Rao role model for Sonia survival strategies
RSS counters church ‘plot’ with missive
Focus shifts to Punjab rebels
Delhi doubts Pervez promise
Groggy Gupta wakes up to revolt reality
Bihar transfer flurry after massacre
Yoga lessons to cleanse students

 
 
RAO ROLE MODEL FOR SONIA SURVIVAL STRATEGIES 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, May 14: 
The Congress may have dumped Nara-simha Rao but party chief Sonia Gandhi is taking a leaf out of his survival manual which said: “Inaction is an action in itself.”

Faced with organisational teething trouble, faction feud and unable to satisfy power-hungry partymen, Sonia is following closely in the footsteps of the man who was first hailed by Congressmen as Chanakya and then forgotten as if he was never there. But today, Sonia and her crisis-managers are discovering great merit in Rao’s focus on masterly inaction, inertia, allowing dissidents to go full throttle and then tiring them out.

State units in West Bengal, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa have raised the banner of revolt against the high command, but Sonia has instructed Central party leaders not to intervene or crack the whip too hard.

Those who wanted a U-turn on economic reforms, modelled on Manmohanomics, were first told that a panel would be set up to take a critical view on reforms. But months have passed and Sonia is in no mood to name the panel.

As delaying tactics, Pranab Mukherjee and Madhavrao Scindia have been asked to scout for suitable panel members. But as long as Parliament is in session, the panel is unlikely to be constituted.

Similarly, when the heat was on the nuclear issue, Sonia directed the Congress’ foreign affairs department to hold brain-storming sessions on CTBT and the minimum nuclear deterrent with experts like J.N. Dixit, Kanti Bajpai, Amitabh Mattoo and others. The paper, which was to have been placed before the CWC last week, is yet to be discussed.

In Bengal, the war of words among various factions has reached a point of no return. But Sonia is in no mood to side either with Priya Ranjan Das Munshi or A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury. A Congress panel, which was to visit Calcutta to probe the defeat of the party nominee in the Rajya Sabha poll, has been asked not to go as the step may precipitate the crisis.

Since the crushing defeat of the party in the Lok Sabha polls, organisational polls have been deferred thrice. The Congress Parliamentary Party polls have also not been held though three sessions have passed.

Sonia’s managers defend inaction and inertia, claiming that it helped her and the party survive many upheavals. “As head of the Congress, Sonia has no inclination to throw out party leaders or pit one against another. If she had acted swiftly in Bengal, Delhi, Orissa or Uttar Pradesh, there would have been splits or more bad blood. Inaction has indeed helped cool tempers,” a party functionary said.

   


 
 
RSS COUNTERS CHURCH ‘PLOT’ WITH MISSIVE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, May 14: 
In its latest anti-church outburst, the RSS has sent a letter to all MPs, urging them not to fall prey to the “machinations” of the Christian clergy.

The RSS missive shot off by its intellectual wing, the Prajna Prabha, urges MPs to be wary of the “exaggerated and falsified” accounts of Christian-bashing being spread to malign Sangh parivar outfits.

The campaign follows two incidents. A church was ransacked in Indore on Friday; and a young man training to be a Jesuit priest was stabbed by suspected Hindu fundamentalists near Bangalore. Both assaults came in quick succession after the alleged atrocities on Christians in Agra and Mathura.

The Agra and Mathura attacks are expected to be raised in Parliament tomorrow. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), probing the Agra incident, had given a clean chit to the RSS organisations but Christian missionaries did not accept the commission’s findings.

Even Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has stood solidly behind the RSS on the Christian-bashing issue. A week ago he reproached Archbishop Alan de Lastic, president of the United Christian Forum for Human Rights, for not accepting the verdict of the NHRC and questioning the integrity of the institution. Vajpayee, however, moderated his stand by reassuring de Lastic that he would not tolerate such incidents of attack on a minority community under any circumstances.

The Prajna Prabha insists that church leaders should “verify the facts” before going public. The open letter signed by Rajendra Chaddha, joint-coordinator of the outfit, claims to have exposed the “real intentions” of the church in the letter and said there was a systematic attempt “to make an issue of incidents that had not happened at all”.

Chaddha’s logic appears to follow the strategy being pursued by the RSS since the first Dangs incidents of Gujarat where a number of small churches for tribals were damaged by fundamentalist groups. Even then the RSS had said “minor incidents were being blown out of proportion”.

The Prajna Prabha does not only highlight the falsified incidents, but goes a step further and takes up the line of argument expounded by VHP leader Praveen Togadia. Like Togadia, he quotes extensively from church publications to suggest that missionaries were only interested in mass conversions. Last Friday, a private member’s Bill introduced by a BJP MP for discussion was on “largescale conversion to Christianity”.

Recently, cutting across non-BJP party lines, a group of parliamentarians have formed the Christian MPs’ Forum to take up issues that have a direct bearing on the lives of members of their community.

The forum is identifying issues and incidents to highlight in Parliament. The RSS open letter seems a ploy to debunk this new group’s efforts to raise Christian-bashing in Parliament. The forum claims that a lot of anti-Christian literature is circulating in the countryside against the community.    


 
 
FOCUS SHIFTS TO PUNJAB REBELS 
 
 
FROM FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, May 14: 
After releasing quite a few senior and second-ranking Hurriyat leaders to pave the way for talks with Kashmiri separatists, the Centre is thinking of extending a similar reprieve to Punjab militants who have been languishing in different jails for a long time.

Home minister L.K. Advani told reporters in Nashik today that the government was contemplating the release of these militants — though not for negotiations, since the movement for Khalistan had fizzled out several years ago. It is their rehabilitation which the Centre will have to think about.

“I have asked officials of my ministry to prepare a list of those who were detained in Punjab under the National Security Act and Tada. If leaders of the Hurriyat can be released, why not these persons?” Advani asked.

Home ministry officials said there would be a review of individual cases and the nature of charges pending against the militants — most of whom are being held either under Tada or the National Security Act — before they are set free. The ministry would then prepare a list of those who could be released without any danger to national security.

Those accused of crimes like murder or serial killings would obviously not come under this general amnesty. Advani, in fact, made it clear that the release would be decided on a “case-by-case” basis.

Although militancy in Punjab has largely petered out, groups like the Khalistan Zindabad Force are still active in both Jammu and Punjab.

Last year, an explosion on a train was triggered by a pro-Khalistani faction, while a large quantity of RDX was seized from members of another. Pro-Khalistan militants were also believed to be behind two bomb blasts in Delhi two years ago.

The Centre knows that most training camps for Khalistanis in Pakistan have been dismantled. The few that are still active no longer pose the kind of threat which they did even six years ago.

However, a few web-sites run by pro-Khalistani elements in Canada and the US continue to run anti-India statements and still campaign for a separate Khalistan.

But the government feels that these are exceptions and the movement has lost contact with ground realities in Punjab. In fact, according to government sources, the militants who remain committed are more criminal in nature and have lost their ideological roots.

Under these circumstances, home ministry officials said, the gesture of releasing these militants would be a popular decision. It might even help the Akali Dal government in Punjab to regain some lost ground.    


 
 
DELHI DOUBTS PERVEZ PROMISE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, May 14: 
India is refusing to buy the argument that Pakistan will deport mercenaries fighting for the Kashmir cause under pressure from the West.

A report published in Friday Times, a weekly edited by renowned Pakistani journalist Najam Sethi, has highlighted the possibility of the Pervez Musharraf administration deporting foreign militants functioning from the country.

India doubts whether such a move will be made by Pakistan at all. Highly-placed government sources here said with the onset of summer, the annual flow of infiltrators has begun. The Indian border posts in Jammu and Kashmir are on high alert, aware that efforts will be made by Pakistani regulars to give cover to infiltrators. Even today, an attempt by infiltrators to cross over was foiled in Jammu.

The Pakistani media report, according to PTI, said not just mounting international pressure, but threats of increase in sectarian violence were worrying the Musharraf government and pushing it to consider a step in this direction. Quoting official sources, the weekly said most Arab and African countries, including Egypt and Algeria, had agreed to take back thousands of their nationals who had arrived in Pakistan during and after the Afghan war.

Pakistan-watchers in the government, who have serious misgivings about such a decision being taken and implemented, said there was little possibility of fundamentalist fringe groups, especially those actively supporting the jihad in Kashmir, agreeing to such a move.

The mercenaries, who stayed on in Pakistan and received expensive military training, are too entrenched in the country and have an extensive support base. Besides, they do not act on their own. They are attached to different militant groups, like the Lashkar-e-Toiba or Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, and even take orders from their principal backers — the Pakistan military establishment.

Militarily, too, the Pakistani administration, experts say, stands to lose heavily by deporting these mercenaries. They are committed fundamentalists — even willing to volunteer for suicide missions that have troubled Indian security outposts over the past year, especially since the abrupt end to the Kargil conflict in July last year. They serve the purpose of depleting Indian ranks and waging war on behalf of Kashmiri separatists.

Backing its argument, the weekly quoted disenchanted foreign militants as saying that after serving the cause of jihad for so many years, they were now being branded “criminals”. Quoting official estimates, Friday Times said there were about 10,000 foreign Islamic militants in Karachi alone.

Indian sources said some militants left voluntarily in the early nineties not because of any step taken by the Pakistani administration, but because the Afghan war was over and they had no reason to stay on. At the time, mercenaries had not taken over control of the war that was being waged in Kashmir.    


 
 
GROGGY GUPTA WAKES UP TO REVOLT REALITY 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Lucknow, May 14: 
After keeping his eyes wide shut through most recent controversies that have shaken his faction-ridden government, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Ram Prakash Gupta has finally woken up to the reality of an imminent “CM hatao” revolt.

He has called an urgent legislature party meeting tomorrow to “thrash out differences and problems within the party”. The developments have also forced the concluding day of the budget session of the state legislature — scheduled to go on till May 26 — to be brought forward to May 17.

Trouble erupted on Saturday, when around 65 ministers and legislators from the ruling party “gheraoed” the chief minister in the Vidhan Sabha lobby and questioned his “non-existent grip over the administration, his lackadaisical performance and style of functioning”. They also expressed “doubts” over his competence.

The legislators are peeved with the “incessant misbehaviour” of the bureaucrats. They complained that Gupta was doing nothing to “contain the bureaucracy” and said if he was too weak to take action against his officers, he should quit.

“With you at the helm, not one BJP legislator will get re-elected,” shouted Ganga Chauhan, an MLA. Another legislator, Yashpal Singh, screamed: “There has never been a more useless group of officers attached to the chief minister.”

Although he diffused the situation by hearing them out individually, Gupta later hit back at the rebels. “I might be simple, but I am not ineffective,” he said. “I will soon make it clear that I am here to stay.”

He warned them of stern disciplinary action and made it clear that he had the backing of party chief Kushabhau Thakre, who had assured him “full support”.

But the legislators are an angry lot. They have slammed the administration as “non-conforming” and have sought punishment transfers of no less than 25 senior officials.

Several ministers and MLAs want Gorakhpur district magistrate Rajan Shukla to be removed immediately. Shukla is alleged to have “arranged” for some schoolgirls to dance before his guests last week and the legislators have demanded a high-level probe into the incident.

Among the others who they want out are Sandeep Bansal, a close aide of Gupta, the principal secretary (home), the director-general of police, the DIG (Allahabad), the PAC commandant (Aligarh), the housing commissioner of Kanpur, the SP, Hathras, and the district magistrates of Kanpur, Fatehpur, Hathras and Ferozabad. Chabbu Patel, BJP MLA from Varanasi, even threatened to resign if the Fatehpur SP was not immediately replaced.

Gupta retaliated, saying “transfer postings cannot be carried out under political pressure”. The officials must be given the opportunity to defend themselves, he said.

As postures hardened on either side, the MLAs stepped up their demand for Gupta’s removal, saying they “preferred the dissolution of the Vidhan Sabha” rather than work under a “weak chief minister”. They have even threatened to go to Delhi after the Legislature Party meeting and apprise the high command of the “worsening situation in Uttar Pradesh”.

What has compounded Gupta’s problems is the blatant show of support shown by some senior ministers of the Loktantrik Congress Party, an important ally of the BJP, to the dissidents.

But the embattled chief minister, known for his ability to stay unruffled in crisis, is stoic: Asked about the threat to his chair, he said: “There have been many who have wanted my head since my first day in office. But I am still around, am I not?”

   


 
 
BIHAR TRANSFER FLURRY AFTER MASSACRE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, May 14: 
Caught on the backfoot after the Lakhisarai killings, the Rabri Devi government swung into action today, transferring several key officials even as the Opposition raised the pitch for imposition of Central rule in the state.

Lakhisarai district magistrate Sharukh Majid and superintendent of police Avinash Kumar were issued marching orders. The deputy superintendent of police, an inspector and a sub-inspector were also shunted to insignificant departments.

State home commissioner U.N. Panjiyay said the transferred officials were issued showcause notices because they did not take action despite knowing about the illegal sandmining operations in which two rival gangster-cum-contractors were involved.

Lakhisarai police arrested eight persons, including Hareram Yadav, cousin of RJD Suryagara MLA Prahlad Yadav. The number of people named accused in the FIR has gone up to 42.

National Democratic Alliance leaders who visited the massacre site were not impressed by the flurry of administrative action.

Former chief minister Nitish Kumar and Union communications minister Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters at Lakhisarai that the fact that the police had included the MLA’s brother among the prime accused corroborated their suspicion that the killing was the handiwork of a mafia sponsored by the ruling party. “The chief minister should step down and pave the way for the imposition of President’s rule,” Paswan said.

A BJP probe team which toured the area said that of the 42 named in the FIR, five were relatives of the Suryagara MLA.    


 
 
YOGA LESSONS TO CLEANSE STUDENTS 
 
 
FROM MONOBINA GUPTA
 
New Delhi, May 14: 
The academic staff of the National Council for Education Research and Training, one of the country’s premier educational institutions, are trying to reach the lofty heights of transcendental meditation.

Their aim is equally “lofty”: to change their lifestyle as well as that of their students through a seven-day crash course in yoga, meditation and lectures, all of which are supposed to cleanse “materialistic” souls.

Human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi and NCERT director J.S. Rajput want to add a new dimension to education by injecting a heavy dose of “values” into the school curriculum. Both have been ruing the state of “value-less” education.

The correction process has begun with NCERT’s faculty members, though not all are pleased with the training programme. “You cannot make this a part of an educational programme,” says a critic.

Rajput had asked all NCERT regional centres to depute at least one academic to attend the “training” at the Adhyatma Sadhna Kendra, a branch of the Jain Vishwa Bharati University in Rajasthan. Billed as an introduction to the “science of living”, the training is supposed to hone “physical”, “mental” and “emotional” skills of the teachers.

“Earlier, there were joint families. Kids were trained to make adjustments, be tolerant. Now they are selfish, egotist, ready to fly off the handle,” says Muni Kishan Lal, professor of meditation at the Sadhna Kendra. He explains how the one-week training will help the staff cope better with stress.

At the expansive ashram of the Sadhna Kendra, about 40 academics sat on the ground and watched a lecture demonstration on how to relax. A young instructor standing on a table demonstrated the right posture of sitting.

His guru, Kishan Lal, has a thesis to offer on Preksha meditation. “It can make a lot of difference. The first thing is how to sit straight in a class. Your spinal chord must be straight. Then slow and long breathing will help control your anger,” he says. On va-lue education, Lal says: “Look at the impact a single serial like Ramayana had on the nation. It ch-anged the mindset of the people.”

The camp also aims to achieve what Ramayana did: change children’s value orientation, temper violence and aggression with yoga. “India has some culture, some ideals. Kids must understand that what they are fed through television is just abhinaya (acting),” says Lal.

The disciples were told to shun “useless talk”. “We talk about how film heroines are becoming more and more scantily clad. This is useless talk,” an instructor said.

The camp had a rigorous schedule in which each day began at 5 am and ended at 10 pm. This is the normal routine for ascetics in any ashram, but for the NCERT staff, it is not.

Before putting his colleagues on the programme, the NCERT director tried it out and was greatly impressed with the results.

. “He was very keen on knowing how to go about inculcating values in the new generation and I suggested the camp,” said Kishan Lal.

   

 

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