Death spiral in Pak pushback
Staines police outpost to be shut
Fashion sends history to curriculum dustbin
Netaji fervour fires up Nehruvian Atal
Calcutta weather

 
 
DEATH SPIRAL IN PAK PUSHBACK 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 22 
In the biggest operation since the Kargil war, troops today beat back a Pakistani attempt to capture a frontier post in the Akhnoor sector of Jammu region. Sixteen intruders were killed in the crack-of-dawn raid while four Indian jawans were wounded.

An army spokesman here said a group of Pakistani troops mounted an assault on Post PP13 around 5 this morning. Led by an officer, about 25 Pakistani soldiers belonging to the 24 Baluch regiment crossed over into Indian territory and tried to capture the post near Raipur in Akhnoor.

The Pakistanis launched the attack with covering fire from heavy mortars, heavy and medium machine guns, recoilless guns and rocket launchers. None of the dead has been identified.

George Fernandes and L.K. Advani, the ministers respectively in charge of defence and internal affairs who were in Shillong, were passed on details at regular intervals, indicating that the Pakistani operation was more than a run-of-the-mill attack. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who too was in the Northeast, was briefed.

The army spokesman said they were keeping their fingers crossed and hoping this was a ‘‘one-off incident’’ and the Pakistanis would not make any further attempts to breach the Line of Control.

In Islamabad, Pakistan countered that Indian forces attacked one of its posts after crossing the LoC in the Iftikharabad sub-sector in Chumb. Foreign office spokesman Tariq Ali said the Indians breached the LoC around 3.30 am and ‘‘launched a company strength attack on a small and long-existing Pakistani post between the two channels of the Tawi river’’. Two Pakistani soldiers died and five are missing, he added.

Ali said Pakistan would lodge a complaint with India and the United Nations.

The army spokesman in Delhi scoffed at Islamabad’s claim and described the dawn attack on the Indian post as ‘‘another example of Pakistan’s overall designs to raise the ante’’ in Jammu and Kashmir. ‘‘This may well be Pakistani preparations for pushing in terrorists when the snow begins to thaw,’’ he added.

The Indians, told to be ‘‘pro-active’’ when dealing with Pakistani forces, blew up a Pakistani ammunition dump opposite post PP13.

Five bodies, including that of a Pakistani lieutenant, were recovered although army officials here said two more could be lying among the sarkanda (elephant weeds) close to the post. Pakistani soldiers were seen dragging out bodies of other slain colleagues from the bunker across the LoC.

In a separate gunbattle in Palanwalla area of the Sunderbani sector, two Pakistani soldiers were killed when patrol parties clashed on the LoC.

Today’s attack in Akhnoor is the sixth — and most daring — attempt by Pakistani troops to capture Indian posts since Operation Vijay ended last July.

Stung by the Kargil intrusions, the Centre has given directions to the army and the paramilitary forces to remain in a state of alert.

In a series of meetings with the defence establishment, the BJP-led government has specified what it expects of the army: it would be responsible for tackling surprise intrusions by Pakistani soldiers and at the same time keep watch over activities of the Chinese army in the Leh-Ladakh region. A separate 14 Corps was specifically raised for this purpose soon after the war ended in Kargil.

After several divisions of the 15 and 16 Corps — stationed to battle terrorists in the Valley —were moved to Kargil last year, at least 1,500 foreign mercenaries reportedly sneaked in, taking advantage of the weakening of the ‘‘security grid’’.

These militants, a number of whom belong to the fidayen (suicide) squads of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Harkat-ul Mujahideen, launched surprise attacks against army installations and camps.

At a meeting last week on Jammu and Kashmir, the government decided to set up a second Unified Headquarters to deal with security issues in areas north of the Zoji La (pass).    


 
 
STAINES POLICE OUTPOST TO BE SHUT 
 
 
FROM DEBASHISH BHATTACHARYA
 
Manoharpur, Jan. 22 
The Orissa government today decided to close the police outpost here even as Christians sought protection during the prayer meet organised in memory of Graham Staines on his death anniversary tomorrow.

Police personnel overseeing security at the congregation said the order came after the district police authorities of Keonjhar — under which Manoharpur falls — asked the government to appoint more staff for the outpost.

The closure decision was reportedly prompted by a funds crunch. “The government says it has no money and sees no point in running the outpost simply because of one incident a year ago,” said a police source.

Former chief minister J.B. Patnaik had pledged to set up the outpost after Staines, an Australian missionary working here with lepers, was burnt inside his car with his two sons on January 23 last year.

The district police authorities drafted three constables and an assistant sub-inspector to man the post. “Now that we’ve got the order, we are going to close it down,” said a source.

Christians here fear a reprisal attack by Dara Singh, prime accused in the Staines case, for organising the three-day prayer meet.

“The government must step up security here. One outpost with three men can’t protect us in case of a mob attack by Dara,” said Christian leader Rolia Soren. “All 22 Christian families here are frightened as Dara remains at large even a year after the murders.”

Pastor Chaitanya Murmu said the community was worried as the large police team deployed for the congregation would be withdrawn tomorrow, when the meet ends.

“We don’t know what will happen then. We must have angered Dara by organising this meet,” said Murmu.

Soren and Murmu have already been identified by the police as the main targets of a possible attack and asked to curtail their movement in the village. Soren was the one to lodge the FIR in the Staines case.

Keonjhar police superintendent Arun Kumar Roy said most of the three platoons deployed for the meet would be withdrawn tomorrow.

“We can’t keep more than eight policemen in Manoharpur as we have to guard the entire district,” he said.

Soren said relations between Hindus and Christians had deteriorated here since some Hindu men had been picked up by the police in connection with the Staineses’ murder.    


 
 
FASHION SENDS HISTORY TO CURRICULUM DUSTBIN 
 
 
FROM MONOBINA GUPTA
 
New Delhi, Jan. 22 
History is fast becoming history in the land of the cyber-government. As many as 52 of the 174 colleges in Chandrababu Naidu’s Andhra Pradesh have replaced the subject with ‘‘job-oriented’’ courses like fashion technology and hotel management.

Taking a cue from Henry Ford, who dismissed history as bunk nearly a century ago, the chief executive of Andhra.com has decided to toss all things obsolete into the dustbin. History, the government argues, has no future.

At the recent session of the Indian History Congress, scholars from Andhra questioned the decision to restructure the syllabus and moved a resolution denouncing the Telugu Desam government’s ‘‘negligence of history’’.

Says V. Ramakrishna, former professor at Hyderabad’s Central University who had taken the lead in tabling the resolution: ‘‘This trend of removing history has been on the rise during the past two years. Under the name of privatisation of higher education, several self-financing courses in computer science and management studies have been introduced and social sciences are gradually being phased out.’’

Do the ‘‘redundant’’ history professors then start teaching fashion technology? ‘‘These teachers are being transferred to government-aided colleges where there are vacancies arising out of retirement,’’ says Ramakrishna.

To an extent, he argues, the trend of marginalisation of social sciences can be linked to privatisation of education which spurred the growth of self-financing private education institutions. ‘‘These private colleges attract more money from students for courses like management or fashion technology,’’ adds Ramakrishna.

Naidu is not the first to peddle the argument for pushing out social sciences from college syllabi. He has his share of supporters who believe that the curriculum should be overhauled to make it more oriented to the job market.

‘‘Since the sixties, efforts have been on to downgrade the social sciences. But these never really took off,’’ says Bipan Chandra, former head of the history department at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

‘‘With the kind of school system we have, it is essential for the student to study social sciences at the undergraduate level. Or else, he or she may be a BA literate but will remain ignorant of large social realities,’’ stresses the historian.

Agrees Badal Mukherjee, director of Delhi School of Economics. ‘‘There is a belief that only science or marketable skill-oriented subjects should remain on the syllabus. This is asking for disaster,’’ he says.

The economist rebuts the claim that social sciences are not geared towards jobs. ‘‘There is a large influx of students who have studied social sciences into the private sector and the civil services,’’ Mukherjee points out.

The scholars wondered why the Andhra government is in a hurry to scrap history. ‘‘History and market-oriented subjects can co-exist. But social sciences cannot be removed altogether,’’ says an academic.    


 
 
NETAJI FERVOUR FIRES UP NEHRUVIAN ATAL 
 
 
FROM DIPTOSH MAJUMDAR
 
New Delhi, Jan. 22 
If the Sangh parivar thinks post-hijack that Hindus are cowards, Atal Behari Vajpayee has found an antidote: Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

Advised by his think-tank, the Prime Minister paid a glowing tribute to Netaji on the eve of his birth anniversary, underscoring his “nationalist fervour” and exhorting youth to “draw inspiration from his life”.

The Prime Minister’s statement, released simultaneously in Shillong and New Delhi, indicated that the BJP is keen to assimilate the militant nationalism that Netaji espoused with the brand of patriotism it preaches.

The statement, remarkably more effusive and eulogistic than those issued on the birth anniversaries of other national icons, also reflected the BJP’s eagerness to put Netaji on a pedestal taller than that of Jawaharlal Nehru, a favourite role model of Vajpayee during his last term.

The Prime Minister’s statements on October 2 (Gandhi Jayanti) and November 14 (Nehru’s birth anniversary) had been three-paragragh exercises with little more than routine adjectives penned by bureaucrats.

In contrast, today’s statement said: “Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose belongs to the great tradition of Indian heroes who symbolise fire and fervour, vigour and vision. He was uncompromising and indomitable in his fight against imperialism and inculcated his fiery message in the minds of the people of India when they were waging a relentless battle against British rule.”

The BJP’s pet theme — nationalism — also found pride of place in the tribute. “Netaji gave a distinct political idiom to the nationalist urge of the people by unifying themselves into a vibrant force of action. Netaji added a new dimension to the freedom struggle of the country. He demanded from the people an unwavering patriotic commitment in terms of devoted service and supreme sacrifice for the cause of the motherland,” the statement said.

Vajpayee appealed to the youth of the country to fulfil his dream of “a proud and prosperous India”. He said: “Netaji is a source of everlasting inspiration to generations of freedom-loving people cutting across the frontiers of time and space.”

Coming within a few weeks of RSS Rajendra Singh’s outburst against “Hindu cowardice” for caving in to the hijackers, the Prime Minister’s reference to Netaji’s patriotism and valour carries a political message, too. He wants to remind the BJP rank and file that he believes in a “unified, vibrant force of action” as Netaji did.

It is also an indirect appeal to the country to keep alive the patriotic fervour generated by the Kargil war. By invoking Netaji’s “fire and fervour, vigour and vision”, the government is hoping to put behind the hijack humiliation and project a resolve for stronger, bolder decisions in the future.

With the BJP drifting away from contentious planks like Ayodhya, Article 370 and the uniform civil code, militant nationalism is one of the few threads that still runs through all factions of the party.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Today’s forecast: Partly cloudy sky. Fog or mist in the morning in some areas. Not much change in night temperature. Max. temperature: 28.3° C (normal) Min. temperature: 16.9° C (+3) Maximum humidity: 94% Minimum humidity: 55% Rainfall: Nil Sunset: 5.11 pm Sunrise: 6.24 am    
 

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