Gorkha hawk rattles sabre at state
Buddha breathes fire at ‘saffron’ school plan
Star storm on study Bill
CMs in Sonia firing line
Bailed-out Jagir to face CBI
Warring West Asians on Mansingh menu
Fresh invite for Jaswant
Berth pangs for Babulal
Second triumph over Soren
Govt settles score in judges’ homes

 
 
GORKHA HAWK RATTLES SABRE AT STATE 
 
 
FROM PROBIR PRAMANIK
 
Kalimpong, Nov. 15: 
Hoodwinking a “crack” police force busy hunting for him, the “wanted” Gorkha militant leader, Chattray Subba, surfaced in his house and threatened to launch an armed movement for Gorkhaland “even with the help of the ISI”.

The Gorkhaland Liberation Organisation (GLO) president was supposed to have gone “underground” after the government issued an arrest warrant charging him with “waging a war against the country, concealing information and conspiracy against the state.” He has also been accused of having links with the 25 suspected Naga militants who were locked in a 24-hour encounter with the police, which triggered the current crackdown.

However, under the nose of the police, an aggressive Subba met reporters at his house in Raushey Bazar on the outskirts of Kalimpong town.

Subba said: “Since the West Bengal government has declared me an anti-national by thrusting several anti-national laws on me, I am happy. I am not alone, there are many others like me, the Kashmiris, Khalistanis, the Nagas and other Northeast militant outfits. It is these laws that will compel us to wage a war against the state and the Centre for an independent Gorkhaland.

“If the state and the Centre continue to treat us as anti-nationals, so be it. We will fight for our own home land.”

He added that the GLO has given two months to all the 28 Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) councillors, including Subhas Ghising, to resign from the Darjeeling Hill Council.

“If they fail to do that, we will launch an armed movement for Gorkhaland. We will be compelled to retaliate if the state government antagonises us. We will not wage an unnecessary war. We will fire back in retaliation and self-defence only. My GLO activists are better-trained and more mature, compared with the agitation of the Eighties. They are more dedicated to carry on a concerted war,” he claimed.

Subba, an ex-serviceman, said that the “Gorkhaland Liberation Army” would be formed soon and it would be responsible for all “armed operations”.

“The question is not of Chattray Subba or his party. It is the question of the very existence of the entire Gorkha community. If we have to take up arms and lay down our lives for our people, we are ready.

“It is for this that I am ready to be an anti-national. I will not hesitate to seek help from other anti-national organisations for my people. The onus lies on the Centre to concede our demand. What is an anti-national tag? I am ready to anti-world if need be,” Subba said.

Subba, whose links with Naga insurgents had been confirmed by the police, said: “If the Naga militants are helping us, they are welcome. Even if the ISI wants to help us, they, too, are welcome. We have reached such a stage that if the Centre fails to concede the Gorkhaland demand, it will be a do-or-die movement for the Gorkhas,” he said.

Justifying the demand for Gorkhaland, he said: “The Centre can concede the demands for the formation of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttaranchal, why not Gorkhaland?”

Before leaving for a hideout, he added: “I am ready to do any thing, even employ mercenaries from the Northeast. We will snatch the money needed to fund our armed struggle. I will use all possible means to achieve Gorkhaland.”    


 
 
BUDDHA BREATHES FIRE AT ‘SAFFRON’ SCHOOL PLAN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 15: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today opposed the Centre’s move to remodel the school education system and syllabi as well as Mamata Banerjee’s demand for job quota on the basis of religion.

Speaking to newspersons at Writers’ Buildings, the chief minister said the CPM will resist the BJP-led coalition government’s attempt to saffronise education.

Reacting to the proposal of the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) to refurbish the school education system and syllabi, Bhattacharjee said he would convey the state government’s views after obtaining the full report.

“The BJP-led government and the RSS are trying to introduce religious education in the name of value-added education. We will not allow them to do so,’’ Bhattacharjee said. The character of the Indian Constitution being secular, education and culture should also be secular, he added.

“We will protest against all undemocratic moves of the BJP-led government,” Bhattacharjee said.

This is the second time that the CPM has resisted the Union government’s education policies.

In 1998, human resource development minister M.M. Joshi faced criticism when he tried to make singing of Saraswati vandana compulsory in schools.

The Centre shelved the proposal as state education ministers joined forces with their Bengal counterpart against the move at the education ministers’ conference in Delhi.

However, he did not oppose the proposal to introduce the three-language system. “Basic education must be imparted through one’s mother tongue. Hindi is important as it is an all-India language. English should also be used as the link language,’’ he said.

School education minister Kanti Biswas said though education is a concurrent subject, the Centre should adopt a new policy after considering the opinions of state education ministers.

“We were the first in the country to abolish the pass-fail system from the primary section and had made school education free. We want the Centre to convene an education ministers’ conference to discuss the matter,’’ Biswas said.

Reacting to Mamata’s demand to reserve jobs for Muslims, Bhattacharjee said it was absurd.

“Mamata does not know what she says. The Constitution does not permit quota on the basis of religion. If it is to be done, let the Centre do it first,’’ Bhattacharjee said. He said Mamata was provoking communalism by raising such demands. “Everyone knows why she raises such demands.”

At a conference of Muslims yesterday, Banerjee had announced 12 per cent job reservation for the minority community if she came to power in the state.

State law minister Nisith Adhikary alleged that as a Union minister, Mamata had violated her oath in the name of the Constitution to preserve the country’s integrity and sovereignty.

“According to Articles 15(1) and 16(2) of the Constitution, employment should not be made on the basis of religion. The Constitution also prohibits partial treatment on any matter for the same reason,’’ Adhikary said.    


 
 
STAR STORM ON STUDY BILL 
 
 
FROM MONOBINA GUPTA
 
New Delhi, Nov. 15: 
Not just Mamata Banerjee, intellectuals and celebrities in Bengal are up in arms against several clauses in the 83rd Constitutional amendment Bill, which will make education a fundamental right.

Stars Aparna Sen, Victor Banerjee and Soumitra Chatterjee, academics from Jadavpur University, author Mahasweta Devi and Calcutta mayor Subrata Mukherjee are are demanding a debate on the Bill before passing it in the House.

With the winter session of Parliament beginning on Monday, the celebrities have begun petitioning Lok Sabha Speaker G.M. Balayogi to reconsider controversial clauses in the Bill. Ten lakh postcards signed by ordinary citizens have been sent to the Speaker.

The controversial issues include proposals to leave children upto six years out of the Bill’s scope, make parents liable for punishment if children are not sent to school and an inadequate financial allocation.

Victor Banerjee, who is a BJP member, was especially outspoken in his letter to Balayogi against any financial allocation that is not sufficient to meet the demands to make good the government’s commitment in the 83rd amendment Bill.

“I would like you to consider an allocation of at least 1,50,000 crore to ensure that our children and grandchildren have the benefit of education,” he wrote.

He refers to the recommendation of the Tapas Mazumdar Committee which seeks Rs 1,37,000- crore allocation for universalising elementary education.

The National Alliance for Fundamental Right to Education (Nafre), leading the campaign on the Bill, has built up a tempo on the issue. “Nafre wants positive changes to be incorporated in the Bill to ensure that its laudable objectives reach every child,” says an organisation member.

Ministry sources have indicated that the government is considering changes in the face of opposition from all sections, including political parties. But it is unlikely that two crucial clauses — making it applicable only to children in the age group of 6-14 years and making parents responsible for the education of children — will be changed.

Nafre is tapping political parties which can raise the issues in the Bill in Parliament. The Trinamul Congress has already assured support, so has the Congress, the main Opposition party. Nafre functionaries have also met CPM and CPI leaders who have promised to lend their voices to the protests.    


 
 
CMS IN SONIA FIRING LINE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 15: 
Minutes after taking over as “elected” president of the party, Sonia Gandhi has decided to review the performance of Congress chief ministers.

Party sources said at least two chief ministers — Delhi’s Sheila Dixit and Maharashtra’s Vilasrao Deshmukh — seem to be under a cloud because of their poor track record.

The report cards have been prepared after an elaborate exercise involving AICC general secretaries and Congress Working Committee members as well as feedback from grassroots workers.

Highly placed sources said even if some chief ministers are removed, they would be drafted into the party organisation.

“Sonia Gandhi is not known to be hot-headed. She has her own style of functioning. The chief ministers will be eased out in such a manner that their exit would not lead to trouble,” said an AICC functionary.

A majority of MLAs from Delhi are unhappy with Dixit and Sonia had to intervene twice in the last few months to avert a split in the Congress Legislature Party.

But more than the MLAs’ dislike, Sonia, according to sources, is dissatisfied with the Delhi government’s performance. After getting three-fourths of the Assembly seats in 1998, the Congress chief wanted Dixit to solve some of the city’s problems, but nothing seems to be going right for the party in Delhi. In fact, there has been a series of corruption charges against the chief minister and her Cabinet colleagues by her own party MLAs.

In Maharashtra, Deshmukh, who is running a coalition government with Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party, has been accused of being “hand-in-glove” with the Maratha strongman.

The high command has reportedly taken note of Deshmukh’s defiance when he resisted a move to authorise Sonia to select the new state unit chief. Party leaders said Deshmukh’s performance has also left a lot to be desired.

The performance report has given full marks to Karnakata chief minister S.M. Krishna and Madhya Pradesh’s Digvijay Singh. They reportedly passed the loyalty test with “flying colours”.

Nagaland’s S.C. Jamir is considered the grand old man of the Northeast, so he wouldn’t be touched, said sources.

The track-record of Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Mukut Mithi, Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot and Pondicherry’s Shanmugham is “average”. So they are likely to continue, but with a warning to tone up administration.

Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi is, of course, too new for scrutiny.    


 
 
BAILED-OUT JAGIR TO FACE CBI 
 
 
FROM GAJINDER SINGH
 
Chandigarh, Nov. 15: 
Punjab and Haryana High Court today granted anticipatory bail to Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) president Jagir Kaur, charged with the murder of her daughter Harpreet in April.

Justice S.S. Najjar, who heard the bail plea, however, directed Jagir to be present at the CBI headquarters on Friday.

Earlier, the CBI had charged the SGPC chief and six others with homicide not amounting to murder. But now the CBI has converted the charge to murder.

Kamaljeet, on whose petition a CBI probe was ordered into Harpreet’s death, had claimed that he married the girl and fathered her child which was allegedly aborted.

The Patiala district and sessions judge had dismissed Jagir’s pre-arrest bail plea on Monday, ruling that custodial interrogation in the case was necessary.

In her bail application, Jagir pleaded that she had been falsely implicated. She said an FIR was registered after a well-orchestrated political campaign and it was recorded after a long inquiry.

The SGPC chief submitted that the FIR neither disclosed any reliable basis for detecting a conspiracy “for abortion” nor was there any other conspiracy. The CBI, she alleged, had been trying to provide a basis for a case where some serious offences were mentioned.

She further stated she was not demanding any special treatment and would accept the verdict. The matter should be examined in “an objective manner”, she pleaded.

Jagir contended that the prosecution had no evidence to prove that the tea served to Harpreet by Satya, a domestic help of Dalwinder Kaur (another accused in the case), had caused the abortion. Therefore, an offence under Section 313 had not been registered. The alleged miscarriage could not have been the cause of death as Harpreet lived for over a month after that. Moreover, Harpreet was not in Phagwara on the night of April 19 and 20, when her death had reportedly taken place, she pleaded.

The special CBI magistrate in Patiala remanded Nishan Singh, Jagir’s personal security officer, in judicial custody till November 21.

The other accused in the case, landlord Paramjit Singh, Jasdil Mansion-owner Dalwinder Kaur, maid Satya Devi and servants Harwinder Kumar and Sanjeev Kumar had been remanded in judicial custody till November 21 by the court earlier.    


 
 
WARRING WEST ASIANS ON MANSINGH MENU 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Nov. 15: 
Foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh is meeting Arab ambassadors tomorrow to discuss the West Asia crisis and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) proposal to appoint a special representative for Kashmir and send a fact-finding team to the region.

The recent OIC meeting is significant not only because of its anti-Indian resolution on Kashmir, which is now a regular feature, but also because of the inclusion of Afghanistan’s Taliban regime. This is the first time Taliban representatives were invited to an OIC meeting.

Though the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting with the Arab envoys is not clear, there are indications that Mansingh will clarify Delhi’s position on West Asia. India has been advocating a return to peace and has appealed to both the Israelis and the Palestinians to show restraint.

The warring sides have sought India’s intervention to restore peace in the region. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak wrote to Atal Behari Vajpayee last week, urging Delhi to persuade the Palestinians to stop violence and resume talks.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat also asked the Prime Minister to convince the Israelis to resolve the crisis peacefully.

At tomorrow’s meeting, Mansingh might ask the Arab envoys what they have in mind on Kashmir and how they plan to conduct business with Delhi while the OIC continues to pass anti-Indian resolutions on Pakistan’s behest.

Referring to the resolution on Kashmir, foreign ministry spokesman R.S. Jassal said: “We reject it outright. The OIC has no locus standi on internal matters of India.”

During bilateral meetings in the past, representatives of Arab nations have tried to impress upon India not to take the OIC resolutions seriously. They have argued that according to OIC tradition, a resolution moved by a member against a non-member is seldom opposed.

But in the last meeting of Nam foreign ministers in Cartagena early this year, it was decided that the OIC will not pass any resolution which hurts the sentiment of any Nam member. A large number of OIC members are also part of the Nam.

Senior foreign ministry officials said tomorrow’s meeting is also an attempt by India to restore Arab confidence, shaken by India’s growing ties with Israel.

Union home minister L.K. Advani’s visit to Israel in June and his remarks about possible nuclear cooperation between Delhi and Tel Aviv had raised serious concern in the Arab world.    


 
 
FRESH INVITE FOR JASWANT 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 15: 
Saudi Arabia has proposed fresh dates for foreign minister Jaswant Singh’s visit to the country in the middle of January.

The visit was to have taken place in October but was called off by the Saudis following the fast-paced developments in West Asia.

The postponement of Singh’s visit, which was to be the first by an Indian foreign minister to Saudi Arabia, sparked speculation whether Riyadh was at all interested in receiving him. By offering fresh dates, which is at the moment being considered by South Block, the Saudis have put such speculation at rest.    


 
 
BERTH PANGS FOR BABULAL 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
 
Ranchi, Nov. 15: 
The celebrations over, it’s time for the home truths. Having got the Jharkhand crown, Babulal Marandi will now have to get on to the tightrope to cross the tricky terrain ahead.

Marandi heaved a sigh of relief last night after Karia Munda, his detractor in the BJP, reached Ranchi — with a smile on his lips and a box of sweets in his hand — to greet the first chief minister of the new state.

Munda, whose claim for the top job was ignored by the high command, appears to have called truce after his supporters in the legislature group agreed to toe the party line and backed Marandi.

Having won the initial battle with the dissidents, Marandi will now have to tread cautiously while forming his ministry. While keeping the BJP’s aspirants in good humour, the chief minister will also have to appease claimants from the Janata Dal (United) and the Samata Party.

The Samata Party, which for long has been trying to get a foothold in the region, will grab this opportunity to pitch its tent permanently.

Polarisation along caste lines is inevitable with the state’s sizeable Kurmi population certain to rally behind Samata leader Nitish Kumar and the Kahars, a backward caste who have been marginalised in the tribal-dominated Jharkhand, likely to throw their weight around the Dal (United).

Moreover, Marandi will have to extend the BJP’s influence in the tribal hub of his native Santhal Parganas. While the bulk of the legislators from Chhotanagpur are from the BJP, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) has a stranglehold on Santhal Parganas where it controls 11 of the 12 Assembly seats.

One reason why Marandi, a relatively young BJP greenhorn, was preferred by the party over veterans is his Santhal origin. “Only a Santhal chief minister can match the popularity of Shibu Soren,” said the BJP’s Jharkhand affairs chief, Sarau Rai.

Marandi’s first hurdle is the allocation of portfolios. Apart from the partners, the chief minister will also have to placate the legislators loyal to Munda. Nilkant Singh Murmu, a confidant of Munda, said he and his colleagues will take orders from Marandi but, at the same time, they cannot be treated as “somebody’s men”.

The chief minister’s aides are confident Marandi will work things out. “As a tactically sound chief minister, Marandi will not allow a second power centre to flourish,” an aide said.

The Dal (United) expects the Speaker’s post to be awarded to its war-horse Inder Singh Namdhari. A former minister in the Laloo Yadav Cabinet, Namdhari is known for his rigid views, one reason why he had to quit the Bihar government. The BJP has indicated it wants the post to go to M.P. Singh, a senior leader from Jamshedpur.

The party is not too comfortable with Namdhari’s candidature as they feel a “hostile Speaker in an era of horse-trading” could work against the BJP.

Unlike in Chhattisgarh, there is no place for a jumbo ministry in Jharkhand. There are no separate departments for aviation, transport, road construction or infotech. If Marandi decides to appease everybody, the number of ministers could exceed the number of ministries.

Marandi hopes the “Jharkhand sentiment” will bind all groups. “My policy is justice to all and appeasement of none,” he said.    


 
 
SECOND TRIUMPH OVER SOREN 
 
 
FROM RUDRA BISWAS
 
Ranchi, Nov. 15: 
From a mere village boy to chief minister of Jharkhand, Babulal Marandi’s meteoric rise could be the envy of many who dream of a career in politics.

Born on January 11, 1958, at Kodai-Bank village of Giridih district where his parents still live in their mud hut, Marandi was attracted to the VHP at 15. By the time he switched to the BJP in 1990, he was VHP organising secretary. He was also organising secretary of the BJP Santhal Parganas unit.

Marandi’s foray into electoral politics was marked by defeat against JMM chief Shibu Soren for the Dumka Lok Sabha seat. He lost by 1,40,000 votes.

In 1992, Marandi was appointed chairman of Bihar State Adivasi Morcha and then secretary of the state BJP two years later. In 1995, Marandi was appointed the first chairman of the Vananchal State Committee after the BJP decided to jump into the Jharkhand bandwagon.

Marandi lost the Dumka Lok Sabha seat again to Soren in 1996 though the margin had reduced to 5,500 votes. In 1998, he finally trounced Soren by over 13,000 votes. He then earned a place in the Union Cabinet as minister of state for forests and environment.

Marandi repeated this performance in 1999, when he defeated Soren’s wife, Rupi, by 64,000 votes.

Outlining his government’s priorities, Marandi said that he had given instructions to officials to improve law and order within 15 days or face the consequences.

He added that his government has decided to do away with Laloo Yadav’s charwaha vidyalaya. Education at primary and secondary levels will be improved.

Marandi said charwahas (those tending cattle) will not be neglected, but made IT-savvy to equip themselves in the changing scenario.

He has also promised to transform all roads by January.    


 
 
GOVT SETTLES SCORE IN JUDGES’ HOMES 
 
 
FROM OINAM SUNIL
 
Imphal, Nov. 15: 
The Manipur government today withdrew security for Justice N.S. Singh, one of the two judges comprising the Imphal bench of Gauhati High Court, and cut off water supply to the judges’ residential complex in retaliation to them issuing non-bailable arrest warrants against two senior bureaucrats yesterday.

Power supply to the judges’ bungalows, cut off last night, was restored only late tonight. Manipur Rifles personnel assigned to Justice Singh are likely to be redeployed soon, thanks to Governor Ved Marwah’s intervention.

The W. Nipamacha Singh-led coalition is yet to make a statement on the issue, but sources said Justice Singh and his colleague, Justice A.K. Patnaik, had been targeted for issuing arrest warrants against M.A. Sattar, commissioner of school education, and A. Shamungon Singh, director of school education, yesterday.

Both the officials are facing contempt proceedings in connection with a case pertaining to the delay in declaration of results of a test conducted to recruit 400 undergraduate primary school teachers. The test was conducted in 1997. Gauhati High Court has asked director-general of police D.S. Grewal to produce the duo in court tomorrow.

A court official told The Telegraph that power supply to the judges’ residences was cut off without warning last night. The electricity department attributed the blackout to a technical snag and promised to restore power soon, but it turned out to be a false assurance.

The judges got another shock when water supply to their residences was cut off early today and the guards deployed at their residences abruptly withdrawn. However, Justice Patnaik’s security escorts reported for duty, sources said.

Manipur Rifles officials told court officials that the guards had been withdrawn in accordance with a directive from the police headquarters.

The police, too, washed their hands of the matter, attributing the withdrawal of security to “verbal orders from a powerful man”.

Manipur People’s Party chief O. Joy Singh, however, said the DGP was asked to withdraw the security personnel by none other than the chief minister.

Court registrar Mutum Binoykumar Singh told newspersons that he had written to the chief secretary and the DGP, seeking an explanation for the series of events since last night. He said the Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court had also been apprised of the developments.

The High Court Bar Association today went on a flash strike in protest against the government’s alleged attempt to harass the two judges.    

 

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