Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My husband has been framed: Purohit’s wife

Aparna, wife of arrested army man, Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: Aparna Purohit, wife of Indian army’s Lt Col Prasad Purohit, says her husband was not involved in any anti-national activity and that he has been wrongly framed in the case. Purohit was arrested by the antiterrorism squad (ATS) last year, allegedly for engineering the 2008 Malegaon blast, which killed six.

Aparna (34), a homeopath from Pune University, has stopped practising since her hus
band’s arrest. “I have to run to court, meet him in jail and there is no time to run the clinic,’’ she told TOI on Monday. Talking about her life without Purohit, Aparna said, “Life is very difficult now. I am used to being alone while my husband was away on duty in the army, but all
of a sudden, this problem arose. I have, on many occasions, handled my family all alone but now I just can’t imagine life without him.’’ She however added that people have supported her.

“There is no sarcasm. We have been living in this area (in Pune) since our birth and people know us. They have faith and know what kind of family we come from.’’

Purohit is accused of conspiring the Malegaon blast and providing RDX, which was used while manufacturing a bomb. Purohit, at the time of his arrest, was posted in army’s Education Corpse at
Panchmadi base in Madhya Pradesh. He is one of the eleven accused who are facing serious charges of murder and conspiracy against the nation. The ATS arrested him after they claimed to have intercepted telephonic conversation and SMSes between him and other suspects.
Purohit and Aparna were seeing each other before they got married in 1997. They have two sons; the elder is 10 years old and younger, four. About allegations against Purohit, Aparna says, “My husband has wrongly been framed. The allegations are false
and we will prove them in the court. My husband does not have a criminal mentality. I know he will not do such an act,’’ said Aparna, firmly. She said she met the other suspects in the court, but refused to comment if she had met them before their arrest.

She also refused to comment on her husband’s alleged anti-national activities. When asked about Purohi’t plan to convert India into a Hindu Rashtra and his speech recorded in a camera, she said, “This is false. Let the ATS come out with the evidence. We will answer their claims in the court.’’

She said that Purohit had a good service record and his colleagues are in touch with her and extend all support for him. “In spite of all this, they have not lost faith in us. They are supportive,’’ she added.

The Times of India, September 29, 2009

A year on, 3 Malegaon accused still at large

State ATS faults Guj, Uttarakhand police for inaction

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: The Maharashtra antiterrorism squad (ATS), probing the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast case, blamed the Gujarat and Uttarkhand police for not helping them nab the three wanted accused. The ATS arrested 11 suspects in this case while three others, one of them a suspected bomb planter, are still at large.

Six persons were killed and 101 injured in the September 29, 2008, blast at Bhikku Chowk area in central Malegaon. The bomb was made
of RDX. Indian army’s serving lieutenant colonel Prasad Purohit, Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad’s former executive secretary Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Shankaracharya Swami Dayanand Pandey, Sudhakar Chaturvedi and retired major Ramesh Upaddyay were among those arrested so far.

“We have traced the accused till Gujarat and Uttarkhand and are trying to nab them from there,’’ said ATS chief Krish Pal Raghuvanshi. He added that the ATS had provided their counterparts in other states with full details of the absconders but were yet to get a positive result. “The wanted accused are not using
mobile or any other technology, so it’s becoming difficult for us to track them down,’’ added Raghuvanshi.

Investigators believed that it was Purohit who planned the blast. If the police are to be believed, Purohit wanted to break a secular India and convert it into a Hindu nation.

The bomb used in Malegaon was
assembled at Chaturvedi’s Deolali house. Conspiracy meetings for the blast were conducted at the Bhonsala Military school in Nashik, Madhya Pradesh, UP, Pune and Gujarat. The police found the information about the making of a Hindu country from a laptop seized from Pandey.

Malegaon blast: Sept 29, 2008
Bomb’s make: RDX, ammonium nitrate, oil fuel, shrapnel
Spot: Bhikku Chowk, Malegaon
Time: 9.35 pm
Occasion: Two days before Ramzan Eid
Killed: Six, including an 11-yr-old
Injured: 101 persons
Investigating agency: The antiterrorism squad
Total arrested: 11
Still absconding: Ramji Kalangsara, Sandeep Dange and Pravin Mutalik
Who are they?
Members of Hindu hardliners’ outfits, Abhinav Bharat, Jai Vande Matram Jan
Kalyan Samiti, Hindu Rashtra Sena, among others
Confessional statements: 2
MCOCA slapped on the case: Nov 20, 2008
Pages in the chargesheet: 4,528 (filed on Jan 20, 2009)
MCOCA dropped by a special court: July 31, 2009

The bike used in the blast is said to have been once owned by Sadhvi Pragya
* Recorded conversation between Lt Col Prasad Purohit and retired Major Ramesh Upadhyaya
* Traces of RDX found in Sudhakar Chaturvedi’s house SMS messages sent from Purohit’s phone to Upadhyaya Two important confession statements made in the presence of a magistrate
* 431 witnesses, of which five are army officers
* 12 written witness statements
* A laptop seized from Dayanand Pandey containing valuable proof

The accused have been booked under the Indian Penal Code for crimes such as murder under Section 302, attempt to murder under Section 307 and conspiracy under Section 120-B. They have been slapped with provisions of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for trying to ‘overawe the government’ and ‘threatening the unity and integrity of the nation’, under the Explosives Act for use of RDX to engineer the blast, and the MCOCA for being members of an organised crime syndicate.

CBI chargesheets Dhawde
New Delhi:
Nearly 10 months after the reopening of 2006 Nanded blast, the CBI has chargesheeted Rakesh Dhawde, an accused in the Malegaon blasts, for allegedly arranging arms training for carrying out blasts in Muslim-dominated areas. Dhawde, a Pune-based antique arms dealer, was accused of allegedly organising camps where training was being imparted to cadres who later formed Abhinav Bharat, a right wing terror group, officials said. AGENCIES The Times of India, September 29, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

4 collegians end up with egg on face - Nabbed For Hurling Them At Sr Citizens On Morning Walk

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: Four collegians were caught on Marine Drive, zipping across in their car and throwing eggs at senior citizens who were out for morning walk.

The boys, aged 16 and 17 years, are from well-to-do families and two of them study in England and the US.

The police seized over five dozens eggs from the Honda City car they were driving around and took the boys to
the police station. The four told the police that they were celebrating the return of their friends from abroad and had planned to throw the eggs at their other pals. However, the officers did not buy their theory and summoned their parents to the police station. The officers later let them off after a strict warning and booking them for rash driving.

“The incident occurred at Marine Drive around 6.30 am when several senior citizens were taking a walk. After throwing eggs at them, the boys would speed away. One of the victims called up the
police control on 100 and informed them of the mischief. A mobile van was immediately sent to nab the boys and nakabandis were organised,’’ said an official.
The police caught the youths outside Mumbai police Gymkhana, near Marine Lines station. They also found several trays of eggs inside the car. “We questioned the boys, aged around 16 and 17 years, for several hours. However, they did not admit their mistake. They kept saying that they were just having fun with the friends who had returned from abroad and had planned to hurl the eggs at their pals,’’ said DCP Vishwas Nangre Patil.

The two other boys study in reputed colleges in south Mumbai. One of the youths’ father is an well known businessman in the city. “We did not book them as they are minors,’’ said a source.

Soon after, four constables, in two groups, were deployed on foot patrol on the Marine Drive’s six-km stretch. “Armed with a wireless and a pistol, the policemen will keep a watch so that no one can bother the senior citizens and the morning walkers. The patrolling goes on for two-anda-half hours in the morning and an equal period in the evening,’’ said Patil.

Moreover, the police have also introduced a mobile van, which is equipped with first aid kits that can be used case if any senior citizen faints or falls while jogging, an officer said.

The Times of India, September 28, 2009

ATS to bring fake currency accused to city - LUCKNOW LINK

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: The anti-terrorism squad (ATS) will bring Mohammed Arif to the city from Lucknow where he was arrested on Saturday for being involved in a fake currency racket that was busted in Mumbai a month ago. Arif, who supplied fake Indian currency to four persons, was on the run and was finally caught by the Uttar Pradesh police from Charbagh area in Lucknow.

The UP police seized fake notes of Rs 100 denomination and important documents from him. “Last month, the ATS arrested four persons and seized fake currency with a face value of Rs 78,000. Arif was wanted in this case,’’ said ATS chief Krish Pal Raghuvanshi.

Arif, who hails from Kannauj, told the UP police that the counterfeit notes were supplied to him by another member, Girjesh Yadav alias Guddu. He would pass on the notes to others in Mumbai, who would get a 20% commission for circulating the currency, the police said.

The Times of India, September 28, 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009

POLL COVER - Cops will watch over star campaigners

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: Political parties may have yet not decided who is going to be their star campaigner but the special branch of the city police is on its toes. It has issued an alert to all the deputy commissioners about a possible threat to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the party’s general secretary Rahul Gandhi and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi among others.

A section of officials, however, feels the special branch may have jumped the gun. Neither the Congress, nor the
BJP has indicated when their star campaigners are going to come to the city.

Congress politicians said that Sonia Gandhi might visit the city in the next fortnight, but were not sure about Rahul’s plans. Modi is likely to campaign for the saffron alliance, but even his schedule has not yet been finalised. The police and politicians indicated that these top leaders were likely to address rallies at Shivaji Park when they visit the city.

The alert comes 10 days after security agencies warned of a terror strike on five major ports on the western coast by LeT operatives.

The Times of India, September 26, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Police to put brakes on bike racing

Will Keep An Eye On Marine Drive, Confiscate Offenders’ Licences And Inform Their Parents

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: Youngsters can no longer race their mean machines along Marine Drive.
A drive will be started in the south region—spreading across the jurisdiction of more than 16 police stations—in which the police will do their best to completely stop such racing. If caught, the youths’ parents will be informed and their driving licences confiscated.

This is the initiative of additional commissioner of police S Padmanabhan and deputy commissioner of police Sanjay Mohite. To
implement their plan, the senior officers have asked local police stations to set up nakabandis at all major junctions. “We have caught 23 youngsters last night for dangerous driving. While riding, besides their own, they put others’ lives at risk as well,’’ said an officer. Early on Thursday, the policemen, under various traffic offences, collected a fine of Rs 50,000.

Marine Drive is the favourite racing track for these bikers. During Ramzan, which ended just three days ago, a number of youths would take out their bikes every night and zip across the city, dangerously.
They come to Marine Drive from various part of the city and bet on individual as well as group racing. They usually ride at around 100 kmph. In some cases, those who lose, even have to surrender their bikes to the winner.

“Moreover, the youths remove the silencers of their bikes, causing noise pollution. It sends a feeling of lawlessness in the city,’’ the source added. However, the police
men are yet to decide on the horns that create noise pollution.

Police stations have been in
structed to form teams for nakabandis. “We have also told our men not to chase such bikers as that might cause an acc i d e n t , ’ ’ added another officer. “Whenever we will catch such bikers racing on the roads, their parents will be called. Initially, we will book them under the Motor Vehicle Act and if they repeat it again, they will be booked under the IPC for rash driving,’’ he added. The cops also plan to book book them under non-bailable sections.

The Times of India, September 25, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Trawlers scour high seas on intel tip-off

Mateen Hafeez & Sharad Vyas | TNN

Mumbai: A day after TOI first reported news of a specific intelligence alert on a threat to Mumbai from the sea, security agencies have assigned around 65 fishing trawlers with officials on board, disguised as fishermen, to monitor the high seas day and night.

Interestingly, the fishing trawlers had not been pressed into service even when an alert was issued in the last week of June this year that Indian associates of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) were planning a 26/11-like attack again.

The latest alert, dated September 13, warned of terror strikes at five major ports on the country’s western coastline, including two in Mumbai. It hinted that a large group planned to infiltrate through the sea around the third week
of September and that infiltration through commercial vessels could not be ruled out. The Mumbai Port Trust, JNPT, Mormugao Port Trust (Goa), New Mangalore Port Trust and Cochin Port Trust were sent this information.

A source confirmed security on the western coast has been increased. “Around 65 fishing trawlers have been put on
patrol in the Arabian sea. Three months ago, patrolling was stopped due to bad weather but following specific inputs now we had to take this step,’’ the source said. The trawlers will monitor the stretch between Maharashtra and Goa. Security personnel, fully equipped with firearms and electronic gadgets, are on board. “We can not reveal the number of personnel on each trawler. They sail up to seven to eight nautical miles and are in touch with a centralised control room,’’ the source added.

Security agencies had initially increased the number of trawlers soon after the 26/11 attack when 10 Pakistani terrorists entered Mumbai through the sea route. The terrorists had used a fishing trawler, M V Kuber, to enter Mumbai.

“The security personnel in these trawlers have been empowered to stop any suspected vessle and examine it. There are men from the police, coast guard and intelligence agencies on this job,’’ the source said. The entry of fishing boats and short-distance merchant ships have been restricted inside port limits till further notice. CISF commandos are patrolling MbPT’s three major docks — Indira, Princess and Victoria — in Ballard Estate.

Mock security drill at US Consulate
Nimish Sawant | TNN
One of the most secure addresses in Mumbai — the US Consulate — conducted a mock security drill with emergency response teams at its Bhulabhai Desai road premises on Wednesday between 12 pm and 5 pm. The response team comprised the Mumbai Police and anti-terrorism squad’s Quick Response Team (QRT) as well as US Consulate personnel. Unlike previous mock drills at Chembur and Malad, this drill did not take anyone by surprise. Traffic was moving smoothly and the only thing that made passersby stop in their tracks was the sight of army personnel entering the premises armed with AK-47 rifles and bulletproof jackets. Himanshu Roy, joint commissioner of police (law and order) maintained the excercise was to familiarise security personnel with the premises. “The drill was conducted jointly by the US diplomatic service and city police. The Consulate staff was working as per their schedule and they were not disturbed,’’ added Roy. He added the police was conducting such drills on a region-wise basis. But Roy refused to elaborate their next location for such a drill.

The Times of India, September 24, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

LeT sea attack on cards? Ports put on red alert

Graphics by Mahesh Benkar

Sharad Vyas & Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: Five major ports on the country’s western coastline, including two in Mumbai (Mumbai Port Trust and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust), have been put on a “red alert’’ following a specific intelligence input from the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard (Western Region) has alerted several security and port agencies that terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is planning to carry out
yet another strike on the western coast from the sea around the third week of September.

The confidential “advisory received from agencies indicate that the LeT is planning to carry out an attack by infiltrating a large group through the coasts around the third week of September’’, the alert reads. “Infiltration through commercial vessels cannot be ruled out,’’ it adds. It was forwarded on September 13 to five ports, MbPT, JNPT, Mormugao Port Trust (Goa), the New Mangalore Port Trust and Cochin Port Trust.

Port officials said Mumbai’s coastline have been put on a “red alert’’ till Septem
ber 25. “We don’t want to take any chance since the alert has come at an unusual time, not around important national events like Republic Day,’’ a senior port official said.

The advisory also recommends four immediate measures to tackle the situation. The entry of fishing boats and short-distance merchant ships have been restricted inside port limits till further notice. CISF commandos are patrolling MbPT’s three major docks, Indira, Princess and Victoria, in Ballard Estate. “Immigration officials have also been asked to physically verify entry of passengers and visitors,’’ a senior port official said.

This is not the first time intelligence inputs have warned that terrorists might use waterways to target the country’s western and eastern coastlines. A few months after 26/11, the Indian Navy said commercial vessels might be used to smuggle in arms and explosives.

The situation this time has become a little more complicated because of the impending elections. Port officials complained that vehicles meant for patrolling were being picked by Collectorate officials for election duty. This week alone eight vehicles from the MbPT were seized for election duty. “Are elections more important or the country’s security? How are we to carry out patrolling with limited infrastructure?’’ a senior official asked.

Security agencies confirmed that an alert was received. “The alert was originally sent by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to all security agencies,’’ an official said. Several police stations, the crime branch, the ATS and port security staff have all reviewed security. It is learnt that the IB was monitoring phone calls and monitoring a few suspects’ movements when they came to know of the latest terror plot.

These alerts, officials said, were routine but should not be taken lightly.

The Times of India, September 19, 2009

Ramzan prayers

TIME TO PRAY: The faithful offer magrib namaz (evening prayers) at Minara Masjid on Friday. Photograph by Prashant Nakwe

The Times of India, September 19, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ad-vantage prayer: Jailed man’s kin seek support

STILL WAITING: Khan Roshan Jamal’s father and brother


Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: As devout Muslims prepare for the holiest days and nights in the calendar in the run-up to Eid, one Jogeshwari family has placed an unusual ad in Urdu newspapers. The family of Khan Roshan Jamal, the 52-year-old city businessman who has been detained in a Spanish jail since January 2008, has asked the devout to remember him in their prayers on Shab-e-Qadar, Ramzan’s most important night when Muslims pray throughout the night (it happened to be on Thursday night).

Jamal, a St Xavier’s Col
lege graduate, went to Spain last January; his family said he wanted to meet some contacts for his olive fruit and oil business. But he was picked up with 14 others from Al-Ziyad Mosque in Barcelona on the night of January 18 last year.

The Spanish police has told a local court they were nabbed for suspi
cious activities but Jamal’s family has insisted throughout that he is innocent. Even the CBI has cleared him of all terror charges in India but Jamal continues to languish in Leon City Jail.

“We have placed ads in newspapers so that people pray for his release on this auspicious night. Friday is
Jumat-ul-Wida (the last Friday in Ramzan, which again is a day of great religious significance) and we hope that people’s prayers will not go in vain,’’ Jamal’s younger brother, Mehboob, said. Jamal is the second among six siblings and has worked with a tourism firm and the Globe Detective Agency, besides doing a five-year stint in Kuwait as a tourism officer.

“The CBI and the ATS have
done a thorough probe about our credentials and given us a clean chit. They also sent this report to the Spanish police through Interpol. Even the local court was not convinced by the police allegations and refused police custody,’’ Mebhoob said.

What has upset the family is the lack of political and government will in helping Jamal. “But see the interest around Sarabjit’s case,’’ Mehboob said. Jamal’s wife, Farida, said: “I want to meet
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and request her to intervene to get my husband released.’’ The family has sent a file to the United Nation’s human rights wing and is hoping to get justice.

Barcelona University’s students and teachers protested in January 2009 against the illegal detentions of Asians in Spanish prisons.

The Times of Inida, September 18, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Kasab’s handlers trained LeT man

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: LeT operative Aslam Kashmiri had undergone training in Pakistan much before terrorist Ajmal Kasab and his nine partners were trained to carry out the November 26 terror attacks.

Kashmiri currently in the custody of the anti-terrorism squad of the city police underwent training in Pakistan’s Muridke in 2006. The handlers for him and the Kasab group were the same, the police said.

“I met Zarar Shah and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, (LeT
operatives in Pakistan) during the training. They had come to oversee the training programme,’’ Kashmiri told the police. Shah and Lakhvi have been named wanted accused in the 26/11 attack.

However, the police is yet
to establish if Kashmiri knew any of the 10 gunmen who terrorised Mumbai for three days. “We are questioning him and trying to establish his role in the arms haul case,’’ said ATS additional commissioner Sukhvinder Singh.

Kashmiri sent four youths to Pakistan’s training camp from Aurangabad and neighbouring cities, ATS chief Krish Pal Raghuvanshi said. The youth, said police, would be given a 21-day training in assembling bombs and operating fire arms.

The Delhi police claimed to have seized an Amritsarto-Nanded railway ticket, two packets of sweets containing chemical explosives, four detonators and two timers from Kashmiri. According to officials, Kashmiri was supposed to deliver these explosives to someone in Aurangabad.

‘They called me kaafir and fired at me’
Kamal Singh, a businessman who had entered Nariman House during the 26/11 terror strike and come face to face with two terrorists, deposed in court on Wednesday. Singh saw the two terrorists—Abu Akasha and Nasir alias Abu Umar—on the first floor; they called him kaafirand fired at him, Singh told special prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam. He ducked and managed to escape. Judge M L Tahaliyani also heard the testimony of another witness. The court has now finished examining 202 witnesses in the case. TNN

The Times of India, September 17, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

No convictions for attempted suicide in city

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: There are 511 sections in the Indian Penal Code but one of them, Section 309, hasn’t seen an accused being convicted under it at least in the last five years in Mumbai.

Senior police officials, however, aren’t in the least ashamed of this track record. Reason: Section 309 deals with punishment for those who have attempted suicide. “The law says they can be imprisoned for up to a year but one has to keep in mind that the accused are also victims who take this extreme step only when they have abandoned all hope and don’t see any further point in living,’’ a senior official said.

A total of 119 persons have attempted suicide in the city since 2004. “We have filed chargesheets in almost all the cases and follow up prosecution in the court, “crime branch chief Rakesh Maria said.

What’s Sec 309?
Whoever attempts to commit suicide and commits any act towards the commission of such an offence shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or both

No point in torturing tortured souls: Police
Mumbai: Despite the over-100 attempted suicides in Mumbai since 2004, police officials said, not a single person got anything more than a “technical’’ conviction (presence in court till it gave over for the day), as even the court took a sympathetic view of the “crime’’.

The officials admitted they were on the court’s side in this. “When people are so depressed that they want to end their lives, why should we put them under more pressure and through more trouble? What they have done is illegal but there’s no point in torturing a person who is already feeling tortured,’’ an officer said. Psychiatrists say the most common reason for attempting suicide is depression arising out of personal or professional problems; there have also been cases in which terminally ill patients have tried to kill themselves.

CR and Nagpada Police Hospital consulting psychiatrist Y A Matcheswalla segregates cases into two types: those arising out of a personality disorder and those trig
gered by some emotional factor. Citing the recent example of several people attempting and committing suicide after hearing of Andhra CM YSR Rajeshekhar Reddy’s death in a chopper crash, Matcheswalla said emotional factors were common reason for suicides. “In case of personality disorder, the victims do not really want to kill themselves but attempt suicide to seek attention. Those who are serious about killing themselves are in a state of depression,’’ he said.

Ex-IPS officer-turned-lawyer Y P Singh said the SC in 1994 had ruled Section 309 of the IPC unconstitutional (P Rathinam versus Union of India). “It deserves to be effaced from the statute book to humanise our penal laws,’’ the judgment had said.

Taking note of two suicide attempts at Mantralaya and another near Vidhan Bhavan last year, the city police formed an Anti-Suicide Squad (ASS). The ASS, comprising 15 constables (five of them women), is the brainchild of DCP Vishwas Nangre Patil.

The Times of India, September 16, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cops want dog squads in all 12 zones of city

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: Following the 26/11 terror attack and a series of bomb hoax calls, the police have written to the state government asking for bomb and sniffer dog squads in all the 12 zones in the city.

On June 23, home minister Jayant Patil had emphasised that there was a need for a squad with around 100 sniffer dogs. Patil had also said the state will provide all equipment
to the police for citizens’ safety.

Last week, the police sent a proposal to the home department stating that there was a need for 12 more dog squads in all 12 zones in the city. “As per the proposal, each dog squad will comprise three dogs,’’ said a home department source.

Currently, the city police has two dog squads—one near the police commissionerate in south Mumbai while the other is stationed at Goregaon. The south Mumbai squad has
seven dogs while the Goregaon one has three dogs. “The dogs worked relentlessly during and after the 26/11 terror attacks in which 10 Pakbased terrorists entered Mumbai ’’ said a bomb detection and disposal squad official.

A home department official said, “The dogs get tired due to travelling and their power to identify explosives and bombs is also affected by it. So, the police now want to keep them in all the zones.’’
The Times of India, September 14, 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

City cops are lost in translation

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: The man brought by the city crime branch to translate two Arabic words on a note left behind by 26/11 terrorists on a bomb near the hotel Taj, told the special court on Thursday that he was not a professional translator. This goof-up has once again brought to the fore the paucity of trained translators in the state’s intelligence gathering mechanisms.

Observers say that the scale of the problem can be gauged by the fact that police were unable to find a professional Urdu or Arabic translator even for evidence pertaining to a case as big as the 26/11 terror attacks.
City police’s special branch, which is responsible for gathering intelligence on an array of issues pertaining to the city, has only a handful of officers who translate Marathi into English. The agency has just one officer who is fluent in Urdu. The special branch does not have translators for Arabic, Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil, Kannada, Oriya, etc. The state antiterrorism squad (ATS) too does not have any Arabic, Gujarati, Bengali, or Tamil translator.

Bhiwandi-based LIC agent, Mukhtar Peerzade, the translator brought by the city crime branch, told the court that he translated the two words, “Ammar Askari’’, with the help of a dictionary and a friend. However, there were doubts about his expertise. The words were written on a chit which was found on a 8kg RDX bomb outside hotel Taj. The officer, who seized the bomb, found this chit and got it translated as “threat of war.’’ The crime branch maintains that Peerzade’s first statement was taken by the Colaba police station and that they did not have any information on him.

It is worth noting that India is the world’s second largest Urdu-speaking nation. Considering that Maharashtra alone has over 4,000 madrassas, the police could have easily asked an Arabic teacher to translate the two words, say observers. The crime branch officers, however, insisted that this was not a big issue and that “whenever we need to get something translated, we get it done from somewhere.’’

The state intelligence department (SID), which is responsible for collecting information across the state (excluding Mumbai), was also not asked for help. “According to the rules, each SID officer has to learn a foreign/national language, besides knowing English, Hindi and Marathi. Many SID officers are learning other languages and could have been approached for the translation,” said an officer. However, no SID officer was called to translate the two words.

Language Lacunae l Special branch: Has no translators for Arabic, Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil, Kannada, Oriya l The state anti-terrorism squad (ATS): No translators for Arabic, Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil Lessons To Be Learnt l The US: Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre, the New York police set-up a dedicated wing to train its officers in foreign languages. Today, the department has over two dozen such officers

The Times of India, September 12, 2009

Haj panel offers coaching for civil exam

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: The Central Haj Committee of India will start a coaching class for civil services exams for Muslims students from November. This is the first time that the Haj committee has taken an intitiave to create a platform for Muslim students to excel in competitive exams. Of the total applications received so far, 40% are girl students. Fifty aspirants, who will be selected through a written test, will be provided training.

Mohammed Owais, chief executive officer of the central Haj committee who mooted this idea said, ‘We have a 18-storey building here and wanted to make use of it. There are several floors lying vacant. So we decided to start a coaching class to train IAS and other service apsirants. It will help the community and the nation too,” said Owais. The CEO himself is a 1989 batch Indian railways and traffic service officer.

“So far, we have received over a hundred applications, including from 40 girls who want to attend the coaching class. We will hire the best visiting lecturers and provide all the advanced books and notes,” he said. Students will be charged Rs 2,000 a month as fee for their accommodation, food, notes, lectures, use of library and computers.

A screening test to select 50 students will be conducted in this first week of November. An objective-type examination will be conducted for students’ selection and they will have to answer questions from a general studies paper. “We went and surveyed several coaching institutes before coming to a conclusion,” said Owais. Many Muslims appreciated the Haj Committee's move to start such a coaching class.

There is not a single coaching class in the state run by any minority institution to train students who aspire to be civil servants. The applicants include engineers from IIT, MBBS doctors, law graduates and many holding masters degrees in the science stream. “There will be separate accommodation arrangement for girls and boys here,” said Owais.

The Times of India, September 12, 2009

ATS obtains custody of LeT suspect

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: A New Delhi court on Friday allowed the Maharashtra ATS to take the custody of suspected LeT operative, Aslam Kashmiri. The ATS claimed Kashmiri was wanted in the 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case.

Kashmiri alias Yusuf alias Saleem was arrested in Delhi who claimed to have seized timers, detonators and explosives kept in two sweet boxes. Chief metropolitan magistrate Kaveri Baweja asked the ATS to produce Kashmiri before a MCOCA court in Mumbai on or before September 15. Kashimir reportedly delivered arms and ammunition to another wanted, Zabihuddin Ansari.

The Times of India, September 12, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How cyber crime sleuths weed out ‘nettles’ from the web

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: You may not know this but, when you are sleeping at night, dozens of police officials—of Mumbai’s cyber crime cell—are burning the midnight oil and scanning the net for posts so that you do not wake up and find your city in flames.
This select group of officers—belonging to the city’s cyber crime investigation cell and its cyber crime police station—have an unenviable task; they scour the net, looking for posts that may arouse “communal, racial and regional passions’’, and then get busy deleting them before millions of other netizens can lay their eyes on these scurrilous posts.

And these posts are not all that rare on the worldwide web. “There are thousands of posts—some on Shivaji, some on Sonia
Gandhi (and Raj Thackeray and Jyoti Basu) and even on Prophet Mohammad—that can lead to dangerous law-and-order problems,’’ a senior crime branch official told TOI on Wednesday. “So our officers work all night, scanning the net for these posts and then destroy them before they can do wider damage,’’ he added.

And, if you think you can get away posting these scurrilous comments, then you are wrong. “We also take action against these mischief-mongers and have records on these people,’’ crime branch chief Rakesh Maria said. “You cannot get away creating problems that can be potentially difficult to han
dle,’’ he added.

Officials say these fires are doused even before the media gets to know of them. “We avoid sharing such information as they can create ugly situations,’’ one of them said.

But officials admit their limitations as well. “It’s not possible for us to go after every blog or site. So we also put some random words related to a particular issue in the search column and inform our superiors if we notice anything dangerous. A note is compiled and sent to the computer emergency response team (CERT), which comes under the ministry of information and broadcasting,’’ an officer said. The CERT is respon
sible for action that culminates in deleting material from the net in India.

An officer cited examples: “A person posted remarks against a Maratha icon and they were extremely derogatory. We caught the person and warned him very sternly. Another teenager created a blog and went on writing scurrilous comments against Raj Thackeray; we immediately blocked the blog and traced him. An officer also briefed Thackeray, who was extremely disturbed. These netizens have not even left alone B R Ambedkar, who was responsible for giving us our Constitution.’’

Another officer said the cell was also in touch with Google, which had the most popular search engine and blog platform. “We have requested Google to block several websites or blogs,’’ he added.

The Times of India, September 10, 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Malegaon unhappy with probe

Three Years After Blast, Residents Say 9 Accused Were Framed

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: Textile town Malegaon has witnessed unrest, violence and protests over the last three years, when four bombs planted on cycles, went off killing 31 and injuring 297. Residents of this Muslim dominated town insist that the nine youths arrested have been framed.

The city, with a seven-lakh plus population, has been in the news since September 8, 2006, when the RDX-ammonium nitrate bombs exploded inside a cemetery on the occasion of Shab-e-Baraat.

The ATS has arrested nine suspected SIMI members. Following anti-ATS protests in Malegaon, the probe was handed over to the CBI on December 21, 2006, the day when a 10,500-page charge sheet was filed in the MCOCA court.

Over a dozen delegations from Malegaon have been
meeting various government authorities saying the investigations were not fair. Residents also staged morchas demanding ATS chief K P Raghuvanshi’s ouster, saying he had failed to give “concrete evidence’’ of the youths’ involvement. “The ATS framed them,’’ said Maulana Abdul Kareem Milli, the local chief of Majlis-e-Shura.

A group of eminent citizens, lawyers, social workers, ulemas, relatives of the victims and the suspects, have formed a committee to in
vestigate the case on their own. Advocate S S Shaikh said that the fact-finding report was submitted to the CBI on September 17, 2007. “We have given several clues that could help police in nabbing the real culprits. We are unable to understand whether our report is an obstacle for CBI or if it did not like our truth?’’ Shaikh asked.

One of the suspects, Noorul-Huda, a SIMI member, was initially picked up in 2006 after the ATS seized a huge cache of arms and ammuni
tion in Aurangabad. He was subsequently made a witness in this case. The ATS, at the same time, booked him as a bomb planter in the Malegaon blast. Shaikh said that when Huda was under surveillance after the arms haul, it was not possible for him to commit such an act.

A member asked how another accused, Shabbir Masiuallah, could have allowed his godown to be used for making the bombs when he was in the crime branch custody since August 3, 2006.

Over 2,500 people in Yavatmal have filed an affidavit in court, stating that another accused Zahid Ahmed was in Yavatmal on the day of Malegaon blasts. There was also allegations that the cops won over the lone approver in the case.

Raghuvanshi refused to comment. CBI also refused to comment, saying their “investigation is still on’’.

The ATS appeal against the MCOCA court’s order dropping the stringent law, MCOCA, from the 2008 Malegaon blast suspects, will be heard on Tuesday. The ATS in its appeal stated, “The judge has totally exceeded his powers while quashing the said order (to invoke MCOCA) of the competent authorities. The judge ought to have considered that the designated judge under the MCOCA Act is not empowered by the provisions of the said Act to quash such orders of the competent authority.’’

The Times of India, September 8, 2009

Techie gets life for killing wife

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: A 30-year-old software engineer, who went against his parents’ wishes to marry his girlfriend, was sentenced to life for killing her by a fast-track court on Saturday. Pramod More murdered his wife, Trupti, and tried to pass it off as suicide. However, medical evidence
landed him in trouble.

The Kanjur Marg police had initially registered a case of accidental death in August last year. However, Trupti’s father and three sisters insisted that it was murder case. Trupti’s post-mortem was done at Rajawadi Hospital and the body was sent to JJ for a second post-mortem. Inspector Prabhakar Loke
said that More and Trupti worked together in an Andheri-based company. They fell in love in 2004 and decided to marry despite parental opposition. “After a relationship of three years, the couple wed and stayed at Kanjurmarg. Later, More told Trupti to not be friendly with colleagues and asked her to quit her job. She did that,’’ Loke said.

On August 22, 2008, Trupti was found dead at her home. More told his neighbours that she had committed suicide by hanging herself and that he had brought her body down. “More would torture my daughter over petty issues,’’ Trupti’s father had told the police. “The second post-mortem report said the strangulation injuries were due to ‘force’,’’ added Loke.

A murder case was registered. More told the police that he had strangulated his wife to death as he had doubts about her character and they would have frequent fights.

There was no direct witness. A team of doctors and forensic experts that examined the spot ruled out suicide.

The Times of India, September 8, 2009

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Six-year-old raped, murdered at Colaba

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: A six-year-old girl was raped and murdered at Cuffe Parade while her family was busy in Ganpati immersion on Friday night.

The Cuffe Parade police arrested the 20-year-old accused, Sandeep Ramesh Gaikwad, who led them to the victim’s body. The incident took place at Machhimar Nagar at around 1.30 am on Friday. According to police sources, the victim’s mother approached the police stating that her daughter was missing. The family was busy in visarjan when the girl went missing, she said.

The police said that the small girl was last seen with Gaikwad who had come to her house and took her saying he would take her to the immersion. However, after a few hours when the girl did not return home, the mother enquired at Gaikwad’s house who stayed nearby. However, he was not there. The victim’s mother then informed the police who later traced Gaikwad. After interrogation, Gaikwad led the police to the body. “The victim was suffocated to death,’’ said DCP Vishwas Nangre Patil.

The child’s body was sent for a post-mortem. The accused was arrested for rape with murder and has been sent to police custody.

The Times of India, September 4, 2009

Was slain LeT leader Kasab’s Hindi teacher?

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai/Jammu: Top LeT commander Abu Jundal was gunned down in an encounter in Jammu on Friday. The Mumbai crime branch is in touch with Jammu police and trying to get Jundal’s photograph to establish if he is the same militant who had taught Hindi to the 10 terrorists who entered Mumbai last November.

Jammu police officials said they had received information about the presence of a group of LeT terrorists in the Batoi forest in Mahore, 120 km from Jammu. Security forces launched a joint combing operation and killed self-styled LeT commander Jundal alias Mohammad Avais (going by the code name of Zuman in PoK).

Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab had the trial court that one Abu Jundal was part of the LeT group that had tutored them. City crime branch officials said there was no confirmation if the Jundal killed by Jammu cops was the same person described by Kasab.

The Times of India, September 4, 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Jinnah’s constituency gears up for elections

Pakistan's Qaid-e-Aazam, Mohammed Ali Jinnah contested his first Parliamentary election from Madanpura

Mateen Hafeez | TNN
Mumbai: Nagpada and Madanpura, often regarded as the birthplace of Mumbai’s underworld, are also in the Lok Sabha constituency from where Pakistan’s founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah contested his first Parliamentary election in 1946. The predominantly Muslim constituency, then known as Byculla, spanned Madanpura, Nagpada, Mominpura, Chinchpokli and Lalbaug. B R Ambedkar had also stood for election from this constituency but lost.

In the brouhaha over former defence minister Jaswant Singh’s book on Pakistan’s Qaid-e-Aazam, the historic Byculla constituency is suddenly the talk of the city. “My uncle, a freedom fighter, had told us several things about Jinnah’s election speeches, rallies and programmes. According to my uncle, although Jinnah’s constituency extended to Parel, he preferred to conduct political programmes at Madanpura and Nagpada junction,’’ said Mukhtar Ansari, whose uncle passed away around six months ago.

“My father would tell us about Jinnah’s speeches, his leadership and the place he would stay near YMCA ground during his short visits. My father had a ringside view of his pre-independence programmes,’’ said Yaseen Ansari, whose freedom-fighter father was jailed in the mid-1940s for participating in a rally.

* Mahatma Gandhi and Maulana Mohammed Ali Jauhar in 1922 conducted the first mass rally here in support of the Turkish Caliph. Many Muslims in India supported the Caliph, whom the British were trying to oust. The procession began from Khilafat House in Byculla (E) to support the worldwide Khilafat Movement in the early 20th century. This procession is still conducted every year on the occasion of Eid-Miladun-Nabi.
* Byculla was also the constituency from where B R Ambedkar contested the first general election. He lost to Congress candidate V B Gandhi

Other Reasons Why It Is In News
* Sitting MLA Arun Gawli is currently in Arthur Road jail for extorting money. He is also facing a case for allegedly murdering a Sena corporator.
* The area’s infamous locals: Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel. It also produced the underworld’s first generation gangsters—Karim Lala, Yusuf Patel and Haji Mastan

Poll Facts And Figures
* In 1985, labour union leader Datta Samant contested the parliamentary election from this constituency, and was elected on a Janata Party ticket. The Shiv Sena has won this seat five times

The Times of India, September 2, 2009