Delhi opens Clinton channel
Mumbai reaches out, so does President
Sangh cries victory over US
Tryst with Magnificent Seven
Water notice to Sunil

New Delhi, March 24 
India is formally accepting Washington as the medium of communication with Pakistan until the neighbours agree to sit at the talks table.

President Bill Clinton has promised to convey India’s concerns to Pakistan during his talks with Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad tomorrow.

National security adviser Brajesh Mishra has said the US will share with India the dialogue Clinton has with Musharraf, indicating that Delhi has now willy-nilly accepted a role for Washington in the dispute.

The President, keen to restore peace in South Asia, can either read the riot act to the military ruler, as many Indian officials feel he will, or use his charm to convince the general of the need to restart the dialogue.

India has agreed to talk to Pakistan only if it stops terror export and respects the Line of Control.

While asserting he would not mediate on Kashmir, the President, in an interview with ABC World News, said he would do anything he can to get India and Pakistan “to focus on what it would take to reduce the tensions. And I think right now the important thing is respecting the Line of Control, reducing violence and finding ways to resume the dialogue”.

Signalling what he wants Pakistan to do, Clinton said: “The Pakistanis have been good allies of ours. I want to continue to be a good ally for them. But I think they have to have a plan for restoring democracy and they have to have a non-violent plan for resolving their differences with India.”

“The most I can do right now is to oppose violence, particularly oppose violence propagated by third parties within Kashmir, and to support and reaffirm the LoC,” he added. The President said he would carry the same message to Islamabad.

But India has a problem admitting this in public, as it maintains there is no scope for mediation on Kashmir. Keeping in mind India’s aversion, the US has asserted it will not play the role of an honest broker.

However, there appears to be a growing pragmatism here that the US, a time-tested ally of Pakistan, will be willing to listen to the Americans if India’s concerns are conveyed through them.

In his address to Parliament, Clinton pointed to the role he played in ending the Kargil war, indicating that he is eager to get the neighbours to resume their dialogue stalled since the conflict.

Clinton then had called up Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and apprised him on his talks with Nawaz Sharif.

On Saturday, Clinton will carry a message of “hard realities” for Pakistan’s military ruler, said White House national security adviser Sandy Berger. He will tell Musharraf his is “a country that is in trouble” and that continuing to confront his nuclear neighbour in Kashmir could bankrupt his government, Berger suggested.    

Mumbai, March 24 
If Delhi stayed behind barricades, Mumbai spilled into the streets.

As his cavalcade swept along the 30-km route from the airport to the financial district, Bill Clinton saw a buoyant city where flag-waving hordes had lined up the sidewalks to welcome him.

Despite the heavy police bandobast, Mumbaikers scaled the last point from where they could barely have a fleeting glimpse of at least the motorcade of the most powerful man on earth.

The President, too, was in his elements. As he had fused with the crowd in Rajasthan, he responded to Mumbai’s warmth. At Worli, Central Mumbai, he threw his security cordon off gear when he got off his bullet-proof limousine to shake hands with two dozen blind students who had clustered outside their school.

“Do you like your school. Do you get meals? Do you attend classes regularly?” he asked them.

Charmed by the pictures she saw in the papers of Clinton dancing with rural belles in Rajasthan, Pinky Deshmukh, who was waiting for her train at the VT station, gushed: “Wish I was there too. This man has compassion. My impression of America and about him has changed.”

All the earlier apprehensions that Clinton would leave before having a feel of the city outside his hotel were laid to rest.

Before he entered the Café Royal hotel at Colaba for a meeting with young Indian entrepreneurs, Clinton waved to the crowds, chock-a-block in the distance.

Even the hawkers seemed to have caught the Clinton fever, offering their tables and stools for the crowd to stand on for a better view. For a price, of course.

Though quite a few jumped at the offer, nothing much could be seen of the big man as he remained inside Café Royal.

Clinton’s next stop was the Philips antique store where he bought a silver match box and snuff case.

It wasn’t all harmony though. Just before Clinton reached Café Royal, hundreds of Leftist protesters, who were on dharna at Flora Fountain, were canecharged and beaten up by the Maharashtra police for violating probihitory orders. The protesters, mainly from the CPM and the CPI, also burnt the American flag.

K.L. Bajaj, a CPM state committee member said: “Sunil Dutt (Congress MP) staged a protest in the same area over the Kashmir killings. He was allowed, but we were beaten up. We are behaving like servile servants before the American President.”

But if India’s financial capital held up before Clinton its glossy side, the President also saw a bit of its grimy underbelly. On his way from the airport, Clinton asked an aide: “How many slums does Mumbai have?”

The President’s last stop for the day, Hotel Oberoi Towers, had been decked up like a bride. When Clinton reached, an all-woman team, attired in the new naurangi, nine-yard Maharashtrian saris, welcomed him with an arti. In fact, the hotel staff, especially those who would have access to Clinton, had been asked to brush up their accents and appearances. Men were even asked to have hair cuts.

The Kohinoor suite, where Clinton spent the night, has seven rooms with a separate entrance for the butler. With taxes, it costs Rs 94,000 a night.    

Lucknow, March 24 
Even as India Inc. rolled out the red carpet for Bill Clinton today, RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan renewed his call for a rollback of liberalisation, accusing the West of “preying on the weaknesses of the third world”.

Addressing swayamsevaks here, Sudarshan said the RSS would develop a module of socio-economic development that would have swadeshi at its core.

He claimed it was a victory for India that “Clinton had to bow down before a so-called third world nation and extend a hand of friendship, that too on an equal footing.”

If Sudarshan had seen parliamentarians, including those from the BJP, fall all over each other to shake hands with the President on Wednesday, he did not betray any signs.

Maintaining that India’s nuclear experiment was an eye-opener to the world, Sudarshan said only a strong sense of Hindutva could save the nation from disintegrating further.

He devoted a substantial portion of his speech to denounce communism.

“Buddhadev Bhattacharya says in Darjeeling that Sangh is a unit of lumpens but who is he to make such foolish statements? Did Buddhadev and his ilk ever fight the British? Deshdrohi log hum ko kya deshbhakti ka path padha rahen hain? Does he realise that his party holds Russia as its father and takes inspiration from China? he asked.    

Mumbai, March 24 
When President Bill Clinton met the Magnificent Seven, faces of the so-called New India, he was in no hurry to wind up.

The rendezvous at Cafe Royal, a restaurant set up in 1919, took place on schedule at 5.30 pm and lasted an unexpected one-and-a-half hours.

After his brush with rural Rajasthan, Clinton saw the face of the emerging India in Kalanidhi Maran, the man behind South-based Sun TV, Sanjana Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor’s actress daughter who manages the family’s Prithvi Theatre, journalist Jarjum Ete, the driving force behind Arunachal Pradesh’s women’s welfare movement, Mirai Chatterjee of Self-Employed Women’s Association (Sewa), an NGO which has over 2.20 lakh members, Chetan Chitnis, involved in malaria eradication, Swati Piramal, scientific adviser to pharmaceuticals giant Nicholas Laboratories, and Nandan Nilekani, managing director of Infosys Technologies, the country’s leading infotech company whose shares are listed on Nasdaq.

In a minority, the men were formally dressed in suits. Sanjana, Mirai and Swati looked elegant in silk sarees, but Jarjum, in a sarong, grabbed all the attention.

“The President listened attentively and also probed us occasionally to clear his doubts,” said Swati later. Clinton was seated at the head of the table, with Chelsea on his left, and the seven delegates were on either side of the table.

Maran said the President drove home the commonalities between the two countries. He spoke of sharing of technology and admired India’s capabilities in knowledge-based sectors.

Mirai added that the President expressed deep interest in the chosen sphere of work of each of the seven delegates. “He was impressed by the work done by Sewa,” Mirai said.

Jarjum said Clinton was excited by the work done to empower women through co-operatives and other social organisations. The reticent Sanjana giggled: “I talked about Indian theatre with him.”

After the meeting, the seven walked across to Leopold Cafe, the city’s famous night spot, to party till late in the night, leaving Farzad Farhang, who owns Cafe Royal, to savour the taste of serving Clinton, though the President sipped only coffee and soft drinks. “I’m on the moon and I feel like Neil Armstrong,” declared Farzad, whose family also owns Leopold.

They were informed about the visit about a fortnight ago. Farzad surmised Cafe Royal was picked possibly because US consular corps in the city are regular visitors. Farzad’s nieces, Simran and Natasha, garlanded Clinton at the doorstep and handed over a bouquet to Chelsea.

Cafe Royal will not miss the opportunity to hardsell its restaurant. “We have got his autograph on our menu card and you will shortly find it gracing each table.”    

New Delhi, March 24 
The Delhi High Court today issued notices to writer Sunil Gangopadhyay and three others on a damages suit filed by Water director Deepa Mehta.

The filmmaker had sought damages for defamation and a public apology from the writer for accusing her of “lifting” the film’s script from his novel Shei Shomoy.

Gangopadhyay has said he expected Mehta to go-ahead with the shooting after she has “deleted” the controversial passages from the script.

Justice S.K. Mahajan, also issued notices to a local school principal Aruna Chakaravarti, who translated Shei Shomoy into English under the title Those Days.

Publisher Badal Basu and the reporter of The Pioneer were also issued notices. The daily had reported Gangopadhyay’s version, accusing Mehta of “lifting dialogues and scenes from the novel Shei Shomoy”.

Justice Mahajan directed all the respondents to file replies by April 6, the next date of hearing.

Mehta, in her suit, said the script of Water was her original and the charges of plagiarism and violation of copyrights were concocted.

Mehta said the allegations appeared in the media for the first time on March 10 after her meeting with Gangopadhyay in Calcutta the previous day. “In fact Gangopadhyay acquired knowledge of the film after he met me,” Mehta claimed.

Seeking injunction for decree against the defendants and cost of the suit, Mehta said her reputation was damaged by the allegations and all of them, including the publisher, author and the translator, should tender an apology by publishing it in all leading newspapers.    


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