China builds bunkers in Kargil replay
Bleach guilty in armsdrop, Davy pops up
Statute panel on launch pad
India joins bond battle
Water widows wait for Delhi shoot sign
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, Jan. 31 
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has built a permanent road network and set up bunkers over five square kilometres within the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh’s Aksai Chin area.

Air reconnaissance near Trijunction, a strategic location in Aksai Chin, revealed that the Red Army has constructed a rectangular, five sq. km network of metalled roads from the LAC leading to grid references 5459 and 5495. These are located behind a point called ‘‘K’’ Hill, northeast of Trijunction near the Chip Chap river.

What has set off alarm bells is that several bunkers have also been spotted. ‘‘The situation can no longer be described as alarming but dangerous,’’ an army official said.

The operation is similar to the mid-Eighties incursion in the Northeast when the Chinese entered Indian territory in the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh and occupied the Sum-Dorung Chu yak-grazing pastures during winter. China continues to occupy the land.

Officials believe that the network of metalled roads was built between June and August, 1999, during and just after the Kargil war. Defence security agencies came to know of it only about a week ago though preliminary reports had mentioned ‘‘sound of explosions’’ from the LAC, indicating dynamite blasts for road-building. The last foray in the area occurred last week.

The Telegraph reported on July 4 last year how the Red Army had ‘‘violated’’ the LAC barely 500 km from the Kargil front. On July 1, a strong contingent of Chinese troops, along with a convoy of six heavy, medium and light armoured vehicles, stepped into the Trijunction and Trig Heights areas, stayed on for a few hours and then retreated to their own territory.

Reports with the government reveal that between January and July last year, the PLA made 72 incursions, not just in Aksai Chin but also in areas in Arunachal, and stayed on for up to two hours and, in some cases, even more.

These reports have been confirmed by transcripts of a conversation — intercepted by Indian intelligence — between Chinese president Jiang Zemin and another head of state. Jiang reportedly disclosed that his army had breached the LAC to test India’s defence readiness.

Apart from the roads, the Red Army has also built an elaborate network of mule tracks from within Chinese territory leading up to the LAC. Army officials here believe this has been done to supply material for road construction as well as arms and ammunition to the PLA personnel stationed on the Indian side of the LAC.

Air reconnaissance discovered that the PLA has deployed a battalion — around 900 soldiers — in the region. These men have been strategically spread over 10 well-armed defence posts. The soldiers are regularly relieved by fresh men.

India has a strength of only two companies — one from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the other from the Ladakh Scouts — which are posted several kilometres away from the encroached area. After coming to know of the incursions, the army airlifted a one-tonner vehicle and a light jeep, which are not enough to act even as effective deterrent.

The army believes that its newly created 14 Corps for Kargil and Ladakh and a separate Unified Headquarters for areas north of the Zoji La are enough to scare the Pakistanis and the Chinese from attempting to enter Indian territory. But, as one official said: ‘‘What is lacking is the actual presence of troops close to the LAC both in the western and eastern sectors.’’    

Jan. 31 
More than four years after being arrested for the sensational Purulia armsdrop case, six of the accused have been “found guilty” of being part of an “international conspiracy” to smuggle sophisticated arms into Indian territory and “overawe the elected government of West Bengal”.

On Monday, judge P.K. Biswas, the 4th Bench of the city civil and sessions court, announced that Briton James Peter Bleach and five Latvian crew members — Alexander Klichine, Oleg Gaidash, Evgeny Antimenko, Igor Timmerman and Igor Moskuitin — were “guilty” under Section 21-A (“a conspiracy to overawe, by the show of criminal force, the central or a state government”). This is punishable with “imprisonment for life”, or “imprisonment which may extend to 10 years”.

Biswas reserved the sentence till Wednesday.

In a curious coincidence, the alleged mastermind of the armsdrop, Niels Christian Nielsen, alias Kim Peter Davy, has expressed his willingness to surrender to the Danish police for two bank robberies he committed in Copenhagen in the Eighties.

Nielsen, dubbed ‘’robber in socks’’ for his stealth, surfaced in Copenhagen on January 18. In a subsequent interview to Danish television, slated to be telecast late Monday night, Davy has denied any role in the Purulia episode and claimed to be a “philanthropist”.

The CBI, which has been trying to track Davy’s movements through Sweden, the US, Brazil, Italy and Sudan, has obtained parts of the interview.

According to CBI officials, the Danish government will not extradite or deport Nielsen to India as there is no extradition treaty between India and Denmark and Danish laws do not permit deportation of persons wanted in connection with criminal cases committed abroad. “After today’s verdict in Calcutta, he will definitely try to surrender in Copenhagen than risk trial in India,” said an official.

Meanwhile, some 1,495 days after being remanded in judicial custody for allegedly dropping a huge consignment of sophisticated arms and ammunition over some villages in Purulia on the night of 17 December, 1995, Bleach and the five Latvians heard the judge read out the “operative part” of his judgment in the crowded courtroom today.

After summing up the arguments, the judge concluded that the prosecution had “established the links and circumstances” to prove “beyond a reasonable shadow of doubt” that the six were “guilty” under Section 21 (A) of IPC, the Arms Act, the Explosives Act, the Explosive Substances Act, and the Aircraft Act.

They were , however, found “not guilty” under Section 21 (“Waging, or Attempting to Wage War, or Abetting of War Against Government of India”) and Section 22 (“collecting arms, etc., with intention of waging war against the government of India”) of the IPC.

Vinay Kumar Singh, a follower of Ananda Marg, was “acquitted from this case” and ordered to be “set at liberty at once unless wanted in any other case”. As a separate case against Singh under the Arms Act is pending, he will not be set free till that is resolved.

According to judge Biswas, the circumstantial evidence presented by the prosecution established an international conspiracy that had been hatched “in several countries”, with some insurgent groups in India.

While the Latvians were visibly distressed after the “operative part” of the judgement was translated for them, Bleach, remained stoic.

“I shall wait for the full judgement and then prefer appeal,” he said.    

New Delhi, Jan. 31 
The Cabinet is scheduled to clear a “commission” tomorrow to review the Constitution.

“It will be constituted under the Commission of Inquiry Act and be an executive commission,” a law ministry official said.

The “executive” tag indicates that the commission is unlikely to have any representative from the Opposition, which has rejected the review proposal in any case.

The overdrive, set in motion after the President’s words of caution on Thursday, is in line with the government’s assertion the next day that it would set up a panel within 10 days.

The Prime Minister has asked law minister Ram Jethmalani to return from Bangalore tomorrow to attend the Cabinet meeting.

“As of now, former Chief Justice M.N. Venkatachalaiah is slated to head the commission, although his consent is yet to be obtained,” the official said.

The commission would “inquire” into whether the aims of the Constitution have been fulfilled, and if not, the reasons for the failure, he added.

Former law minister and Supreme Court lawyer Shanti Bhushan is believed to have been sounded to be a member. But he said he was not aware of the move.

Former President R. Venkataraman was initially tipped to chair the panel. But BJP allies, particularly the DMK, opposed the choice as he had invoked a controversial clause in Article 356 to dismiss the party’s government in Tamil Nadu in 1991. The Article will also be under review.

Officials said a former secretary-general of the Lok Sabha, whose name was doing the rounds in the early stages, may also find no place in the commission.

The government, busy shortlisting prospective members, has sounded around 25 constitutional experts. On Friday, Jethmalani had said the panel would have a maximum of 12 members.    

New Delhi, Jan. 31 
Britain’s decision to impose a discretionary visa bond of £10,000 on Indians is snowballing into a bilateral tug-of-war, with Delhi threatening “reciprocal action” against the “discriminatory” rule.

Delhi bristled more as it emerged that the “pilot scheme”, to be launched for a year in the second half of 2000, will target only Indians and Bangladeshis for now. Neither Pakistanis nor Sri Lankans will be affected.

The controversy has erupted on the eve of Indian-born British minister Keith Vaz’s visit here, beginning tomorrow. Vaz, who handles visa and immigration, is scheduled to meet Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani.

In 1997, Britain and India had a face-off on the eve of a visit by Queen Elizabeth II over then Prime Minister I.K. Gujral’s disowned remark that Britain was a third-rate power. The salvo was apparently provoked by British foreign minister Robin Cook’s comment about the UK’s desire to mediate on Kashmir.

According to the bond proposal, an Indian planning to visit relatives in the UK may be asked to produce a bond of £10,000, around Rs 7 lakh, if the visa granting authority suspects that he will remain there illegally.

A British high commission officer said the scheme would be applicable to “only those whose visa applications had been rejected in the past”. For others, “nothing will change”, he added.

The officer said the scheme was being tried out following suggestions from Asians in the UK. He argued that over 90 per cent of Indians living in Britain could afford it. “The money will be returned once the person for whom the bond is being given returns to India,” said the officer. He added that the bond would depend on the visa officer’s discretion and would not be imposed “automatically”.

Foreign ministry spokesman R.S. Jassal said India expected new consular measures to be implemented “on a non-discriminatory basis” for citizens of all countries. “We would like to clarify that in the event such rules and guidelines are instituted, we reserve the right to take reciprocal action,” he added.

Susheel Bajaj, a criminal lawyer who frequently visits his family in the UK, described it as “absolutely scandalous”. The lawyer pointed out that in future, most visitors would apply as tourists and would not disclose that they have relatives.

In 1999, the British high commissioner had received 1,75,664 visa applications. Of these, 1,57,330 were granted.    

Lucknow, Jan. 31 
Seven-year-old Urvi Gokani is bored with life in her five-star hotel room in Varanasi.

Urvi plays the youngest of the three widows in Deepa Mehta’s Water — the central characters in the film. Since its shooting was stopped yesterday following violent protests by BJP activists, Urvi has been going over and over her punchline: “Till when do I have to be a widow?”

She is not sparing her parents, however, for whom she has a similar question. “Till when do I have to be in Varanasi and miss my classes?” she keeps asking them.

The crew of Water is not paying much attention to Urvi. But Mehta’s star cast and unit hands are asking the same question, as the battle of nerves between the director and Sangh parivar’s moral guardians drags on.

Yesterday, a mob of 2,000 BJP supporters and Sangh parivar vigilantes ransacked the sets of Water at Tulsi ghat, claiming Mehta is portraying Indian widows as prostitutes in the film. Following the incident, the Uttar Pradesh government stopped the shooting.

Mehta has left for Delhi to convince the Union information and broadcasting ministry and the home ministry to direct the Uttar Pradesh government to give permission to shoot.

The delay means trouble for everyone, but mostly for Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das, who play the central roles. Both are extremely worried about future commitments.

Azmi has put on hold a shooting stint abroad and some other work. Das has three crucial projects lined up after Water for which she has already given dates.

Das has three crucial projects lined up after Water for which she has already given dates.

Das is supposed to leave for Kerala after March 8 to begin work on Ek Alag Mausam, where she plays an AIDS-affected person. The film has been scripted by Mahesh Dattani who shot into fame with his play Dance Like a Man.

Around the same time, Das was to resume work for ad-filmmaker Rakesh Mehra’s first feature film Aks, starring Amitabh Bachchan and the Shool duo of Raveena Tandon and Manoj Vajpai.

Das has also signed Jagmohan Mundra’s forthcoming untitled film based on a real life story of a gangraped girl.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that permission to begin shooting will be given in two days. We are all willing to do extra shifts to make up for lost time. But if the delay is long, we loose not only personally because of our commitment to Deepa, but professionally too as other projects get delayed,” the dusky actress told The Telegraph.

There is no let-up in the statements of morality protectors. The latest to join the bandwagon is Varanasi mayor Saroj Singh who has demanded Shabana Azmi’s resignation from the Rajya Sabha for “projecting women in wrong light and insulting the traditional city of Varanasi”.

Lalji Tandon, state urban development minister who confessed that he had not heard of Deepa Mehta or her films, has no qualms about giving her advice though.

“She should make films on the good aspects of Varanasi, its tradition and culture. She is just trying to cater to the western audience who need sex in their films,” he said.

Most of the crew and unit hands had worked with Mehta for Earth and Fire, the first two films in the controversial director’s “element” series. “As a result almost everybody wants to be with her to the finish. I am sure not a single unit hand will leave her for other pending work. This is not just Deepa’s problem. It is ours too,” says Das.

The delay has also brought unforeseen problems. Both Azmi, who plays the middle-aged widow Shakuntala, and Das the young Janaki, also a widow, have shaved their heads. While Azmi requires a completely shaven head, Das needs to have 1 centimetre of hair which is shaved off during the shoot.

With the delay in shooting, Das now requires continuos trimming to keep the hair at the required length.

The fact that with her shaved head Das cannot move out of her hotel even to take a walk adds to her agony.

Das spoke at length on her role and that of the two other widows.

Urvi plays Chuia, a seven-year-old widow. “She is called a widow when she does not even know what marriage is,” Das said.

Janki, the role as plays, is the young widow “who thinks about becoming a prostitute for the upkeep of the widows’ home which is in a pathetic condition.” Das insists that there are no scenes that show her in bed with a man. Azmi as Shakuntala is the middle-aged widow who runs the home. She has nothing to do with prostitution.

“The film is a true reflection of the life and times of widows in the 1930s. It looks at them with sensitivity and not with lewdness,” Das said.

While Mehta is in Delhi, the cast and crew are reading and re-reading the script to “discover what the fuss is all about”.    

Temperature: Maximum: 26.4°C (+2) Minimum: 14.0°C (-1) RAINFALL: Nil Relative humidity: Maximum: 95%, Minimum: 40% Today: Partly cloudy sky. Slight rise in minimum temperature likely. Sunset: 5.18 pm Sunrise: 6.21 am    

Maintained by Web Development Company