‘Deepak Kuntawala is a fake 26/11 hero’

26/11 survivor to host charity dinner in London

Deepak Kuntawala, an NRI, will probably never forget those horrific hours when Mumbai came under siege by a handful of terrorists last year. A survivor, he will host a commemorative charity dinner in London which will be attended by many film personalities, both from Bollywood and Hollywood.

Amongst those who are expected to attend the fund raiser are Prince Michael of Kent and Bollywood movie actors like Konkona Sen, Lara Dutta, Boman Irani and director Shekhar Kapoor, an official statement here said.

Fake 26/11 hero takes British royalty for a ride

Prince Michael of Kent hosted a charity gala for Deepak Kuntawala after the latter claimed of saving 150 lives during 26/11
He was one of the survivors of the 26/11 attacks, but neither UK-based businessman Deepak Kuntawala (37) nor his father Vinay (60) could have imagined the horrific ordeal would, exactly a year later, allow them to rub shoulders with British royalty and Bollywood stars at Kensington Palace – as heroes.

Immediately after their providential escape, the father-son duo gave interviews to leading London-based publications who were eager to get a first-hand account from ground zero, recounting how their actions saved around 150 lives that night.

“No-one knew what to do, so I took charge,” Deepak Kuntawala told the British media. “We tore up the curtains and any material we could get our hands on. I made people get into four teams and pretty quickly we had our makeshift ropes ready. We tied them to pillars. People were fighting to go down first. But I restored calm and made sure people got down OK, starting with the elderly and then the women. It took 30 minutes.”

A few days later, Kuntawala received an award from the hands of Maharashtra Governor as a ‘surviving hero’. He returned triumphant to London where he decided to set up The DVK Foundation that aims to help survivors and families of the victims of 26/11. Queen Elizabeth’s first cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, agreed to be patron of The DVK Foundation and personally hosted a gala charity on the first anniversary of 26/11 at the Kensington Palace in London.

The event was attended by several leading Bollywood names including Lara Dutta, Kabeer Bedi, Konkona Sen-Sharma, Pooja Bedi, Shekhar Kapur, Boman Irani and Arshad Warsi, besides several of London’s movers and shakers including Prince Michael himself. The night was a grand success with an impressive 2,50,000 pounds pledged in support of The DVK Foundation.

But things started unravelling for Deepak Kuntawala soon after.

Reports surfaced that Kuntawala’s claims of saving 150 people during the 26/11 attacks could be a self-serving account of the sequence of events that night, supported only by his own claims, and backed only by his father. Neither the Mumbai media, the local police, the Taj authorities – no one – had any idea who the man was. Neither did anyone seem to know about his bragging to UK-based publications.

Deepak dramatically told one such publication that he was dining at the Sea Lounge when “I looked out into the harbour and saw a few boats coming ashore. They were full of hunched men, dressed in black. It reminded me of a scene in the film Under Siege.”

The fact is that the dinghy carrying the terrorists docked at a small jetty in Machchimaar Nagar, which falls between Cuffe Parade and Nariman Point, and definitely not visible from the windows of the Sea Lounge.

Deepak Kuntawala with his wife

Meanwhile the South Indian Education Society (SIES), which was seeking out survivors of the attack to felicitate them at function they had organised, where the Governor was a guest, spotted the interview and decided to include Kuntawala in the list for citations.

The citation liberally quoted from Kuntawala’s own claims to the British media, mostly because SIES had no reason to doubt and little time for verification. SIES President V Shankar told Mumbai Mirror, “The decision to award him was taken based on a report of Kuntawala’s bravery. We verified the claims with Kuntawala and his father. The details could not be confirmed by the hotel or the police.”

But Kuntawala confidently told this paper that the wording of the citation was “drafted by the Governor and his advisors,” a claim that has been rubbished by Raj Bhawan.

In London, Kuntawala apparently met Prince Michael of Kent and on the basis of the citation, his picture with the Governor, and published media interviews, convinced him to become patron of the DVK Foundation floated by him.

The letterhead of the foundation, which is in the possession of Mumbai Mirror, also carries the logos of two reputed watchdogs – the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) and the Fundraising Standards Board (FSRB). Investigations have revealed that this may have been an attempt to mislead.

Carol Mack, the deputy chief executive of the Association of Charitable Foundations categorically said, “The DVK Foundation is/has not been a member of ACF and we are not associated with them.”

Meanwhile, FSRB told Mumbai Mirror that while DVF Foundation has signed up with them, it doesn’t mean that they vouch for its activities or credentials. “Our role is not to endorse the activities of the DVK Foundation or the activities of any of our 1000+ members that have signed up,” said Kory McLeod, membership and compliance manager of FSRB, adding, “Where a member falls short… we have processes for dealing with them which may include carrying out an investigation.”

Further investigation showed that DVK Foundation may not be registered with the Charity Commission in London. In fact, it is neither a trust nor a charity, but a privately-held company (Registration number 07034081).

It also emerged that Kuntawala attended another charity auction, hosted by Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur, barely a few weeks before his own gala at Kensington Palace. The big ticket event also boasted guests such as Amitabh Bachchan, Sir Ben Kingsley, Duchess of York and Hollywood actress Sigourney Weaver.

An eyewitness revealed to Mumbai Mirror on condition of anonymity, “Among the many items being auctioned were tickets to the London premiere of Avatar, with Sigourney Weaver for company. Kuntawala won them with a bid of 13,000 pounds and was congratulated by everyone present, including Sigourney. But not only did he constantly delay payment, he actually put them up for auction at his own event. We were aghast how he could sell something he had neither paid for nor owned.”

Kuntawala also made contact with Suki Dusanj, who handled some parts of the Gaj Singh event, and asked her to media manage his upcoming gala being hosted by Prince Michael of Kent, and get in Bollywood stars. Suki got in touch with her sister Parveen, who is Kabir Bedi’s girlfriend and things started rolling.

But horror was in store for all the vendors Kuntawala had engaged through Suki to put together the charity night at Kensington. DVK first delayed and disputed the invoices of everyone right from the travel agent, the London transport company, the PR firm and the event organiser, and then sent out repeated erroneous remittances, which meant the payments were never actually made, copies of which are available with us.

In one instance, the numeric figure mentioned in the Barclays Bank remittance by DVK to East West Travels was ‘Rs 15,299.74’ while the amount in words was specified as ‘Fifteen laks two hundred ninety nine & seventy four rupees only.’

Later, Kuntawala’s media manager said, “It is understood that due to bank transmission protocols, two attempted electronic remittances were delayed. Deepak Kuntawala, personally compensated the travel agency by covering any of the travel agency’s bank interest charges due to the delay.”

Documents in the possession of Mumbai Mirror prove otherwise.

When this paper finally got in touch with Kuntawala, telling him we had evidence and witnesses and were alerting Prince Michael’s office, his version of the fateful 26/11 was extremely watered down – and didn’t include even a passing mention of having saved any lives, forget 150.

“My father and I were having a snack in the Sea Lounge when the terror attack began. Given the danger we escaped into the Banqueting Room which is next to the Sea Lounge,” Kuntawala said.

Far from rallying guests and forming escape teams, Kuntawala was busy saving himself and his terrified father. At 3 am, when the gunshots became intense, he was scurrying to find a better hiding place. “I checked whether it was safe to escape and ran back into the Banqueting room to collect my father and anyone else who wanted to come.”

The shimmy down the broken windows was a frantic affair. In Kuntawala’s own words, “Our escape from the Taj happened under an intense and dark situation which flashed past very quickly.” Asked whether there was anyone who could verify his more ambitious claims, he said, “It would be very difficult to recall anyone especially as the room was already being filled with black smoke and it was pitch dark.”

Meanwhile Kuntawala’s media manager, Natasha Mudar, wrote back making an appeal that “Mr Kuntawala and his family have faced yet another knock down and is constantly experiencing stress related symptoms. All he really asks for is a chance to reshape his life.”

Deepak Kuntawala greets Prince Michael of Kent at the gala

But Kabir Bedi, who anchored the Kensington Palace night, is horrified by the affair. Though legally, as patron, Prince Michael is not liable for the conduct of the DVK foundation, Bedi feels he cannot escape moral responsibility for endorsing this dubious affair. “How did Prince Michael of Kent allow himself to become patron of the DVK Foundation, created by a man making fraudulent claims of heroism during 26/11? We trusted in Prince Michael’s endorsement of DVK. What due diligence checks did he do on foundation of which he became a patron?”

Meanwhile the vendors, have been running from pillar to post for payments from Kuntawala for almost two months now. Aparna Manghnani, who owns East West Travels, says, “Since I personally know Kabir and trusted the goodwill of Prince Michael, I agreed to work with just 50 per cent advance payment. It never came.

DVK then srtarted delaying payments on one excuse after another, pushing me to the brink of financial ruin. I have lost all hope now and have contacted an attorney in London to start legal proceedings against the foundation.” London-based KSPARK and Woodthorpe Communications, who handled entertainment and public relations respectively, are also in the process of issuing writs against the company.

Prince Michael, was in Mumbai over the weekend on a private visit, could not be located. His office in London also failed to reply to the many mails sent to them. Meanwhile, there is word that Kuntawala himself is arriving in Mumbai on Tuesday, this time “on a fact finding mission to ascertain what the Chabad requires in terms of a Kitchen – DVK and Chabad House will then re-build the kitchen.”

The funds, which apparently will be used, is the money already collected at the Kensington event. Whether or not Kuntawala is planning another charity gala in Mumbai now is not known.

‘China behind hacking of Indian computers’

National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan’s assertion that hackers have tried to penetrate government computers in vital ministries is true as there have been several attempts in the past to gain access to important documents, say security officials.

In an interview to The Times, Narayanan said his office and other government departments were targeted Dec 15, the same date that US defence, finance and technology companies, including Google, reported cyber attacks from China.

“This was not the first instance of an attempt to hack into our computers,” Narayanan told The Times in an interview, adding that the would-be hackers sent an e-mail with a PDF attachment containing a Trojan virus.

The virus, which allows hackers to download or delete files, was detected and officials were told not to log on until it was eliminated, Narayanan said.

In April 2008, hackers, suspected to be from mainland China, made deep intrusions into the secure computer systems of the ministry of external affairs, said a ministry official.

The serious breach was detected during a routine security audit by the intelligence agencies – the hackers had left clear trails.

Alarmed by the breach, the government had that time sent a team of intelligence officials to audit the security standards of systems and computers in key Indian missions around the world, starting with the embassy in Beijing.

“Auditors were able to verify the details including internet protocol addresses and the Media Access Control (MAC) addresses of the hackers, confirming they originated in China,” the officials, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, told IANS.

A MAC address, also called hardware address, is a unique identification number that helps analysts trace the systems back to its country or location. All of these point to China, the officials said.

In March last year there were again attempts at hacking into the computers of Indian embassies, but no sensitive information was stolen in the process. A number of computers were found to be compromised with spyware.

“The malicious software sent copies of internal e-mail messages to a rogue address,” said one official.

The ministry of external affairs and Indian embassies have instituted a stringent protocol on the usage of e-mail by serving officers, that includes frequently changing passwords and using e-mails only for routine communication.

Besides the ministry has instituted a periodic security review of all MEA computers to ward off cyber threats, the official sources said.

“Hacking has been going on for the last few years, but the safeguards have ensured that national security was not breached,” said another official, who spoke on official clearance but was not willing to be identified.

Three years back a specialized team from the Intelligence Bureau had carried out an audit of computer systems in key government offices and put in place a security net.

“People seem to be fairly sure it was the Chinese. It is difficult to find the exact source but this is the main suspicion. It seems well founded,” Narayanan told The Times, adding that India was cooperating with the US and Britain to bolster its cyber defences.

The Chinese government has denied any role in the attacks, with a foreign ministry spokeswoman saying: “Hacking in whatever form is prohibited by law in China.”

India’s swine flu toll jumps to 1,136

A whopping 16 swine flu deaths, 13 from Gujarat alone, were reported Monday, taking the toll due to the contagious virus in the country to 1,136, health department officials said.

In Gujarat, seven people died in the day, while six deaths had occurred earlier but were confirmed Monday.

Officials said with the 13 deaths in the state, the toll has gone up to 189.

Two deaths were also reported from Rajasthan, where the toll has now risen to 172.

In Kerala, one person died due to the Influenza A (H1N1) virus. So far, 35 people have succumbed to the virus in the southern state.

However, Maharashtra continues to top the list of states that records the highest deaths in the country. As many as 300 people have died due to the swine flu in the state since Aug 3 when the first causality was reported.

“Five new swine flu cases took Delhi’s infection tally due to influenza A (H1N1) to 9,600,” a health ministry official told IANS.

With 9,600 cases, Delhi continues to lead the national infection tally. The death toll in the city remains unchanged at 89.

Also, 56 new cases were reported in the country, taking the number of people infected with the swine flu to 28,251.

New cases were also reported from Gujarat (19), Maharashtra (16), Rajasthan (six), Uttar Pradesh (five) and West Bengal (one).

Is this the begining of the end of Myspace?

The original king of Social Networking, Myspace.com seems to be in troubled waters, but the signs were already there. According to numbers released by web analytics firm Compete.com MySpace’s U.S. traffic dropped from 55.6 million unique visitors in August to 50.2 million in September. It has nearly shed off 20% of its U.S. traffic since June and lost a little over a million U.S. visitors between June and July, but more than 4 million between July and August and over 5 million between last month and this month.

Comepetes tarffic rank of Myspace: Freefall?Comepetes tarffic rank of Myspace: Freefall?

What is further worrisome is that change in leadership has not yet produced results. So even though it is among the top social networks in the world today, if some major changes are not implemented NOW to attract the people back, Myspace would lose relevance in the realm of social media.

Alexa's traffic report on MyspaceAlexa’s traffic report on Myspace

But then that is what makes the web so exciting. According to me, it just isn’t a place for monopoly and if you cannot keep pace with the million innovations happening everday and implement the ones that matter, any site will go down the hill after the initial hype phase. This has happened right from the very beginning. Stickyness is social media’s biggest problem. Myspace failed to reinvent itself with time.

Personally i will not be surprised if i see Facebook and Twitter head the same way in 5 years. But certain things have changed now. People have learnt from others mistakes. Social media brands today are investing enormous time on remaining relevant and adding new features that can keep the audience coming back. But even with that, it would be difficult to believe that the near future does not hold anything which is more interesting than Facebook, more dynamic than Twitter etc. Maybe social media itself will become less relevant. Time will tell.

As for Myspace , i think its time to head to the drawing board and start again. Music is their strongest forte and they need to clearly think about how they are going to position themselves. How they can be different from the others. That way they will always have a steady list of people with them to feed the traffic. And they need to listen.Listen carefully to what people are saying.Not just about them. But just in general, so that they know what people are looking for.

Myspace rank across countriesMyspace rank across countries

Google runs into Arunachal controversy

The Google Maps application has run into controversy for depicting three versions of the status of India’s northeastern state Arunachal Pradesh, TV reports said on Monday.

Arunachal Pradesh, one of the seven states in the north-eastern part of India, has a democratically elected government and is a part of the country.

Google India shows Arunachal Pradesh as a part of India but its Chinese edition depicts the entire state as a part of China.

Even more interestingly, the international edition of the map shows Arunachal Pradesh is shown as a disputed territory, Times Now reported.

Google said it is a standard practice of the company to show all disputed regions on its global maps according to prevailing geopolitical situation and claims made by disputing nations, but not endorsing anyone’s position.

“Products that have been localized to the local domain of a region may depict that country’s position as per the mandate of their local laws. As in the case of Google India and Google China,” Google reportedly said in a statement, reacting to the issue.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari has protested the Google stance and said the government would call the search engine giant to account.

“The Ministry of External Affairs will see that national boundaries are correctly depicted,” Tiwari said adding that if national boundaries recognized by United Nations or other bodies are not taken into account then the government will have a strong case against the company.

India and China spar over Arunachal Pradesh with India maintaining that the state is its integral part and China disputing the same.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s trip to Arunachal Pradesh ahead assembly elections in October last year was protested by Beijing while India hit back reiterating its stand on the issue.

China had also objected to the visit of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh recently.

Where is Arunachal? Google’s contribution to global politics

Same land - Two Versions...Google's take on ArunachalSame land – Two Versions…Google’s take on Arunachal
“They see him here, they seem him there, the French seek him everywhere. Is he in heaven, is he in hell, the elsusive scarlett pimpernel.”

Recently Arucnachal Pradesh has been courting a lot of political speak from both sides of the Indo China border, with both countries claiming stake to different parts of the border as their own. The border controversy had gained so much of political heat that when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Chinese Premiere Wen  Jiabao in Thailand on Saturday, it was said that one of the major reasons for this meeting was to ease border tensions between these two countries, though South Block has made an official statement that Arunachal was not discussed in this meeting.

However while New Delhi and Beijing are indulging in their little trysts of Public Diplomacy, Google has been practising a different brand of “PD” in this whole controversy.

In August this year they got into heavy controversy  when Google India maps showed parts of Arunachal Pradesh in Chinese language and parts of  Arunachal’s southern boundary with Assam and northern boundary with China in broken lines, while the state’s eastern and western boundaries with Bhutan and Myanmar were shown in continuous white lines.

Following the uproar from the media over this, Google India made a public apology and clarified its position, but that was 2 months ago. Things have changed from then. In what I can only describe as a desperate bid to keep everyone happy,  Google is showing different maps to Indians and Chinese. The Chinese version shows Arunachal Pradesh inside China’s borders while Indian version shows it inside India.

And if two versions were not enough to confuse us all who dare to search using Google maps,   there is third version – i.e. the global version (http://maps.google.com/) which shows Arunachal Pradesh as a disputed territory!

This, as Google says is in accordance with disputed territory’s political position for the country – Google follows same standard for J&K as well.

So while the Indians and the Chinese bicker over a piece of land Google is having to put all its public diplomacy skills to the fore to “map” the Arunachal Crisis. Shall we call this  “Mapping  Diplomacy” ?

All terrorists who stormed Taj Hotel were Indians: Kasab

Continuing his flip-flop, Pakistani gunman Ajmal Kasab on Monday told a special court trying the 26/11 attacks case that all the four terrorists who stormed Taj hotel were Indians.

 Kasab, whose statement is being recorded by the court on evidences adduced by the prosecution, told Special Judge M.L. Tahaliyani that while one of the terrorists of the Taj hotel siege was a Kashmiri, another was from Gujarat.

 Kasab claimed the third terrorist at Taj was Abu Ismail from Mumbai. According to prosecution, Ismail was gunned down at Girgaum Chowpatty by the police in an encounter when he along with Kasab was trying to escape. He, however, did not elaborate on the identity of the fourth terrorist at the Taj.

 The Pakistani terrorist has been making conflicting statements in the court.

 While at one point Kasab confessed to his guilt and admitted having shot people at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus along with Abu Ismail before being captured at Girgaum Chowpatty, he later denied any involvement in the terror strikes.

 Kasab’s claim came when Judge Tahaliyani wanted to know if he had anything to say about the slain terrorists who had been identified by eyewitnesses.

 When the Judge asked how he knew that Abu Ismail was from Mumbai, Kasab said, “I can make out from his face.”

 After having initially confessed to his guilt, Kasab had recently denied involvement and told the court that he had come to India from Pakistan by Samjhauta Express several days before the 26/11 carnage and was picked up from Girgaum Chowpatty by police a day before the terror attacks.

 Later, speaking to reporters outside the court, Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam described Kasab’s claim as “absurd and concocted.”

 “Kasab’s claim is absurd and concocted. He has been taking frequent U-turns and this is one of those. This will in no way weaken the prosecution’s case against him,” Mr. Nikam said.

Toddler who fell into borewell dies

Efforts to rescue a one-and-half year-old boy, who fell into a 30-feet borewell on Sunday, failed as rescue operators fished out his body on Monday. The boy, D. Mahesh, slipped and fell into the defunct open borewell at an agricultural field in Warangal district’s Tulsa tanda on Sunday eveining while playing.
His parents were working on the other side of the field when the incident happened. However, despite almost 24 hours of rescue operations, the toddler could not be saved, police said.
His body was fished out by a 10-member rescue team after digging a parallel 30-ft pit nearby the borewell, they said.

NSA fears Pak-based militants may attempt to disrupt Games

National Security Adviser M K Narayanan has expressed apprehension that Pakistan-based militants may try to disrupt the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi this year to claim that “India is not a safe place”.

“We believe Pakistan’s policy of using terror as a policy weapon remains,” he was quoted as saying by leading British daily The Times.

India is particularly anxious to prevent a militant attack from disrupting the Commonwealth Games in October, the report said.

“From Pakistan’s point of view, it’s important to disrupt the Games so you can claim that India is not a safe place,” Narayanan said, according to the daily.

He said that Pakistan had done nothing to dismantle militant groups since the Mumbai attacks, and criticised Britain, in particular, for accepting its excuse that such groups were beyond its control.

Talks with China in progress over border disputes: Pallam

With reports from Jammu and Kashmir indicating Chinese hold over Indian territory in Ladakh, Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju on Monday said India “need not be alarmed” as talks were in progress to settle the border disputes.

He also gave the benefit of doubt to China on reports of Chinese produced arms finding their way to militants in the North-Eastern states.

“As long as the border dispute is being worked on and debated between the two countries, we need not be alarmed about all these incidents, whether actual or reported,” Raju told reporters here.

He said in the bilateral relationship one of the issues that needed to be sorted out was the difference in the perception of the borders and that is being worked on. Recently, at a meeting convened by the Jammu and Kashmir government in Leh, where army officials were present, it was agreed that China was encroaching into the land with a “specific design” to grab a particular area to extend its control till Indus river.
“As per all maps and evidences, the Dokbug pasture (in Northeast of Leh) land undisputedly belongs to India and China is moving with specific design to grab this area to extend its control till Indus (river),” according to an official report.

However, Raju noted today that the most important aspect of the bilateral relationship with China was the growing trade. The minister also said in the recently concluded Copenhagen Climate summit both India and China had worked together for their rights.

Kasab’s new joke:All terrorists who stormed Taj were Indians

Continuing his flip-flop, Pakistani gunman Ajmal Kasab on Monday told a special court trying the 26/11 attacks case that all the four terrorists who stormed Taj hotel were Indians.

Kasab, whose statement is being recorded by the court on evidences adduced by the prosecution, told Special Judge M L Tahaliyani that while one of the terrorists of the Taj hotel siege was a Kashmiri, another was from Gujarat.

Kasab claimed the third terrorist at Taj was Abu Ismail from Mumbai. According to prosecution, Ismail was gunned down at Girgaum Chowpatty by the police in an encounter when he along with Kasab was trying to escape. He, however, did not elaborate on the identity of the fourth terrorist at the Taj.

The Pakistani terrorist has been making conflicting statements in the court. While at one point Kasab confessed to his guilt and admitted having shot people at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus along with Abu Ismail before being captured at Girgaum Chowpatty, he later denied any involvement in the terror strikes.

Kasab’s claim came when Judge Tahaliyani wanted to know if he had anything to say about the slain terrorists who had been identified by eyewitnesses. When the Judge asked how he knew that Abu Ismail was from Mumbai, Kasab said,”I can make out from his face”. To this Tahaliyani asked in a light-hearted manner “Did he look like a Marathi manoos?”

After having initially confessed to his guilt, Kasab had recently denied involvement and told the court that he had come to India from Pakistan by Samjhauta Express several days before the 26/11 carnage and was picked up from Girgaum Chowpatty by police a day before the terror attacks.

Tv news channels hit hard by funds crunch

Television news channels, hit hard by funds crunch, are now increasingly turning to sensationalism to stay in the race. In a bid to improve their TRP ratings, and thus their revenue, some of them have gone to the extent of virtual blackmail, often holding the state to ransom. In their mad rush for cheap popularity, they have made thetruth a casualty.

The so-called expose on the death of former chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, telecast by some TV news channels, is nothing short of yellow journalism, to say the least. They simply picked up an unverified report published four months ago in a Russian tabloid, known for itssensationalism, and telecast it as if the investigating agencies back home in India had unraveled the mystery behind the crash of the helicopter carrying Rajasekhar Reddy and his aides.
Worse, there was no disclaimer either. The TV channels added credence to their “exclusive reports” and “breaking news” by showing select portions of the Russian tabloid, while hiding the portions notconvenient to them.
They also spread the word that someone had either blocked or hacked the website of the tabloid soon after they “broke the story” on their channels. A TV channel even started accusing the state government of “inaction” and wondered whether one should know the truth from a Russian tabloid. “Shame, shame,” it exclaimed.
The selective wording of the news reports created an impression among viewers and followers of YSR that what these TV channels had been telecasting was an “expose” and not replicating what had appeared in a Russian magazine, a couple of days after the death of YSR.
While these TV channels were improving their TRP ratings through their so-called breaking news, another TV channel, which had been in the field for quite long, started its own special bulletins to “rubbish” the Russian report.
It asked its district correspondents, who had apparently not read the Russian report, to speak on the issue. Its correspondents acted like expert commentators forgetting that they are basically reporters and not analysts. This particular TV channel quoted the Russian report out of context to tell its viewers that it was nothing but “sensation.”
As the sensationalism hotted up, the TV channels brought their own panel of experts to speak for or against the Russian report. But what these channels had forgotten was that their mindless telecast had already set the state on fire.
Yet another TV channel brought in the “regional angle” to the whole episode, wondering why attacks had been taking place against the outlets of a private company, only in Andhra and Rayalaseema regions and not in Telangana. In support of its argument, it took the bytes of some pro-Telangana activists.
This is not the first time that TV news channels have resorted to sensationalism and yellow journalism. Every small incident is blown out of proportion and clippings of violence are repeatedly telecast till they get the fresh ones. People tend to believe that these are separate incidents and not repeat of the same incident.
The classic example was the telecast of police lathicharge on unruly “students” in Osmania University. Repeated telecast of the same scene put the state government under pressure, so much so that it had to transfer a senior police official.
In fact, unhealthy competition in the Telugu electronic media started with the mushrooming of TV channels in Andhra Pradesh. The real estate boom in Hyderabad and surrounding Ranga Reddy district made several people billionaires overnight.
A few of them with questionable background invested in the electronic media to cover up their past and continue with their dubious activities. The current slump in the real estate sector has forced them to find alternative means of revenue: sensationalism and yellow journalism.

Lalsalam Comrade Jyoti Basu

Marxist patriarch and former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu, who was battling for life in a hospital here for the last fortnight, died today.

“I have to give you a sad news that Jyoti Basu is no longer with us,” Biman Bose, the Chairman of the Left Front coordination committee, announced to reporters at about 1210 hrs.

95-year-old Basu, who had suffered multi-organ failure was on a temporary pacemaker since late last night.

Basu’s personal physician Dr Ajit Kumar Maity said that the veteran leader breathed his last at 11:47 am at the AMRI Hospital where he was admitted with pneumonia on January 1. He was put on a ventilator on January 6.

Basu, who strode the political arena like a colossus for over six decades, is survived by son Chandan. His wife Kamal passed away four years ago.

A political legend, Basu became the longest serving chief minister of West Bengal for 23 years from 1997 at the head of CPI-M-headed Left Front government.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, who was in the city, rushed to the hospital.

He said, “We have just learnt that Jyoti Basu, formally known as Jyoti Babu, has passed away. He strode like a collosus on the Indian political scene for several decades.

He was a great patriot, a great democrat. He lived a full life“.

“For the last fortnight, he suffered a lot. The West Bengal government has provided him with the best medical care in the country. We are deeply sad at his passing away.

“I offer my sincere condolence to his family and the people of West Bengal,” he said.

Basu had been put on Slow Low Efficiency Daily Dialysis (SLEDD), but it was stopped after he was unable to tolerate it beyond seven-and-a-half hours yesterday.

No entry for Indians in Australian bar.

Three Indians were among a group of six South Asians who were denied entry by a bar here in what is being described by them as “a case of racism”, amid a slew of attacks on students from the community in Australia.

“We had gone to the bar to throw a farewell party for one of our friends, Abhishek Aggarwal, who is about to leave for India” on Wednesday, said Sujan Pathak, a Nepalese citizen who was part of the group.

However, he said the youths, all in their mid-20s, were turned away by the Melbourne Centre Lion Hotel bar without giving any explanation.

The group of friends – three Indians and three Nepalese – just wanted to know the reason for this and contacted the police who refused to help them on the issue, Pathak said.

All bars here display a notice outside that they can turn away any customer without giving any explanation.

“We tried to get into the bar. There were so many guys in front of us and right behind us as well in the queue. They denied us (entry), said ‘you guys can’t get in’,” Aggarwal told NDTV over phone after the late last night incident.

“We were not drunk, we were carrying our age proof, we were properly attired. But still they said ‘you guys can’t get in’ They didn’t give us any reason. We waited there for 10 minutes. All other guys were getting in, but we were not allowed to go inside.

“We called the police and asked them for help. We told them this is a case of racism, because I don’t see any other reason for not letting us in,” he said.

“Police said we’ll come there as soon as possible. I got a call after 20 minutes. There was a guy from the police who said ‘What’s the issue’? Can you please elaborate’? When I explained the situation to him, he said ‘sorry sir, this is not a case of racism. There’s nothing we can do about it’,” Aggarwal said.

He said he was told by the policeman that they should go to another bar if this one was not letting them in. “I told them this is not about this bar or that particular bar. This is about my dignity, my race…It’s a case of racism.”

The incident came amid a string of attacks on Indians in Australia, mostly in Melbourne, with 21-year-old student Nitin Garg, who was stabbed to death by unidentified assailants here, becoming the first victim of such assaults this year.

Another Indian youth, Ranjodh Singh, was killed in New South Wales last month.

Nearly 100 cases of attacks on Indians were reported in Australia in 2009 as against 17 incidents of assaults in 2008.

Another attack on Indian taxi driver in Australia

In yet another incident targeting Indians in Australia, a student-cum-cabbie was threatened with knife by his two passengers, even as police insisted that these cases were not racially-motivated.

The incident, the third against Indian cabbies in two days, occurred yesterday when the driver, who is studying business administration in the Victorian city of Ballart, was called to Birdwood Avenue to pick up passengers, ‘The Age’ reported today.

It came shortly after another Indian taxi driver was abused and punched by his four passengers, one of whom spat on him, in Ballart, which is 110-kms west of here. It also occurred just a day after a man was jailed for three months for abusing and threatening to kill an Indian taxi driver.

In the latest case “there were only two male offenders,” Detective Senior Constable Highthorn said.

China behind hacking of Indian computers’, says Narayanan

New Delhi/London: National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan’s assertion that hackers have tried to penetrate government computers in vital ministries is true as there have been several attempts in the past to gain access to important documents, say security officials.

In an interview to The Times, Narayanan said his office and other government departments were targeted Dec 15, the same date that US defence, finance and technology companies, including Google, reported cyber attacks from China.

“This was not the first instance of an attempt to hack into our computers,” Narayanan told in an interview, adding that the would-be hackers sent an e-mail with a PDF attachment containing a Trojan virus.

The virus, which allows hackers to download or delete files, was detected and officials were told not to log on until it was eliminated, Narayanan said.

In April 2008, hackers, suspected to be from mainland China, made deep intrusions into the secure computer systems of the ministry of external affairs, said a ministry official.

The serious breach was detected during a routine security audit by the intelligence agencies – the hackers had left clear trails.

Alarmed by the breach, the government had that time sent a team of intelligence officials to audit the security standards of systems and computers in key Indian missions around the world, starting with the embassy in Beijing.

“Auditors were able to verify the details including internet protocol addresses and the Media Access Control (MAC) addresses of the hackers, confirming they originated in China,” the officials, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, told IANS.

A MAC address, also called hardware address, is a unique identification number that helps analysts trace the systems back to its country or location. All of these point to China, the officials said.

In March last year there were again attempts at hacking into the computers of Indian embassies, but no sensitive information was stolen in the process. A number of computers were found to be compromised with spyware.

“The malicious software sent copies of internal e-mail messages to a rogue address,” said one official.

The ministry of external affairs and Indian embassies have instituted a stringent protocol on the usage of e-mail by serving officers, that includes frequently changing passwords and using e-mails only for routine communication.

Besides the ministry has instituted a periodic security review of all MEA computers to ward off cyber threats, the official sources said.

“Hacking has been going on for the last few years, but the safeguards have ensured that national security was not breached,” said another official, who spoke on official clearance but was not willing to be identified.

Three years back a specialized team from the Intelligence Bureau had carried out an audit of computer systems in key government offices and put in place a security net.

“People seem to be fairly sure it was the Chinese. It is difficult to find the exact source but this is the main suspicion. It seems well founded,” Narayanan told The Times, adding that India was cooperating with the US and Britain to bolster its cyber defences.

The Chinese government has denied any role in the attacks, with a foreign ministry spokeswoman saying: “Hacking in whatever form is prohibited by law in China.”

Hyderabad police arrest HUJI’s south India chief

Hyderabad: Hyderabad police on Monday arrested an alleged terror operative belonging to Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HUJI) and chief of the outfit’s operations in south India.

The police, which produced him before media, claimed that Abdul Khwaja alias Amjad was arrested in Afzal Gunj area here.

Hyderabad police Commissioner B. Prasada Rao told reporters that Amjad had undergone training in Pakistan and was involved in the bomb blast at Police Commissioner’s Task Force office here five years ago.

One policeman was killed in the blast at the Task Force office in the high-security Begumpet area here on Oct 12, 2005. Dalin, a Bangladeshi, was also killed in the suspected suicide attack.

Amjad also has links with Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), the police commissioner said.

A native of Hyderabad, Amjad had gone to Pakistan via Saudi Arabia in 2003 to undergo training with the help of Shahid Bilal, also a native of Hyderabad and involved in several terror operations in south India.

After the killing of Bilal in a gunfight in Pakistan in 2007, Amjad moved to Bangladesh and became active with HUJI.

Police said he was also involved in circulation of fake Indian currency. “We have information that he and his associates pumped in fake Indian currency worth Rs.1 crore,” the police chief said.

Amjad told police that they carried out a bomb attack at Task Force office to take revenge for the killing of Mujahid Saleem, a city youth, by a team of Gujarat police here in 2004. The youth was killed when a few supporters of a cleric tried to prevent the police team from taking him to Gujarat in connection with the murder of former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya.

“They planned to attack the offices of Director General of Police, the police commissioner and the Task Force but picked the Task Force as it was an easy target for them,” the commissioner said.

Kasab claims 3 of nine slain terrorists were Indians

Mumbai: Pakistani terror accused Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab on Monday claimed before the special court here that at least three of the nine slain terrorists in the Nov 26, 2008 Mumbai terror attacks were Indians.

Continuing the recording of his statement before Special Judge M.L. Tahalyani, Kasab claimed that while one of the slain terrorists was a Kashmiri, another was from Gujarat and a third hailed from “Bombay”.

“The person you call Abu Ali and whose pictures I was shown was a Kashmiri. The one you call Abu Ismail was from ‘Bombay,’ and another was from Gujarat,” Kasab said as the court gathering heard with disbelief.

When asked how he knew these details, Kasab said that this was mentioned in Abu Ali’s mobile SIM card, which he was shown.

About Abu Ismail, he said it was quite evident from his complexion that he was from Bombay.

Incidentally, Kasab has earlier claimed during his recording of statement that he was not involved in the 26/11 terror attacks and also claimed that he worked as a cook in Pakistan, but was lured to Mumbai by Bollywood prospects.

On an earlier occasion, he has claimed that he had been interrogated by four white persons of whom one was David Coleman Headley, one of the terror accused who is now in the custody of the US police.

Kasab has been retracting his earlier statements before various authorities, denying evidences and witnesses’ depositions before the Special Court and making unbelievable claims during the ongoing recording of his statement under Sec. 313 of Criminal Procedure Code since the past few weeks.

Kasab’s statements are likely to be completed within two days before the Special Court.

India salutes 21 children for exemplary courage

New Delhi: They have hardly reached their teens, but then what has age to do with courage? From saving lives in landslides and averting major disasters due to terrorist strikes to even giving up their lives to save somebody else’s — 21 children have been selected for the national bravery awards this year for their heroic deeds.

The awardees were introduced to the media at the Indian Council for Child Welfare in the capital Monday. Of the 21 kids, eight are girls.

Thirteen-year-old Gaurav Singh Saini of Haryana has been given the Bharat award for saving more than 60 lives in a stampede at the Naina Devi temple.

Recounting his memories of that fateful day in 2008, Saini said that he had gone to the temple with his parents when they suddenly heard that there was a landslide. Panic stricken people started running helter skelter, thus causing a stampede.

“My first reaction then was not to run but help those who were stuck in the stampede. There were people all around, falling on top of each other and feeling claustrophobic. I looked around and saw a wire so I jumped onto it. Seeing me, people held out their hands and I pulled them up and made them hold on to the wire,” Saini said.

“Soon I had gathered about 60 people on the wire and slowly we pulled ourselves to a tin roof and slid down to safety,” he said.

In all the chaos, the teenager lost his sister and a cousin.

“I am proud that I could save so many lives. My teacher used to always say – the test of a person’s character is the way he reacts in the face of adversity. Someday I would want to join the Indian army and save more lives,” Saini told IANS confidently.

Saini was not the only brave kid to have expressed his desire to join the defence forces. So did 10-year-old Maibam Prity Devi, who was awarded the Geeta Chopra award for her bravery.

Devi, who hails from Manipur, saved the lives of hundreds when miscreants hurled a grenade in their grocery shop in the village.

“I was with my mother in the grocery shop when a grenade was hurled at our shop. It landed near the gas cylinder… I was shocked but immediately raised an alarm that it was a bomb. Not waiting for any reaction, I picked it up and threw it some distance away,” the gritty girl said.

The grenade exploded, injuring a few people, including Devi, but she was glad that she could save the lives of the people.

“I had splinters in both my knees,” she said pointing at her legs. “I hope I can become a police officer some day.”

Devi’s father who accompanied her at the event here, however, said: “I only wish that the government had taken care of Devi’s treatment. Nonetheless I am very happy that my daughter has been selected for the award. I am proud of her.”

Two of the 21 awards will be given posthumously. Both the children, Ranu Mishra, 10, and Deepak Kumar Kori, 12, drowned while trying to save the lives of others.

The children will be given their awards by the prime minister prior to the Republic Day, after which they will participate in the parade. The president will also host a reception in their honour.

They will also receive a certificate, a medal and cash prize.

Stardust awards: Amitabh, Kareena bag top honours

Mumbai: Megastar Amitabh Bachchan has bagged the Reader’s Choice best actor award for the movie “Paa” while Kareena Kapoor was adjudged best actress for “Kurbaan” at the seventh Stardust Awards here.

Rajkumar Hirani’s well-made “3 Idiots” got the Reader’s Choice best film of the year award even as Imtiyaz Ali bagged the Reader’s Choice best director award at the star-studded ceremony on Sunday evening.

Rohit Shetty bagged the Stardust Editor’s Choice award for best director for his movie “All The Best”. The best actor and best actress awards in the same category were given to Shahid Kapoor for “Kaminey” and Kareena Kapoor for “Kurbaan”, respectively.

While “Wanted” bagged the best film in action thriller category, “All The Best” was adjudged the best comedy film.

Another special award, Superstar of tomorrow (male), went to Ranbir Kapoor for “Wake Up Sid” and “Ajab Prem ki Gazab Kahani”, while Superstar of tomorrow (female) was grabbed by Mugdha Godse for “Jail”. The hottest new filmmaker award went to Ayan Mukherjee for “Wake up Sid”.

The new musical sensational (female) award went to Kavitha Seth for “Iktara” from “Wake up Sid” and the award for new musical sensational (male) went to Suraj Jagan for “Give me some sunshine” (“3idiots”).

Piyush Mishra won the Stardust performance by a music director award for “Gulaal”, while Subrat Sinha won the Stardust performance by a lyricist for “Radio”.

Rekha was honoured with Stardust Editor’s Choice Icon of the Industry award at the ceremony.

Actors Katrina Kaif, Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor sizzled on stage performing to some of their hit songs.