Bid to scan Christian funds
Somen steam for Mamata Express
Farooq hits back with autonomy fusillade
PM finds peace on streets of Sonia’s Italy
Calcutta Weather

 
 
BID TO SCAN CHRISTIAN FUNDS 
 
 
FROM DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA
 
Bhubaneswar, July 1 
The Orissa government has asked the Centre to let it monitor foreign funds for Christian missionaries in the state.

Home secretary T.K. Mishra and director general of police S.K. Chatterjee made the request at a meeting with home minister L.K. Advani in New Delhi on Thursday, highly placed sources said today. The officials argued that it was essential that the government had the authority to monitor the funds following allegations that missionaries were using the funds to convert tribals.

At present, only the Union home ministry can allow and monitor the funds for the church or Christian groups. State governments have no say in the matter.

But at a time when the state is rife with charges of conversion and reconversion, sources said the government wanted to keep an eye on the funds pouring in mainly from the West.

The officials told the home minister that district collectors and superintendents of police should be empowered to inquire into the purpose and use of the funds. They would be required to jointly sign their findings and report them to the government. Sources said Advani did not say if the Centre would agree to the state’s proposal. But the move is almost certain to vex Christian groups, which have accused the BJP-Biju Janata Dal coalition government of being biased against the minority community.

After the Sankaracharya of Puri “reconverted” about 70 Christians last month in Manoharpur, scarred by the 1999 killings of Australian missionary Graham Stewart Staines and his two sons, the Bangalore-based Global Council of Indian Christians accused the state government of being “involved with the Sangh parivar in a secret plan to convert Christians”. But the government had denied the charge.

The officials told Advani that social tension had erupted in villages of Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj because both communities were indulging in conversion. The government feared that clashes could break out in some areas.

Officials said the state government, led by chief minister Naveen Patnaik, was determined to protect the minorities. They said the police recently arrested leaders of a loosely-organised organisation floated to “protect and espouse the cause of” Dara Singh, prime accused in the Manoharpur killings.

Pradip Chowdhury, a lawyer for Singh from Karanjia, has been held under the National Security Act and for carrying out a hate campaign against the minority community, even though a section of the ruling coalition was against his arrest. The government was trying to form peace committees to defuse tension.    


 
 
SOMEN STEAM FOR MAMATA EXPRESS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 1 
Yesterday, the Trinamul Congress saw in him the biggest irritant to a deal that could decide who will rule Calcutta. Today, Somen Mitra became the prize trophy on Mamata Banerjee’s show linking Calcutta to Delhi by rail.

Taking time off a post-civic poll war of nerves, Mitra not only turned up at a function where the Sealdah-New Delhi Rajdhani Express was flagged off, but also showered accolades on Mamata.

“Mamata Banerjee will give a new shape to Bengal,” Mitra said, pointing out that a “lot has been done recently that has not been achieved in the past 23 years of Left Front rule”.

“It’s a very happy day for this area’s people,” said Mitra, who is also the Sealdah MLA. “On the day of the birth and death anniversary of Bengal’s visionary chief minister Bidhan Chandra Roy, Calcutta has been finally linked with Delhi. And this has been possible because of railway minister Mamata Banerjee. I congratulate her,” he said as cheers rang out.

This was the first time that Mitra had shared a public forum with Mamata after attempts for a mahajot between the Trinamul and the Congress failed to take off.

Both Mitra and Mamata avoided any reference to the hung civic poll verdict and the Congress’ ability to break the deadlock, but Trinamul readers were quick to lunge at political straws in the former state Congress chief’s presence and praise at the meet. “Mitra’s presence at today’s function is a very good sign,” said Trinamul legislator Sobhandev Chattopadhyay.

Just 24 hours ago, Subrata Mukherjee, Trinamul’s mayor-in-waiting, had conceded that the party is “worried about Somen” in its efforts to secure the support of some of the 14 Congress councillors.

The Congress high command today endorsed the state unit’s move and directed its councillors not to be present during the mayoral election. If the Congress’ 14 councillors stay away, the majority mark in the 141-member corporation will come down.

A lower target offers an opportunity as well as a threat: it will make easier the task of support-gatherers in both the Trinamul and Left Front camps as they will have to ensure fewer extra votes. But the flip-side is that the poachers’ job also will become simpler as a handful of deserters could tilt the scales.

Trinamul interpreted the Congress high command decision as “positive”. It said the Left would now be denied an opportunity to engineer cross-voting among the Congress councillors. The upbeat mood in the Trinamul camp was also fuelled by the failure of the Left today to nominate a candidate for the mayoral election.

Repoll today

Repolling at the Salt Lake booth where the voting machine went on the blink will be held on Sunday between 7 am and 3 pm.    


 
 
FAROOQ HITS BACK WITH AUTONOMY FUSILLADE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Srinagar, July 1 
Striking back through a speech high on incendiary rhetoric, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah asked his opponents what else could they offer to his people if they were not willing to “restore our eroded autonomy”.

“I shall not burn now in any hell fire as they have burnt scores of my effigies in various cities,” Farooq said. “We are not asking for the sun or the moon. We are asking for our position to be restored.”

Abdullah regretted “the propaganda” on autonomy and said a careful perusal of the state report would make it clear that it contains “nothing to weaken Centre-state relations”.

Farooq said the leaders of the Hurriyat Conference were already in touch with the Centre and they visit Delhi and Mumbai on the pretext of getting medical help. “If the Centre cannot give me what I demand within the four walls of the Indian Constitution, what must they be promising the Hurriyat leaders who stand for complete secession of the state from the Indian Union?” he asked. The autonomy resolution, passed by the Assembly, was perceived widely as Abdullah’s gambit to counter the hobnobbing between the Centre and the Hurriyat.

In a veiled reference to suggestion by some hardline allies of the BJP that his government should be dismissed, Abdullah said: “If the cult of the gun ends in the state by ousting my government, I will not stay even for a second.”

He said the gun was being controlled by Pakistan. “It will not give up the gun. The Kashmir problem cannot be solved unless we speak to Pakistan.... There cannot be permanent peace unless we hold talks with them,” he added.

Abdullah’s statement could be seized by opponents as Delhi has been ignoring repeated offers for talks from Pakistan, insisting that a dialogue could be resumed only after the export of terror from across the border is stopped.

BJP takes Atal cue

After taking a consistently hard stand on the Jammu and Kashmir autonomy resolution, the BJP said in Delhi there was no harm in discussing the issue in Parliament, reports our special correspondent.

The toned down stand came after Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had a two-hour meeting with party president Kushabhau Thakre along with home minister L.K. Advani.

Thakre, however, told reporters there was no question of going back to the pre-1953 status and that the autonomy resolution would encourage other states to raise similar demands “giving rise to instability”.

A Cabinet meeting is likely to be held shortly to decide whether or not to discuss the autonomy resolution in Parliament. The monsoon session is beginning on July 24.

While the party had rejected any discussion on the resolution, Vajpayee yesterday said the issue could be debated in Parliament within the parameters of the Constitution.

Unlike the RSS, the BJP now appears to be appreciating the Prime Minister’s move to have a debate on the autonomy demand.

The RSS is likely to adopt a critical resolution on the autonomy issue tomorrow at Ahmedabad at the conclusion of its two-day central working committee meeting.    


 
 
PM FINDS PEACE ON STREETS OF SONIA’S ITALY 
 
 
FROM DIPTOSH MAJUMDAR
 
New Delhi, July 1 
More than his foreign policy achievements, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s two-day tour of Europe has sent out a strong signal of not just his physical well-being but the sound political health which he is now exuding.

Accompanied by adopted daughter Namita Bhattacharya, granddaughter Niharika and son-in-law Ranjan, the Prime Minister appeared relaxed as he strolled along the streets of Rome, with which Sonia Gandhi is more familiar.

Savouring the sun on a lazy Sunday afternoon, Vajpayee went around the Coliseum, the Pantheon and the Trevy Fountain.

Seldom has he had the chance to be so much at ease. Since the budget session in February, the Congress, which is tied up in all possible knots, has given him so much political space that he is aware he can bulldoze his way with his robust reforms package.

No wonder then that with no serious challenge to his authority, Vajpayee took some time off in Italy. A few months ago in Mauritius, he had looked tired, weighed down by worries over opposition to the price increase and the demands of unhappy partymen with eyes on plum ministerial posts.

But in Rome, Vajpayee seemed at ease, not too concerned about next day’s meeting with the Pope where he would have to discuss the not-too-comfortable issue of Christian-bashing.

As he watched his family toss coins in the Trevy Fountain pool — where, according to legend, wishes come true if one throws a few liras — a contented Vajpayee must have hoped for a longer period of relative political serenity at home.

Rumours are that the Prime Minister had asked his family members to buy him a few table lamps and prints of some classical paintings. But his aides, opposed to any kind of intrusive journalism, are unwilling to confirm what exactly he shopped for.

In fact, Vajpayee did what he seldom does. He came and greeted the media minutes before the plane took off from New Delhi. On the way back from Lisbon, the door to his private compartments in the plane were kept open and he could be seen walking in and out of his chamber to the cubicle in which his family members were staying.

This relaxed atmosphere was also underlined when his daughter and granddaughter would step out to meet the few journalists they know personally and discuss filmi gossip with them on board the flight.

There were light-hearted pleasantries exchanged on board, a degree of cordiality which even infected the only news conference he addressed on board on the return flight.

Not surprisingly, the Prime Minister yielded to the wishes of the small Gujarati business community in Lisbon who invited him over for a tour of the city’s temples on Mahatma Gandhi Road in the Portuguese capital. Though he had a tiring nine-hour flight ahead, the Prime Minister sat through the rituals, including the havan, so as not to disappoint them.

It was only in the last afternoon when reporters complained of being left in the lurch by officials inside the military airport compounds for more than an hour that tension was palpable among the Prime Minister’s aides.

A few officials arrived far ahead of schedule, almost half-an-hour before Vajpayee boarded the flight. A hurried birthday party was organised for a television cameraman, whose date of birth had not gone unnoticed by the Air-India crew.

Vajpayee himself expressed his regrets that mediamen had been kept waiting at the end of the news conference.

Not that the Prime Minister does not have to confront domestic problems in the weeks to come. The autonomy resolution is going to be a headache, the attacks on Christians continue to be a bother, the economic reforms agenda would have to be pursued with full vigour and a consensus has to be reached on signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

But going by the signals sent out during the European sojourn, Vajpayee is enjoying his stay at 7 Race Course Road.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Max: 34.3°C (+1), Min: 27°C (+1)

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 92% Minimum: 64%
Rainfall: Nil
Today: One or two showers or thundershowers.
Sunset: 6.22 pm,
Sunrise: 4.58 am
   
 

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