Lennon sets tune to freedom song
Troops die in army base flushout
Party turns back on Advani dent theory
Laloo keen to return to Assembly roots
BJP walks tightrope on agenda and ideals
Bid for hijack law in Tada-II
Jaswant to meet Cook today

 
 
LENNON SETS TUNE TO FREEDOM SONG 
 
 
FROM SUJAY GUPTA
 
McLeodgunj, Jan. 13 
A trivia question: How are the arrival of the Karmapa and John Lennon related?

For a clue, play If, a song set to the tune of Lennon’s Imagine, composed by the JJI exile band, which gets its name from the initials of base guitarist Jamyang, lead guitarist Jigme and drummer Ingsel.

The three Tibetan brothers live in a small mountain cottage, a steep climb from the market centre in McLeodgunj, with mother Neema Phenthok in their “residence-cum-studio”.

The band, which composes and sings revolutionary songs and believes in “nothing less than independence”, has become a rallying force for all Tibetans pushing for a more aggressive response to “continuous and cruel Chinese torture”.

Not shy of disagreeing with the Dalai Lama’s middle path of accepting Chinese sovereignty in return for internal autonomy, the brothers formed the band in early 1998. It “gives voice and is a source of strength” for Tibetan revolutionaries, both young and old.

If there are no Chinese/If we can go back to our country/If every Tibetan works for free Tibet/If there is no torture/If we can go back to our country”, says the most popular of their 18 songs.

Jamyang, the eldest at 21, said: “The Karmapa fled Tibet because he was not given religious freedom and fellow Tibetans continued to be tortured. This highlights our plight. After his arrival, our song If has a new meaning.”

“We are going to hold a big concert at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts on January 16 and hope to compose a song on the Karmapa’s flight by then,” put in 19-year-old Jigme. “If that happens, we will sing If and then the Karmapa song.”

If one needs proof of the band’s popularity outside Dharamshala, it is this: their website, www.worldbridges.com/tibet/JJI exile brothers, got over 250 e-mails from Tibetans after the Karmapa’s arrival, asking them to continue with their music.

Not only the JJI band, the entire Tibetan community been enthused by the Karmapa’s arrival, believing it would buttress the demand for a tougher stand against Beijing.

“It will be wrong to assume that there is any opposition to the Dalai Lama’s middle path of tolerance and negotiation,” said Lhasang Tsering, former head of the Tibetan Youth Congress. “The only point of disagreement is that His Holiness’ five-point proposal, known as the Strasburg declaration, does not talk of complete independence but only of peaceful negotiation with China.”

He said since the present Karmapa — propped up by the Chinese as “their choice” — had to flee, China’s “sham” had been exposed. “It only reinforces our belief that the Chinese cannot be trusted,” Tsering added. “After this we can say with greater force that nothing short of complete independence will work.”

A young monk of the Gaden Jangtse Khang monastery said: “We believe that whatever His Holiness does will be right, but the Karmapa’s arrival will increase the call for independence.”

The Tibetan government-in-exile, however, feels that the teenage leader’s flight would not change the Dalai Lama’s policy. “The Karmapa’s presence will strengthen the forces who differ from the Dalai Lama, but we feel that it will give a fillip to our view that a solution must be found urgently,” said Tob Den, editor of the government bulletin.    


 
 
TROOPS DIE IN ARMY BASE FLUSHOUT 
 
 
FROM MUKHTAR AHMAD
 
Srinagar, Jan. 13 
Three soldiers were killed in the army operation to flush out a group of militants who had stormed the Rashtriya Rifles headquarters in Anantnag last night and were holed up for over 12 hours.

A senior police official said all the three terrorists, two of them foreign mercenaries, were killed in the gunbattle. The two foreign militants have been identified as Abdullah and Hanief while the third is believed to be a local resident.

A junior commissioned officer was among soldiers who died in the operation. Troops had to mortar-blast two buildings inside the camp where the militants had taken up positions.

Wearing military uniforms, the terrorists — believed to be part of the Harkat-ul Mujahideen’s fidayen (suicide) squads — had sneaked into the high-security Rashtriya Rifles base at Khanabal, adjacent to the residence of the deputy inspector-general of police, southern Anantnag.

They threw a grenade onto a highway near the headquarters to divert attention. Some of their accomplices fired on the camp from a moving car. A young girl — Sadaf Sartaj — travelling in a Sumo died from shrapnel wounds.

Immediately after the militants struck, the security forces, comprising jawans from the Rashtriya Rifles, Into-Tibetan Border Police and the Special Operations Group, mounted a counter-attack to flush them out.

After surrounding the buildings, the securitymen started firing at the militants who replied, volley for volley. The gunbattle continued through the night.

Early in the morning, one of the guerrillas tried to escape but was shot dead. It was then that the troops fired mortar shells at the buildings.

Since the end of the Kargil war, terrorists have stepped up attacks on army camps in the valley, including the one at Badamibagh Cantonment in which a major was killed.

Late last month, militants had stormed the Special Operations Group headquarters in Srinagar and had held 50 jawans hostage. They were flushed out after a massive operation. At least 16 securitymen had died in the counter-attack.

Last night’s raid was the first on the Rashtriya Rifles base. A general alert has been sounded in Anantnag district.    


 
 
PARTY TURNS BACK ON ADVANI DENT THEORY 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, Jan. 13 
The BJP today distanced itself from L.K. Advani’s stand that the militant-hostage swap in Kandahar had “dented” the party’s image and went out of its way to give a clean chit to the Centre’s handling of the crisis.

BJP vice-president Jana Krishnamurthy said: “I do not think along these lines about the damage to the party’s image.” Stressing that the party approved of the way the Vajpayee government handled the crisis, Krishnamurthy said: “Our view is totally that of the government’s. On hijacking, there can only be one national view, no two views, no party view or government’s view.”

Within the party, Advani’s viewpoint — which he aired on two occasions — has been interpreted in two ways. First, as one “dedicated to the BJP organisation”, it was the former party president’s way of “reassuring” the cadre and its hardline Hindutva constituents that the party would not stray from its “basic commitment” to the concept and principle of a “hard” nation state.

“Advaniji is one leader who always has the interest of the party at heart. He probably sensed a feeling of unease among the rank-and-file when the government exchanged the three terrorists for the hostages. That is why he felt compelled to distance the BJP from the coalition government and emphasise its identity,” explained a general secretary.

The second assessment was that Advani was trying to reposition himself in the Hindutva space which has gradually shrunk in the BJP once it decided, for the sake of coalition politics, to bury its three pet issues of the Ram temple, abrogation of Article 370 and a uniform civil code.

Asked why the BJP did not go along with Advani, Sangh Priya Gautam, a general secretary, said: “Times have changed. The polity looks as though it is becoming uni-polar. The third front has virtually disintegrated, and although the Congress is still the only viable opposition, its strength is dwindling. That leaves only the BJP as the main ruling party, the only party fit to govern the country. This puts an enormous amount of responsibility on us. We cannot afford to make extreme-sounding statements or go for agitation politics any more.”

Although Advani initially gave the impression that he endorsed the way the government tackled the crisis, the first discordant noises were heard shortly after the party’s Chennai national conclave. Advani said the freeing of the militants had hurt the BJP’s image but not the government’s.

After announcing that he would not speak on the issue again and that the “chapter was closed”, the home minister himself revived the controversy last Tuesday.

Addressing a convention of the BJP’s youth wing, he reasserted that the hijack episode had damaged the party’s image.    


 
 
LALOO KEEN TO RETURN TO ASSEMBLY ROOTS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, Jan. 13 
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Laloo Prasad Yadav is thinking of contesting the coming Assembly elections.

RJD insiders hinted today that Laloo might contest from Patna’s Raghupur constituency from where he had won in 1995.

Asked which constituency he would prefer, Laloo replied: “Any Assembly constituency would suit me.”

After he lost from Madhepura in the October parliamentary elections, quite a few of his loyalists who had won offered to vacate their seats so that the former chief minister could have another shot at reaching Parliament.

But, sources say, rattled his party’s dismal performance, Laloo preferred not to take the risk.

According to RJD sources, Laloo’s personal logic for gearing up for another electoral battle is that even if his party fails to get a majority, he might emerge as the leader of the Opposition, a position from which he begun 20 years ago.

He has even told his partymen that he would devote more time to state politics.

Though the RJD, which has decided not to field any candi- dates who lost in the last parliamentary polls, made an exception in the case of their leader, chief minister Rabri Devi has said that she is in no mood to contest the polls.

“I am already a member of the state Legislative Council,” she said. Rabri Devi’s membership of the council expires in 2002.

In an attempt to encourage new candidates from the districts who have unblemished track records, the RJD, which is shortlisting candidates, said it might refuse tickets to 30 per cent of the sitting legislators whose performance has been below par.

“The new faces will also help the party neutralise the anti-incumbency factor it may have to face as a result of being in power for 10 years,” said a senior leader.    


 
 
BJP WALKS TIGHTROPE ON AGENDA AND IDEALS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 13 
The BJP stressed that the Chennai declaration, adopted at its national council in December, was an “out-and-out BJP document” and not issued on behalf of the National Democratic Alliance.

“It is an out-and-out BJP document and it does not bind any other party, but is binding on each and every party worker. It is a document of the BJP and not one issued on behalf of the NDA,” party vice-president Jana Krishnamurthy said, releasing the final, amended copy of the declaration.

However, while striving to emphasise the BJP’s identity as distinct from the NDA’s, Krishnamurthy said the three Hindutva-related planks — Ram temple, Article 370 and a common civil code — were no longer its priorities.

“As far as the BJP of today is concerned, these are not our priority items. The NDA’s manifesto is the BJP’s manifesto for the next five years.”

The contradictions within the BJP, arising from the imperative to retain its character in a coalition polity, surfaced again when Krishnamurthy said, “The Chennai document has not compromised the BJP’s basic ideology” and quoted a paragraph from the declaration to buttress his argument.

The relevant paragraph said although the BJP’s “ideals” were constant, its policies and their interpretation had to be renewed from time to time to respond to the “changing need of new situations and challenges”.

“This quality of principle-centred flexibility, adaptability, and self-renewal, while being true to one’s essential nature and purpose, is the hallmark of any living human organisation. The BJP, and earlier the Jan Sangh, has demonstrated this quality in ample measure.”

Krishnamurthy’s stress on the BJP’s “identity” was seen by party sources in the context of a heated debate in the Chennai meeting when the document was first tabled. Members, including minister Sunderlal Patwa, reportedly rubbished it as a “lame-duck document” and demanded to know if it was a BJP declaration or an NDA statement.

They particularly took umbrage at one statement which virtually ordered the BJP cadre to stick to the NDA agenda and consider no other way.

To placate them, the statement was toned down. The amended sentence now reads: “The BJP expresses the confidence that every party worker understands that our agenda for governance is the National Agenda for Good Governance.”

Curiously although the final declaration has the amended statement, a copy of its highlights — also distributed to the press — has carried the original statement.

It is not clear whether it was a slip or a deliberate ploy to assert the BJP’’s hardline identity.

The declaration has also introduced an entire section on national security in the aftermath of the hijack. It called for a greater interface between the government and the citizens.

“The time has, therefore, come for devising a comprehensive and radical new strategy for strengthening national security. It is the duty of every citizen and every community to discharge their due responsibility in this regard. And it is the duty of the government to facilitate the enthusiastic participation of citizens and communities in strengthening our security,” it stated.

Among other proposals were:

Improving Centre-state coordination.

Linking issues of national security with cross-border terrorism, religious fanaticism, Bangladeshi infiltration etc.

Coming down heavily on Pakistan-aided terrorist outfits in Kashmir and creating a corruption-free environment in the state.

Initiating a dialogue with the national and regional parties in the Northeast to evolve a consensus for “achieving peace, normalcy and accelerated development” of the region.    


 
 
BID FOR HIJACK LAW IN TADA-II 
 
 
FROM R. VENKATARAMAN
 
New Delhi, Jan. 13 
The law commission has convened a meeting on January 27 to discuss incorporating stringent sections on hijack in the proposed anti-terrorism law.

‘‘Following the hijack of the Indian Airlines plane,’’ law ministry sources said, ‘‘the government feels that stringent provisions should be incorporated in the statute slated to replace Tada.’’

According to the sources, representatives of the law and home ministries and the National Human Rights Commission will participate in the meeting.

The Law Commission will also urge NGOs dealing with human rights to offer their suggestions.

A law ministry official, however, said the anti-hijack provisions might not be accepted by the country from which extradition is being sought.

For instance, payment of and accepting commissions for deals are crimes in India but not in several European countries. This argument was put forward in the Bofors case.

However, the Law Commission will first try and do an in-depth study and discuss with various groups the nitty-gritty of the provision.

The panel is expected to submit a report to the government after it meets at the end of January.

The commission has already held a meeting to draw up the legislation to replace Tada.

‘‘But after the hijack, a new awakening has dawned on legal circles which now want to explore whether more sections with penal provisions can be incorporated in the proposed anti-terrorism law itself,’’ the official said.

The provisions will also include fixing of responsibilities on those who failed to act.

‘‘For instance, the officials who did not inform the Prime Minister about the hijack until about 40 minutes could be booked for the offence,’’ the sources added.

‘‘The January 27 meeting will also discuss the aspect of incorporating provisions for penal action against officials for dereliction of duty during crisis situations,’’ the sources said.    


 
 
JASWANT TO MEET COOK TODAY 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 13 
Foreign minister Jaswant Singh and his British counterpart Robin Cook will meet in London tomorrow amid reports that the Blair government is divided on the proposal to resume arms sale to Pakistan.

The meeting will be their first after the Airbus hijack. Delhi has alleged that Pakistan was involved in it. The hijack and the issue of countries supporting terrorism are likely to figure in the Cook-Singh talks.

Cook is a vocal critic of the Pakistan junta and has been fighting the proposal to lift restrictions on arms sale to Islamabad, imposed after the 1998 nuclear tests.

But other Blair ministers are opposed to his view. In the meeting tomorrow, Cook may explain what London proposes to do with Pervez Musharraf’s regime.

Chief of British defence staff Sir Charles Guthrie’s three-day visit to Pakistan, beginning this week, might also come up for discussion. It is understood that Sir Charles will “deliver a very blunt message” to Musharraf, which means he is likely to ask him to set a date for restoring democracy.    

 

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