Women put Naidu through flashlight trial
Uma plays hide and seek with police
No SC directive on common law
Minister quits after warrant
Pistols found on peace bus from Lahore
Cong in cross-vote dilemma

 
 
WOMEN PUT NAIDU THROUGH FLASHLIGHT TRIAL 
 
 
FROM G.S. RADHAKRISHNA
 
Hyderabad, May 6: 
After sharing the spotlight with Bill Clinton, Chandrababu Naidu is now finding the glare of the torchlight too hot to bear. If the Telugu Desam chief reaped the advantage of women power in stealing a march over the Congress, he is now getting a taste of their wrath. In village after deprived village in Krishna and Nellore districts, women came out by the droves and asked Naidu to explain why their lives continued to be miserable despite his promises of instant prosperity.

Bhagiratamma, the hardship of 50 summers showing on her frail face, accosted the chief minister and focused a torch on his face. “This,” an indignant Bhagiratamma said, pointing to the torch, “is what is keeping us going for the past month.”

Like the old lady, the other residents of Motachintalapalyam village in Nellore have been without electricity for a month, the searing heat and lack of water compounding their torment.

An irritated chief minister suspended the assistant power engineer concerned but that did not satisfy the women. “Our problems will not be solved,” they said.

A hapless Naidu pleaded with the women to be patient as he could not set everything right. “I’m aware of all the assurances I made but nobody can achieve all at once,” he said.

This is precisely what is bugging the women of these two districts, whose overwhelming support had catapulted the Telugu Desam to power in 1992.

The Desam leader’s attempts to win over middle-class women during the recent municipal polls had backfired, setting off alarm bells in the ruling party. If the trend continues in the rural areas, it could spell trouble for Naidu during the coming panchayati raj elections .

Belying Naidu’s claims, the Desam’s support among the state’s women has actually gone down, from 32 per cent in 1993 to 23 per cent in 1999. During the civic polls, the figure touched an all-time low of 20.5 per cent.

Naidu, who was on a tour of the two districts to oversee the janmabhoomi programmes, was pilloried almost everywhere he went. None of the villagers had the patience to sit through his discourses on the infotech revolution sweeping Andhra and how the “anti-people” government in Delhi had forced him to raise foodgrain prices.

The villagers, instead, sought an explanation as to why the government was taking so long to implement the janmabhoomi schemes which are, in some cases, almost two years behind schedule.

The delays, coupled with the severe drought in the Rayalseema and Telengana regions, have been too much for the Desam to handle, with harassed villagers venting their anger on hapless party workers and district officials.

In Gangapuram village of Mahboobnagar district, where five farmers committed suicide following crop failure, the villagers made officials — even a 55-year-old man was not spared — walk for 10 km to fetch drinking water.

Naidu has been trying to deflect the criticism to the Vajpayee government. But even that isn’t working.

At a village near Motachintalapalyam, a youth, exasperated by Naidu’s blame-the-Centre refrain, went up to the chief minister and asked: “If you are so unhappy with the Vajpayee government, why don’t you get out of the alliance?”

Naidu was stumped for an answer.    


 
 
UMA PLAYS HIDE AND SEEK WITH POLICE 
 
 
FROM SUCHANDANA GUPTA
 
Bhopal, May 6: 
It’s time for high-drama before the climax. Fearing arrest, BJP’s saffron leader Uma Bharti who has been on hungerstrike for six days, went underground on Friday night.

She resurfaced nine hours later at the state BJP headquarters to spit wrath at chief minister Digvijay Singh for exactly 20 minutes before disappearing again. She is expected to reappear 24 hours later at a park here.

Uma is protesting against the retrenchment of 30,000 temporary workers.

Singh is returning to the city tonight after a seven-day absence when he was touring the districts with government officials. With the chief minister’s arrival less than 24 hours away, the stage was set from late last night for Uma’s disappearing act.

A police contingent reached Bharti’s dharna site a little before 3 am today. They ransacked the place, used their batons frequently, lifted every bit of furniture, overturned air-coolers and even checked behind curtains, just to make sure the lady wasn’t hiding there. But she was gone.

More than 250 of her supporters, retrenched workers and rebel Congress MLA, Kalpana Parulekar, who has been asked by the high-command to show cause why she has joined Bharti’s protest, courted arrest and were whisked away in police vans. The place was cleared of all tents, shamianas, food packets, posters and banners.

For the rest of the morning, the police were only biting their tongue. Not only had they lost the lady they had been sent to arrest, they found that six policemen, posted as her bodyguards, had gone into hiding along with her.

She appeared for a press conference at 11.15 am on Saturday at the BJP state headquarters. Dressed in a white salwar kameez with a green dupatta, she explained: “This is to keep the police away. Like this, they would think I am Shakila Bano rather than Uma Bharti.”

Bharti refused to divulge when and how she disappeared amidst Z category police security.

“They came to arrest me so I went underground,” Bharti said. “I was not scared of arrest or going to jail specially since the new jail in Bhopal looks after its inmates well. I wish I could be in that jail for a few days, reading books and relaxing. But right now I cannot afford to go there because I do not want to break my fast,” Uma said.

“I have not broken my hungerstrike. What food or fruits, I have not even put a pinch of salt or sugar in my mouth since May 1. And if the Digvijay government wants to take a medical test on me to that effect, I am ready.”

Before she was whisked off in a car, she said she would meet the press again at 11 am tomorrow and relaunch her agitation. This time the venue has been fixed at a public park in the centre of the city.

“I will come. Mujhe zameen pharke bhi nikalna hoga to bhi main aayoongi,” she promised.    


 
 
NO SC DIRECTIVE ON COMMON LAW 
 
 
FROM OUR LEGAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, May 6: 
The Supreme Court has clarified that no mandatory directive was issued along with a bigamy case verdict in 1995 to the Union government to enact a uniform civil code

A division bench of Justice S. Saghir Ahmad and Justice R.P. Sethi said the 1995 verdict had only ruled that a Hindu would face charges of bigamy if he embraced Islam just to abandon his wife and marry another woman.

The clarification came on a batch of nine petitions, including that of the Jamiat-Ulema Hind and Karim Ghazi alias G.E. Ghosh of Calcutta. The original petitioner was Sarla Mudgal, who is dead. The apex court refused to review the 1995 ruling and said: “This court in Sarla Mudgal’s case had not issued any directive for enactment of a common civil code.”

The 1995 judgment, delivered by Justice Kuldip Singh, had said: “The second marriage of a Hindu husband after conversion to Islam, without having his first marriage dissolved under law, would be invalid. The second marriage would be void in terms of the provisions of Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code and the husband would be guilty of offence under Section 494 (providing punishment for bigamy).”

Justice Singh had then observed that under Article 44 of the Constitution, “the state shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”. But he lamented that no such “endeavour” was made .

The expression “shall” in the Article mandates the state to enact the common civil code and the judgment was sought to be reviewed and clarified.

Since it was the observation of Justice Singh, the current division bench said the nine petitions were “misconceived and bereft of any substance”.

However, it reiterated that the law declared in Sarla Mudgal’s case would apply to persons who have solemnised marriages in violation of the mandate of law prior to the 1995 judgment.

“A person who mockingly adopts another religion where plurality of marriage is permitted to renounce the previous marriage and desert the wife, cannot be permitted to take advantage of his exploitation as religion is not a commodity to be exploited,” Justice Ahmad said.

On the other hand, Justice Sethi rejected an argument that the second marriage by a “converted male Muslim has been made an offence only by judicial pronouncement.”

Justice Sethi said the review petition alleging violation of Article 20 (no person shall be convicted for any offence unless specified in law) of the Constitution was without any substance and was liable to be dismissed.

   


 
 
MINISTER QUITS AFTER WARRANT 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, May 6: 
Jayprakash Yadav, the Bihar minister charged in the fake colleges scam, has resigned. He is likely to surrender — Laloo Yadav-Rabri Devi style — before the Special Vigilance Court here on Monday, after the court today issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against him.

Following an appeal from the vigilance department, special judge S.P. Ray today issued the warrant, returnable within a week. The court said the allegations against the minister were serious and he should be promptly arrested.

This is the second arrest warrant issued against an education minister in the Rabri Devi Cabinet. Jayprakash, currently small irrigation minister, held the education portfolio in the previous Rabri Devi government. The first warrant was issued last year against Jiten Ram Majhi, who was Jayprakash’s deputy.

Jayprakash went into hiding on Thursday. The police are yet to trace him. However, under pressure from the RJD high command, he has decided to surrender before the court the same way Laloo and Rabri Devi had surrendered after being booked in the disproportionate assets case in April.

Jayprakash, though, is unlikely to get bail as the vigilance department has collected incriminating evidence against him in the multi-crore education scam. Besides, hearing a bail petition from Majhi last year, Patna High Court had observed: “The Cabinet minister (Jayprakash) laid the foundation of forgery by passing the order giving recognition to the college (a fake B Ed institution).” The high court had turned down Majhi’s appeal.

The vigilance court has also issued arrest warrants against four IAS officers who had been attached to the education department when the irregularities were allegedly committed.

The vigilance department has also found that all the fake colleges had been registered as minority institutions.

Rabri nomination

Rabri Devi will file her nomination papers for the by-election to the Raghopur Assembly seat on May 8 where election is scheduled for May 26. Laloo Yadav vacated the seat to retain Danapur, adds UNI.    


 
 
PISTOLS FOUND ON PEACE BUS FROM LAHORE 
 
 
FROM GAJINDER SINGH
 
Wagah, May 6: 
A resident of Delhi in her sixties and her son were arrested for trying to smuggle two pistols concealed in a water cooler on the bus from Lahore at the Wagah-Attari checkpost by Indian customs officials today.

Customs officials at Amritsar said Mirza Kamar Abbas and Haidari Begum had boarded the bus at Lahore.

This is the first reported case of smuggling on the Delhi Transport Corporation bus. This is the bus in which Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee undertook a trip across the border in February.

There was a cloud over the continuation of the Samjhauta Express after the detection of narcotics, fake currency and RDX concealed in compartments.

Customs additional commissioner M.S. Arora said the seized arms were concealed in the false bottom of the water cooler, filled with raisins. The weapons were wrapped in carbon paper and the false bottom filled with grease, he said. X-ray machines had failed to detect the contraband, adds UNI

“The pistols were very well concealed and it was the customs sweeper, who found it unusual for passengers to carry a water cooler from Pakistan, who detected the weapons,” an official said.

Interrogation of the two passengers revealed that they were given Rs 2,000 to carry the water cooler to Delhi. “They were told that someone in Delhi would collect the cooler from them. The person who met them at Lahore also said that many passengers had been carrying his goods to Delhi earlier and there had been no problems,” the official added.

Punjab Police, which had asked the Centre to warn Pakistan it would discontinue the train if smuggling of arms and ammunition into India did not stop, are likely to ask the home ministry to send a strong signal again.

“We thought carrying pistols would be difficult in the bus. What is unnerving is that the pistols were recovered from a Delhi Tourism bus and not Pakistan Tourism bus,” a senior officer said.    


 
 
CONG IN CROSS-VOTE DILEMMA 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, May 6: 
The Congress’ plan to send a team to Calcutta to probe the cross-voting in the Rajya Sabha polls is proving to be a non-starter. Team members R.K. Dhawan, Kamal Nath and Vayalar Ravi have been directed by the AICC general secretary Prabha Rau not to visit Calcutta without getting her clearance.

Two weeks have passed since the high commandannounced the probe panel to inquire into the shock defeat of D.P. Roy but Dhawan and others have not been given any brief by the AICC. A member of the committee said: “We do not know what is the purpose of our mission. Are we supposed to raise or settle the dust?”

Senior party leaders said political compulsions have tied the high command’s hands. Since the high command and the state unit chief already have differences over fielding a candidate for the Panskura Lok Sabha byelections, Sonia Gandhi does not want to precipitate the crisis. Sending the team would be seen as a snub to Ghani Khan Chowdhury. Sonia is planning to put up a candidate in Panskura, while Chowdhary wants to leave the field open for the Trinamul Congress.    

 

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