Fort Srinagar on alert
Cracks surface over Hizbul experiment
CPM squirms under scribe attack glare
Mathura clash claims 4
Plea for slain Kargil widow
Private homecoming for ousted Fiji PM
Kofi kudos for Atal minus Kashmir

 
 
FORT SRINAGAR ON ALERT 
 
 
FROM MUKHTAR AHMAD AND AGENCIES
 
Srinagar, Aug. 14 
Kashmir’s capital turned into a garrison town on Independence Day eve even as hardline militant groups said they would launch “massive attacks” against security forces in the Valley tomorrow.

On a day marred by sporadic violence which killed one person and left several injured, thousands of soldiers, paramilitary troops and police spread out across Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir, fearing attacks tomorrow . The militants are expected to target symbols of state authority.

“We are in a war zone. We are taking all precautions. We can’t take any chances,” said Kul Bhushan Jandial, the state government’s chief spokesman.

Srinagar was deserted this afternoon as troops fanned over the city and took positions in high-rises and makeshift bunkers.

All eyes are fixed on Srinagar Bakshi stadium where chief minister Farooq Abdullah will unfurl the tricolour tomorrow. Police fear rocket attacks on the stadium.

Across the city, police searched for stolen cars that officials think can be packed with lethal explosives and placed in public places. “Cars have been stolen. Some of them could be used by the militants in such attacks,” said Chavang Phunsog, Kashmir’s principal home secretary.

Soldiers wearing bullet-proof vests and helmets inspected cars at checkpoints and looked for bombs under cars at parking lots. Pedestrians were stopped and frisked on the main thoroughfares. Government offices, schools and banks closed early. Residents were seen rushing back to their homes.

One person was killed and six others, mostly securitymen, wounded as police repulsed a militant attack on a camp in Ringbala-Machil in Kupwara district today.

A civilian was killed and another sustained bullet injuries when they were caught in the shootout between militants and security forces at the camp early today.

Late this afternoon, militants hurled a hand grenade in Pulwama market in south Kashmir, which severely injured 14 persons. They were rushed to a hospital.

In another incident this morning, a bomb blast at Sopore wounded two BSF jawans. Police removed Pakistani flags from several areas in the city and other places in Kashmir.

Militants also attacked a police camp at Achabal in Anantnag district of south Kashmir in the early hours today, but the police repulsed the attack.

Hardline militant groups have said they will launch “massive attacks” against forces in Kashmir as India celebrates Independence Day. “Our mujahideen will launch massive and fierce attacks on the military concentrations to turn India’s Independence Day into destruction day,” Harkatul Mujahideen spokesman Amiruddin Mughal said.

He said the operations would target army camps and convoys “to make it clear to New Delhi that none of its installations and troopers in Kashmir are safe”.

A spokesman of the militant outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba said suicide squads had been assigned to sabotage Independence Day celebrations and attack troops and military installations. “We will give a big surprise for India on her Independence Day,” the spokesman said.

Authorities sounded an alert for peaceful conduct of Independence Day functions. The All Parties Hurriyat Conference has called for a strike tomorrow.

State police chief Gurbachan Jagat has reviewed the over-all situation in Kashmir.    


 
 
CRACKS SURFACE OVER HIZBUL EXPERIMENT 
 
 
FROM CHANDAN NANDY
 
New Delhi, Aug. 14 
Cracks within the Vajpayee government over the handling of the Kashmir experiment are coming out into the open with suggestions that the home ministry was kept in the dark on the operation which was planned and executed by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the intelligence agencies.

Sources said the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) mounted an operation over a year ago to “win over” the Hizbul Mujahideen and make its leaders agree to a ceasefire. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) was brought in later, after it became clear that the Hizbul’s India chief Abdul Majid Dar was ready for truce.

Both RAW and the IB report to the PMO on sensitive issues such as Kashmir.

Dar, who was in occupied Kashmir, was cultivated for a year and smuggled into India by a commercial flight via Dubai. The other divisional commanders were brought over land through Nepal.

Hizbul’s Pakistan-based supreme commander Syed Salahuddin was also contacted, but the intelligence agencies could not bring him over because of some unexplained “hitches and glitches”.

The PMO and national security advisor Brajesh Mishra tried to wrest the responsibility of managing the peace process from the home ministry, which has been looking after Jammu and Kashmir since 1998 when the department was taken away from the PMO.

Neither RAW nor IB informed North Block on how Dar and some of his senior colleagues were being worked upon. “Not a line of input was shared with North Block,” the sources said, adding that home secretary Kamal Pande “came to know” only four days before Dar’s formal announcement on July 24.

The home ministry was brought into the picture at the last moment and that, too, with the information that Dar was keen on peace talks. At no point during the 14-month secret negotiations, the sources claimed, did the intelligence agencies or the security advisor inform North Block of the operation.

“Nothing was brought to the notice of home minister L.K. Advani, the home secretary or special secretary (J&K) T.R. Kakkar,” an official said. “The only consumer of the intelligence inputs was Mishra. The national security advisor took all briefings from RAW chief A.S. Dulat and IB director Shyamal Dutta. The whole issue was kept under wraps, making a mockery of the existence of North Block.”

With Mishra controlling the talks, Pande simply carried the security advisor’s brief when he visited Srinagar on August 3 for the first — and ultimately the only — round of talks with the Hizbul. The home secretary is learnt to have told the outfit’s leaders that negotiations on the ground rules for the truce could begin immediately after the formal meeting. But the Hizbul sought more time.

Some of its commanders made it clear to the Central team that they were “not happy” with Mishra’s statement some days ago that the talks would be held within the framework of the Constitution.

Officials said that in hindsight, it was the security advisor’s remark that caused the first rupture. “Some things are better off unsaid. There was no need to go public,” an official said.

Mishra could not be reached for comment.

The government’s brave talk about continuing with the peace initiative cannot hide the suggestion that the intelligence assessment wings failed to gauge the ground realities and the Hizbul’s various pulls and pressures.

Officials said the negotiations collapsed because of the “haste and insufficient preparation by the intelligence agencies and the PMO and the complete wrong assessment of not only judging whether the Hizbul was in a position to thwart Pakistani pressure, but also how Islamabad would do everything to prevent the talks from taking off”.

Those in charge of the operation relied too much on Dar and were, in fact, convinced that he would be able to pull it off, even without Salahuddin, the officials added.    


 
 
CPM SQUIRMS UNDER SCRIBE ATTACK GLARE 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Aug. 14 
A day after six journalists were roughed up in Uttarpara in Hooghly district, CPM supporters today heckled a correspondent of a private television channel when he was reporting the announcement of municipal election results there.

Dhrubajyoti Nandi, of Jain Television, said he was beaten up while covering an incident in which two houses of Trinamul Congress supporters were torched. “When I reached the spot, some CPM activists prevented me from taking pictures of the burnt houses. They pushed me out in the presence of police officials,” he said.

Mediapersons have decided to observe Wednesday as a ‘Black Day’ to protest the assaults. Wearing black badges, they will march to Raj Bhavan to submit a memorandum to the Governor seeking protection.

Today’s attack, which comes close on the heels of the Writers’ Buildings incident, has embarrassed the CPM leadership. Both chief minister Jyoti Basu and his deputy Buddhadev Bhattacharya took strong exception to the “indiscriminate assault”.

Bhattacharya, in a bid to placate the press, said the government has already begun an administrative inquiry into the assault on newspersons at Writers’ Buildings on Thursday.

“We will also take action against those involved in the Uttarpara incident,” he added.

But state secretary Anil Biswas took a different stand, blaming both newspapers and the electronic media in the city for their slander campaign against the Left.

In a statement today, the editor of the party mouthpiece, Ganashakti, said: “This kind of campaign must have given birth to discontent among the people leading to yesterday’s assault on journalists.”

He also alleged that, in some cases, people with vested interests were targeting journalists and putting the blame on party workers. He, however, described yesterday’s assault as “unfortunate”.

With the CPM on the backfoot following widespread condemnation, Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee has turned her arch rival’s discomfiture into advantage.

In a blistering attack on the Left Front, she said: “The assault on mediapersons is an attempt to throttle democracy. This is a clear indication that the CPM is fast losing its ground in Bengal.”

Mamata said she had instructed her party MPs to raise the issue in Lok Sabha on Wednesday. “I have informed the Governor, Viren Shah, requesting him to ensure protection to working journalists,” she said, adding that she would also bring the matter to the notice of President K.R. Narayanan, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani.

Mamata, who has trained her sights on Writers’ Buildings, said at a press conference that her first job if her party is voted to power in the 2001 Assembly elections would be to restore the Writers’ Press Corner in its original position.    


 
 
MATHURA CLASH CLAIMS 4 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Lucknow, Aug. 14 
Indefinite curfew was clamped in many parts of Mathura after a fight between two groups turned communal, resulting in the death of four persons.

Trouble erupted yesterday when the rival groups claimed ownership over a disputed site at Govindnagar and attacked each other with bricks and lathis.

The clash, which soon took a communal turn, lasted for over five hours. As the frenzied mob went on rampage, an unprepared police force watched helplessly. By evening, three persons were reported dead.

The mob also set fire to adjoining shops and some vehicles parked nearby.

With the situation fast spinning out of control, 10 battalions of the Provincial Armed Constabulary were rushed to the spot, along with Rapid Action Force personnel. Both the police chief and the deputy inspector-general have reached the spot.

Around 11 am today, a large group from one community armed with firearms and soda bottles gheraoed the Govindnagar police station. In the ensuing clash, one policeman was shot in the leg and another blinded. Police opened fire, killing one rioter.

Minister of state for home Ranganath Mishra said the government was keeping a close watch on the situation. He said the entire area was tense, but added that the police were on high alert.

Home department officials said that following the death of one rioter in today’s police firing, the administration had intensified vigil at all trouble spots, including the disputed idgah area near Govindnagar.

All schools and colleges remained closed today.    


 
 
PLEA FOR SLAIN KARGIL WIDOW 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Aug. 14 
Reacting sharply to the killing of a Kargil widow by her in-laws for the compensation money given to her, Sonia Gandhi has urged the Prime Minister to stop compensation to the dead soldier’s family.

Shiv Kumari, 19, widow of rifleman Ram Nihore Yadav was allegedly killed by goons hired by her in-laws near Sarai Achal village in Amethi, Sonia’s parliamentary constituency.

In a letter to A.B. Vajpayee, Sonia urged him to direct the Uttar Pradesh government to divert compensation to the War Widows Welfare Fund. She said that the murder of Shiv Kumari highlighted the need for effective laws to protect widows of martyred soldiers from their in-laws

Soon after getting the news, the AICC chief asked the district party unit to ascertain the facts and brief her about the incident. “I shall be keenly waiting to know of the steps taken by you in this regard,” she concluded.

According to 10 Janpath sources, Shiv Kumari was attacked and killed while returning home after collecting her husband’s pension. She had reportedly fallen out with her in-laws after refusing to part with the Rs 17-lakh compensation money.

Initially, Shiv Kumari’s father-in-law wanted the money to be kept in a joint account. When she refused, he filed a case in court claiming that Shiv Kumari was not his daughter-in-law.

Local Congress leaders have told Sonia that it was not the first time that Shiv Kumari was attacked. On July 26, her parental house was attacked. The police, however, had refused to register a case.

Widowed on July 17, 1999, Shiv Kumari was flooded with marriage proposals after she got the compensation. Among the people who reportedly wooed her were a civil servant and a police officer.

In yet another letter to Vajpayee today, Sonia has urged the setting up of a National Cooperative Bank of India to effect changes in the Banking Regulation Act and thus strengthen the cooperative movement in the country. She said amendments in the Multi-State Cooperative Act of 1984 were also needed to ensure open membership, democratic member control, autonomy and independence in the cooperatives.    


 
 
PRIVATE HOMECOMING FOR OUSTED FIJI PM 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Aug. 14 
Politically- savvy India has decided to give ousted Fijian Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry a “hearty welcome” when he arrives here on Wednesday for a 10-day tour of the country, but is dubbing it as a private visit and not an official one.

Chaudhry is being given access to the topmost level of the Indian leadership that includes President K.R. Narayanan, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and foreign minister Jaswant Singh among others. But the fact that his is “technically” not the visit by the head of a government can be read from the diplomatic nuances and absence of established protocol norms.

The carefully crafted stand taken by India stems from both its domestic compulsion as well as its desire to send out a strong signal to the outside world on democracy. By insisting on calling Chaudhry the Fijian Prime Minister, Delhi not only keeps the domestic audience happy, but also makes it clear that it is not yet in a mood to accept military ruler Pervez Musharraf as the legitimate head of the Pakistani government. Not at least till he supports cross-border terrorism in Kashmir and other parts of the country.

Vajpayee will host a lunch for Chaudhry and hold talks with him on a number of issues, including the developments in Fiji. But the Presidential dinner, which is extended to a visiting Prime Minister, is missing. Chaudhry gets to meet Narayanan in the morning on August 17, but there will be no banquet for him. He will also have detailed discussions with the foreign minister later that day and before the end of his visit on August 26, Chaudhry will also get to meet Lok Sabha Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi and other senior parliamentarians and be honoured by them. However, he does not get a chance to address the House.

“Its not unusual for heads of the government to come here on a private visit,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman R.S. Jassal said. He pointed out that the King of Bhutan and head of governments of neighbouring countries do this on a regular basis. But he did not want to comment on whether there were any other precedents for an ousted Prime Minister to come to India on a “private visit”.

Chaudhry’s visit is part of his tour of many nations, particularly members of the Commonwealth. He has been to Australia and New Zealand and will leave for the UK and other European nations at the end of his 10-day visit here.

During his stay here, he will also be visiting Haryana — his home state and pay a visit to his native village Jamalpur, where a series of civic receptions are awaiting him.

It is interesting the way India is handling Chaudhry’s visit. Delhi continues to refer him as the Prime Minister of Fiji, but is aware that the political point that it is making cannot be extended in treating him officially as the head of the island’s government.

Chaudhry, who is of Indian-origin, was ousted from the Prime Minister’s post in Fiji after a coup led by local policeman George Speight and his armed followers.    


 
 
KOFI KUDOS FOR ATAL MINUS KASHMIR 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
New York 
Notwithstanding the mayhem in Kashmir and the illusory peace process with the separatists, when Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee walks into the Millennium Summit here next month, the 140 or so heads of state and government gathered at the UN will greet him with a new respect unprecedented in Independent India’s 53-year history.

Behind this new respect for New Delhi will be UN secretary-general Kofi Annan’s report to the summit, which, for the first time, contains only laudatory references to India.

The report, a copy of which has been obtained by The Telegraph, makes no mention of Kashmir. In the past, UN chiefs have missed no opportunity to proclaim the world body’s interest in Kashmir wherever there was a chance. India’s steadfast opposition to this only seemed to have strengthened the UN’s determination to meddle.

In marked contrast, there are three references to India in the Millennium Assembly Report, including a full page box on “India and the Information Revolution”.

India is the only country to be singled out for a separate box in the 57-page report.

In the UN lobbies, the biggest surprise — and the most talked about subject among diplomats — is a virtual endorsement by Annan of some of the Indian positions on the nuclear bomb although India is not mentioned by name anywhere in the section on “nuclear weapons”.

In a statement which has made the permanent missions of many countries sit up and wonder, the secretary-general says in the report: “The objective of nuclear non-proliferation is not helped by the fact that the nuclear weapons states continue to insist that those weapons in their hands enhance security, while in the hands of others they are a threat to world peace.” These words could well have been taken out of Vajpayee’s mouth!

In a virtual endorsement of India’s nuclear diplomacy after Pokhran-II, the secretary-general has proposed that “consideration be given to convening a major international conference that would help to identify ways of eliminating nuclear dangers”.

Such a conference, Annan said, would help focus attention on the risks from existing nuclear weapons and from further proliferation as well on the opportunities to reduce them.

The box on “India and the Information Revolution” notes that “no developing country has benefited more from the digital revolution than India, whose software industry is expected to increase about eight-fold, to $85 billion by 2008”.

Praising the economic liberalisation of recent years, Annan says “the software revolution in India has been accelerated by foreign investment and assisted by economic liberalisation”.

In the entire report, there is only one reference which could be construed as negative, even if it is factual. But even here, Annan is virtually apologetic, quoting none other than the President of India, K.R. Narayanan, to buttress his point.

The secretary-general points out: “India, like so many other countries, continues to face the challenge of the ‘digital divide’. There remains a huge gap within the country bet- ween those who are part of the Internet revolution and those who are not.”

Annan then goes on to quote from Narayanan’s Republic Day-eve message to the nation this year in which he pointed out that India has “one of the world’s largest reservoirs of technical personnel but also the world’s largest number of illiterates, the largest number of people below the poverty line and the largest number of children suffering from malnutrition”.

The Millennium Assembly Report expresses hope that the information networks now being built in India “have a huge potential for spreading the benefits of education to the less fortunate”.    

 

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