Atal snubs US with Pak punch
Two die in blast on train to city
Deepa tests Narmada Water
Panel short shrift miffs Mamata
Calcutta weather

 
 
ATAL SNUBS US WITH PAK PUNCH 
 
 
OUR BUREAU AND AGENCIES
 
New Delhi, Feb. 10 
Stung by the US’ sudden burst of enthusiasm to mediate on the Kashmir issue, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee today led a concerted Indian campaign to send a message that Delhi was not in a hurry to resume talks with Pakistan.

“Under no circumstances would India bow down before any power as far as its security is concerned,” he said at an election meeting in western Orissa.

He asserted that there would be no talks until Pakistan stopped fuelling terrorism and restored confidence. His government had managed the economy well despite world sanctions following the nuclear tests, Vajpayee added.

Clinton had said in Washington yesterday that he was “profoundly concerned” about the South Asian nuclear twins’ dispute over Kashmir and hoped to do something about it.

His defence secretary William Cohen added that though the US did not have a ready-made solution, it could nudge the two sides to resume the dialogue and ensure regional stability.

South Block sees these utterances as a means to pave the way for a Clinton visit to Pakistan during his March tour. The Centre made it clear that despite US statements, there was no change in Delhi’s position on Kashmir “either in nuance or substance”.

India’s stance comes amid reports that Pakistani militant Masood Azhar, held in “protective custody”, might be released if he agreed to some conditions.

Ausuf, an Urdu daily, said Masood, who had been in custody of the Pakistan intelligence for the past five days, might be freed if he suspended the activities of Jaish-e-Muhammadi and stopped touring the country.

Masood’ arrest, made when he arrived in Islamabad, was seen as a signal that Pervez Musharraf’s army regime was moving in the right direction. The Americans have made progress on anti-terrorist crackdown a condition for a presidential visit.

India reacted to Masood’s detention by saying that its “larger concern” over cross-border terrorism remained unchanged.

“We do not wish to comment on how an individual terrorist is handled by the Pakistan government,” spokesman R.S. Jassal said.

The report on Masood coincides with a sudden increase in troop deployment by Pakistan along the Line of Control. Along with regular soldiers, hundreds of mercenaries from pro-Pak terrorist organisations have also taken position for infiltration, according to official defence sources.

More than the troops, it is the presence of the militants that is worrying India. Security agencies suspect they are being readied to be pushed into Jammu and Kashmir to create large-scale disturbances.

The terrorists are mainly drawn from Harkat-ul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Al-Badr and Hizb-ul Mujahideen.

Any serious disturbance in the state at this point would buttress Clinton’s statement that South Asia is among the most dangerous regions in the world because of Kashmir.

The build-up comes in the backdrop of Pakistani media reports that the army as well as the Inter-Services Intelligence are trying to influence the mercenary organisations to set up a “unified command” of all outfits operating in Jammu and Kashmir.    


 
 
TWO DIE IN BLAST ON TRAIN TO CITY 
 
 
FROM MUKHTAR AHMED
 
Srinagar, Feb. 10 
At least two persons were killed and four wounded when a powerful bomb exploded on the Sealdah bound train from Jammu at Vijaypur late this evening.

A senior police officer from Jammu said the bomb exploded in the air-conditioned coach of the train at Vijaypur on the outskirts of Jammu.

Sources said the coach was extensively damaged. The officer said two persons travelling in the coach died on the spot while four were injured.

Messages were immediately flashed to Jammu and senior police and civil officials rushed there along with a medical team. They have already reached the spot.

The souces added that the injured are being brought to Jammu. The casualty figure could be higher.

Due to the bomb explosion on the Sealdah train, rail traffic was affected. No one has owned responsibility for the blast.

The Sealdah train left Jammu at 7 pm. Authorities had really stepped up security at the Jammu railway station following a powerful bomb explosion on a train in December last year.

Just yesterday, the parliamentary standing committee on home affairs has criticised the Centre’s handling of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

The issue came up at the one-day session of the standing committee, chaired by Congress Rajya Sabha member Pranab Mukherjee.    


 
 
DEEPA TESTS NARMADA WATER 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI AND AGENCIES
 
New Delhi, Feb. 10 
Deepa Mehta will visit two locations on the banks of the Narmada tomorrow to explore the possibility of shooting Water following an assurance of safety from Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh.

However, Union ministers M.M. Joshi and S. Prabhu announced that the filming would be opposed even in Madhya Pradesh. Criticising Deepa for making “anti-Hindu” films, they said they would not let the shooting restart.

Digvijay, who was prompt to invite Deepa to his state after the Varanasi fiasco, told her: “I do not need to look at your script. Please feel free and shoot anywhere you like.” The spots to be inspected are Maheshwar and Omkeshwar.

The director said she would take a decision only after talking to the producer and other unit members. She arrived in Bhopal this morning and spoke with Digvijay for about an hour.

Sources said she was supposed to take the Shatabdi Express but flew in from Mumbai instead to avoid protesters.

Reacting to Uma Bharti’s threat not to allow shooting in Madhya Pradesh, Digvijay wondered how the BJP leader could say things like Deepa would be stoned if she shot Water in the state. “No one would be allowed to disrupt the shooting,” he said.

“The rule of the law prevails here and no one, irrespective of the organisation one belongs to, will be allowed to take it into one’s own hands,” he said.

On what would happen if the Union information and broadcasting ministry withdrew its permission to Deepa to shoot Water, he said: “Then it would become a matter between the ministry and Deepa.”

Denying that he was using the controversy to fight the BJP and Bharti, he asked: “Have I not been fighting the BJP before Deepa came here?” He described the VHP and the Bajrang Dal as fascists. “All these organisations are one,” he said, adding that the film unit would be given total protection if it came to the state.

In a related development, the All-India Muslim Tyohar Committee today said it was “anti-Islamic” for Shabana Azmi to have shaved off her hair. Shabana plays a widow in the film.

Demanding an “unconditional apology”, committee chief Osaf Khurram said: “After such an act, she has no right to be part of the Muslim community.”

Another invitation to shoot her film came Deepa’s way from Laloo Yadav after Joshi made his threat. “We extend full co-operation. Necessary security would be provided wherever and whenever Deepa decides to shoot Water in Bihar,” he said.

While referring to Digvijay’s offer, Joshi said: “We have taken a pledge to disrupt the shooting of the film, which is against cultural and religious sentiments.... And we will oppose its filming in Madhya Pradesh.” He said the Shiv Sena chief would issue orders to Sainiks to block the shoot.    


 
 
PANEL SHORT SHRIFT MIFFS MAMATA 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Feb. 10 
Railway minister Mamata Banerjee is peeved at being left out from the inter-state council reconstituted on Monday.

Much to the chagrin of the Trinamul Congress leader, the Prime Minister’s Office has inducted chemicals and fertilisers minister Suresh Prabhu, of the Shiv Sena, in her place.

The council, with home minister L.K. Advani as chairman, has 13 members. There are five Union ministers and eight chief ministers in the council. Mamata was inducted into the council in November.

Jyoti Basu is a member of the council. Chandrababu Naidu, M. Karunanidhi, S.M. Krishna, Digvijay Singh, Farooq Abdullah, Parkash Singh Badal and P. Mahanta are other members.

Mamata’s office said she was busy with the railway budget and was not available for comment. But sources said she is angry at not being included in the council and will take up the matter with Prime Minister after the budget.

The decision of leaving her out stems from the PMO’s fear that the mercurial Mamata may express views not palatable to the government. The council is meant to deliberate on issues like Art. 356, centre-state relations, devolution of tax, finance commission reports and so on.

The PMO, sources said, wanted a pliant Union minister. The choice, therefore, fell on Prabhu even though the Shiv Sena had a senior leader in Manohar Joshi who holds the heavy industry portfolio.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Temperature: Maximum: 26.3°C (-3) Minimum: 19.3°C (+3) RAINFALL: Nil Relative humidity: Maximum: 81%, Minimum: 55% Today: Partly cloudy sky. Not much change in minimum temperature. Sunset: 5.25 pm Sunrise: 6.16 am    
 

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