Naqvi scores a first in Bangaru BJP
Neighbours make Atal US agenda
Mumbai panics after
Bleach clutches at Straw
Cops lose torture charge cover
Radio blast

New Delhi, Sept. 5: 
In a fitting sequel to new BJP chief Bangaru Laxman’s assertion that Muslims are the “flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood”, Mukhtaar Abbas Naqvi will be inducted as a general secretary in Laxman’s team of office-bearers.

This is the first time that a Muslim will occupy the post of a BJP general secretary.

If the party president is the head of the organisation, the five general secretaries are its backbone. Although Naqvi’s specific assignment has not been decided — general secretaries are usually put in charge of different states — BJP sources said his appointment would be used as a campaign point to try and “convince” minorities that the party was “serious” about assimilating them in its mainstream, just as Laxman’s appointment was beamed as a “pro-Dalit” gesture.

Earlier, though Sikandar Bakht had acquired a public profile as the BJP’s only well-known Muslim member, he was only elected vice-president, which party sources admitted was an “ornamental” post.

The office-bearers’ list was finalised this morning in a meeting held at the residence of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Besides Vajpayee and Laxman, home minister L.K. Advani and former BJP president Kushabhau Thakre were also present. Thakre’s presence indicates that he will continue playing “father figure” in the party. The list is likely to be released tomorrow officially.

It has also become clear that M. Venkaiah Naidu would not be inducted into the Cabinet in the event of a reshuffle and would continue as general secretary as would the other two, K.N. Govindacharya and Narendra Modi.

For the fifth post, sources said it was a toss-up between Pyarelal Khandelwal, a national secretary and Maya Singh, who was recently made the general secretary of the Madhya Pradesh BJP.

Efforts are being made to bring Maya Singh to the Centre as the party needs a woman representative to fill the vacuum caused by Sushma Swaraj’s exit, but she has reportedly expressed a wish to continue in Madhya Pradesh where her husband is an MLA. Maya Singh is a sister-in-law of BJP veteran Vijaya Raje Scindia.

Sources also said Jana Krishnamurthy is expected to continue as vice-president, though there were indications yesterday that he may be taken into the Cabinet after it was decided that Naidu would not.

But Krishnamurthy’s induction has run into problems as he is not a member of either House and is not deemed “suitable” to contest the Trichi Lok Sabha seat, vacated after P.R. Kumaramangalam’s death. Sources said a Rajya Sabha vacancy was unlikely to arise in the near future.

Among the other new faces which may be inducted are Delhi BJP veteran O.P. Kohli as a vice-president and former Delhi mayor and now Lok Sabha MP Anita Arya as a secretary.

Arya has been working actively in the BJP’s Dalit Morcha and had organised a series of receptions for Laxman after he took over as the president. Former Karnataka BJP chief B.S. Yedurriappa may also be moved to Delhi as a secretary while Ram Kripal Sinha, currently BJP office secretary, may also get the same rank.

The fate of the two former Delhi chief ministers, Madan Lal Khurana and Sahib Singh Verma, hangs in balance. Sources said while Khurana was more or less out of the reckoning for a place in Laxman’s team, as the leadership has not taken “too well” to his initiative to float his own outfit, Delhi Vikas Manch, Verma could be compensated for the lack of a Cabinet post by being made the head of the Kisan Morcha.


New Delhi, Sept. 5: 
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who has put off most of his bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the UN Millennium Summit, has decided to meet his counterparts from two neighbouring countries, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Giving the details of the Prime Minister’s US programme, foreign ministry spokesman R.S. Jassal said he will have bilateral meetings in New York with Sheikh Hasina and Girija Prasad Koirala.

Indications are that Vajpayee may meet some other leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and US presidential hopeful George W. Bush. But the dates of these meetings are yet to be finalised.

With Vajpayee’s problematic knee weighing on their minds, his managers are playing by their ear in setting up appointments. They would not like to keep the engagement diary clear as the Prime Minister’s inactivity could fuel more speculation about his health.

Therefore, meetings like the ones with Bangladesh and Nepal, where he will not have to exert himself, have been finalised so far.

Vajpayee has already curtailed his US trip by two days and knocked San Francisco off his itinerary. He will leave for New York on Thursday and attend the Asia Society dinner the same evening.

Next day, he will deliver his address to the UN Millennium Summit. He is also scheduled to sign the convention for suppression of financing of terrorism, 1999 — a French initiative which is being supported by Delhi. The Union Cabinet recently decided to sign and ratify it.

On September 9, Vajpayee will attend a function of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan — titled Vande Mataram — and an ayurvedic conference.

He will release two books on the occasion. That evening, he is scheduled to address a public meeting organised by the Indo-American Association at Staaten Island.

The next three days have been kept almost free to enable him to go ahead with a medical examination and, perhaps, a minor surgery on his left knee. On September 13, he will leave for Washington, where the official part of his visit begins next day.    

Mumbai, Sept. 5: 
A moderate earthquake shook parts of Maharashtra and neighbouring Goa and Karnataka, creating a panic wave but sparing the region largely.

The tremor, measuring 5 on the Richter scale, also shook some suburbs of Mumbai and Kalyan, but no damage to buildings was reported. The quake-prone Warna area in Satara district, about 128 km from Pune, was the epicentre of the quake, local meteorological office said.

Officials said mud-and-rock houses in many western Ma harashtra villages developed cracks during the earthquake that lasted from 15 to 20 seconds this morning, but no casualty was reported till evening.

Pune divisional commissioner Umesh Chandra Sarangi said the quake jolted the Tandoli dam in Satara district, but no breach was reported.

Officials were relieved when they found the Koyna dam, sitting on an active fault-line in Satara district, was found safe.

Any crack could spell disaster in the areas full of crowded villages as the dam held nearly 2800 million cubic metres of water.

The government sent a team of engineers to check for damage to the dam, breached by a severe earthquake in 1967.

Officials said people liv ing downstream faced no threat to their lives because the dam had been fortified ag- ainst quakes in the past few quakes.

Sarangi said he despatched officials to Sohanwadi area in Kolhapur and Shirola area in Sangli and Karad in Satara to take stock of the situation. He said damages in houses there was a possibility.

In neighbouring Bhudargarh, fissures appeared in several houses, including some cement buildings. It was not known if any houses had collapsed.

Two aftershocks rumbled through the region barely 40 minutes after the quake struck around 6 am, S. Kumar, director of Mumbai’s Colaba observatory, said.

The quake, though brief, shook the sleeping residents awake in western districts. Bleary-eyed families rushed out of their homes in panic after their beds swayed in the earthquake.

Villagers in many areas were the first to rush out fearing a collapse of their homes. Many people were killed when an earthquake struck Latur in Maharashtra a few years ago. The dead were mostly residents of collapsed houses made of mud and boulder.

A tremor of moderate intensity rocked Goa and Belgaum in Karnataka. Officials had no reports of casualty or damage to property there.    

Calcutta, Sept. 5: 
On the eve of UK home secretary Jack Straw’s visit to the city, British national Peter Bleach, a key accused in the Purulia armsdrop case lodged in the Presidency Jail since December 1995, is feeling hopeful about his release.

“Bleach looks happy after he has heard about Straw’s visit,” said a jail official. He said “an overwhelmed” Bleach also told some of his fellow prisoners that he was expecting Straw to visit him. “Over the last one week, Bleach, confident of his release, is busy with his typewriter at the cell preparing papers on this score,” he added.

Jail sources said Bleach has already requested some of his fellow prisoners to take charge of his pet cats once he leaves. Bleach has befriended about a dozen cats over the years.

Straw, who is on a six-day visit to India from Monday, arrives here on Saturday to meet chief minister Jyoti Basu and his deputy Buddhadev Bhattacharya. Before his arrival here, Straw will also meet Union home minister L.K. Advani and National Human Rights Commission chairman Justice J.S. Verma.

Hari Ramalu, under secretary (home), said on Tuesday that Straw will call on Basu at his residence at 11.45 am on Saturday morning. Straw will be stay-ing at the Oberoi Grand.

Although he refused to divulge the details of the agenda to be discussed at the meeting, sources said the issue involving Bleach’s release may figure at the top.

An official attached to the British Deputy High Commission said Straw might refer to Bleach’s appeal, so that it can be dealt with by the Union home ministry as quickly as possible. “But we have no intention to intervene in India’s judicial system and make a request for his release,” he added. According to him, steps to further Indo-British relations in eastern India in the days a- head may also come up for discussion.

Asked if Straw is scheduled to visit Presidency Jail, the official denied any knowledge about this.

Bleach, who has been lodged in the jail as a life convict, pleaded for his release with the home ministry after five Latvians were granted presidential pardon and handed over to the Russian Embassy. Bleach’s mother has also written to President K.R. Narayanan seeking mercy for her only child.    

New Delhi, Sept. 5: 
No law of a state government can provide police with immunity in custodial torture cases, even if the time limit to take action against the erring policeman has expired, the Supreme Court has ruled.

A division bench of Justice K.T. Thomas and Justice R.P. Sethi said the Kerala Police Act’s limitation period of six months for such cases cannot absolve two policemen, who had tortured a person in their custody.

The apex court said even the bar provided in the Criminal Procedure Code as applicable to the entire country cannot be cited by erring policemen to extricate themselves from charges of custodial torture.

The legal position that “no action after the expiry of the limitation period” can be taken will result in more cases of custodial torture. No policeman, who takes shelter in the limitation period, should escape the clutches of penal provisions, the judges said.

The apex court dismissed a petition of two Kerala policemen who contended that they cannot be tried for custodial torture as nine months has elapsed whereas the law prescribes a maximum limitation period of six months.

“If a police officer tortures a prisoner inside the lock up and he knows that the right of the prisoner to move the court within the time prescribed for such acts will be permanently debarred after six months, then the policeman may inflict such phy- sical harm to the prisoner as to disable him from moving out for the next six months so that the offending policeman will be permanently immuned from prosecution proceedings for the offence committed by him,” the judges said.

If the Kerala Police Act is interpreted as there cannot be any case against the erring policemen after six months, then “it will give rise to calamitous consequences”, Justice Thomas said.

P. Alikutty, a shop keeper, was called to a police station and was made to wait for sub-inspector P.P. Unnikrishnan.

The sub-inspector came the next morning but Alikutty was tortured the whole night by other policemen. He was let off in the morning with a warning that he would be further tormented if he told anyone about the custodial torture.

But Alikutty filed a complaint after six months against the two policemen to the judicial magistrate of his area. The magistrate rejected the policemen’s contention that the complaint was time barred.

On an appeal before the high court, the same contention was rejected.

The Supreme Court said the bar provided in the state Act as well as in the Criminal Procedure Code was to protect public servants from frivolous prosecution and charges, but that did not protect policemen accused of custodial torture.    

Patna, Sept. 5: 
The state prison directorate today ordered a magisterial probe into the transistor bomb blast in Sasaram subdivisional jail yesterday in which one undertrial was killed and two injured.

Police sources said around 11.30 am yesterday visitors came to meet Mangru Yadav, an accused in an arms trafficking case. They introduced themselves to Mangru as “visitors from his friend”. After initial interaction, Mangru was gifted a transistor. “It is a new model. Listen to songs when you feel tired,” the visitors said.

Minutes after Mangru took the transistor inside the jail and tried to tune it on it went off with a deafening sound. Mangru was ripped apart and splinters from the bomb injured the two.

“The transistor was meant to kill Mangru,” said Raghuvansh Prasad Yadav, superintendent of police, Sasaram. He said Mangru had a rivalry with his village neighbour, who wanted to kill him. But jail officers are surprised how an undertrial could take a transistor inside the jail. “It means virtually no security system was at work,” said an officer.    


Maintained by Web Development Company