President, PM in statute face-off
Muivah flies into Thai custody from Karachi
Killer deer puts Arjun in firing line
Pak balm on tamper tempers
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, Jan. 27 
After questioning the government on its economic policy, President K.R. Narayanan today struck out at the decision to re-examine the Constitution, prompting the Prime Minister to argue that a review is imperative to ensure ‘‘stability in the Centre and the states’’.

Addressing the special Parliament session to mark 50 years of the Republic, Narayanan said: ‘‘Today, when there is so much talk about revising the Constitution, we have to consider whether it is the Constitution that has failed us or whether it is we who have failed the Constitution.’’

The President’s acerbic response to the BJP’s call for a second look at the statute comes two days after he virtually indicted the government for its overt thrust on privatisation without doing enough for the welfare of the poor.

Narayanan quoted constitutional experts — from former British Premier Anthony Eden to B.R. Ambedkar — to say that the Constituent Assembly, while opting for the parliamentary form, was not imitating the British. The system, he argued, had its roots in the panchayats and reflected the ‘‘immensity’’ and ‘‘perplexing variety and diversity’’ of the country.

‘‘In such a predicament described by a writer as one of ‘a million mutinies’, there must be in the body-polity a vent for discontents and frustrations to express themselves in order to prevent major explosions in society. The parliamentary system provides this vent more than a system which prefers stability to responsibility and accountability,’’ Narayanan said.

Vajpayee, in his speech, rebutted the President’s assertions, point for point. He cited stability and development to justify the need for a committee to review the Constitution, but maintained that its ‘‘basic structure and core ideals will remain inviolate’’.

‘‘Five decades after the adoption of the Constitution, India is faced with a new situation. The need for stability, both at the Centre and in the states, has been felt acutely,’’ Vajpayee said. 

The Prime Minister argued that the people were ‘‘impatient’’ for speedier socio-economic development. ‘‘The country is also faced with a pressing challenge to quickly remove regional and social imbalances by reorienting the development process to benefit the poorest and the weakest.’’

Narayanan appears to have anticipated the twin arguments. ‘‘What makes our Constitution relevant to the conditions and the problems of India and the developing world is, in fact, its socio-economic soul. Its uniqueness is that it has combined this harmoniously with the liberal rights and freedoms as conceived by the Western democracies,’’ he said.

Taking a pot shot at the BJP proposal for a fixed tenure for the Lok Sabha, the President said: ‘‘The possibility and the facility of a change in government is itself a factor in the stability of the political system in the long-term because then the people will be more inclined to tolerate a political situation they do not approve or find difficult to cope with for long.’’

Vajpayee countered that even as the Constitution served the ‘‘needs of India’s diversity and her innate unity’’, the ‘‘mightiest of forts’’, too, needed repairs. ‘‘One has to repair the parapet from time to time, one has to clean the moat and check the banisters. The same is true about our Constitution,’’ he said. 

Jan. 27 
National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah has been arrested by Thai authorities soon after flying into Bangkok from Karachi.

Muivah was arrested along with I. Shimre, said to be his chief arms procurer, last weekend. Muivah and Shimre are under judicial custody till February 1.

Muivah’s arrest was first disclosed by the Far Eastern Economic Review in the magazine’s latest issue. Published from Hong Kong, the Review said he had been “detained” after arriving on a flight from Karachi.

India cannot seek the handover of Muivah and Shimre as there is no extradition treaty with Thailand.

But home ministry officials were quick to point out that his Karachi visit is “interesting” because “it exposes the links that he enjoys with Pakistani officialdom, especially the country’s intelligence agencies”, which have been suspected of fomenting trouble in the Northeast.

However, if Muivah is locked in a protracted legal battle in Thailand, it will affect the pace of peace talks between the Centre and the insurgents.Another round of talks was scheduled in Bangkok next week. A ceasefire is now in force between the Isak-Muivah group and the security forces in Nagaland.

Senior officials in the Union home ministry, who learnt of the arrest only after the magazine carried the report, said Muivah was nabbed on January 22 for travelling on a fake Myanmarese passport.

But Nagaland chief minister S. C. Jamir said “reliable sources” had told him that the two were arrested on January 19. But the chief minister said he had not received any official communication from the Centre on the arrests till this evening.

Besides, a joint secretary in the home ministry said they were carrying fake South Korean passports.

This is not the first time that the leader of a banned insurgent outfit has been arrested on charges of travelling on fake travel documents. In 1998, Bangladesh police arrested Ulfa general secretary Anup Chetia for entering the country with fake travel documents. According to Indian security agencies, Chetia too used to travel frequently to Pakistan on assumed names.

Both Muivah and the insurgent outfit president Isak Chisi Swu have been shuttling between Bangkok and Manila, the Philippines capital, since the early nineties. 

Home ministry officials insisted that they had time and again asked Thailand to arrest both leaders. But the Thai government showed little interest as they had not committed any crime in that country. 

Quoting Thai police sources, Reuters said Muivah has been lodged at Bangkok’s Klong Prem prison pending trail, and “at this moment, he can only be charged for entering the country with fake documents”.

Thailand was on high alert ever since members of an armed insurgent group laid siege to the Myanmarese embassy in Bangkok, holding several persons hostage for a number of days. On Monday, there was another hostage crisis in a hospital.

The NSCN(I-M) leaders have met two Indian Prime Ministers as part of the Naga peace talks. In 1997, then Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda met the two at Davos, Switzerland, during the economic summit. 

The meeting was arranged by Congress leader and former internal security minister Rajesh Pilot, who had gone to Bangkok in November 1996 as Deve Gowda’s envoy. A year later, Atal Behari Vajpayee discussed the peace talks with the two in Paris.

Muivah and Swu had reached Nagaland in April last year to elicit the views of individuals and organisations. 

New Delhi, Jan. 27 
The bizarre killing of a constable by an endangered cheetal (spotted deer) in Arjun Singh’s palatial Karwa dam house, near Bhopal, has taken a political turn.

While Arjun-baiters sought Sonia Gandhi’s intervention, his son produced a “certificate of ownership” of the “killer deer”. The constable was one of the guards posted at the Congress leader’s house. 

Union minister of state for tourism Uma Bharti — her resignation still pending with the Prime Minister — shot off two letters to Arjun and chief minister Digvijay Singh. She seeked a probe and a compensation of Rs 50 lakh to be paid by Arjun for what she described as “dohra apradh” (twin crimes) — killing of a constable belonging to the backward Yadav community and alleged violation of the Wildlife Act. 

In her letter to Digvijay, Uma asked him to arrest the owners of Karwa dam house — Arjun’s family members. To Arjun, she pleaded that he set an example in public life and facilitate the punishment of the guilty. 

The beleaguered Singh household faxed the certificate of ownership from the office of the chief wildlife warden of Madhya Pradesh to 10 Janpath. Arjun’s son Ajay Singh, a minister in Digvijay government, expressed profound regrets. 

Sonia is, however, disturbed over the incident and sought more details. Sources close to her said she was also worried about the political fallout of the death, fearing a sharp reaction from estranged sister-in-law Maneka Gandhi, an animal activist. 

“She has been wondering why the endangered animal was kept in the house when it should have been in some wildlife park or, at least, in a zoo,” a Congress leader said. He recalled that Sonia had reacted sharply to the alleged shooting of black bucks by filmstars Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan and others in Jodhpur. 

The Singhs are treating the whole matter as an accident. Ajay today issued a statement claiming that the deer attacked constable Kailash Yadav in a fit of rage. 

The cheetal was kept on the premises since 1992 after seeking permission of the game warden. The certificate of ownership was given under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, he said. 

Uma contested the claim and alleged that Digvijay, who is related to Arjun, was trying to shield the guilty. “In a state where the administration books innocent adivasis for picking wood in the jungles, there seems to be a different set of rules for the powerful,” she said. She added that Yadav could have been saved if the other constables had fired at the cheetal

A case of unnatural death has been registered and the “killer deer” has been shifted to the Van Vihar national park. 

Perth, Jan. 27 
To mollify infuriated Indians, the Pakistan team has launched a jumbo damage-control exercise. Towards that end, coach Intikhab Alam is likely to “speak” to counterpart Kapil Dev before tomorrow’s day-night game here.

Only an emphatic Indian victory will help keep alive slim hopes of making the Carlton and United Series finals.

“Some of the youngsters got carried away (in Adelaide, on Tuesday night), but relations between the two teams shouldn’t be soured... I intend speaking to Kapil, clearing whatever misunderstanding may remain,” Intikhab told The Telegraph.

What has, of course, incensed Indians is the sensational ball-tampering charge against captain Sachin Tendulkar, at the Adelaide Oval.

It was dismissed by Match Referee Cammie Smith as being “frivolous and without foundation,” but the Indians remain cut up.

Sachin declined to talk at length on the issue, but did remark he was “very upset.” He added: “We play clean cricket... To have an allegation such as this...”

Kapil, though, didn’t mince words: “Imagine a Pakistani player levelling such a charge at the Indian captain... How can somebody of Sachin’s standing be accused? I was so upset, I didn’t even attend the hearing.”

Frankly, ball-tampering isn’t something the Pakistanis ought to be making an issue of. Absolutely nobody will need to be reminded of their own sorry track record. Indeed, even living legend Imran Khan has admitted indulging in something he should have stayed away from.

Smith, who held the hearing late Tuesday night, also threw out two other allegations — that Venkatesh Prasad called Azhar Mehmood “nasty names” and “swore” at Yousuf Youhana — but upheld the complaint against Mohanty (standing outside the 30-yard circle when he was supposed to be within).

Mohanty was let-off with a “warning”. As for Prasad, he isn’t very popular with the Pakistanis — the animosity dates back to the 1996 World Cup quarter final in Bangalore — but the Indian quick doesn’t give a damn.

One isn’t sure to what extent it’s part of this damage-control exercise but, speaking exclusively, Razzaq denied having hurled any accusation.

He said: “After I saw Sachin rubbing the ball in his palms, I only asked umpire Darrell Hair to check its condition. Yet, the umpire chose to put that down as an allegation and gave it in writing to the Match Referee... In fact, at the hearing, I clarified I hadn’t complained and, to prevent misgivings, even apologised to everybody present.”

Razzaq added: “I’m aware of how serious a ball-tampering charge can be... I don’t know why the umpire made such an issue...”

Good question but, then, controversies and Hair go hand-in-hand. 

Some may even be tempted to suggest Hair deliberately put everything in writing (alongwith colleague Peter Parker), to get ‘even’ with both teams.

It is understood that the Pakistanis and the Indians didn’t want Smith to hold the hearing, but Smith’s hands were tied as Hair and Parker gave a “written report.”

Apparently Pakistan captain Wasim Akram, vice-captain Moin Khan, former captain Saeed Anwar and senior pro Ijaz Ahmed were keen that both teams “sort out the misunderstanding” amongst themselves. And, here, they were even able to convince the ‘hardline’ manager, Brig. (Retd) Khwaja Mohammed Nasir.

Smith, however, expressed his inablity. “When the umpires report something in writing, allegations or whatever, I’ve got to call a hearing,” is what he conveyed to both sides.

So, the ‘peace’ meeting between the two managers, Brig. Nasir and Mahendra Bhargava, didn’t actually result in much. Brig. Nasir, though, insisted “charges weren’t pressed” in order to maintain the rather healthy relationship between the two teams. One understands the Pakistanis were “quiet” at the hearing, allowing Smith to quickly dispose off the allegations. It’s only on the Mohanty issue that the Pakistanis were vocal.

By Brig. Nasir’s own confession, the Pakistan players had merely followed his own instructions.

“My briefing to them, before this series got underway, was clear — no misbehaving. At the same time, nothing ought to be taken lying down. For instance, if somebody sledged or something else was amiss, it should straightaway be reported to the umpires.”

Brig. Nasir also admitted he “wasn’t aware” that even a verbal complaint would eventually lead to a hearing convened by the Match Referee.

Bewakoof hain, yeh bacche... In the heat of the moment, so many things can be said, but it’s never carried off the field. We may not interact with players of other teams, once the match is over, but we always do so with the Indians. Adelaide mein jo huya, hona nahin chahiye tha,” a very senior member of the Pakistan side regretted.

But this senior member’s indictment of Razzaq, Mehmood and Youhana — whose own reputation on the sledging-front is quite impressive — notwithstanding, the harm has been done.

Incidentally Sourav Ganguly, architect of India’s emphatic 48-run win that night, was abused by Youhana during the Hobart game last week. And, well, he gave it back. Sourav was again a target, at the Adelaide Oval, but (quite sensibly) didn’t get provoked.

As Kapil hasn’t been amused by the sledging charges either, he has issued his own advisory to the players: “The moment somebody abuses, bring that to the notice of the umpires. If that’s how Pakistan want to play, we’ll play ball.”

Kapil took a swipe at the ICC as well: “Look, a bit of aggression, within the laws, should be there. Otherwise, we might as well play with skirts... If every exchange (on the field) will call for a hearing (by the ICC-appointed Match Referee), then...”

Reacting to Kapil’s advisory, Brig. Nasir hinted the Indian players may not take that too seriously. As he put it, rather bitingly: “Seeing the Indian players interact with Sunil Gavaskar, it seems they have more faith in him...”

You can bet Kapil, enemy No.1 for Pakistan, won’t approve of that either. So, Brig.Nasir may end up having to undertake yet another damage-control exercise. 

Temperature: Maximum: 28.7°C (+1) Minimum: 15°C (+1) Rainfall: Nil
Relative humidity: Maximum: 93%, Minimum: 38%
Today: Partly cloudy sky. Rise in minimum temperature likely. Sunset: 5.15 pm Sunrise: 6.23 am 

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