Kashmir strategy skirts trouble within
Pak terror slur on mauled Moses
Advani in advice attack
Deadly harvest eats away life
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, Jan. 17 
Instead of reviewing the Kashmir policy in its entirety, the Centre today made cosmetic changes in the security set-up and its functioning in the belief that mere restructuring of the counter-insurgency apparatus would fetch it rich dividends.

Though the post-Kargil security scenario in Jammu and Kashmir was discussed with the “resolve to win the proxy war” unleashed by Pakistan, a meeting chaired by Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee this evening skirted the hijack issue which led to the release of three hardcore Pakistan-backed militants, indicating that the government was running away from its blunders rather than confronting them.

The meeting, held at Vajpayee’s residence, was attended by home minister L.K. Advani, defence minister George Fernandes, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah, Governor G.C. Saxena and top army, home ministry and state government officials. Foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh also participated.

It was decided at the meeting that as part of an “offensive strategy” in Jammu and Kashmir, there was need to set up Unified Headquarters (UHQ) for areas north of the Zojila Pass. The proposed UHQ will be in addition to the one already operating from Srinagar, with Abdullah as its chairman. This is an indication that the government will concentrate on the Line of Control and the international border, which are regularly breached by Pakistan-backed militants.

The government was silent on whether any decision has been taken to go full steam after the terrorists, including destroying their bases and training camps and making the intelligence agencies operate effectively within Pakistan and occupied-Kashmir.

A statement said that it had become “imperative” to raise more specialised battalions of Central paramilitary forces specifically trained for “waging” counter-terrorist operations. These additional battalions will also be used to enhance deployment along the LoC, international border and the depth areas.

To synergise operations of security forces and intelligence agencies which, in the words of the government, “is no doubt critical to optimise gains”, it was decided to divide the counter-insurgency grind into 49 sectors as part of a three-tier command and control structure under UHQ, Srinagar.

Security forces have been asked to adopt a pro-active policy in the hinterland and to establish area domination both during the day and at night. Security in Srinagar has been strengthened and troops have been asked to undertake round-the-clock operations based on intelligence of “pin-point” accuracy.

A special operation is also being launched with the help of retired soldiers and members of village defence committees (VDCs) to effectively curb infiltration and exfiltration through the LoC and the international border. For the protection of the civilian population, the focus will be to integrate the VDCs in the counter-insurgency “grid”. The VDCs will be provided sophisticated equipment and modern communications equipment.

Briefing reporters at the end of a two-hour meeting, Advani picked on his favourite target. “It was a thorough, comprehensive exercise which discussed in detail the challenges posed by our western neighbour through proxy war which has been unleashed on us systematically since 1971,” the home minister said.    

New Delhi, Jan. 17 
After a brief lull, the nuclear twins resumed their verbal duel with India lashing out at Pakistan for the “abduction and assault” of an employee at its high commission and Islamabad accusing its neighbour of carrying out terrorist attacks.

P. Moses, who works in the visa section of the Indian mission, was picked up yesterday by Pakistan intelligence personnel on charges of trying to deliver a remote-controlled bomb and Rs 5,000 to an unidentified person in neighbouring Rawalpindi.

A bruised and nervous Moses, who spent 12 hours in the lock-up of the Koskar police station, was released this morning after signing a ‘‘confessional statement’’.

India described the ‘‘despicable’’ act as ‘‘gross violation of all norms and conventions of diplomatic interactions’’. Foreign ministry spokesman R.S. Jassal said: ‘‘It is an obvious case of intimidation and abduction and outside the realm of civilised behaviour.’’

The acting high commissioner in Islamabad, Sudhir Vyas, lodged a complaint with Pakistan authorities this afternoon.

The assault on Moses and Pakistan’s attempt to frame charges of ‘‘trying to deliver a remote-controlled bomb’’ appears to be Islamabad’s response to the humiliation faced by one of its diplomats in Delhi. The official was charged with trying to pass a counterfeit Rs 500 note while paying his son’s school fees.

Pakistan said Moses’ arrest is proof of India’s hand in terrorism in the country. The Pakistan foreign ministry said the employee had confessed that the bomb was to be planted in Rawalpindi’s congested Raja Bazar and detonated on January 26.

A bomb ripped through Karachi today, killing eight people. The military government blamed India for the attack.

Pakistani intelligence agents picked up Moses — who was returning home from church — while he was calling up his son in India from a telephone booth.

India says Moses was taken to the local police station where he was forced to sign a confessional statement saying he was caught while trying to deliver a remote-controlled bomb to an unidentified person in Rawalpindi. He was allegedly carrying a note, written in Urdu, which said as much.

India said Moses, who is from Tamil Nadu, can neither read nor write Urdu. ‘‘The Pakistan government did not consider it necessary to inform the high commission, even though Moses declared at the time of his abduction that he was a staff member of the mission,’’ Vyas said.

He alleged that the items were ‘‘planted’’ on Moses and pointed out that the Pakistani police did not attempt to ascertain who in the mission had asked him to deliver the package.

‘‘He was made to make false statements under extreme duress on Pakistan TV as several injuries indicating physical assault were visible,’’ South Block said.    

New Delhi, Jan. 17 
Uma Bharti’s resignation has swivelled the arclights back to the undeclared turf war between Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani.

Advani implied that he had influenced Uma’s resignation as junior tourism minister when he said yesterday that she could not protest against a government while being part of the Central ministry. “She might have tendered her resignation considering these things,” Advani said.

Sources close to Uma claimed she was advised by her mentor not to “behave” like Congressmen but to prove that the BJP was a “party with a difference” — for which she would have to relinquish her ministership.

“She was told that we are not a party of Giridhar Gamangs who cast their vote in the Lok Sabha despite being the chief minister of a state or Sheila Dixits who sit in dharna,” said a source.

But political observers believe there is more to the “advice” than just proving the BJP’s credentials. RSS sources confirmed that Advani had in mind a greater role for Uma in Madhya Pradesh.

Sources said Uma, with her Hindutva and backward class appeal, had the potential to fill the leadership vacuum in the state. Uma said in Bhopal she would go to Delhi only after January 20 to discuss the resignation.

Central ministers Ramesh Bais and Shahnawaz Hussain have reached Bhopal to express “solidarity” with Uma, who is protesting against alleged atrocities on BJP councillors.

Uma said she had discussed with Advani only the assault on the councillors. Sources said the home minister was keen on “promoting” Uma after he lost his protégé Kalyan Singh and, therefore, control over Uttar Pradesh.

On the other hand, by choosing Kalyan’s successor himself, Vajpayee has ensured that he has a say in running the state.

With Uttar Pradesh out of his grasp, sources said, Advani was banking on Madhya Pradesh to regain the upper hand, having reconciled himself to a “secondary” role in the government.

The tug-of-war has also reached Bihar. While Vajpayee was definite that Kailashpati Mishra would have the final say on ticket distribution, Advani loyalist K.N. Govindacharya has reportedly let it be known that he would not lie low.    

Palakkad (Kerala), Jan. 17 
Humans are facing death from decay. Limbs are falling off in the country’s first tribal block hooked to a diet of ganja and liquor brewed from poison plants.

Over 200 tribals living in the hamlets of Attappady hills, 110 km from here, have been crippled by Thrombo Angiitis Obliterans (TAO), a disease caused by chronic smoking of ganja and lack of nutritious diet.

Once the disease strikes, the arteries of the limbs are affected causing the veins to shrink. This leads to a drastic shortage in blood circulation, especially in the limbs, leading to gangrene. While the gangrene spreads rapidly from the toes upwards, the affected limbs undergo ‘‘auto amputation’’. Three persons, including a woman, have reportedly died so far.

“Even my mother has deserted me now. When this happens, the whole village discards you. They feel my disease is infectious. No one could tolerate the bad odour as my legs started to decompose. The pain is inhuman, I can’t take it anymore. I don’t want my legs, just relieve me of the pain,’’ says 19-year-old Devan.

Despite its special status, Attappady remains one of the most backward regions in the state —the role-model of social welfare. The tribals are illiterate, poor and are suffering from ‘‘100 per cent chronic addiction’’ to illicit liquor and ganja. Apart from the TAO cases, starvation deaths have also been reported from the area.

Doctors at the primary health centre in Agali said around 200 TAO cases have been detected in the past six months. The affected limbs had to be amputated to prevent gangrene from spreading. Medical officers, however, fear that the number of persons affected could be more.

‘‘There are 174 tribal hamlets in Attappady spread over 745 square kilometres,’’ explained Prabhudas, chief medical officer at the health centre. ‘‘Some of these are situated some 50 km away in inaccessible forest areas. We are trying to organise tribal social workers to bring us as many cases as possible.’’

Unable to cultivate for want of equipment, the tribals have allowed their land to be used for ganja cultivation and they are employed by the narcotics mafia.

In 1994, the government had declared Attappady a ‘‘totally liquor-prohibited zone’’. ‘‘But the tribals started manufacturing liquor themselves, using poisonous allergic plants and chemicals,’’ an official at the block development office said.

They tribals have ‘‘invented’’ a deadly concoction using the black carbon of batteries, Alampatta, the bark of a poisonous tree, Partiania, an allergic plant, and a white chemical locally known as ‘‘navasaram’’.

The Centre says it has given Attappady — declared India’s first tribal block in 1975 — Rs 145 crore through various Integrated Tribal Development Projects. But villages in the region are largely inaccessible and lack basic infrastructure and the people take to ganja from a very early age.

‘‘Once the blood circulation is disrupted, the patient suffers from tremendous pain in the calf of the legs,’’ he added. “The skin in and around the toes gets darkened as this part is farthest from the body and lack of blood circulation affects this region first. The toes get ulcerens leading to gangrene. The infection spreads upwards and the affected areas undergo ‘auto amputation’’.

Adding to the horror in Attappady, eight persons have allegedly died of starvation in the past one month in Vellikulam, a tribal village 19 km from Anakutty, the last motorable road in the area.

No political leader has visited this village for more than a decade as the village can be reached only after a four-hour climb up the rocky jungles.

Residents of the village alleged that six men and two women died after ‘‘starving’’ for three months. The tribals said the village was cut off after the mid-September monsoon. ‘‘There was no supply of food and those who ventured into the forests to gather food were attacked by wild animals,’’ said Lakshmi, widow of one of the victims.

‘‘We starved for days together and then my husband started complaining of pain in the throat. He felt feverish and was unable to get up. He could not eat or even drink water. Thereafter he went to sleep. He slept for some 15 days and did not rise again,’’ she added.

But the chairman of the Assembly committee on scheduled castes and tribes, Balan Vaidyan, said the deaths were ‘‘due to lack of nutritious food’’.

He, however, admitted that the panchayat and tribal department authorities had failed to transport food to the starving villages of Vellikulam.    

Temperature: Maximum: 24.4°C (-3) Minimum: 17.3°C (+3) RAINFALL: Nil Relative humidity: Maximum: 90%, Minimum: 50% Today: Mainly clear sky forecast. Night temperature likely to drop to 14° C. Sunset: 5.08 pm Sunrise: 6.25 am    

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