguments failed to

convince the court. “According to you it was not a complaint but a

letter. Whatever, it is, it was open to the sanctioning authority to say

the letter is not in proper form,” the Bench observed. “In this case

if Dr Swamy’s letter was not in the form of complaint you should have

said it. Why shall he a file a complaint at all when the court cannot

take notice of the complaint,” the Bench asked.

Admitting that it

was not there in the written submission, the AG said, “I apologise.”

“Affidavit filed on behalf of the sanctioning authority (Prime Minister)

also did not say that that it was not a complaint but a letter.

Otherwise, you should have filed a one-paragraph affidavit saying that

the letter does not merit action as it was not in a proper complaint

form,” the Bench observed.

The Bench also brushed aside the CBI’s

plea that the apex Court should refrain from further monitoring the case

as the investigation had been taken up by CBI and other agencies. “If

you go into the monetary aspect, this scam will put all other scams in

the country into shame,”the Bench observed.


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Ratan Tata moves SC against leakage of Radia tapes (Nov 29, 2010, Yahoo)

Tata group chief Ratan Tata today approached the Supreme Court

seeking action against those involved in the leakage of tapes containing

his conversation with corporate lobbyist Nira Radia. Tata, in the

petition, has contended that the leakage of the tapes have infringed

upon his fundamental Right to Life, which includes right to privacy.


has made the central government a party in his petition. Some of the

conversation between Tata and Radia, whose public relations firms were

engaged by the group, relate to personal details that could no way be

part of investigation, Tata is expected to argue in the petition.


has sought a direction for fixing the responsibility for the alleged

leakage of the tapes. In the wake of 2G spectrum allocation scam

allegedly involving Rs 1.76 lakh crore, some journals have published

taped conversation Radia had with politicians, journalists and

industrialists. Transcripts of some of these tapes have also come up on

various websites, stirring a controversy over the alleged nexus between

lobbyists and journalists.


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Adarsh scam: Key papers go missing, police file case (Nov 27, 2010, Indian Express)

Key papers pertaining to the scam-ridden Adarsh housing society are

missing from the Urban Development Department here, police said on

Saturday. Police have registered a case of theft after a secretary of

the department, Gurudas Bajpe, gave a written complaint to the Marine

Drive police last night about the missing documents. “We have registered

a case against unknown persons. According to the UD department

officials, several papers from the 10 files on Adarsh society were

missing,” DCP Cherring Dorje said.

The disappearance of the

papers was brought to the notice of CBI, which is investigating the

multi-crore scam. “The department had submitted to us 10 files

pertaining to Adarsh society. During perusal we realised that four

noting papers were missing from the files. We brought this to the

attention of the department,” a senior CBI official said.


papers include the remarks of the state government officials and chief

minister, the official said. “Investigations are on. We are questioning

authorities of the Urban Development department,” Dorje said. The Adarsh

society, originally meant to be a six-storey structure to house Kargil

war heroes and war widows, was converted into a 31-storey building,

violating a number of laws. The flats were allotted to bureaucrats,

politicians’ relatives and defence officers.


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Original Babri masjid is the pride of Panipat (Nov 29, 2010, Times of India)

While the demolished Babri Masjid at Ayodhya is at the centre of

India’s longest-drawn legal row, an older one built by Babar survives in

a forgotten battlezone, Panipat. The first mosque built by the Mughal

ruler on his arrival in India is a modest, beautiful structure named

Kabuli Bagh that comes nowhere close to the majesty of later Mughal


Having watched the destruction at Ayodhya,

caretakers of Kabuli Bagh masjid are mindful of falling prey to

politics. “There are people who have made repeated pleas to perform

namaz five times a day but we have firmly said that this is not possible

and they should go to court,” said Ranvir Singh Shastri, registering

officer of department of archaeology and museums, Chandigarh.


in 1526 after Babar defeated Ibrahim Lodhi in the first battle of

Panipat, Kabuli Bagh is, in a sense, the original Babri Masjid. “Its

Timurid architecture is closest to Central Asian typology. It bears the

stamp of Babar’s persona more than the mosques in Ayodhya or Sambhal

which are stylistically pre-Mughal,” says architect Abha Narain Lambah

who has studied the monument.


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26/11 victims should sue Government of India for negligence (Nov 25, 2010, Rediff)

B Raman, India’s leading expert on terrorism, points out how lack of

victim activism has helped governments escape accountability in

terror-related cases. Since the Madrid conference on ‘Democracy &

Terrorism’ held in March 2005, to which I was invited, I have been

repeatedly writing and speaking on the need for victim activism in India

in order to make the Government of India act effectively against

terrorism and Pakistan, the State sponsor of terrorism against Indian

nationals, but in vain.

Since Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services

Intelligence started using terrorism as a strategic weapon against

India in 1981, we have had four acts of mass casualty terrorism in which

there were more than 150 fatalities.

These were the blowing up of

Air-India’s Kanishka aircraft by the Babbar Khalsa, a Khalistani

terrorist organisation, on June 23, 1985; the serial bomb blasts in

Mumbai on March 12, 1993 carried out by a group of Pakistan-trained

terrorists directed by Dawood Ibrahim, now living in Pakistan; the

multiple blasts on some suburban trains of Mumbai on July 11, 2006,

carried out at the instance of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba; and the sea-borne

attacks in Mumbai by 10 Pakistanis recruited and trained by the Lashkar

with the ISI’s help from November 26 to 28, 2008.


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Maoists target ambulance, 5 killed (Nov 29, 2010, Indian Express)

Suspected Maoists blew up an ambulance in Kandhamal district of

Orissa late on Saturday, killing all its five occupants, including a

three-year-old girl. The ambulance was coming back from a government

hospital in Berhampur after dropping a pregnant woman when the Maoists

triggered a landmine blast on a hilly road near Brahmanigaon around 2

a.m., Kandhamal SP Praveen Kumar said. Brahmanigaon is a Maoist-infested

area where Azad, the man who killed Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati in

August 2008, calls the shots.

The blast killed all five occupants

on the spot and created a deep crater on the ground. All the victims

are Dalits and tribal Christians. They are Subhashree Digal (3), her

mother Erina Digal, Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) worker

Sushanti Pradhan, Bunu Digal and driver Siman Mallick. The SP said the

landmine blast could have been a deliberate attack. “The ambulance must

have had a blue beacon on its top. So how come the rebels did not see

it?” he asked.

But police sources said the ambulance could have

been targeted by mistake as the Maoists were actually looking for a

deputy superintendent of police who had come to Brahmanigaon two days

ago to investigate the killing of a contractor. The Maoists are yet to

come out with any statement. On Thursday, the Maoists had shot

contractor Manoj Sahu at the crowded Brahmanigaon market. A bandh was

called in Brahmanigaon on Saturday to protest the contractor’s killing.


DSP was scheduled to travel back on that road on Saturday night, but

deferred his visit. Local officials said they were not sure if the

ambulance had a blue beacon on top. Vehicles in the area normally do not

sport any beacons after sunset as it could attract Maoists. Local

tribal leader Lambodar Kanhar said the Maoists had proved that they were

just murderers. “I have been telling my fellow tribals time and again

to steer clear of the Maoists and not give them shelter. If we help

them, then the police would come after us branding us as informers,”

Kanhar said. Kandhamal was relatively free of Maoist violence since the

August 2008 killing of Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his disciples

by the Maoists and the subsequent riots that killed 38 people.


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Dhaula Kuan rape probe gathers steam (Nov 29, 2010, Indian Express)

The Delhi Police’s strategy of releasing sketches of the Dhaula Kuan

rape suspects seems to be paying off. Sources said two persons have

claimed that they had seen persons resembling those in the two sketches

released by the police last week. Officials said they have several other

leads in the case which cannot be disclosed at the moment. “One caller

said he has seen one of the suspects often in Gurgaon Sector 29, while

another said he had seen the suspect in the second sketch in Mianwali

Nagar of West Delhi’s Peeragarhi. We are checking the records of

criminals in these two areas,” said a highly-placed source.


South Delhi police have already questioned 80 people with criminal

records in areas like Mangolpuri, Dhaula Kuan, Sultanpuri, Nihal Vihar,

Bawana, R K Puram, Naraina, Peeragarhi and Rohini. The mobile phone

records of these people are also being scrutinised to check their

movements at the time of the incident. “We have matched their faces with

the sketches and photographs of some of them have been shown to the

victim. But there has been no conclusive development yet,” said a senior


Police sources said they were looking to question 30

more people with criminal records. “Several hundred mobile phone records

are being analysed because we think that technical surveillance can

give us inputs in the case. There are mobile numbers which have been

frequently used in Dhaula Kuan on that day,” said the source.


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Opinions and Editorials

Servants. Drivers. Maids. Partymen. Every party CM

gave them prime land under a dubious quota – By Imran Khan (Dec 4, 2010,


Even by the standards of an age dulled by low levels of public

probity, this was a new low. A few days ago, in mid-November, a question

was asked of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Karnataka Chief Minister BS

Yeddyurappa, whether he was quitting because he scandalously allotted

land to his children. Yeddyurappa appeared amazed and said there were

‘innumerable instances’ of similar allotments to kith and kin of many

chief ministers. Why am I being targeted, Yeddyurappa wondered. This,

from a man who said he was simple, honest, hard-working, and therefore

represented hope. He then listed how much land previous chief ministers

had given away. SM Krishna (Congress) denotified 633.33 acres, Dharam

Singh (Congress) 110.33 acres, HD Kumaraswamy (Janata Dal–Secular)

346.23 acres and he, Yeddyurappa (BJP), 259.12 acres so far. It seemed

like he was comparing a roll of honour. Not for a moment did it occur to

Yeddyurappa that he was illegally allotting land to family members

under the CM’s discretionary quota or the G category.


is able to establish that Yeddyurappa may have inadvertently been

speaking the truth. Documents with TEHELKA show that crores of rupees

worth of land has been given away from as far back as 1989 in the

flourishing metro of Bengaluru, where real estate is among the costliest

in India. It appears that chief ministers of all parties regularly

flouted rules and stretched official definitions to benefit party

workers, legislators, ministers, family members, friends, drivers, maids

and other servants. The provision all of them used was where the

Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) Act allows governments the

discretion to allot sites to ‘persons in public life’. Krishna, now

External Affairs Minister, Singh, Kumaraswamy and Yeddyurappa used the

ambiguity of the provision to allot land to people of their choice.

Their whimsical decisions have cost the exchequer several crores of

rupees. In many cases, sites measuring 50×80 sq ft and 60×40 sq ft in

prime localities of Bengaluru have been sold for a song. For instance,

sites that would have fetched the BDA Rs. 2 crore each in the market

were sold to allottees for as low as Rs. 10 lakh.

In a bizarre

instance, Dharam Singh, in an official letter (CMR 1205/04), allotted

sites to 15 servants saying they worked in his ‘personal department’.

Months after this, the names of the servants appeared in the BDA list of

allottees for that year. Krishna allotted a 50×80 sq ft site in the

prime locality of Koramangala to Raghavendra Shastry, now Krishna’s

Officer on Special Duty. Shastry, a close friend of VG Siddhartha,

Krishna’s son-in-law, was in charge of media relations when Krishna was

chief minister. Things got so bad that it appeared Kumaraswamy had

emptied the BDA’s land bank. When Kumaraswamy was heading a coalition

government of the BJP and the JD(S), the BDA announced it had run out of

sites after allotments were made under the G category! TEHELKA has

found that over the years, BDA lists contain only the first names of the

beneficiaries. Listing only the first names provides enough space for

manoeuvring. Enough doubt exists about the manipulation of intended

beneficiaries and the allotments made by CMs in such cases. TEHELKA

scrutinised more than 60 pages of documents that listed beneficiaries

from 1989 to 2010. And then cross-checked the legal affidavits of the

legislators and ministers.

We found that the affidavits often list

other property owned by the allottees in Bengaluru and outside – a

violation of the BDA Act that stipulates that beneficiaries under the G

category should own no property in the state. Just why should we have a

discretionary quota anyway? Chief Ministers use it to fraudulently make

preferential allotments of sites. In a democracy, allowing chief

ministers power to grant sites to people they look upon favourably reeks

of a feudal setup. That these beneficiaries are often elected

representatives themselves makes it bleaker. Karnataka is a specific

example. Seen as a boom state in India, it has often attracted

international attention for its successes. But these days, it is in the

news for corruption.

The newest twist is that Yeddyurappa, bowing

to corruption charges, appointed a one-man commission to probe

irregularities in land allotments from 1995. Justice B Padmaraj, a

retired Karnataka High Court judge, is to head the commission. Padmaraj

was indicted in 2007 by a joint legislature committee for owning land in

a residential area declared illegal by the BDA (See page 24). This is

Yeddyurappa’s choice to head a crucial inquiry. The following pages will

list a few of the several beneficiaries who should not have got land at

throwaway prices simply because chief ministers had discretionary

powers to do so. The scam runs far deeper.


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Her Sinister Ring Tone – By Shantanu Guha Ray (Dec 4, 2010, Tehelka)

Niira Radia, the lobbyist at the heart of India’s audacious

multi-billion telecom swindle, inaugurated a Krishna temple she funded

in south Delhi on her birthday – that, interestingly, coincides with

Indira Gandhi’s. Those present on the occasion said Radia prayed for

long, presumably seeking divine intervention to wriggle out of the

country’s biggest scandal. Before the temple visit, notices from the

country’s Enforcement Directorate (ED), Income Tax (IT) Department and

the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had reached her farmhouse on

the fringes of south Delhi. The farmhouse is known to host both

religious feasts and late night parties, to which Delhi’s swish set

flock in equal numbers. Time will tell whether the prayers will help

Radia, the only female lobbyist among Delhi’s top-of-the-line power

brokers. A picture of grace in both saris and business suits, her grasp

of both human psychology and technical jargon gives her a comfort level

with the rich and powerful as well as wannabes. She grew with the BJP,

made inroads into the Congress inner circle, and vibed well with the

CPM. But she alienated her own staff with her workaholism, constantly

egging them on with the Nike tagline, “Just do it”. Her personal wealth

is whispered to be around Rs. 500 crore but that is difficult to


Interestingly, in what started out as a telephone tap

by the IT Department’s Directorate General of Investigations to probe

violations related to TDS (tax deducted at source) has turned into a

full-scale, multi-agency inquiry by the government about whether Radia

is so embedded in Delhi’s politics that she can make/unmake ministers or

manipulate government policy to suit powerful corporate clients. What

the ED is trying to establish is the money trails that seem to wind

through her corporate communications venture. Knowing this, she avoided,

on medical grounds, the first set of notices sent to her, using the

time to get politicians in Uttar Pradesh to silence the bureaucrats from

that state’s cadre who are investigating the scam. But no one wants to

get embroiled in the Rs. 1.76 lakh crore telecom scam. Encouraged by her

political isolation, the investigating agencies sent her another set of

notices demanding – this time in strong language – her presence for a

detailed probe. Perhaps to avoid the media, she landed at the ED office

at 9.15 am on 24 November, even before her interrogators reported for

work. “We are investigating what could be one of India’s biggest

scandals,” is all Rajeshwar Singh, a top investigator with the ED, was

willing to tell TEHELKA. By the time she emerged from the office, the

media had arrived in full force, and she addressed the barrage of

questions with the polish and panache expected of a public relations

professional. Which means, of course, that she smoothly gave the

impression of being willing to cooperate without actually giving any

real information away.

CBI officials claim they have evidence that

she once worked with data servers hosted out of Ukraine and had latest

Israeli anti-surveillance gizmos running on the telephones used by her

and her close aides. The agency has in its possession 180 hours of

candid conversations that Radia, as chairperson of Vaishnavi Corporate

Communications – and its sister organisations like Vitcom, Neucomp, and

Neosys – had with politicians, bureaucrats and a handful of high-profile

journalists. These could put her at the heart of the telecom scam that

claimed the cabinet berth of Andimuthu Raja, who is accused of selling

lucrative licences at dirt-cheap prices. The CBI is also probing what it

calls her nexus with a slew of former bureaucrats whose brains she

picked to bend rules to the benefit of her clients. These included

conglomerates like the Tatas, Reliance, ITC and Mahindras, and big-bucks

entities like Lavasa, Star TV, Unitech, Elder Health Care, Haldia

Petrochemicals, Emami and the HIV/AIDS initiative of the Bill and

Melinda Gates Foundation. This week, one of her confidants, Pradip

Baijal, the former telecom and disinvestment secretary who started the

country’s much-hyped disinvestment process, was questioned by the CBI

for over four hours for his alleged investments in African nations like

Guinea and Senegal. “The charges are serious,” admits ED’s Rajeshwar

Singh, refusing to reveal details. CBI and ED officials told TEHELKA

that there is enough evidence to prove Radia’s links with retired

bureaucrats like Ajay Dua, former secretary, Department of Industrial

Policy and Promotion (DIPP), CM Vasudev, former finance secretary, SK

Narula, former Airports Authority of India chairman, and Akbar Jung, the

former civil aviation secretary.

The IT investigations revealed

that apart from managing the telecom licences for builder Unitech, among

others, Radia also handled and facilitated cross-border transfer of

funds. Intercepted conversations between Radia and the allottees of the

new telecom licences suggest that she was a key adviser in staggering

the inflow of funds from outside India so that no impression could be

created that there was a windfall gain to the companies. ED officials

have told TEHELKA they have evidence that Radia was instrumental in

sourcing funds – as much as Rs. 1,600 crore – for Unitech, one of the

controversial beneficiaries of the telecom licences. The company

eventually sold a majority stake in the telecom venture to Norway’s

Telenor for seven times the licence fee it paid. Worse, some of the

conversations link Radia to Anil Agarwal of the London-based Vedanta

group that has drawn flak for violating environmental norms at its

billion-dollar mining projects in Orissa’s Kalahandi district. It is

reliably learnt that the Vendanta group used Radia to erase what it

claimed was a negative mindset about the group and its operations in

India. As a result, expensive advertisements extolling the virtues of

Vedanta were published in newspapers and newsmagazines. But these did

not cut much ice since the project was scrapped by environment minister

Jairam Ramesh. Tellingly, the tapes also establish her links with Sunil

Arora, an IAS officer based in Rajasthan and used by Radia to gain

access to his batchmates in various ministries. The conversations are a

part of the CBI notes to the Supreme Court. Arora, who sacrificed his

second tenure as chairman and managing director (CMD) of Indian Airlines

by attempting to blow the whistle on Civil Aviation Minister Praful

Patel, seems to have opened many doors for Radia across India. During

his tenure as the CMD of Indian Airlines (2003-05), seven aircraft

leases were found to have been channelled to companies that had Radia’s

front companies acting as agents. “We have evidence that substantial

payments were made to Arora’s Meerut-based brother by Radia’s company,”

said Akshat Jain, a senior IT official.

For the record, Niira was

born to Sudesh and Iqbal Memon, a trader who was born a Hindu, on 19

November 1960. Niira – the extra ‘i’ was added on the advice of

numerologists – and her family had to flee Africa around the time of the

fall of Idi Amin. Once touted as an emerging competitor to infamous gun

dealer Adnan Khashoggi, Memon changed track in London and opened an

aviation lease broking business. The natural heir to the family

business, Radia also worked with Scotland Yard on a job-to-job basis

providing escort cover to its young recruits. In London, she married

Janak Radia of a wealthy trading family. At some point, she was also

marestried to the grandson of Rao Birendra Singh, Haryana’s chief

minister in the 1960s, and went by the name of Niira Yadav. In 1996,

Radia fled to India from UK after a host of shell companies with paid-up

capital as low as £100 went bust and came under scrutiny for money

laundering. First she worked with Sahara supremo Subrata Roy’s blue-eyed

boy Uttam Kumar Bose, who was managing Air Sahara. “She worked with us

for some time,” admits Abhijit Sarkar, one of the directors of Sahara

India. But Bose fell out of favour with Roy when aircraft lease rentals

were found to be as much as 50 percent higher than market rates.

Thereafter, Radia ventured out on her own. She harboured an ambition to

take over the defunct ModiLuft and rename it Magic Air, but failed to

get the necessary clearances. …


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Niira, Of Two Eyes – By Sunit Arora (Dec 6, 2010, Outlook)

The 2G scam tapes are a superb lesson in dialectology, loosely the

study of speech styles. PR lady Niira Radia’s accent varies in

practically each conversation with politicians, business leaders,

bureaucrats and top TV and print editors. She’s matter-of-fact in some,

husky in others; she’s abusive in Hindi while speaking about some

journalists to her staffers, she’s assured while explaining extremely

technical matters to business honchos, retired bureaucrats and editors;

and has a schoolgirl-like British accent while conversing with Ratan

Tata: “I hope the bad times are behind us,” she tells the Tata Group

chief at the end of a conversation. Well, the bad times do not seem to

be ending for Niira Radia. As the Enforcement Directorate launches an

investigation into the 5,800 reported taped conversations from Radia’s

phone over a six-month period in 2009, all transactions with tax

implications will be looked into. Home secretary G.K. Pillai tells

Outlook that it was his predecessor Madhukar Gupta who had sanctioned

the phone-tapping on the request of the Central Board of Direct Taxes,

which was investigating suspicious fund transfers. These will be

investigated now. Since Outlook published extracts from the CD of

Radia’s phone conversations (submitted to the court) taped by the I-T

department-and put the 104 conversations up on its website-there has

been a raging debate. On what they tell us about the role of lobbyists

in the 2G spectrum allocation scam, how the media interplays in such a

system, and how our political class and retired bureaucrats are more

often than not willing partners in the game. These debates do not

detract from the aim of punishing the guilty behind the 2G scam; rather

they raise disturbing questions we all have to answer. Who is this woman

who can speak to the “highest and mightiest” in this country in this

way? From where does she draw her power? And what does it tell us about

our society? When Outlook asked her whether she would like to give her

version of these recent events, Radia SMSed back: “No. Thank You.” This

is her story.

Quite like all those different accents, Niira’s

background remains a guarded mystery and the answers vary depending on

who you ask for nuggets of information about her past. It has actually

been carefully crafted that way. For all practical purposes, her life

begins in the “early 1990s” when she says she made India her base.

Considering that she is about 50 years old now, that means the first

30-odd years of her life are a blank-and it doesn’t help that she has

added an extra “i” to her first name (and even “looks different”,

according to a senior aviation ministry official who has interacted with

her in the past). Well, what we do know is that she began life as a

very Punjabi Nira Sharma. Her father was an agent for aviation

equipment, and shifted the Sharma family from Kenya to London in the

1970s (he passed away in 2002-03). In England, Niira picked up an

education and a British passport (and later she got a Person of Indian

Origin status too). It’s learnt that she went to the upmarket

Haberdashers’ Aske’s school for girls in northern London, rounding off

her education at the University of Warwick, from where she got a

bachelor’s degree. Soon after, Niira married London-based financier

Janak Radia, a Gujarati. It was after a divorce that Niira decided to

move to India, along with her three children, all sons. … By the

mid-1990s, Niira-and her massive Chhattarpur farmhouse-had started

making a mark in Delhi’s rarefied and big-money aviation circles. Her

interest in the aviation business came in useful here; she gravitated

towards consulting for domestic and international airlines (Sahara,

Singapore Airlines), manufacturers (Airbus) and aircraft leasing

companies (like ILFC, AAR) at a time when India had just launched its

Open Skies policy. She quickly gained respect in a big boys’ club; “she

was extremely polished,” says a senior aviation man who interacted with

Niira closely those days. The buzz around her had already begun

spreading: be it her dress sense, the “farmhouse parties that started

off with pujas” or her ability to press the right buttons. This is when

Niira made an important friend-and also got herself an enemy. The friend

was Ananth Kumar of the BJP, who was the NDA’s civil aviation minister

in 1998-99.

Niira grew extremely close to Ananth Kumar during

this period, and used the access to the cabinet minister to enhance her

clout. It was Ananth Kumar who introduced her to Pejawar Swami (read

Swami Visvesh Teertha), a godman from Karnataka and also Uma Bharati’s

guru. In fact, the Kannada weekly tabloid Lankesh Patrike, printed from

Bangalore, had even published a picture of Radia with Pejawar Swami and

A.B. Vajpayee. Though she later fell out with the swami, this connection

got her an important ally, via Vajpayee, in his foster son-in-law

Ranjan Bhattacharya (who figures prominently in the 2G scam tapes).

Later, when Ananth Kumar was moved to urban development and tourism, the

catering for Niira’s parties was reportedly done by the state-owned

Ashok Hotel and ITDC. But for all her proximity to Ananth Kumar, Niira

could not launch her own airline, Crown Express, in 2001. An industry

insider says the airline was “without doubt” a backdoor entry for

Singapore Airlines. Radia’s lack of apparent funding didn’t help

matters. “She couldn’t put all the pieces together,” adds this aviation

insider. Niira was to try again-in 2004, she floated Magic Air. But here

again, in Praful Patel’s regime, she faltered. This time round, Niira’s

PIO status worked against her.That brings us to the enemy. When Ratan

Tata made his famous Rs 15-crore bribery speech recently in Dehradun,

one aspect got underplayed. Ratan was referring to the Tata Group’s

three attempts to launch an airline with Singapore Airlines (where Radia

was a consultant). “But an individual thwarted our efforts to form the

airlines,” Tata said. And the person Tata refers to is Jet Airways’

Naresh Goyal, who lobbied heaven and earth to ensure that the

Tata-Singapore consortium didn’t get its way. This was a powerful enemy

for Niira, and was probably one reason why she didn’t get her way with

her private airline. Despite these failures, Niira’s stature as a person

who could effectively “get things done” had been cemented. This brought

her to the notice of Ratan Tata, who in the aftermath of the Singapore

Airlines’ drubbing, was keen to centralise the public relations and

advocacy functions for the Tata Group as a whole. There are numerous

theories on how this eventually got done, but a former senior bureaucrat

points to Bombay Dyeing’s Nusli Wadia as the man who finally gave his

seal of approval on her to Tata (Tata biggie R.K. Krishna Kumar played a

role too). In 2001, in one fell swoop, Tata gave Radia’s company

Vaishnavi the entire account for the 90-odd group companies. There was

speculation that the Tatas had invested capital in the agency, but most

industry sources now disagree and say the money invested was Radia’s.

This did not go down well with some CEOs of the Tata Group

companies-initially there was considerable scepticism about her

abilities and the “hold” she had on the Tata supremo. But all that died

down when everyone quickly figured out that “rnt will not hear one bad

word about her”. …

Ratan Tata had, in a hand-written letter to

Tamil Nadu CM M. Karunanidhi in December 2007, reportedly praised Raja’s

“rational, fair and action-oriented” leadership. As a no-holds-barred

corporate battle lies at the heart of the scramble for scarce spectrum,

the Tata Group’s proximity to the telecom minister put it head to head

against Airtel’s Sunil Mittal, who was unhappy with Raja in the seat.

The stakes became bigger when Radia brokered Mukesh Ambani’s open

support for Tata in the Singur controversy. By getting the PR mandate

for Mukesh Ambani’s business empire in 2008, she would have found

herself in the hit-list of Anil Ambani, who is also Tata’s competitor in

telecom. It is believed that Ratan Tata told Mukesh Ambani to take on

Radia as a client (it is reported that these two of India’s largest

corporate groups pay Rs 30 crore per annum each for Radia’s services).

Given that the Ambani brothers’ fight was still raging, it was a natural

alignment-both the Tatas and Mukesh had a common enemy. The battle in

Singur was a case in point of how Radia made friends across the

spectrum. She was close to Left leaders-and was apparently working on

other business deals with them-but moved quickly to shift the Nano plant

to Sanand in Gujarat (see box). As the 2G scam tapes reveal, she was

close to N.K. Singh of the JD(U); and even talks about telling Uddhav

Thackeray what to do. She also mentions Madhu Koda, then Jharkhand’s

chief minister, saying in one conversation that “I know what we fought

in Jharkhand. I have been to Ranchi and I have met Madhu Koda. He won’t

agree on anything less than (Rs) 150 crore. We had to go to court. He

said you pay me (Rs) 150 crore, you tell Ratan Tata to pay me through

his contractors.” Tata Steel says it has never got any mining lease

during Koda’s tenure.

As the spotlight intensifies on Niira

Radia, senior retired bureaucrats working for her are facing some

uncomfortable questions. A senior former bureaucrat recalls that former

trai head Pradip Baijal and ex-economic affairs secretary C.M. Vasudev

told him they were joining the “lady who handles the advertisements for

Tatas…Baijal seemed to know Radia better. They mentioned that the

offer was very good as no investments would be required-yet after two

years they would be partners in the company by virtue of sweat equity”.

Ajay Dua, former secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and

Promotion, who took premature retirement to join Niira Radia’s team, is

denying having done any lobbying “whether in my advisory or director’s

capacity nor am I inclined to do it”. Dua, however, points out that “in

India, lobbying has not been declared illegal”. Similarly, C.M. Vasudev

has said that he is no longer associated with Radia as “I did not opt

for sweat equity”. He does, however, admit the tapes do “create (a)

reputation issue”. As Niira Radia fights the accusations against her,

it’s her reputation that has taken a battering. “This tapes matter will

not lead anywhere,” says a veteran lobbyist, “there are too many

powerful people involved”. Tapes don’t stand up well in courts of law.

But Niira Radia faces a bigger test, of reclaiming her “effectiveness”.

“She’s going to be in trouble for a long, long time,” says a former

airline CEO. The spotlight is now on her clients, many of whom prefer to

do business quietly. It’s going to be a long, hard battle for Niira



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A Swami With Terror Agenda – By M Shamsur Rabb Khan (Nov 23, 2010, Countercurrents)

On 19 November 2010, the CBI arrested “Swami Asimanand”, believed to

be the mastermind of the Ajmer Dargah and Mecca Masjid, Hyderabad blasts

– both occurred on 11 October and 18 May 2007 respectively. In Mecca

Masjid blast, 16 persons were killed and 100 injured, while at Ajmer

Dargah three people were killed and 17 injured. The Swami was arrested

from Haridwar, where he had been hiding with a fake name and fake

identity documents such as passport, ration card and election card.

Originally Jatin Chatterjee, Swami Asimanand, 59, has been known by

various names like Naba Kumar Sarkar or Swami Onkaranand, is an

ideologue of Abhinav Bharat, an organization believed to be behind the

2008 Malegaon blast in Maharashtra and a proponent of Hindutva

terrorism. It should be noted that Bangladesh outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad

al-Islami (HuJI) was accused of orchestrating the Mecca Masjid blast due

to which more than 100 Muslim youths of Hyderabad were picked up by the

investigating agencies and some of them were falsely implicated. In

Ajmer blast, about a dozen Muslims Imams, Maulanas, and Madrasa teachers

were detained and tortured by the Rajasthan Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS).

Swami Asimanand’s name first came up during the Malegaon blast probe

when the Maharashtra ATS recovered his driver, Sunil Dhwade’s number

from Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, prime accused in the Malegaon case.

During interrogation, as per the CBI, Swami’s name cropped up along with

the other accused, Sandeep Darge, Ram Chadra Kalsangra alias Ramjee,

both residents of Indore in Madhya Pradesh. Telephonic conversation

between Swami and Sadhvi revealed that he had met with her and both

planned retaliatory terror attacks on religious places of Muslim.


CBI arrested Devender Gupta and Lokesh Sharma, both RSS activists, in

June 2010 in connection with the Mecca Masjid blast case. As a result of

searches carried out by the CBI and Maharashtra ATS in 2009-10 at

various places in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat after receiving information

about Swami Asimanand’s presence but he managed to escape. A

post-graduate in Botany, Swami Asimanand is a native of Hooghly district

of West Bengal, who, joined the Ramkrishna Mission in 1990s, but soon

disillusioned with Left government, migrated to the tribal area of Dangs

in Gujarat. In Dangs, Swami established Shabaridham Ashram in 2001 and

started his missionary work focused on converting tribals from

Christianity to Hinduism. However, his transition from a diehard Hindu

preacher to terror plotter is the result of growing terror attacks on

India by the pan-Islamic jihadi groups based in Pakistan. In May 2004,

as per the ATS chargesheet, Swami held a meeting at the Kumbh in Ujjain

and talked of avenging acts of “Islamic” terrorism in the country. It is

in Ujjain he made a list of targets, which included Malegaon, Jama

Masjid in New Delhi, Ajmer Dargah, Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad and the

Samjautha Express. The chargesheet quoted him as saying, “There have

been several attacks against us and nothing has been done. We have to

respond as soon as possible.”

With large followers in Dangs,

Swami planned and funded bomb blasts in Ajmer, Malegaon and Hyderabad,

and as per the Rajasthan ATS, which recently filed a chargesheet in the

Ajmer Dargah blast case, Swami Aseemanand was the man behind a wave of

attacks on Muslims’ places of worship allegedly carried out by extremist

Hindu outfits. In order to take his terror agenda forward, Swami

chaired meetings in Ujjain, Indore, Sabridham in the Dangs and Mihijam

in Jharkhand. Not only Swami funded these terror attacks, but had also

been instrumental in bringing together a motley group of extremists

Devendra Gupta, Lokesh Sharma and Chandreshekhar who allegedly carried

out blasts in Ajmer Dargah and at Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, and Sadhvi

Pragya Singh Thakur and Prasad Srikanth Purohit, prime suspects in the

Malegaon blasts case. Acting as facilitator, Swami suggested that the

two extremist organizations – Prasad Srikanth Purohit’s Abhinav Bharat

and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur’s Jai Vande Mataram – must join together

since their objectives were similar. Swami Asimanand guided Sunil Joshi,

a key suspect in Malegaon, Ajmer and Mecca Masjid blast cases who was

killed in Madhya Pradesh on December 29, 2007, how to plot these attacks

under and who, along with four others, even lived in his Shabaridham

Ashram in Dangs prior to the Ajmer blast and hid there after the attack.

The ATS chargesheet records Asimanand speaking to Purohit on the phone

just after Joshi’s murder and called him as “a very important and useful

person to me”.

Much sinister activities of Swami Asimanand will

be revealed in days to come, one thing is clear terrorism has no

religion and it is beyond boundaries, and quite contrary to the constant

denial of the RSS and other Sangh Parivar organizations. Also, it is

naïve, short-sighted and bias stand to associate terrorism with one

community or class. So, far response against Hinutva terror has been

indifferent without realizing the fact that the Hindutva-inspired

individuals like Swami Asimanand and Devender Gupta are equally

dangerous and indefensible like terrorists inspired by jehadi Islam.

Swaminathan S Anklesariya Aiyar once pointed out that “terrorism is a

Muslim monopoly” that in terms of membership and area controlled,

secular terrorists are far ahead of Muslim terrorists” (The Times of

India, 23 July 2006). From the demographic spread and huge population

point of view, Hinduta terrorism can be even more dangerous since it has

a wider base, and it also enjoys official sanction, state patronage and

political support, as has been the case that the BJP openly criticized

CBI and ATS after Sadhvi was arrested, that Mohan Bhagwat denied any

association of Hindu with terrorism. Even Hindutva terrorists got

support, for example, moved by the alleged torture of Sadvhi Pragya

Singh Thakur, BJP leaders called Hemant Karkare, deshdrohi, and even L K

Advani went on to demand a change in the Maharashtra ATS. All the top

leaders of the BJP and Shiv Sena, who swore by the Indian Constitution,

declared their full support to the perpetrators and even extended legal

support for them.

The argument that Hindutva terror is inspired

by nationalism is a big fallacy because it is no less threat to internal

security. In August 2010, the Union Home Minister P. Chidmbaram stated

that there has been “a recent uncovered phenomenon of saffron terrorism

that has been implicated in many bomb blasts in the past.” A report

(Holy cow!, the Hindu, 9 March 2003) states that “a new brand of

Hinduism is nurturing Durga Vahinis in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Orissa, and

West Bengal, insidiously working with young adolescents, training them

in the Vedas and warfare. Bal Thackeray’s idea of making our own suicide

squads has been picked up by a Pune-based retired Colonel Jayant

Chitale. His “Hindustan Atma Ghatki Pathak (Hindustan Suicide Squad”)

has 45 enthusiastic young men who have completed commando training and

signed a bond that they are willing to die for the country. This is the

Hindutva response to the Islamic madrassa and terrorist culture.” Swami

Asimanand is the product of this culture of countering terror with



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Buried in UP villages conspiracy of silence, three murdered women – By Sanjay Singh (Nov 10, 2010, Indian Express)

But for a dismembered head and a few other body parts dug up by

animals, it is as though three young women of this village near the

UP-Bihar border never existed. Five days after Sarita, Anita alias

Munkeshan and Nita were found dead in the fields, Singahi Deeh has

closed its doors on the three friends in their 20s – literally. It’s

difficult to find a single man in the 80-odd houses of the Rajbhar

community to which the women belonged, and those who remain, including

the women and a few old men, will not break the conspiracy of silence

over how they ended up being beaten to death.

But outside the

deserted, dilapidated, locked homes of the girls, one theory, put

forward in hushed tones, is beginning to ring loud: honour killing. “I

can’t say anything. This is the ugliest incident I have seen in my 70

years,” said Lallan Yadav of Ahir Toli, adding that the Rajbhars rarely

interacted with villagers of other castes. “They have their world.”

Police believe the girls, who always hung out together, were done in by

their families. The missing male members add weight to this theory. Nita

was doing her higher secondary; Sarita and Anita were matric students

of Shankar Intermediate College, Bindawalia. After the bodies were found

– dug in about eight feet deep – no family member came forward to claim

them. “We handed over the bodies to a relative of Sarita. He performed

the last rites,” said Bhatni SHO R K Choudhari.

Additional SP

Jawahar Singh said they were trying to trace the women’s families. Ram

Awadh Rajbhar (72), a former pradhan of Singahi Deeh, is one of the few

Rajbhar men still in the village. Refusing to entertain any queries, he

said: “Please come, I will offer you water. But I won’t answer any

questions.” According to him, the girls had a “dostana sambandh”. “They

belonged to three different families. I often saw them together.” Anil

Rajbhar, a native of Bhatparani village, about 9 km from Singahi Deeh,

said he had no doubt that it was an honour killing. He said the families

were perhaps upset over their “failure to put any restrictions on the

frequent movement of the girls in neighbouring areas”.


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It was meant to look like an act of ethnic

cleansing. Police say it shows Bodos desperation – By Avalok Langer

(Nov 20, 2010, Tehelka)

JK Mishara stared at the moving horizon as the bus hurtled its way to

Sejusa across the border in Arunachal Pradesh. Lost in his own

thoughts, he snapped back to reality as the vehicle screeched to a halt.

The initial curiosity quickly turned to fear. Herded by armed men,

Mishara and six other persons of Bihari origin were lined up and killed

after their co-passengers reboarded the bus and drove off. The National

Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) killed 22 passengers that day. The

sporadic attacks on civilians on 8 November evening and the next morning

in and around Sonitpur district of Assam were in line with the warning

issued by the NDFB on 1 November via email. “One innocent Bodo will be

equal to 20 Indians or maybe more and we don’t care who they are, (they)

may be Indian civilians or security forces,” warned B Jwngkhang,

self-styled lieutenant of the outfit. These killings were in response to

the supposed fake encounter of Mahesh Basumatary on 8 November, whom

the NDFB spokesperson claims is an innocent Bodo civilian. Known to be

one of the most aggressive and brutal underground outfits of the

Northeast, the NDFB is the present avatar of the underground outfit

championing the cause of Bodo sovereignty.

The Bodos, an ethnic

community of Assam, have had a longstanding and deep sense of

discrimination and neglect. In the late 1980s, land alienation and

cultural suppression pushed the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) to demand

a separate Bodo state within the Indian Union. Subsequently

disillusioned by what they read as the state government’s lack of

commitment to equity and justice for tribals, the Bodos prepared for

battle. With the guidance and support of the United Liberation Front of

Assam (ULFA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the National Socialist

Council of Nagaland (NSCN), the early 1990s witnessed a mushrooming of

Bodo militant outfits. Having been previously exposed to elementary

guerrilla tactics at the Special Security Bureau training camps set up

in the wake of the Indo-China war of 1962 using the Burmese jungles, the

Bodos easily slipped into the familiar pattern of extortion, kidnapping

and killing. Despite the creation of the Bodo Autonomous Council (BAC)

and the surrender of the Bodo Volunteer Force (BVF), the NDFB remained

at large.

Today, the demand is not sovereignty but statehood,

which is why three of the four NDFB battalions agreed to a ceasefire and

came to the negotiating table. The ‘Third Battalion’, under the

leadership of Ranjan Daimary (now in jail), remained active and carried

out this massacre. Returning from Ground Zero, the state’s Health

Minister and Congress spokesperson Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “In the

past nine years, we have dealt with many underground groups. We have

found that when a militant outfit is strong and high on morale, it

directly attacks the security forces, police and army. But when it is

about to be defeated, it attacks civilians to create a fear psychosis.

We have defeated 80 percent of the NDFB.” In the past three months, the

security forces have cracked down on the group, killing over 20 cadres

and arresting more than 15. So it comes as no surprise that Sonitpur SP

Jitmal Doley also put the killing of the 22 civilians down to

frustration within the cadres. “The NDFB is going through a difficult

time, their movements are now restricted,” he says. “Their numbers are

reducing, they are facing a leadership crisis and to add to that the

security forces are applying a lot of pressure.”

But sources

close to the ground had a different take: that the recruitment process

is on and with every encounter, popular support for the NDFB grows. Not

only does the NDFB have operational camps in the jungles of the

Assam-Arunachal border, the Garo Hills and Myanmar, but 70 cadres are

being trained by Anal Borphukon and Kokok Borgosiam of the ULFA in a

joint NDFB, ULFA and NSCN(K) camp in Myanmar. Anjali Daimary, head of

the Bodo Women’s Justice Forum and the sister of jailed NDFB leader

Ranjan Daimary said, “Before we talk about the killings of these 22

innocent people, let’s talk about the killing of Mahesh Basumatary. On

Monday, we got a call from his village. They said that they had been

surrounded by the security forces, who then dragged Mahesh, a father of

two, out of his house. They took him to the riverbank and shot him in

cold blood. Eyewitnesses said that two hours later, the police showed

up, put a gun in his hand and took pictures for evidence. The killing of

any innocent civilian is highly condemnable.

Violence is not the

solution, it only unlocks a vicious cycle.” She also believes that the

government would be foolish to put the recent attacks down to growing

frustration among the NDFB cadres. As she puts it, “We need to take this

very seriously.” This attack on Hindi speakers seems to be an act of

ethnic cleansing. While the government spokesperson and Anjali rubbish

these claims, a police source said that a communal pattern is emerging.

“This is the second incident in two years on communal lines. The NDFB

tried to pin their 30 October (2009) blast on the Muslims, by suggesting

an ISI-SIMI angle to the local media to generate an anti-Muslim

feeling. This was revealed to us by the NDFB cadres we arrested. The

recent attacks are again communal in nature. For one Bodo killed, they

selected and targeted ‘outsiders’ (Biharis, Nepalese, Adivasis, Assamese

and Muslims),” the source said. The government has promised to come

down heavily on the group and is planning an extensive joint operation

of the police and army. But the president of ABSU, Promod Bodo, is not

reassured. “We are Indian and are not asking for sovereignty. We just

want our rights. Until the government removes illegal arms from the

state, innocent people will die. Since 2008, 150 innocent people have

already died.” The areas in which the NDFB operates control the gateways

to the Northeast. The recent attacks are worrying when put into the

context of what an underground contact let slip during a meeting –

“Something big is coming.”


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