Delhi replies to China with query
Karmapa defies snow, calls on Dalai
Janata deaf ear to patch-up plea
Mulayam takes fight to Laloo turf
CPM begins hunt for regional allies
Boy suitable for Doordarshan

New Delhi, Jan. 14 
Breaking its week-long silence, India today informed China about Urgyen Trinley Dorje’s arrival to the country, but sought clarifications on whether the 14-year-old Karmapa had defected from Lhasa or was here to acquire “musical instruments and black hats”.

China, though keen that the Karmapa is not given asylum in India, has maintained that he left Tibet to get musical instruments and black hats and that his departure should not be seen as a defection or “betrayal” to the state and the monastery.

Beijing had yesterday demanded that Delhi inform it about the Karmapa’s arrival in India. But India refused since China had so far not formally approached it on the issue.

The Chinese ambassador, Zhou Gang, today held a meeting with T.C.A Rangachari, joint secretary in charge of China in the foreign ministry. But the foreign office made it clear that the meeting took place “in response to a request made by the Chinese side”.

Foreign ministry spokesman R.S. Jassal said after the meeting: “We have informed them today that Lama Urgyen Trinley Dorje accompanied by six others arrived in Dharamshala on January 5. He and his entourage are currently at a monastery near Dharamshala. They are in good health. The lama is provided with appropriate security cover.”

That India has avoided using the term Karmapa, while describing Dorje, indicates that Delhi wants to maintain a distance from an issue it considers purely religious and that it would like to treat the monk like any other Tibetan refugee. Jassal added the “Chinese side has been asked to share with us details regarding his departure from Tibet, route taken and other relevant details”. Though he did not specify it, this was a signal to China to clarify how the Karmapa managed to escape from the Tsurphu monastery in Lhasa.

“Both India and China have noted with satisfaction the sound movement in bilateral relations and the process of improvement and development of these relations on the basis of Panchsheel principles by the concerted efforts of the two countries,” Jassal said.

China has frequently fallen back on the Panchsheel either to lodge its protest against some Indian action or to justify a decision taken by Beijing. The principle of “peaceful co-existence” has not, however, prevented China from building close military ties with Pakistan.

India appears to be using the same logic. “The question of clarifying his status at this juncture to the Chinese does not arise since they are yet to make it clear whether he (the Karmapa) is here on a visit or has defected from Lhasa,” a senior foreign ministry official said.

For the Chinese government, it is embarrassing to publicly admit that the Karmapa has defected to India. When Urgyen was identified as the reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa in Tibet in 1992, the Dalai Lama and the Chinese leadership had supported the claim. Subsequently, he was groomed and tutored by the Chinese.

for nearly eight years at the Tsurphu monastery.

Visiting US Senator Sam Brownback left the decision of granting asylum to the Karmapa to India. “It is for India to take a decision on the defecting Tibetan monk,” the senator said, while recalling India’s past openness in dealing with Tibetan refugees.    

McLeodgunj, Jan. 14 
In a clear indication that the Tibetan government-in-exile is becoming concerned about the delay in securing the 17th Karmapa’s future, the 14-year-old Urgyen Trinley Dorje was whisked away from his hideout amid heavy snowfall for an unplanned meeting with the Dalai Lama.

The Karmapa, holed up in his heavily-curtained room in the Gyoto monastery for eight days, was very busy this morning. He travelled in a car through heavy snow from the monastery to McLeodgunj, about 30 kilometres away, trekked across the mountain slopes when his vehicle got stuck in the snow and made his way back as the snowfall intensified.

Local Tibetans and monks were in for a rare treat when the Karmapa’s car — a dark green Esteem — got stuck in the heavy snow a kilometre from the Dalai Lama’s palace. His guards asked him to get off and walk to the palace. A few journalists who managed to track down the convoy gave chase.

But the Karmapa and eight others walked swiftly through the snow and then climbed to the Dalai Lama’s palace via a shortcut. By the time the media arrived at the Dalai Lama’s palace, the Karmapa was already inside the walled compound.

It is learnt that home ministry officials accompanied the Karmapa from the Gyoto Rinpoche monastery to the Dalai Lama’s palace in Mcleodgunj, where he is in retreat. The Dalai Lama met the Karmapa for over two hours, a rare occurrence during his retreat.

Sources in the Tibetan government here said that a decision was reached late last night to arrange a meeting between the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa and home ministry officials. At about 11.30 am, the Karmapa left in a four-car convoy, including a Gypsy carrying four home ministry officials.

Shortly after 12 pm, the Karmapa entered the Dalai Lama’s palace. The cars, stuck in the snow, reached much later.

Though Tibetan government officials and senior police officers refused to disclose details of the meeting, sources said “one matter of concern for the home ministry officials was that there might be moves to shift him to the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim”. Rumtek is the headquarters of the Karma Kagyu sect of the Karmapa. However, it seems that such moves have been dropped for the moment.

But the reception given to the Karmapa has undermined the claims of the rival faction of the Kagyu sect headed by Sharmapa Rinpoche.

The Karmapa left the palace a little after 2 pm in a yellow Range Rover, accompanied by a senior monk. A little later, he changed cars and shifted to a blue Cielo, which took him back to the Gyoto monastery.

Tibetans lined the snow-covered road to catch a glimpse of the teenager believed to be the successor to the Dalai Lama and a central figure in future relations between India and China.

The Karmapa sat upright in the back seat of his car, looking straight ahead. Monks and locals stood next to the road, heads bowed and hands folded. The Karmapa, however, did not make eye contact with them.

But for those caught a glimpse of the Karmapa, it was a moving experience. One of the lucky few, Lobsing Tsering, said his “life was made”. “I have waited so long to see the man who is going to guide our lives. I have been blessed,” he gushed. For Tenzing Orgyen “it was like seeing the Buddha himself. There is a strange and great feeling of peace and calm. Just one glimpse was enough”.

The uncertainty about the Karmapa’s future continued with no word from the Tibetan government here as to when he will formally seek asylum.    

New Delhi, Jan. 14 
The Janata Dal (United) steering committee — which met for the first time after the split with the Samata Party and notification of the Bihar Assembly polls — has papered over differences with its former ally. It also gave no indication that it was interested in a rapprochement with the Samata in the near future.

The BJP, the nucleus of the anti-Laloo front in Bihar, has been pressuring the two estranged allies to fight the polls as a cohesive unit.

Asked if the JD(U) and the Samata would reconcile before the polls, Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan said, “No deliberations have been held so far,” adding sarcastically, “Perhaps, that itself is cause for optimism”.

Taking a dig at Samata leader Nitish Kumar, Paswan said: “Everyday, on our part, we keep issuing positive statements. But the Samata’s response has been something else.”

Dal sources said before the party’s parliamentary board, set up today with Paswan as chairman, meets on January 18, there could be separate informal negotiations with both the BJP and the Samata to test the waters and assess how many seats they expected to contest. The BJP’s central election committee is scheduled to meet on the same day.

Paswan stressed that today’s meeting — which was attended by Dal president Sharad Yadav, M. Raghupathi and Mohan Prakash — steered clear of seat-sharing discussions.

“It was centred around an assessment of the political situation and we concluded that we should fight the polls as an united entity,” he said adding that emphasis on “unity” should not be seen as a “sign of weakness”.

Raghupathy said the outcome in Bihar will have a “direct bearing” on the coalition at the Centre. Therefore, it was imperative for the National Democratic Alliance to win. “In psychological terms, a defeat or a victory will directly impact the Centre’s future,” he said.

Claiming that the Dal’s prospects were “strong” in majority of seats, both Paswan and Raghupathi said “while every party has the right to demand its share of seats, it would be useful to remember that in Bihar the fight is not over seats but to end the jungle raj.    

New Delhi, Jan. 14 
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is out to undercut Laloo Prasad Yadav in Bihar in the forthcoming elections.

The Samajwadi leader has turned down Laloo’s overtures for an alliance in Bihar and party general secretary Amar Singh has announced a tie-up with the CPI and the CPI(ML).

The party has also decided to field Mulayam’s son Akhilesh from the Kanauj Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh. Mulayam had vacated it after he decided to retain Sambhal.

Singh said his party would have nothing to do with the CP(M) because it has an alliance with Laloo’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). The Samajwadi has already held talks with CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan and CPI(ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya.

Ironically, the CPM which once used to work in tandem with the Samajwadi is now estranged from it, while the CPI which never got on well with the Samajwadi is its ally. CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet, once Mulayam’s mentor and close confidant, is cut up about the turn of events in Bihar. Laloo, who was in Delhi till this afternoon, met Surjeet at his residence last night.

The rift between the Yadav chiefs, which has been growing since the crisis that toppled the 13-month Vajpayee government, has now deepened. Times have changed since the Yadav stalwarts formed the Rashtriya Loktantrik Morcha to fight the BJP. Sonia Gandhi’s emergence also put the leaders on different tracks.

Both Bardhan and Mulayam are determined not to have anything to do with Laloo. The CPI is deeply resentful of Laloo’s “behaviour” in the Lok Sabha elections because he had refused to give the party its share of seats in Bihar but had been more than willing to accommodate the CPM.

The new Left-Samajwadi axis in Bihar will dent Laloo’s already dim prospects. In the last general elections, Laloo was forced to bite the dust against the BJP-Samata Party combine and his party was slashed to half its size in the Lok Sabha.

The CPM and CPI had struck out in opposite directions in the Lok Sabha polls. The CPM stuck to Laloo, while the CPI made friends with the radical Left — the CPI(ML), which has well defined pockets of influence in central Bihar.

Singh said the front has reached a broad consensus on seat-sharing and the alliance partners will contest as many seats as possible.    

Calcutta, Jan 14 
Setting the tone for a new approach to electoral politics, the CPM today began an exercise in forging regional alliances in four states where it is anticipating a bruising showdown with the BJP next month.

On the inaugural day of its three day-meeting in the city the CPM politburo indicated that the CPM would concentrate in the next few weeks on bonding with the like-minded regional parties capable of taking on both the BJP and the Congress in the elections.

Just three months after last year’s parliamentary elections, the ruling BJP, Congress, CPM and other parties will be engaged in electoral face-offs in Bihar, Orissa, Haryana and Manipur where polling will take place in phases between February 12 and 22.

In justification of the newest exercise the politburo offered the rationale that the regional parties had authored a new phase of Indian politics by causing the decline of the Congress which till the other day straddled the political landscape.

“Their(Congress) monopolistic hold on Indian politics is gone thanks to the powerful regional parties in different parts of the country. We have to keep this parties in focus while drawing up our poll strategy,” said Sitaram Yechury, a politburo member.

Yechury, however, skirted the issue of the alliance the CPM had forged with the Congress — one of its main ideological foes— to try unsuccessfully to thwart the BJP in the 1999 parliamentary elections.

One of the reasons for Yechury’s avoidance of the issue —-”We will decide it later”—was that the politburo, aware of many CPM supporters’ sensitivity to the alliance with the Congress, was still trying to figure out how best it could be packaged.

In the next two days, while discussing the draft report on programme updating the politburo would have to evolve a way to shift the relations with the Congress back into low gear to assuage the discomfort of the supporters.

As indications suggest, the collaboration will be brought back in the frontburner for dovetailing into a fully-blossomed regional alliance at an opportune moment.

As of now , the politburo will have no problem in pushing the alliance with the Congress to the background if it offered the argument that since it was originally forged in the national context, it need not be discussed in regard with assembly elections.

Serving as the basis for the CPM’s latest move in regard with regional electoral alliances was the realisation that it needed to have a broad-based collaboration in place if it was serious about thwarting the BJP led-National Democratic Alliance.

Analyses of past poll results and reports on ground realities from the party units in the poll-bound states underpinned today’s discussions in the politburo on evolving of strategies for the coming polls.

Yechury made it clear that the current exercise had been undertaken keeping Bihar, one of the key hindi belt states, in view.

As things now stand , there is a question mark on Left unity in Bihar where the CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc— all partners of the CPM led-ruling coalition in Bengal —, joining forces with the naxalite CPM (Liberation), are singling out the CPM as an opponent. “They have shattered the Left unity there,” Yechury said.

Apparently, their reservation about the CPM stems from the fact that the latter is an ally of the ruling Rashtriya Janata Dal, whose supremo Laloo Prasad Yadav is regarded an anathema to other Left parties on account of his alleged involvement in the fodder scam.

The CPM is anxious for an adjustment with the CPI in Bihar where the latter is a major force with 26 MLAs in the state assembly. By contrast, the CPM has only three MLAs. But , it remains to be seen whether it will relinquish its alliance with the RJD which it regards a major regional force.

Predictably, in Calcutta the CPI showed a lukewarm response to the move.

``We are not feeling hot about the move. For, they (CPM) are with the RJD which is not acceptable to us. Unless they break their tie with Yadav, we cannot shake hands with them”, CPI national council member Manju Kumar Majumder said.    

New Delhi, Jan. 14 
With an eye on the masses and the classes, Doordarshan is scouting for literary works that can be turned into popular serials.

An agreement has been reached with Vikram Seth on televising A Suitable Boy. Gulzar has been roped in to direct the serial, which will be shot in both Hindi and English. The Hindi version will be telecast in the country while the English version will be exported.

DD is also forging tie-ups to bolster its software exports. It has joined hands with EcoStar in the US and British Telecom in the UK. The telecast will be done through Hot Bird EuTelsat.

The new literary serials will be made by frontline directors. Shyam Benegal and Aparna Sen have already been sought out. Benegal has been given carte blanche to recommend any notable work of fiction that he would like to turn into a serial.

DD is going ahead full steam to boost its marketing. On December 23, the Prasar Bharati board gave it the green signal to set up a new marketing division.

The division will be headed by a chief and four deputy chiefs. Acting CEO Rajiv Ratna Shah has been to asked find the right people from the “market, the PSUs and the established services of the government” and hire them at market prices. Work on setting up the division is in full swing and Shah expects to have it in place by March.

But even before the hardsell begins in earnest, Shah has been restructuring the DD machinery to stem the decline in revenue. From 1996 onwards, DD has been losing revenue at the rate of 20 per cent per year.

From 1996-97, when the revenue was Rs 580 crore, it hit an all-time low of Rs 400 crore in 1998-99. In the six months since Shah has taken charge, there has been a turnaround and the revenue has registered a 25 per cent increase. By the end of the financial year, DD expects to earn Rs 500 crore.

The increase in Channel I inflow has been particularly noticeable. Much of it has been achieved by internal restructuring of prime time programmes and by extending the prime time to two hours on weekday nights.

DD has taken a pragmatic approach, deciding to telecast films, mythological serials and crime thrillers on prime time since these are popular. The 9 pm news slot was shifted and the half hour was given to serials such as B.R. Chopra’s Beta and Ramanand Sagar’s Jai Ganga Maiya. The crime thriller, Suraag, also has high TRP.

The Friday and Saturday evening Hindi movies are notching up viewership. From December onwards, the Saturday films have been fetching Rs 60 lakh revenue. The Friday evening films, which have been screened for some time now, earn Rs 1 crore a week. However, industry observers say Doordarshan will never be able to snap the recent megahits like Sony and Zee.    


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