Clinton echo in Putin Kashmir sermon
CPM door ajar for rebel reform and return
Assam reopens ’92 riots case
Assam seeks action against rioters
Karbi rebels gun down official, wife
Naxalites kill Lohardaga SP
Cow-crusader roadblock in way of US goods export
Gender bias linked to maternal mortality
Cong pushes back polls
Six killed in Assam landslides

 
 
CLINTON ECHO IN PUTIN KASHMIR SERMON 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Oct. 4: 
Russian President Vladimir Putin today found common cause with India to fight terrorism in Kashmir and Chechnya, but pointed out that while the Kashmir dispute needed to resolved bilaterally between Delhi and Islamabad, the two neighbours should do so on the basis of a compromise.

Putin’s address to Parliament, especially his stand on Kashmir, terrorism and non-proliferation, echoed his American counterpart Bill Clinton’s speech in the Central Hall in March.

During the day, the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cooperation on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The Russian President will visit the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai tomorrow.

At the Central Hall this morning, parliamentarians did not break line to shake hands with Putin as they had done during Clinton’s visit. But the packed hall was equally attentive and enthusiastic when he spoke. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who later called on the Russian President, former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral and Vice-President Krishan Kant were among those present.

Putin was escorted by Lok Sabha Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi and parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan. Responding to the loud applause with a namaste, he spoke for 15 minutes.

Speaking in Russian, the President touched upon many issues, including bilateral ties and the steps required to scale down tension in the region after the Indo-Pakistan face-off.

Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, who spoke in Hindi, expressed concern over continuous proliferation of nuclear weapons and missiles in the region and stressed that India desired peaceful relations with all its neighbours based on mutual respect and civilised behaviour.

“Along with the well-being of our people, we seek peace and security in our region and the world over,” he said.

He pointed out that both Delhi and Moscow shared common concerns and interests and argued that “the history of the last five decades demonstrates that close Indo-Russian understanding is essential to peace and stability in Asia and the world”.

“This is what makes India and Russia strategic partners. Our friendship is not based on short-term calculations, but transcends the twists and turns of history and politics,” Vajpayee said.

The Prime Minister said India had faced the menace of international terrorism, religious extremism, drug trafficking, narco-terrorism and separatism for more than a decade. He urged the international community to resolve to fight these challenges.

“These dangers do not recognise any borders and affect all. Terrorism cannot be allowed to become an instrument of state policy.” The Russian President responded positively to Vajpayee’s oblique reference to Pakistan, a country with which Moscow has started engaging to deal with the separatist movement in Chechnya.

Putin said foreign interference should stop immediately in Kashmir and the matter should be resolved bilaterally by India and Pakistan. “This (Kashmir) issue should be resolved bilaterally and on the basis of compromise. There should be unconditional respect for the Line of Control (LoC),” he said, maintaining that Moscow was aware of the developments in Kashmir and “fully supports the Indian leadership on the collective front to fight terrorism”.

“We share your concern about the violence that is going on here. It is making relations between India and Pakistan tense,” he said. “I would like to share the absolutely trustworthy information with you that the same people are organising terrorist attacks from the Philippines to Kosovo, including Kashmir and Afghanistan and Russia’s North Caucasus.”

The Russian President said India, a “major player” for global stability, continued to be “top priority” in Russia’s foreign policy.

To assure the parliamentarians not to worry about Moscow’s overtures to Islamabad, Putin said: “No matter how our relations develop with other countries, Asian or otherwise, that will not prejudice our relations with India.” Without trying to lecture India on signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and in an attempt to also assure the outside world that the nuclear cooperation between the two sides on peaceful use was something not to worry about, Putin said: “We proceed from the assumption that India, while taking into account its own interests, will search for ways to move towards nuclear non-proliferation.”    


 
 
CPM DOOR AJAR FOR REBEL REFORM AND RETURN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 4: 
Two days after striking out the name of rebel leader Saifuddin Choudhury from the list of party members, the CPM today said its door will remain “open” to him.

The CPM central committee announced on Monday that Saifuddin’s name was struck off the membership list following a recommendation by the state committee.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said Saifuddin was not expelled from the party. “Neither have we driven him out of the organisation,” he added.

“Choudhury was in the habit of violating party discipline. We had cautioned him many times but he did not rectify himself. He was seeking an honourable separation from the party and we have given him that,” Biswas said.

Asked if Saifuddin could rejoin, Biswas said: “Why not? Our door is open for him. He can rejoin the party when he admits his mistakes.” Saifuddin said he would not hesitate to admit his mistakes if he thought he had made any.

Biswas’ statement is being seen as a reaction to the central committee’s indirect attempt to pass the responsibility of Saifuddin’s ouster to the state committee. Party insiders said the state committee was pressured by Burdwan district committee leaders like Benoy Konar to order the sacking. Saifuddin was a front-ranking leader from Burdwan but fell out with the leadership after he demanded inner-party democracy.

The decision to cancel Saifuddin’s membership has strengthened efforts by rebel CPM leaders to float a new party, sources said. Saifuddin said the process has begun, but did not spell out any time-frame.

Sources said the new party will be launched in November, after the CPM’s October plenum in Thiruvananthapuram.

“I am really astonished to receive hundreds of phone calls from many leaders of my former party who have assured me of their moral support in launching the new party,” Saifuddin told The Telegraph. It is likely that many important CPM leaders will join the proposed outfit.

Though Biswas has kept the door open for Saifuddin’s return, it is unlikely that he will come back.

“Chowdhury’s case is not isolated. Many important leaders in the past were either driven out or they chose to leave. Neither did they return to the party on their own, nor did the party take any measures to bring them back,” a senior state CPM leader said.

Observers feel the CPM has struck off Saifuddin’s membership during the Pujas so that it would attract minimum attention.

Two secretariat members of the CPM’s Tripura unit, Dhiraj Guha and Ajoy Biswas, had raised ideological questions in 1992. Both met the same fate as Saifuddin.    


 
 
ASSAM REOPENS ’92 RIOTS CASE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, Oct. 4: 
The Assam government has sought legal opinion on prosecution of government officials and politicians belonging to both the Congress and the Asom Gana Parishad for their alleged role in the 1992 communal riots in Nagaon and Dhubri districts.

The riots broke out after fundamentalists desecrated the Babri Masjid.

The Justice D. Pathak Commission held officials of both the districts guilty of not doing enough to avert the riots.

The commission accused former Congress minister Anowar Hussain of instigating the rioters and castigated party leaders Ardhendu Kumar Dey and Abdul Jali Ragibi, and AGP legislator Khalilur Rahman for alleged lapses in “controlling the situation” in Nagaon.

Chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta told The Telegraph that the state government had sought legal opinion on the possibility of initiating proceedings against the accused on the basis of the Pathak Commission’s report. He said the inquiry panel recorded its findings, but did not recommend any steps.

The commission had submitted its report to the erstwhile Hiteswar Saikia-led Congress government in 1995. The AGP-led government, which took over on June 15, 1996, also kept the report under wraps for four-and-a-half years.

The state unit of the BJP has now demanded prosecution of the Congress leaders and government officials found guilty of abetting the riots.

The clashes began in Nagaon town on December 7, 1992 and spread to Hojai. Over 90 people were killed, 10 of them in firing by police and army personnel. As many as 23 temples and mosques were also damaged.

In Dhubri district, nine persons were killed and hundreds rendered homeless.    


 
 
ASSAM SEEKS ACTION AGAINST RIOTERS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, Oct. 4: 
The Assam government has sought legal opinion on prosecution of government officials and politicians belonging to both the Congress and the Asom Gana Parishad for their alleged role in the 1992 communal riots in Nagaon and Dhubri districts.

The riots broke out after fundamentalists desecrated the Babri Masjid. The Justice D. Pathak Commission held officials of both the districts guilty of not doing enough to avert the riots.

The commission accused former Congress minister Anowar Hussain of instigating the rioters and castigated party leaders Ardhendu Kumar Dey and Abdul Jali Ragibi, and AGP legislator Khalilur Rahman for alleged lapses in “controlling the situation” in Nagaon,

Chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta told The Telegraph that the state government had sought legal opinion on the possibility of initiating proceedings against the accused on the basis of the Pathak Commission’s report. He said the inquiry panel recorded its findings, but did not recommend any steps.

The commission had submitted its report to the erstwhile Hiteswar Saikia-led Congress government in 1995. The AGP-led government, which took over on June 15, 1996, also kept the report under wraps for four-and-a-half years.

The state unit of the BJP has now demanded prosecution of the Congress leaders and government officials found guilty of abetting the riots.

The clashes began in Nagaon town on December 7, 1992 and spread to Hojai. Over 90 people were killed, 10 of them in firing by police and Army personnel. As many as 23 temples and mosques were also damaged.

In Dhubri district, nine persons were killed and hundreds rendered homeless.

The probe panel stated that the then Nagaon deputy commissioner and superintendent of police failed to take necessary steps when some riot-affected people contacted them. “They allowed the situation to go out of hand,” it said.

The panel said the police were inactive and security forces were not deployed at all in “sensitive” areas. It also accused Ragibi, a former Congress legislator, of “aggravating the situation” in Hojai subdivision by making some “irresponsible” statements against the subdivisional police officer.

The commission was particularly critical of Ardhendu Dey, then a minister in the Hiteswar Saikia Cabinet, and AGP legislator Khalilur Rahman. It charged both with failing to discharge their duties as representatives of the people.    


 
 
KARBI REBELS GUN DOWN OFFICIAL, WIFE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, Oct. 4: 
Suspected United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) militants today gunned down a circle inspector and his wife at Sarubrokhaloi, 7 km off Baithalangshui in Karbi Anglong district.

Police sources said a group of nearly 10 UPDS militants armed with sophisticated weapons ambushed the vehicle in which circle inspector of Hamren circle Khanin Chandra Buragohain and his wife were travelling. The official and his wife died on the spot as militants opened fire indiscriminately.

The slain circle inspector hailed from Phukan Nagar in Sivsagar district. This was the second major attack in the hill district over a span of just three weeks. Earlier on September 13, UPDS militants mowed down nine police personnel and an undertrial prisoner near Borlangphar , 12 km from Diphu. An additional superintendent of police was also seriously injured in the attack.

Death count mounts: The death toll in Monday’s mishap at unmanned Jamuguri level crossing in Golaghat district has gone up to 13, reports our Jorhat correspondent. One more person, Gangadhar Guwala (40) died at the Kushal Konwar civil hospital late last night. Two injured have been referred to Assam Medical College hospital Dibrugarh.

The general manager of Northeast Frontier Railway visited the area yesterday.    


 
 
NAXALITES KILL LOHARDAGA SP 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Ranchi, Oct. 4: 
Superintendent of police, Lohardaga, Ajay Kumar Singh, was shot dead by suspected Maoist Communist Centre extremists this afternoon in an encounter under Chandwa police station bordering the extremist-affected Palamau and Lohardaga districts in south Bihar.

Bihar director general of police K. A. Jacob said the encounter took place while Singh was returning after conducting a raid.

Sources said Singh was shot in the head from point blank range after he challenged a group of Naxalites. Jacob said several rounds of firing took place during the encounter in which some extremists were also killed. However, the actual number of extremists killed during the encounter was not available. The extremists also triggered a landmine blast.

The DGP said the borders of Palamau and Lohardaga district have been sealed and massive combing operation launched to flush out the extremists.

Reinforcements have been rushed to the area. Chief minister Rabri Devi and Rashtriya Janata Dal president Laloo Prasad Yadav condemned the killing and said the extremists responsible for Singh’s death would be dealt with “sternly.”

A red alert had been sounded in all the adjoining districts. Deputy inspector-general (range) Parvez Hayat visited the spot with superintendent of Palamau police Vinay Pandey. Governor Vinod Pandey also condemned the killing. Singh is the second SP to have been killed by outlaws. Former SP, Dhanbad, Randhir Verma, husband of MP Rita Verma, was killed by terrorists in Punjab in 1991.    


 
 
COW-CRUSADER ROADBLOCK IN WAY OF US GOODS EXPORT 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, Oct. 4: 
Like the bull in the China shop, the cow is threatening to literally destroy the Indian shop.

GAP, America’s second largest clothing chain, is already boycotting Indian leather. It has been followed by Banana Republic and Old Navy, two other retail chains in the US.

With the world’s largest animal rights organisation, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), choosing Gandhi Jayanti to launch a movement worldwide to prevent global conglomerates from buying or using Indian leather in their products, a question mark now hangs over one of the most lucrative Indian exports.

Peta’s cause: better treatment of cows in India.

One of Peta’s immediate targets, though, will be Malaysia, which now imports large quantities of Indian meat, upsetting Australia, which was hitherto the South-East Asian country’s biggest source of meat imports.

Peta will put pressure on Kuala Lumpur to stop buying meat from India until standards of animal slaughter across the country are made more humane.

Thereafter, as in the case of GAP, Old Navy and Banana Republic, Peta intends to persuade Nordstorm, Hush Puppies, Florsheim Shoes and Casual Corner, all big branded chains in the US, to stop using Indian leather in their products altogether.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and President Bill Clinton may sign agreements to increase trade, but as in the clogged streets of Delhi, they may find the cow obstructing progress on the road to better flow of goods across their frontiers.

To many people here, there is sweet irony in this situation: it was the BJP which has been waging a campaign for decades for protecting cows and suddenly the government headed by the party finds itself at the receiving end of a campaign for the better treatment of cows in India.

What is worrying Peta more than the absence of any immediate action to better the lot of cows is New Delhi’s complete indifference to its efforts to draw attention to the plight of the animals.

The organisation’s president Ingrid Newkirk has been quoted by local media as saying that the Indian government has not responded to even one of Peta’s letters.

India’s leather industry, which has to face the music of the campaign, has understandably been more responsive. Newkirk was quoted as saying that industry organisations have been making efforts to address concerns about the condition of animals.

Peta’s main complaint is about the way cows are transported in overcrowded trucks under unhygienic conditions. Also worrying the organisation is the lack of action against officials who help skin traders to kill cows illegally.

Peta shot into fame here in August when it put up a fibreglass cow before the New York authorities as its contribution to the Millennium Cow Parade in the Big Apple which was still on when Vajpayee was visiting the city.

The fibreglass art work was designed like a butcher shop poster with each part of the animal’s body detailing methods used for killing cows. New York Parks commissioner Henry Stern said the work was “gruesome and macabre”. He rejected the entry as unfit to be displayed among the 500 fibreglass cows which were put up in New York as part of the Cow Parade.

Peta responded to the rejection saying: “If the sensitive souls of New York feel uncomfortable reading about cows’ journey from slaughterhouse to porterhouse, or looking at their bloody bodies, then hamburger should be banned from the city limits”.    


 
 
GENDER BIAS LINKED TO MATERNAL MORTALITY 
 
 
FROM MONOBINA GUPTA
 
New Delhi, Oct. 4: 
Here are some statistics stark enough to make policymakers sit up. For the last 30 years, maternal mortality rate in India has shown no signs of declining. There are 73 million girls under 6 years of age as against 77 million boys in the same age group. Infanticide and foeticide are gaining ground even in prosperous states like Punjab and Haryana.

At the first ever international conference on child care and survival in Delhi, it is this story of the “missing” girl that dominated all discussions. The Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) has completed 25 years but there are still 36 million “missing” women in India and 80 million in South Asia.

Gender discrimination persists despite the proliferation of schemes for women and girl children. “While in the West the maternal mortality rate is down to a single digit, in India it has remained static for the past three decades,” said Dr Vijaya Raghavan, a nutrition expert.

A United Nations Population Fund report records a disturbing trend — an increase in deaths of teenage mothers between 15 and 19 years. “Any programme for adolescents must, therefore, recognise the problem of gender discrimination,” states the report. As many as 55 per cent of adolescent girls suffer from anaemia which worsens with pregnancy.

In India, though the legal age for marriage is 18 for females, early marriages continue with impunity. Twenty six per cent of females are married by the time they are 15 years old. The figure goes up to 54 per cent by the time the girls turn 18.

For the Indian woman, the chain of deprivation begins during her childhood and continues through her adolescence and adulthood. “By the time the Indian woman is pregnant she is already malnourished. As a result the baby she gives birth to is invariably of low birth weight,” said Raghavan.

Thirty five per cent of the developing world’s low birth weight children are found in India. Speakers at the conference said women and girl children have a better profile wherever the ICDS programme has reached and has been properly implemented. But there are other programmes which got bogged down with hitches during implementation — programmes as crucial as distributing iron and folic tablets among expecting mothers during the last 100 days of pregnancy have not really taken off.

“The supply of these tablets has been erratic and this is where the scheme has come apart. The scheme, if implemented properly, could have played a crucial role in improving the status of mothers and infants,” says a health worker. He maintains that if the low birth weight syndrome has to go it has to begin with gender justice.

“The child is born with low weight because of the poor nutritional condition of the mother. And the mother’s health status is nothing but a reflection of gender discrimination,” stressed Raghavan.

The minister of department of women and children, Sumitra Mahajan, declared that the current conference is a conference with a difference. “We are here to discuss strategies,” said Mahajan.    


 
 
CONG PUSHES BACK POLLS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Oct. 4: 
The Congress modified its party poll schedule again, hoping to thrash out a consensus in favour of Sonia Gandhi’s second term as party president.

The revised polls have been designed to help the existing leadership scuttle chances of dissidents closing ranks and forcing a credible contest. Sonia’s managers plan to get affirmation of faith from the regional satraps before rewarding them with postings as state unit chiefs and AICC delegates.

The Congress president will now be elected on November 11 instead of November 1. This means that the election of state party unit chiefs, PCC executive, AICC delegates and PEC members, scheduled for November 1, will fall two weeks after the last date for filing of nomination for the post of Congress president.

As most of the regional satraps will be seeking support from the Sonia camp, they will hardly be in a position to oppose the high command at that juncture, dealing a blow to the dissidents.

The AICC’s central election authority chairman Ram Niwas Mirdha said the polls were being rescheduled in view of local body and panchayat elections in several states. But the dissidents, who want to force a contest in the guise of inner-party democracy, alleged that the leadership was playing for time to avoid a face-off.

The Congress constitution stipulates that any 10 state-level delegates can propose a presidential candidate’s name. So far, no leader has formally announced his intention to challenge Sonia’s leadership except for Jitendra Prasada, who said a contest should not be seen as a challenge to the leader.

Mirdha claimed that for the first time, party polls at all levels will be held through secret ballot. “It will be free, fair and impartial,” Mirdha said.

Priyanka son named

Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra’s newborn son has been named Rehan, a Parsi-Muslim name that means the compassionate one.

The month-old boy was christened at a namkaran ceremony performed by a Hindu priest from Varanasi at Priyanka’s 35 Lodhi Estate residence yesterday.    


 
 
SIX KILLED IN ASSAM LANDSLIDES 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Silchar, Oct. 4: 
Six Chakma tribals were buried alive in a landslide at Vaicherra village under Katlicherra block in south Assam’s Hailakandi district on Monday.

A delayed official report reaching here today said police could reach the inaccessible hamlet only yesterday to clear the debris.

The report said mounds of loosened soil cascaded down on the bamboo hut of Sebaranjan Chakma, 40, a farmer, and swept it 150 metres down to the plains.

Chakma was not in his house when the rain-triggered landslide occurred, but six of his neighbours — Chakma tribals who eked out a living by selling bamboos — were taking shelter in the hut to escape the downpour.

The victims have been identified as Basanti Chakma, 30, her only son Mangaljoy, 7, Kalachand Chakma, 17, Dharmendra Chakma, 10, Kekori Chakma, 13, and Tuto Chakma, 10. They were all Buddhists.

Police and the villagers dug into the rubble for two hours to salvage the bodies which were taken to the Hailakandi civil hospital for post mortem last night.

Hailakandi district deputy commissioner Alok Khere told The Telegraph today that the administration would decide on the ex gratia payment to the next of kin of the victims after getting the official report.

The district administration has alerted all police stations and revenue offices in the hilly Katlicherra block, bordering Mizoram, against possible landslides as the rains continued.

In another incident, an employee of the public health engineering department, Asit Das, 29, was drowned when the boat in which he was crossing the river Dhaleswari capsized near Katakhal town in Hailakandi district yesterday. His body is yet to be traced. The boatman and two other persons accompanying him managed to swim ashore.

Pandals inundated

The Pujas were washed away in Patherkadi town and adjoining villages in south Assam’s Karimganj district with the swirling waters of the Longai inundating the pandals.

The block headquarters town of Patherkandi, with a population of 50,000, is under waist-deep water as the Longai overflowed its banks. Inhabitants of the town and the four adjacent gaon panchayats have either moved to the higher reaches or sought refuge on rooftops.

Official sources at Karimganj said over 25,000 residents of the town and the four gaon panchayats were affected by the flash floods.

This is the eighth wave of floods caused by overflowing of the Longai in this block.

The flood waters also cut off Tripura, which borders Patherkandi block, yesterday by inundating portions of National Highway 44, the state’s only road link with the rest of the country.

The Barak and Kushiara rivers in Cachar and Karimganj districts are also rising following rain over the past few days. This has given rise to fears of floods in the districts, where Puja celebrations began today.

The Barak, which was rising four cm per hour this morning, is now flowing 15 cm below the red mark here.    

 

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