US House gift before Vajpayee visit
Delhi finds Pak hand in south, silent on north
Mamata sees ’70s shadow
Return signal to hawkers
JNU lesson in growth with reform

 
 
US HOUSE GIFT BEFORE VAJPAYEE VISIT 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, July 14 
In what promises to be a good augury for Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit to the US in September, hardcore anti-India Congressman Dan Burton was forced on Thursday to withdraw an amendment in the House of Representatives that would have cut development assistance to India by 25 per cent.

With the persistent India-basher’s amendment out of the way, US aid to India in the 2001 fiscal year will go up by $18 million to touch $46.55 million. In addition, India will receive $92.48 million in food aid, $20.67 million in child survival funds and $5 million through the Economic Support Fund.

The enhanced assistance, proposed by President Bill Clinton after his visit to India in March, represents a sea change from the drastic cuts and sanctions following the nuclear tests in May 1998.

The cuts were so severe that Burton, a Republican from Indiana, did not even go through his annual exercise on behalf of the Pakistanis and Khalistanis of pressing his cut motion then.

Burton’s moves this year were significant as a barometer for the support enjoyed by India in Capitol Hill in the run-up to Vajpayee’s visit and for follow-up actions on Clinton’s initiative to redraw the pattern of Indo-US relations.

The debate showed that apart from Burton, there was only one Congressman, Dana Rohrbacher, who supported the cut in aid to India. But even Dana acknowledged that India is a democracy where economic reforms are working.

One after the other, speakers from among the Republicans and the Democrats spoke in praise of Indian democracy and India’s efforts to cope with serious problems that needed support from the US.

The speakers included, Frank Pallone, founder of the Congressional caucus on India, Sonny Callahan, chairman of the foreign operations sub-committee, Nancy Pelosi, a leading member of the India caucus and Benjamin Gilman, chairman of the House of Representatives’ International Relations Committee.

At the end of the debate, withdrawing the amendment, Burton paid a back-handed compliment to the Indian lobby, which, he said, had succeeded in creating a brute majority in the House in support of New Delhi.

The debate was preceded by a night of feverish activity in Capitol Hill on behalf of India soon after Burton revealed his intention to table the amendment on Wednesday evening.

The co-chairmen of the India caucus, democrat Gary Ackerman and republican James Greenwood, immediately wrote to all 433 members of the Congress cautioning that “adoption of the amendment would have serious consequences for the massive investments in India and would play right into the hands of those who would turn back the clock on major economic reforms that have been put in place”.

The letter added: “Rather than debate amendments that divide the US and India, we ought to work with India and help it come to grips with its problems.”    


 
 
DELHI FINDS PAK HAND IN SOUTH, SILENT ON NORTH 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
July 14 
In a bid to pre-empt the Opposition before Parliament meets for the monsoon session, the Vajpayee government has gone on a propaganda overdrive on the Christian attacks, alleging that a little-known sect founded by a Pakistani national was behind the serial blasts in churches.

The Centre is focusing only on the recent explosions in Goa, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, ignoring the violence against Christians in the north.

The home ministry today issued a statement claiming that Deendaar Anjuman, a sect headed by Zia-ul-Hassan, a Pakistani national, was behind the blasts. North Block has hinted that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) engineered the explosions “to give a bad name” to the government.

But the Centre is silent on 54 attacks on Christians and their institutions this year. Till July, over 100 attacks on Christians and their institutions were reported. Of these, 47 were listed as “conventional crimes”.

In 1999, 120 cases were reported across the country. Only 29 of these were “conventional crimes”. The rest were communally motivated attacks, with Hindu organisations said to be behind them.

Most of the details in the home ministry’s statement had already been released by the Karnataka government. The statement refers to Sunday’s car blast in Bangalore which killed two persons — Mohammad Fida, alias Rehman Siddique, and Zakir. A third, Syed Ibrahim, was seriously injured.

Ibrahim is believed to have “confessed” his involvement and admitted to having visited Goa in March and May. Anti-Christian literature was seized from his house in Bangalore and the Anjuman’s Vijayawada office.

Some of the pamphlets seized had “Om” written on them. A diary found in his house in Vijayawada also revealed that the Anjuman was “an indoctrination centre” for terrorists, police said.

But Maulana Osman Ali, president of Deendaar Anjuman, denied that the institution has any links with the ISI.

“We are a religious organisation and have conducted over five international seminars in the past on communal harmony,” he said.

The statement said Zia-ul-Hassan visits India once a year for the Urs of his father, who had founded the Anjuman. In Pakistan, Hassan has set up the Jamaat Hizbollah Mujahideen with offices in Mardan, Lahore, Karachi, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Sargodha. The Anjuman has been active in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra.

Zakir, who died in Sunday’s blast, visited Pakistan in September 1992 along with seven other Anjuman members. Security agencies have found that the eight people were given a six-week visa extension and allowed to visit Karachi and other places for which they did not initially have permission.

The propaganda drive, which tries to shift the needle of suspicion from the Sangh parivar to the “foreign hand”, is directed not only at the domestic audience but the world community as well.

Apart from taking the sting out of the Opposition’s attack on the government in Parliament, it is also aimed at improving the BJP-led coalition’s image abroad which has taken a severe beating following the attacks on Christians across the country.

The Vajpayee government is anxious to undo the damage before September — when the Prime Minister visits Washington.    


 
 
MAMATA SEES ’70S SHADOW 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, July 14 
Pleading with the Centre to act decisively, Mamata Banerjee today met home minister L.K. Advani and apprised him of the deteriorating law and order situation in West Bengal, especially the state’s tribal belt where, she alleged, the Left Front government had unleashed a “reign of terror”.

The Trinamul Congress chief told Advani that the violence in Midnapore district was a throwback to the seventies, when the Naxalite movement was at its peak. The then government had cracked down on the movement, she added.

Mamata had earlier written to Advani on the CPM-led Left Front government’s “terror tactics”.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting was over, the railway minister told reporters that Advani gave her a patient hearing and expressed concern over the escalating tension in Midnapore.

Asked if she was in favour of invoking Article 355, whereby the Centre could intervene and take steps to check internal disturbances, Mamata said: “It is a constitutional matter and I leave it to the Centre to take whatever steps it deems fit. The home minister is aware of the situation.”

Mamata said she would move the National Human Rights Commission and demand that a delegation from the panel visit Keshpur, which has become the epicentre of political violence between the CPM and Trinamul in Midnapore.

“Trinamul supporters are being targeted by CPM goons since the party lost the byelections to the Panskura parliamentary constituency, of which Keshpur is a part,” Mamata said.

She accused the Left Front government of “trampling democracy” as it was now on the defensive, especially after its defeat in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation elections.

“The Marxists are clearly on the backfoot and want to cow down the people before the Assembly elections scheduled for March next year,” Mamata said.

She also denied that she has demanded the recall of West Bengal Governor Viren Shah.“Why should I demand his removal? Even Virenbabu has pointed out how the CPM has launched a reign of terror in Midnapore. I think he is perfectly aware of what is happening on the law and order front,” she said.    


 
 
RETURN SIGNAL TO HAWKERS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 14 
The city’s new mayor has t