Rights panel for Christian attacks report
Swu smells Delhi arrest plot
BJP for image makeover in heartland
UP police force up in arms
Lawyers’ protest hits judges
Flood threat in North Bengal
Guernica resurrected in Bihar killing field

 
 
RIGHTS PANEL FOR CHRISTIAN ATTACKS REPORT 
 
 
FROM R. VENKATARAMAN
 
New Delhi, June 22 
In a major order, the National Human Rights Commission today told the Centre and all state governments to file reports on attacks against Christians.

The reports are to be filed within two weeks. “In view of several incidents of attacks on the Christian community and their institutions in the recent past, the NHRC issues notices to the chief secretaries of all states and Union Territories as well as to the ministry of home affairs, Government of India, calling for reports within two weeks on the measures already taken in this behalf and the plan of action drawn up by them to meet the situation,” the order said.

The commission has already taken suo motu cognizance of several incidents where “some persons professing the Christian faith have been assaulted and even killed in different parts of the country”, it said.

In an unprecedented order in the case of the custodial death of Vijay Kumar Ekka, witness to the murder of Brother George Kunjikundam, the commission ordered that the post-mortem on Ekka’s body be videotaped.

“An eyewitness to the murder of the Catholic cleric in Mathura, Ekka reportedly died in police custody under mysterious circumstances,” the commission noted. “A team from the NHRC’s investigation wing has already reached Mathura for an on-the-spot inquiry regarding the killings (of Kunjikundam and Ekka).”

The NHRC order “urging them (governments) to accord top priority” to the report on attacks against Christians pointed out “it is necessary to preserve the secular credentials of the nation and to fulfil the promise of fraternity and common brotherhood envisaged in our Constitution”.

“The commission’s decision is based on the need to...inspire requisite confidence amongst people of the Christian community who appear to be feeling insecure at this time,” the rights panel said.

“The commission proposes to make an in-depth scrutiny of the situation, not merely by inquiring into the violation of human rights of a section of people...but also to explore the avenues necessary for the prevention of any such violations in future and to ensure that there is no neglect on the part of the public authorities concerned in the performance of their duties in this behalf,” the order said.

Archbishop‘s funeral

The body of archbishop Alan de Lastic, who died of shock at Krakow after his car met with an accident, will be flown in here on Saturday evening from Poland.

“The Polish priests want to have a prayer march tomorrow before the body is flown to India. The body will reach here on Saturday evening,” John Dayal, an aide of the departed religious leader said.

The body will be kept at the Sacred Heart cathedral for a couple of days and the funeral will take place on June 27, he said. Besides various Christian leaders, the funeral is expected to be attended by the relatives of the late archbishop who are presently in Australia and England, Dayal said.

The archbishop apparently died of shock after his car swerved to save a cyclist, who was also killed.    


 
 
SWU SMELLS DELHI ARREST PLOT 
 
 
FROM ANIRBAN ROY
 
Shillong, June 22 
National Socialist Council of Naglim (NSCN) chairman Isak Chisi Swu alleged that the Centre had tipped the Thai government about the outfit’s general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah’s movements.

In an exclusive interview to The Telegraph, Swu said the “disunity”’ between policy makers at the Prime Ministers’ Office and the Union home ministry was the “root cause of delay” in the peace process. The NSCN chief said “frequent changes in government” and “political instability” in New Delhi were the major stumbling blocks.

Reacting to Muivah’s arrest for the first time, Swu said the NSCN leadership has rejected Centre’s offer to help free the insurgent leader from a Thai prison.

“We were forced to reject the offer as the Centre demanded that Muivah acknowledge himself as an Indian citizen,’’ Swu said.

The NSCN chairman rued that the government should have not laid such an “unacceptable precondition’’ for Muivah’s release as “he would rather prefer death to such a shameful surrender.”

The NSCN general secretary has already been sentenced to a year’s imprisonment by a Songkhla court in Thailand for trying to leave the country on “forged travel documents.’’ He is also being tried at a Bangkok court for entering the country on false passport.

Swu said since the peace talks are being held at the Prime Ministerial level, the council of kilonsers (Nagalim ministers) has decided not hold further talks until Muivah is released as he is the Prime Minister of the “Government of the People’s Republic of Nagalim.”

According to Swu, “Centre’s insincerity has contributed much to the delay.’’ Though the peace process began in 1997, there has been no major breakthrough yet, he alleged.

Attributing bureaucratic intransigence to the “delay,’’ Swu said, “To every problem, there is a solution. If both parties are genuinely committed to peace, I see no reason why talks should fail. We expect India to acknowledge and recognise historical rights of the Nagas.”    


 
 
BJP FOR IMAGE MAKEOVER IN HEARTLAND 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 22 
A worried BJP is planning a major drive in Uttar Pradesh to refurbish its image, and if the efforts at self-correction yield results, the Assembly elections due next year may even be advanced.

On June 27, 53 senior state leaders will sit down for a stock-taking session to chalk out a programme to prepare the party for the elections.

The leaders will take a fresh look at the ideological, political, organisational and electoral aspects of the party to plug the loopholes before the coming elections. The meeting will also be attended by general secretaries K.N. Govindacharya and Sanghpriya Gautam, both in charge of Uttar Pradesh affairs.

According to BJP sources, the leaders will discuss the implementation of a special code of conduct for ministers, many of whom are alleged to have amassed wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income and are leading lavish life-styles.

The meeting will assess the mood of the people and discuss strategies to improve the performance of the government. Party managers have even divided the state into five zones to expedite implementation of programmes.

A three-member committee comprising chief minister Ram Prakash Gupta, finance minister Harish Shrivastava and public works minister Kalraj Mishra was set up a few days ago to monitor the implementation of the code of conduct evolved by Govindacharya.

Apparently, it is the fear of “Congressisation” of the party that has brought about this self-assessment drive and the ministers have been told to shun ostentatious life-styles and avoid moving around in cars fitted with blinking lights and escort vehicles.

When asked if the leaders would discuss a leadership change to contain dissidence, Govindacharya said the exercise was to work out a strategy to “increase the acceptability of the BJP” among the people.

He rebutted suggestions that the party’s image in the state had taken a beating. “The party’s image is good,” he said. “In any organisation there is always the scope for improvement.” For a party like the BJP, “evaluation merely on electoral planks cannot be treated as an indicator for its growth or decline”, he said.

Despite a number of meetings, the Central leadership had tried in vain to replace chief minister Ram Prakash Gupta after a series of setbacks in the form of unprecedented cross-voting in the Rajya Sabha elections, the defeat of its candidate in the legislative council elections and the rout in the Soron byelection.

Though party leaders remained non-committal on replacing Gupta, they said there would be a new state president around mid-July after the organisational polls were over.    


 
 
UP POLICE FORCE UP IN ARMS 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Lucknow, June 22 
IPS officers are up in arms against the Uttar Pradesh government for suspending a colleague.

Accusing chief minister Ram Prakash Gupta of siding with politicians and interfering with police duty, nearly 60 senior IPS officers have closed ranks to fight “unprecedented injustice” to the force and asked Gupta to immediately revoke the suspension order of Rajeev Sabharwal.

The Unnao senior superintendent of police was suspended after the first phase of panchayat polls on June 17 for allegedly “manhandling” the family members of additional advocate-general R.K. Singh.

Sabharwal himself owned up to slapping R.K. Singh’s relative Rajendra Singh, a former gram pradhan and a BJP worker, saying he was involved in booth-capturing. But the officer was just doing his job of conducting free and fair polls “as ordered by the very same government”, said the IPS Officers’ Association, which has taken up Sabharwal’s cause.

Furious police officers last night gheraod the principal secretary (home) V.K. Mittal and lodged protests with chief secretary Yogendra Narain and director-general of police Sri Ram Arun.

They later marched to the chief minister’s residence and asked for Sabharwal’s immediate reinstatement. They also threatened to boycott the last phase of panchayat polls on June 24.

It is ironic that Gupta, who had been accused of losing hold over the bureaucracy and “letting them loose on politicians” by his own BJP legislators, is now being threatened by the IPS cadre.

The officers are outraged by the government’s “arbitrary suspension of an upright IPS officer”.

The association, led by M.C. Dwivedi (deputy inspector-general, Home Guards) said Sabharwal’s suspension was blatant political interference in police work as Rajendra Singh has “top Sangh connections”.

“This is why upright officers are seeking deputation outside the state,” said a senior IPS officer. He added that the state government had proved that the administration was responsible for the deteriorating law and order in the state.

“It is difficult to work under conditions where senior IPS officers are penalised for punishing lumpens because they have the political connections,” an inspector-general said.

The chief minister, however, has refused to budge from his stance, insisting that the “illegal detention of five villagers and the accompanying high-handedness of a senior police officer like Sabharwal was absolutely unwarranted”. But Gupta said today that he was ready to “look into the matter” and asked for a representation from Sabharwal.

Trying to justify his stand, the chief minister said: “Just because a stone falls near the feet of a police officer he cannot order firing. He has to act more responsibly. You cannot just beat up a respectable person.”

State chief secretary Yogendra Narain expressed unhappiness at the way things were handled by the IPS association.

Dwivedi retorted on behalf of the association: “It is not us but the government which has always behaved in an irresponsible manner. Otherwise how do you explain the government revoking, after certain periods of time, 12 such suspensions in the past five years?”

In a statement Dwidedi said that the association would wait and watch the government’s reaction before deciding on a plan of action.    


 
 
LAWYERS’ PROTEST HITS JUDGES 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Bangalore, June 22 
The agitation for a high court bench at Hubli intensified today as district judges, who entered their offices with police escort, were not allowed to work by protesting lawyers.

The judges, who have been forced to stay away from office for the past week, sought police protection. But district and sessions judge Shekhargouda Patil and his colleagues could not resume work as advocates continuously chanted slogans against the high court’s decision not to open a bench at Hubli.

Work in government offices continued to be disrupted as the agitators did not allow employees to enter their offices. Local councillors, led by mayor Sarla Bangade, today joined the agitation by taking out a protest march.

In Bangalore, Union law minister Ram Jethmalani said he “personally” favoured setting up a high court bench at Hubli as he believed that justice should reach litigants’ doorsteps. He, however, appealed not to politicise the issue. Though it was not desirable to have too many benches, he opined that in larger states the high courts should function from more than one place.    


 
 
FLOOD THREAT IN NORTH BENGAL 
 
 
FROM KESHAV PRADHAN
 
Siliguri, June 22 
Parts of Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts are either submerged or threatened by swollen rivers as incessant rain lashed north Bengal, Sikkim and Bhutan since last evening.

Most areas in Jalpaiguri town, headquarters of the Jalpaiguri division comprising six northern districts, are under waist-deep water because of the downpour and the overflowing Karola river.

Among the badly-hit localities are Newtownpara, Mahamayapara, Samajapara, Station Road and Pandapara, Main Road and Pabitranagar.

The Jalpaiguri municipal authorities have sought relief, including 2,000 quintals of chira and 1,000 pieces of tarpaulin.

Bholka and Turturikhand villages in Jalpaiguri district’s Kumargram block, bordering Assam, are flooded by the Sankosh river.

The Muznai river has inundated Falakata, the native place of state forest minister Jogesh Burman, and the surrounding villages. Major rivers like the Teesta, Mansai, Muznai, Sankosh and the Raidak are in spate because of torrential rain in their catchment areas in Sikkim and Bhutan.    


 
 
GUERNICA RESURRECTED IN BIHAR KILLING FIELD 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
 
Patna, June 22 
It is the tale of Guernica retold. Just as the horrors of Spanish civil war gave birth to Pablo Picasso’s most famous work in 1937, the surge of violence in Bihar has led to an outburst of creative protest from its artist community.

Armed with paint and brush, they have hit the streets here to recount the tale of successive caste massacres in the state.

In this unique campaign, 15 painters of this city gave vent to their anguish at the killing of innocents, speaking with their paint, moving from street corner to street corner, followed by silent crowds.

Overcoming the despondency shrouding Bihar, the artists, who call themselves the “Imagination India School of Painters”, have produced 35 works in the past couple of weeks.

Like Guernica, in which dismembered parts of humans and animals lay in the ruins of a war-ravage village, painting after painting here sought to portray the absurdity of the massacres, juxtaposing bullet-riddled bodies with rustic idyll.

In one work, guns and skeletons capture the sense of desolation on a starkly empty canvas, driving home the message that this is all that remains at the end of each carnage.

In another, a wailing woman’s contorted face personifies human trauma.

A third painting shows masked demons with skulls in their hands staging a dance of death.

“If the ordinary people get the message loud and clear, it will the triumph of our art,” said Ranjit Kumar Krishna, one of the campaigners. “If required, we would go to the villages,” he adds, vowing to start a gun versus art battle.

Fellow artists Ipsita and Shruti Sagar looked at the murders from a woman’s point of view. The slaughtering a pregnant woman will be the next subject on their canvas.

At a time when politicians are turning the massacres into an instrument for wielding power, the youth of Bihar are trying to cut through the babble and feeling the need to sensitise society.

“There is a need to feel it and make others feel it, rather than preaching from a pulpit,” says Ipsita, a budding painter.

The artists have been joined in their movement by doctors of the state, who have had their share of horror while treating the carnage victims.

The Bihar Medical Association has decided to tour villages with the children left maimed by the marauders. “The brutal killings diminish us. But the survivors, with suffering writ large on their face, should help douse caste feelings,” said Dr Anil Mahato.

G.K. Khairnar, the social activist from Mumbai, came to Jehanabad and Gaya last year after the murders there. Eminent Gandhian Subba Rao also paid a visit.

But this time, it is the conscience of Bihar that seems to be waking up, a weapon more potent than anything the killers have.    

 

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