BJP whets knives, Advani for review
Mosque blast outrage in tobacco town
More A-I flights to UK
Mamata’s friends in Cong rebel
Backlash against teacher rocks varsity
Panel set up on FBI clone
Bill for law varsity finalised
Dissident Congmen suspended

 
 
BJP WHETS KNIVES, ADVANI FOR REVIEW 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, June 26 
The BJP is in a bind over the autonomy resolution passed by the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly.

Reacting sharply, it termed the development a “retrograde step” and called upon the people of India to reject the resolution. The party is under pressure from its angry cadre in the state and hawks within to dismiss the Farooq Abdullah government.

But even as the hardliners whetted their knives, senior BJP leader and home minister L.K. Advani took the wind out of their sail by saying “the government will consider the issue (of granting autonomy to J&K)”.

The home minister told reporters: “The resolution has been adopted by the Assembly. The government will consider the issue. I mean the entire government as a whole.”

Advani said the matter would be discussed “within the four corners of our Constitution”, adding that he did not want to foreclose any option by commenting on the issue. Last week, he had said in London that the Centre was not against granting autonomy.

BJP sources, however, said what Advani said was in tune with the party’s stand and that the home minister never advocated a pre-1953 status for the state.

“We, too, are not averse to discussing autonomy,” said a leader opposed to the passing of the resolution. “But they (National Conference) should understand the ‘meaning’ of autonomy.”

What is galling for the BJP is that only three days ago, chief minister Farooq Abdullah had assured Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee that he would not rush through the resolution before a public debate.

But Abdullah appeared to have fallen into the trap of extremist elements, said a BJP leader.

Soon after Vajpayee returns from his trip abroad, a Cabinet meeting is likely to be convened to discuss the issue. Some partners in government are likely to press for a National Democratic Alliance meeting, too, as some of them do not share the BJP’s view on the autonomy issue.

BJP president Kushabhau Thakre said: “The intention of the Farooq government is to take back Jammu and Kashmir to the situation that prevailed in 1952. The flow of time and river cannot be reversed and, similarly, the country will have to move forward and not backward.”

In a terse statement, Thakre said the party “rejects the attempt to go back to 1952 as it will totally nullify all the steps taken during the past 50 years to integrate J&K with rest of the country”.

The hardliners believe that the move will create an atmosphere that “will give a fillip to terrorist activities”.

A day after the special session of the Jammu and Kashmir House was convened, a senior BJP leader from the RSS stock had said that if he (Abdullah) went ahead and got the resolution passed, “we will get his government dismissed”.

Pressure is also mounting on the party to expel the National Conference from the NDA. Asked if the BJP would seek its partner’s expulsion, senior leader Jana Krishnamurthi said: “It is up to the Prime Minister to take any decision on the matter.”

Differing with the BJP, the Samata Party did not react to the passing of the resolution. Party president Jaya Jaitley said: “It is a complicated issue and parties should not react. I do not want to react off the cuff. The issue should be discussed at a wider forum, like the NDA.”

The Congress, however, said this was not the right time for such a resolution as the state was reeling under terrorism. Party spokesperson Anand Sharma said: “The Congress is for autonomy, but within the parameters of the 1975 accord between the late Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Abdullah.”

CPI national secretary D. Raja said his party was totally opposed to pre-1953 status but would support giving more autonomy to the state on the basis of the Indira-Sheikh accord.

“The BJP, by taking a hard stand on the issue, is further alienating the people of Jammu and Kashmir. They are creating trouble,” Raja said.    


 
 
MOSQUE BLAST OUTRAGE IN TOBACCO TOWN 
 
 
FROM G.S. RADHAKRISHNA
 
Hyderabad, June 26 
The explosion at a mosque in Guntur last night ignited mob outrage that left behind a trail of destruction in the tobacco town.

Over a dozen state buses were burnt and shops and vehicles attacked by enraged residents who took to the streets after the news of the blast was flashed by the cable networks.

Ban orders under Section 144 have been clamped. Security has been beefed up in Vijayawada, 35 km from Guntur.

The explosion comes close on the heels of the blasts in churches at Ongole and Tadepalligudem earlier this month. Forensic experts said the improvised explosive device used to set off the explosion in the mosque was similar to the one used in the attacks on the churches.

Caught between his compulsion to remain in the NDA government and the charges levelled by the Opposition, chief minister Chandrababu Naidu today announced a reward of Rs 25 lakh to anyone who can provide information on those behind the attacks.

Naidu, who visited Guntur during the day, also said that special police protection will be given to places of worship in the state. The blast is also an embarrassment for the BJP as it coincided with the Prime Minister’s meeting with the Pope.

The blast damaged the window panes and left a crater in the stoned pavement inside premises. Only a few worshippers were present and they escaped with minor wounds.

Naidu alleged that the post-blast violence was instigated by “anti-social elements who wanted to spread panic in an organised manner”.

The cable networks added fuel to the fire by flashing news of the explosion. Even before the police could arrive, a mob had assembled at the mosque and started pelting stones at passing vehicles and shops in the area.

With the police giving them chase, the youth entered a bus terminus and set on fire at least 12 vehicles. Government buses were also burnt down in Mangalagiri, 25 km from Guntur.

State minister Y. Rajendraprasad and the local Telugu Desam legislator, Ziauddin, were stopped from going to the blast site as the police feared a backlash against them.

The spate of attacks on places of worship of the minorities has set alarm bells ringing in the coastal districts, which were so far free of communal tension.

The police have declared a red alert in Hyderabad to prevent any spurt of violence in the minority-dominated areas. Special RAF squads have been lined up near mosques and churches in the capital as well as at Medak, Vijayawada, Mastan Darga near Guntur and Tirupati and Srisailam temples.

A few days after graves were dug up in Rajahmundry, a similar attack was carried out on a cemetery near Hyderabad. The cemetery of the Church of South India at Vanasthalipuram, about 15 km from the capital, was vandalised by some unknown miscreants. They smashed some marble tiles and yanked out the wooden crossed atop the graves.    


 
 
MORE A-I FLIGHTS TO UK 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 26 
Air India will fly its maiden Delhi-London flight on July 6, 2000, under the codeshare agreement with Virgin Atlantic Airways.

This will enhance the total flights in this sector to six per week.

The first flight from Delhi to London will fly from London on July 5, while Indian Airlines would start its operations from Delhi the next day under the twice-weekly codeshare arrangement by flying a 366-seater Boeing 747-200 aircraft, according to a company release.

Air India currently operates four flights in a week to London from Delhi.

Under the codeshare arrangements finalised at a two-day meeting between the two airlines in Mumbai last week, based on the agreement signed in December, 1999, by the two airlines, Virgin Atlantic can use Air India’s unutilised entitlements on the India-UK sector.

Air India has also bagged a comprehensive ground handling contract covering passenger and ramp handling, security, departure control system and cargo from Virgin for these flights, the release said.    


 
 
MAMATA’S FRIENDS IN CONG REBEL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 26 
Mamata Banerjee loyalists in the state Congress today, for the first time, defied the whip issued by the Congress Legislature Party (CLP), obeying their leader’s directive “not to succumb to the Congress’ pressure tactics”.

Congress MLA Pankaj Banerjee — who is also a Trinamul Congress leader — led 14 MLAs out of the House when Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim asked Congress legislators to stand up and express their support for a motion holding both the CPM and the Trinamul responsible for political violence in Bengal.

The Trinamul doesn’t yet have official recognition in the House and Congress MLAs, who are in fact with the Trinamul, haven’t yet cut off ties with the CLP.

The whip was a clever ploy to force these MLAs into the open. If they had voted for the motion, it would have meant that they had reaffirmed their membership of the CLP.

Though the 15 later returned, they “abstained” from voting. The motion was accepted as the rest of the Congress MLAs supported it. The Speaker granted a two-hour discussion, but the motion was rejected by 85-47 votes.

Asked about the open show of defiance, CLP leader Atish Sinha said he would later take up the matter with the Speaker for “necessary action”.

But the Mamata loyalists refused to be cowed down by the threat. “Let the CLP take action against us. They have no moral or legal right to issue any whip,” Subrata Mukherjee said.

Among those who defied the whip were Sadhan Pande, Sanjay Bakshi, Nirmal Ghosh, Ambica Banerjee and Ashok Mukherjee.

Earlier, Opposition members raised a ruckus, alleging “massive rigging” in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and Salt Lake civic polls.

The situation was aggravated when Mukherjee complained that his car was searched by the police on the Assembly premises.

Angry Opposition legislators also demanded the resignation of deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya for his “failure to ensure a free and fair election” and walked out only to return after a few minutes when the Speaker took up the adjournment motion.

Supporting the motion, Saugata Roy said the CPM and the Trinamul had “unleashed large-scale terror” in the state. “About 150 people have been murdered and several thousand houses burnt down in the past six months. The state government has miserably failed to protect lives and properties of the people and the police have remained silent spectators,” he said.

Trinamul MLA Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, however, targeted only the CPM, accusing it of “engaging its hooligans to attack us”.    


 
 
BACKLASH AGAINST TEACHER ROCKS VARSITY 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Lucknow, June 26 
Two days ago when Lucknow University professor Nishi Pandey gathered enough guts to raise her voice against sexual harassment and announced she would sue her male colleague for it, she thought she could afford to sleep in peace.

But her nightmare has just begun.

Students and teachers joining classes after the weekend break were today shocked to find the campus walls screaming with lewd graffiti.

“Nishi Pandey is a prostitute,” proclaimed one, while some said that a “loose woman like her had no place in decent society”.

“It’s the darkest and the most shameful day in the history of Lucknow University,” said Roop Rekha Verma, former vice-chancellor of the university and currently the head of the centre for women’s studies.

In the face of such abuse, the 40-year-old Pandey, a professor of English in the university, has gone into a shell, a reaction very different from Saturday when she had said she would break the “unwritten rules of silence governing women” and sue G.S. Bhadouria, a lecturer of Ancient Indian History and Archaeology, for sexual harassment and slander.

The alleged harassment occurred on June 14. Bhadouria had scribbled on an invitation card for the inauguration of a Lucknow University website that Pandey was a prostitute and a “nagar badhu” — an euphemism for a woman who is common property.

Bhadouria had read his message aloud in the university administrative office, even bragging that he would say it a hundred times over.

Ironically, Pandey’s fight for justice has unleashed a storm that has shredded to pieces whatever semblance of gender equality existed on the campus.

Today, hordes of boys — all supporters of Bhadouria — blocked traffic, gheraoed the vice-chancellor’s office and hurled obscenities at Pandey in an obvious reaction to the protest of some 300 girls who had held up traffic for more than three hours on one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares on Saturday.

The enraged girls had gheraoed the vice-chancellor, demanding that Bhadouria be immediately removed as he was a “threat to all women on the campus”.

Bhadouria, incidentally, had been reinstated this January after a three-year investigation by the university for allegedly molesting a girl student.

But what is worrying Pandey’s supporters most are rumours that the Lucknow University Teachers Association (LUTA) is planning to hold an executive committee meeting where a proposal to suspend both Pandey and Bhadouria for “vitiating the university atmosphere” will be discussed.

“I am very worried about the report,” said Verma. The women’s studies head feels she is “sure” that she won’t be informed about the meeting as she happens to be at the forefront of the agitation to remove the ancient history lecturer. “This just shows a blindness to gender issues, where it is not the victimiser but the victim who is punished,” she said.

“Everyone wants Nishi Pandey to keep quiet.”

With the scene getting murkier, Bhadouria has filed an FIR against Pandey for instigating students against him and has even asked the university to terminate her service.

Earlier, various groups comprising teachers, students and academicians had sent written representations to the Governor and sought an appointment with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

According to them, the Prime Minister can hardly remain silent about what is happening in his constituency.    


 
 
PANEL SET UP ON FBI CLONE 
 
 
FROM CHANDAN NANDY
 
New Delhi, June 26 
The Centre has set up a four-member committee under the chairmanship of Union home secretary Kamal Pande to study and make recommendations on the formation of a Central Law Enforcement Agency which will be empowered to investigate ‘’federal crimes’’ having a bearing on the country’s internal security.

Before leaving for his five-day official visit to Italy and Portugal, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee issued orders setting up the Pande Committee. The other members are Intelligence Bureau director Shaymal Dutta, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) chief R.K.Raghavan and Enforcement Directorate head S.S.Dabra.

It is learnt that Union home minister L.K. Advani had made the suggestion for the formation of the committee to Vajpayee. The committee has been asked to submit a detailed report by July 15. An official of the home ministry will act as the secretary to the committee.

The government feels that the concept of ‘’federal crime’’ and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as of the US is ‘’worthy of emulation’’. Under this concept, certain categories of crimes, which are closely linked to and have repercussions on the country’s internal security, should be classified as federal crimes.

The government feels that these crimes relate to militancy, terrorism, insurgency, sedition, spread of disaffection among states, illegal immigration, trafficking in narcotics, weapons and explosives and humans, smuggling in contraband goods, counterfeiting currency, money laundering and hawala transactions. With the required changes in the Constitution and the law, the proposed agency could directly take up cases of federal crimes and investigate them without having to seek permission from state governments.

The main task of the Pande Committee would be come up with recommendations on how it intends to convince the state governments that the proposed agency was not a means to clip their wings in law and order and issues like police and public order which come under the State List in the Eight Schedule of the Constitution. It is learnt that the Pande Committee has been asked to come up with its findings and suggestions by mid-July. The Centre plans to take up and debate the concepts of federal crime and the proposed agency in the forthcoming meeting of all chief ministers which Vajpayee has convened to discuss the subject of internal security.

Officials feel that there would be a lot of opposition from the states, but this ‘’is precisely why the Pande Committee has been set up so that the Centre is able to convince the state governments that creation of an agency will not in anyway infringe on their Constitutional powers’’.

In this context, a senior official said that ‘’sufficient checks will be built into the system to ensure that the proposed agency does not intervene arbitrarily into the domain of the state police forces and is bound by well-defined operational norms and principles’’.

Since law and order is a State subject, it would require consensus among the state governments before changes are effected in the legal, Constitutional and law enforcement systems of the country.

There is a case within the government that the CBI be strengthened or its Special Crime Division made to assume the role of the proposed agency since, at present, it investigates serious crimes whenever requested to by state governments. However, a senior official said this is an ad hoc arrangement because the CBI, by its original charter, must investigate only cases of corruption in ‘’higher places’’ and among bureaucrats.    


 
 
BILL FOR LAW VARSITY FINALISED 
 
 
FROM R. VENKATARAMAN
 
New Delhi, June 26 
After abolishing all evening and part-time law colleges on the ground that they did not impart “quality legal education”, the Centre today finalised a Bill proposing a national law university which will scrutinise and review the “quality of legal education” in law colleges, besides conducting a five-year course.

The Bill, prepared by the law ministry, will be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament, law ministry sources said. The university will be headquartered in Delhi, while Calcutta will be the regional centre for the east. The National Law Centre in Bangalore — which conducts a five-year course — will be the regional centre for the southern zone.

“It has not yet been decided whether to make Mumbai or Ahmedabad the centre for the western region,” officials said.

Once the Bill is passed in Parliament, the university will take over from the Bar Council of India the job of reviewing legal education in the country. Since 1995, the council has been criticising the rapid decline in the standard of legal education.

The proposed university will conduct five-year courses with entrance exams for admissions. “The council as well as the judiciary were consulted on the matter and they gave consent to the final Bill ready for introduction,” legal sources said.

“It will be along the lines of the IIT and other similar professional entrance examinations like entrance tests for management courses,” officials said. They added that infrastructure facilities of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) will also be availed for the university headquarters.

   


 
 
DISSIDENT CONGMEN SUSPENDED 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Ahmedabad, June 26 
In a warning to Madhavsinh Solanki’s supporters, the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee has suspended four senior Congress leaders who are organising a convention in Gandhinagar tomorrow.

The suspended leaders include two former ministers, Navin Shastri and Kasambapu Tirmizi, Bharat Solanki, MLA and former chief minister Madhavsinh Sola-nki’s son, and PCC executive committee member Jagdish Thakor.

Congress spokesman Hasmukh Patel said the four leaders have been suspended from primary membership of the party for “their anti-party activities”. The suspension was prompted by Solanki loyalists’ decision to go ahead with the convention of the party’s “grass root level workers” despite warnings by the party high command.

The Congress high command has taken umbrage at a number of unofficial meetings held by Solanki supporters at which former minister Navin Shastri allegedly said that “PCC and AICC have anti-social elements”.

District committees of Rajkot and Jamnagar where Shastri made the “unsavoury statement” are said to have sent reports to party president Sonia Gandhi demanding disciplinary action , a Congress leader told The Telegraph. He said disciplinary action will be taken against all partymen who attend the convention.

The convention is being held under the aegis of Congress Parivar Forum which is yet another reason that seems to have irked the high command. “If they wanted to hold the convention they could organise it under the banner of Gandhinagar District Congress Committee. Congress Parivar is not acceptable to us,” the Congress spokesman said.

Though Congress Parivar Forum has sent invitation to all Congress leaders, Hasmukh Patel, the party spokesman, said: “There is no question of attending it. In fact, we will take action against those who attend it.”

Unruffled by the possible action against his supporters in the wake of proposed convention, former chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki said: “I will attend the function for which I have been invited. Let them (GPCC leaders) suspend us.”

Solanki said we were expecting about 2000 workers to attend the convention. But after the suspension of four leaders, more than five thousand workers and leaders would attend the convention.

Former MP Chitubhai Gamit, GPCC general secretary Rizwan Usmani, senior Congress leaders Mahendrasinh Suratia and Sanjay Patwa are mobilising workers in south Gujarat to attend the convention, to be presided over by the former chief minister.

The objective of the convention “is to work out an action plan to rejuvenate the Congress party.” But if certain leaders think that we are doing anti-party activity we cannot help it,” said Madhavsinh’s son Bharat Solanki.

The factional feud within the GPCC came to the fore after the high command decided not to renominate Solanki to the Rajya Sabha. Solanki’s supporters in the state felt that their leader was humiliated when a non-entity was renominated, scuttling the chances of Solanki — four times chief minister of Gujarat and one the senior most leaders in the country.    

 

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