Police claim church blast breakthrough
VHP blames Christians, BJP Pak
Rights rap for Tada clone
Sonia leash on rebel rallies
Nuke twins miss millennium date, make UN dais

Bangalore, July 12 
Police suspect that the survivor of Sunday’s car bomb blast in Bangalore, S.M. Ibrahim, was part of the gang involved in the serial bombings of churches in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Goa.

Karnataka police have also found evidence to suggest that a little-known sect was producing literature meant to throw the investigation into the church explosions off the track.

During a raid on Ibrahim’s house at Varthur on the outskirts of Bangalore, the police found a computer from which they got printouts saying: “Warning: Christian Missionaries, Stop Conversions or Quit India”. Some had Om written on them.

Home minister Mallikarjun Kharge and director-general of police C. Dinakar told a press conference tonight that there was a “high probability of linkage” between the Maruti car blast, in which two persons were killed, and an explosion in a church 45 minutes later.

They said chemical examination of remnants of the two blasts had revealed that explosives used in St Peter and Paul’s church - the gelatine sticks, ammonium nitrate and the timing device - were identical to those found from the site of the car blast.

Two police officers and a forensic expert from Hyderabad confirmed that similar explosives were used in the church blasts in Andhra Pradesh last month.

Dinakar added that the police had found anti-Christian pamphlets in the car, similar to those seized near the church. Books and pamphlets seized from Ibrahim’s house showed that he belonged to the little-known Deendaar Channabasaveshwara Siddiqui sect.

The two who died in Sunday’s car blast — Zakir and Abdul Rehman Siddiqui — belonged to the same sect. “It is too early to link these persons to any Indian or international organisation,” Kharge said.

Ibrahim is still in a state of shock and his speech is incoherent. “He needs to undergo an operation, but he is refusing to cooperate. But there are good chances of his surviving,” a policeman said.

Acting on information from their Karnataka counterparts, Andhra Pradesh police raided a house in Hyderabad and found that Ibrahim’s relatives lived in one portion while another portion had been rented out to Deendaar Anjuman Association.

The police also raided his premises in Machilipatnam and Vijayawada and arrested his brother and two friends. Two of his brothers are still free, adds our special correspondent in Hyderabad.

Ibrahim used to run an educational institution in Vijayawada and allegedly had links with Al-Umma activists who had escaped from Coimbatore after the serial blasts and put up in the town.

Based on incriminating documents found in Ibrahim’s Vijayawada house, police said the gang which planted explosives in Guntur mosque and Vijayawada had also masterminded the blast at the Evangelical prayer meeting in Machilipatnam. “We will soon make arrests,” Andhra Pradesh director-general of police H.J. Dora claimed.

Kharge said the Karnataka government was ready to hand over the investigation to the CBI if the Centre so wished. But no such request had been made, he added.

Chief minister S.M. Krishna, who spoke to Union home minister L.K. Advani earlier, also told him he had no objection if the CBI wanted to step in.    

New Delhi, July 12 
Adding a new spin to the continuing violence against Christians, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad today returned fire, alleging that Christians themselves were behind the attacks as they wanted to attract more foreign funds.

In a related attempt to absolve Sangh parivar outfits of any link, the BJP blamed Pakistan’s InterServices Intelligence (ISI) for engineering the blasts to create “disaffection between communities”.

VHP senior vice-president Acharya Giriraj Kishore demanded that church leaders also apologise for making “baseless charges” against nationalist organisations.

Kishore, who had earlier blamed the ISI, said that a Christian organisation, “Save Christianity”, was staging these attacks to fetch more foreign funds. “These attacks are engineered by Christians themselves as they want to fetch more money from abroad. These attacks are fabricated. It is false propaganda,” he told a foreign television network.

Another VHP leader demanded prosecution of church authorities “for running a hate campaign against Hindu society and organisations”.

Reacting to the accusations, Father Dominic Emmanuel, spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, said they were “totally baseless”.

“First let them make up their mind as to who is behind the attacks — whether Christians or the ISI,” he said, terming the statements as a “cover up bid” to shield fundamentalist outfits.

“ISI or no ISI, all that we are asking for is protection. We want the hate campaign to stop immediately,” Emmanuel said. “Earlier they had targeted Muslims, but now attention has been shifted to the Christians.” He added that hundreds of booklets were being distributed in many parts of the country by Sangh parivar outfits as part of their hate campaign.

Even as the VHP saw a secret Christian hand to malign the parivar, BJP spokesperson M. Venkaiah Naidu hinted of a Pakistani angle. “We are of the firm view that there is a pattern to the attacks,” he said, adding that certain intercepted telephones calls, linked to the recent blasts, were from a neighbouring country.

But Emmanuel refused to buy Naidu’s line. All of a sudden they have discovered the ISI theory, he said, when the hate campaign against Christians have been continuing since the past 13 months. “They are out to hit out at the minorities in general and Christians in particular,” he added.

According to him, Christians in India were not in favour of Papal intervention as this was an “internal matter of the law and order of the country”. But he disagreed with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s stand that the incidents were isolated. “It might be his opinion or how he might have been informed. (But) it is we who feel hurt, threatened, intimidated. We do not feel safe,” he said.

Giriraj, however, claimed that the attacks were part of an international conspiracy to defame the BJP-NDA government and to scuttle the growing camaraderie between India and the US.    

New Delhi, July 12 
The Centre has received a rap on its knuckles from the National Human Rights Commission which has rejected “outright” the draft Bill to replace Tada.

The new legislation — christened Prevention of Terrorism Act and dubbed “super Tada”— has come under fire for some of its tough features. For instance, anyone who interviews a suspected militant can be arrested. This implies that even a journalist can be put behind bars if he does not disclose the identity and other details of a suspected militant voluntarily to the police after an interview.

The rights panel, after considering its proposals to the law commission which has formulated the Bill, believes criminal laws are good enough to deal with terrorism. “There is no need for the enactment of the POT Bill or any other similar legislation,” the rights commission said.

In its proposal note to the law commission, the rights panel pointed out that in 1995, it had taken a similar view on Tada as “the draconian law had no place in a democracy”.

The panel said it had a similar opinion on the law being proposed.

The commission said that the government, before enacting the proposal, should take into account its experience with Tada and ascertain whether the existing laws of the land are not enough to tackle terrorism.

According to the rights panel, the government should instead strengthen the law enforcement agencies and review the functioning of the criminal justice system.

The commission was flooded with “all sorts of complaints” on the misuse of Tada, which led to a nationwide debate on the pros and cons of the legislation. The government of P.V. Narasimha Rao was forced to scrap the law after the public outcry.

Though the Supreme Court did uphold Tada’s constitutional validity, commission sources said the ruling did not mean that the legislation was not being abused while tackling state terrorism.

The commission said that it was finding it difficult to carry out its job as a human rights monitor because of legislation such as Tada and POT.

Unless these draconian laws are scrapped from the statute book, the panel said, “maintenance and prevention of infringements of human rights” will be an impossible task.    

New Delhi, July 12 
Nettled by increasing factionalism, Sonia Gandhi is taking steps to discourage dissident leaders from holding parallel meetings as part of their trial of strength.

Party sources said the Congress president has told Murlidharan, son of veteran leader K. Karunakaran, not to hold a public meeting in Trichur to air grievances against A.K. Antony and Ommen Chandi.

Murlidharan, a Lok Sabha MP from Calicut, has also been asked to withdraw a letter against Antony, accusing him of packing the state party executive with his nominees.

Sonia has also disapproved of the manner in which Congress Working Committee member Jitendra Prasada has been holding public rallies in Uttar Pradesh, where the speakers have openly criticised state party chief Salman Khurshid.

Khurshid, isolated in the state with rival camps stepping up hostility, has called on party general secretary Mohsina Kidwai twice to bury differences.

Sources close to Sonia said that while she was “activating” the party at all levels, she was opposed to the idea of using public meetings as a forum to settle party feuds. They said she was also irritated with CWC members for getting involved in faction wars.

According to 10 Janpath insiders, one of the main reasons behind former treasurer Ahmad Patel’s exit was that he had become a faction leader in Gujarat.

“It’s for others to take a cue from Patel. If the trend continues, they can meet a similar fate,” a source close to the high command said.

Party leaders said if Prasada and others go ahead with their convention on July 15 in Moradabad, the leadership will send an observer, perhaps R.K. Dhawan, to keep tabs on the tone and tenor of the participants.

“After all, the convention is against communal forces. If the speakers start targeting Congress leaders, the high command will take note,” a party functionary said.

Sonia, the sources said, is finding it difficult to strike a balance between the warring factions in Uttar Pradesh. As organisational polls are on, the AICC chief wants to keep everyone happy. She also appointed a 10-member coordination panel, but so far there has been no meeting ground among the leaders.    

New Delhi, July 12 
India and Pakistan will remain apart from each other at the Millennium Summit in New York in September. But the two countries are slated to speak on the same day at the United Nations General Assembly, which begins at the same venue a week later.

Unlike in previous years, the UN General Assembly will be preceded by the Millennium Summit, which begins from September 6. Leaders and heads of governments will address the gathering to highlight the challenges in the new millennium and the means to tackle them. This will be followed by the General Assembly meet which is scheduled to begin from September 12.

Though Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and General Pervez Musharraf will address the same summit, the two will not share the same platform. According to the schedule drawn up by the UN, Pakistan will speak on September 6, while India’s turn will come on September 8.

However, the two sides are scheduled to speak at the UN General Assembly on September 18. Pakistan’s speech in the morning will be followed by India’s in the afternoon. But there are indications that Delhi may ask for a change of date for its turn to address the assembly a day later.

But the Millennium Summit will be the first international meet which will be attended by both the Prime Minister and the Pakistani General. Early this year, Vajpayee avoided sharing the same platform with Musharraf by dropping out of the G-77 meet in Cuba and sending human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi instead.

Since last year’s military coup in Pakistan which ousted the Nawaz Sharif government and brought the military regime to power, Delhi has been making conscious efforts to ensure that the two leaders do not meet. This was one of the reasons for India’s opposition to the Saarc summit in Kathmandu this year.

Indian officials point out that the different dates for addressing the Millennium Summit was done not by design but was part of a draw. Interestingly, Pakistan addresses the gathering on the same day as the US and France. India will speak at the forum along with “time-tested ally” Russia.

Though speculation are rife about the possibility of a meeting between Vajpayee and Musharraf in New York, going by the mood in South Block, this seems remote. Indian leaders have maintained that Delhi has interacted with military regimes in Pakistan in the past and does not have problems about doing so in future, but a dialogue with Islamabad was not possible till it created the “right atmosphere”. This in diplomatic parlance means that the military regime in Pakistan will have to give categorical assurances of not aiding terrorists in Kashmir and stopping anti-Indian propaganda.

On its part, Islamabad is desperate to resume the stalled dialogue with Delhi. Since the military coup, the Musharraf regime has faced international isolation and the Pakistani establishment feels that if India returns to the negotiating table, it could pave the way for ending Islamabad’s diplomatic isolation.

But the Vajpayee government, which had initiated the Lahore dialogue in February last year to normalise relations, cannot make any move towards a dialogue with Pakistan unless it gets major concessions from the military regime which it can sell to the domestic audience.    


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