RSS takes Hindutva to President
Deal done, emissary becomes liability
Sangh blitz mutes BJP Nagpur cry
Visva Bharati security plea
Buddha, Basu on mission to calm Darjeeling
Decade deadline for school-for-all dream
Crash report
Smouldering Soren in burn mode
Ministry fence to keep off poachers
Tribal Congmen demand party crown

 
 
RSS TAKES HINDUTVA TO PRESIDENT 
 
 
FROM DIPTOSH MAJUMDAR
 
New Delhi, Nov. 16: 
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) wants to convince President K.R. Narayanan of its agenda to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya, have cow-slaughter banned in the country and the importance of the anti-conversion drive.

The Sangh has sought appointments with the President, Vice-President Krishan Kant, Lok Sabha Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to make them aware of the massive two-month-long Rashtriya Jagran Abhiyan campaign launched yesterday.

RSS leaders, however, know they cannot go very far with their Hindutva arguments with these institutional heads. Narayanan has been a staunch critic of communalism. He had hit out hard when Australian missionary Graham Staines was murdered with his two sons at Baripada in Orissa.

But as the letter written to the President by Satyanarayan Bansal, prant sanghchalak of the RSS’ Delhi branch, suggests, the outfit wants to reach out to the “first citizen” and take the jan jagran campaign to his doorstep.

The RSS has sent similar missives to Vajpayee, Kant and Balayogi, telling them that it was leaving none out of the campaign. Government sources said they had seen copies of only these four letters, but it was likely that similar, very “tender missives” had been despatched to all Cabinet ministers and their deputies in the Vajpayee government.

The RSS is preparing earnestly for its meeting with the President. In his letter, Bansal says RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan will be in Delhi on November 30 and December 1 and it would be nice if the President could agree to an appointment on any of these two dates.

What the RSS Delhi unit did not know is that while requesting an appointment with the first citizen, specifying dates is considered discourteous. It is the President’s prerogative to decide whom he wants to meet when.

It is not clear from the letters written to the three other dignitaries whether Sudarshan himself or someone else will meet them.

The national awareness campaign has been primarily launched to counter BJP chief Bangaru Laxman’s Nagpur message. Laxman had taken upon himself to send an all-embracing message to the minorities. He was accused by hardliners of overplaying the secular card.

The campaign’s thrust is to educate the intelligentsia and the masses on Hindutva and the need to create a Hindu rashtra, build a Ram temple in Ayodhya, follow a swadeshi economic model, ban cow slaughter and end religious conversion.

The government is concerned about the impact the campaign might have. The Vajpayee regime does not want too many people to propagate the swadeshi economic model, which is at variance with its globalisation policy.

Some political observers pointed out that the RSS leaders may find a sympathetic ear in Rashtrapati Bhavan when they speak out against globalisation and the fast pace of reforms.

Narayanan has been cautioning this government against the haste with which it has been abandoning all attributes of Nehruvian socialism and had spoken his mind in his Republic Day address.    


 
 
DEAL DONE, EMISSARY BECOMES LIABILITY 
 
 
FROM T.N. GOPALAN
 
Bangalore, Nov. 16: 
Raj Kumar’s admission that an LTTE conduit took part in the final negotiations with Veerappan could spark fresh trouble for the DMK regime in Tamil Nadu as it confirms the bandit’s nexus with Tamil extremists and the Sri Lankan Tigers.

Speaking to reporters at Bhoodappadi village in Tamil Nadu’s Salem district, the actor confirmed reports that Kolathur Mani, a staunch LTTE supporter, had accompanied the team of negotiators to the jungles. Reports yesterday had said that it was Mani who persuaded Veerappan to set free the Kannada star.

Raj Kumar, however, did not link Mani to the LTTE, but just thanked him for having helped him.

Of the three negotiators who went into the jungles, only P. Nedumaran is said to have sympathies for the Tamil Tigers.

Mani was interrogated in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case and was placed under detention for some time. He is known to be the bridge between the LTTE and the pro-Tiger lobby in Tamil Nadu.

Observers pointed out that such a person would not involve himself in the negotiations without clearance from Jaffna, the stronghold of LTTE chief V. Prabhakaran.

There was still no official word on why Veerappan had released Raj Kumar even though his key demands were not met. The actor, who flew in to Bangalore from Erode this morning, suggested that his poor health may have prompted Veerappan to end the drama.

But local newspapers hinted that a large ransom had been secretly paid to Veerappan during the negotiations. Officials strongly denied the reports.

If money did change hands and if the LTTE lobby is involved, the Veerappan-Tamil National Liberation Army (TNLA) combine will get a shot in the arm as they will get access to more funds and weapons.

With Raj Kumar back, the two governments will now be under pressure to mount an intensive operation against Veerappan. The joint special task force is gearing up for a flush-out offensive.

Some reports said that as part of the deal, the two governments may have agreed to go soft on Veerappan. But sources in both states denied any such understanding.

“It doesn’t make sense. He (Veerappan) has become an embarrassment for both states. We have to go one up on him, failing which he might do something dangerous, providing enough ammunition to Jayalalitha in the next Assembly elections,” said a Tamil Nadu official.

He pointed out that chief minister M. Karunanidhi is cut up with the way Nakkeeran editor R.R. Gopal was rebuffed by the Tamil nationalists. TNLA chief Maran, who is said to be Veerappan’s adviser now, refused to let Gopal be a part of the final negotiating mission.

Gopal is Karunanidhi’s trusted man and he would be of help in the election campaign. Besides, there has never been any love lost between Karunanidhi and Nedumaran, who has denounced the chief minister as an opportunist.

The LTTE top brass, too, have developed an antipathy towards the DMK and if the Tigers stepped in to mediate Raj Kumar’s release, it is not out of any concern for Karunanidhi, but only to ensure that that the Tamil nationalist lobby doesn’t become a scapegoat because of Veerappan’s actions.

Karunanidhi had accepted Nedumaran’s help with reluctance and Gopal’s humiliation would have incensed him further.

The chief minister is also concerned that if the LTTE’s involvement is proved, it would give Jayalalitha a stick to beat his government with.

Karunanidhi, sources argued, will therefore be eager to crack down on Veerappan or the TNLA activists and their sympathisers.

However, the TNLA’s influence is limited and it is unlikely to intensify its activities in the state as it would further alienate them from the people. The TNLA cadre in the forests, said to number around 35, will prefer to stay in the forests.    


 
 
SANGH BLITZ MUTES BJP NAGPUR CRY 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, Nov. 16: 
The campaign to spread Bangaru Laxman’s Nagpur message has taken a back seat as most BJP workers have said they would prefer participating in the RSS’ Rashtriya Jagran Abhiyan.

Party sources said the two-month-long exercise — which was to have begun on November 1 — has been passed up for the Sangh’s mass contact programme, which was launched yesterday. The Abhiyan, also a two-month-long endeavour, plans to revive Hindutva and rekindle popular sentiment on issues like Ram temple, Hindu rashtra and cow slaughter.

The party’s Maharashtra unit decided to defer the campaign to spread the Nagpur message till the RSS blitzkrieg was over. In Bihar, it was grounded as the state unit was preoccupied with Jharkhand, while in Uttar Pradesh, it was a combination of the Uttaranchal birth-pangs and the coming civic polls, to be held on November 20 and 21.

Sources in Uttar Pradesh said state leaders were paying “extra” attention to the local bodies’ elections to the 11 corporations as they saw them as a “referendum” on chief minister Rajnath Singh’s performance and a “projection” of sorts for the Assembly polls.

In Gujarat, the other BJP stronghold, sources said the cadre was “far too demoralised” to take the party chief’s message from door to door after the recent drubbing in the panchayat elections.

They conceded that the “pro-minorities” thrust in Laxman’s Nagpur address and his subsequent pronouncements stressing the need to assimilate minorities into the Indian body politic were “too radical” for the cadre, who have so long been fed a staple diet of Hindu “resurgence” and majoritarianism.

“The main problem is a majority of the BJP cadre have come from the RSS and the Sangh’s ideas on Hindutva are too deeply ingrained in them. It will take equal amount of time and effort to indoctrinate them afresh with Laxman’s ideas,” said a BJP leader.

Sources said the leadership has tried telling party workers that Laxman’s message was not just about wooing minorities but backward castes and Dalits as well. But his words about Muslims being the “flesh of our flesh and the blood of our blood” had got stuck in their minds.

“Laxman did not stop with that. He kept stressing the need for us to fan out into Muslim mohallas and preach lessons about the BJP being minority-friendly,” said a young leader from Uttar Pradesh.

He added that a booklet listing the “pro-minority achievements” of the BJP government in the state was left untouched by the cadre, although they were directed to distribute them in Muslim mohallas.

The booklet listed former chief minister Kalyan Singh’s move to increase the monthly stipend of Muslim students from Rs 125 to Rs 250. It also mentioned the increased budget outlay for minorities’ educational institutions from Rs 1 crore to Rs 2 crore during the Ram Prakash Gupta regime.

Sources also put the campaign to propagate the Nagpur message in perspective. “With the municipal elections underway in Uttar Pradesh, can we ignore our Hindu constituency and be seen to court only Muslims?” they said. “In the end we will lose our Hindu votes without gaining the Muslim ones.”

They pointed out that spreading Laxman’s message in states like Assam, West Bengal and Bihar — where the BJP’s fight had centred around “illegal migration” from Bangladesh — was “outright impractical”.

“We have made a distinction between Hindu and Muslim migrants and our case has been that while Hindus should be allowed to settle down as refugees, the Muslims should be deported promptly. With such a political polarisation, how can we expect our cadre to overnight accept Muslims as their brothers and sisters?” they said.    


 
 
VISVA BHARATI SECURITY PLEA 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Santiniketan, Nov. 16: 
In a fax message to state chief secretary Manish Gupta, Visva Bharati University vice-chancellor Dilip Kumar Sinha today asked the state government to deploy security forces on the institute’s campus.

The request came following a series of untoward incidents on the university premises over the past few days. The incidents occurred after the authorities refused to absorb some Group D and Group E employees, who are agitating over a move by the university to prepare a panel of workers who would be made permanent.

A large number of workers today gheraoed the vice-chancellor at the Central Administrative Building demanding that names of some temporary employees be included in the panel. The gherao continued till late this evening.

Unions of temporary workers have united under one umbrella and have been agitating for nearly a month. The employees allege that high officials and some leaders of the permanent workers’ union are involved in malpractice and had a hand in excluding the temporary staff from the panel.

They have demanded a probe and appropriate action against those responsible.

But the vice-chancellor and university authorities are ready to go ahead with the panel very soon.

Sinha alleged that despite repeated information to the local police station and administration, they did not take any steps.

“Finding no other alternative, I have requested the chief secretary to intervene in the matter and, if necessary, deploy the Central Reserve Police Force to control the situation. I have also informed the Central government as well,” he said.    


 
 
BUDDHA, BASU ON MISSION TO CALM DARJEELING 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Nov. 16: 
As a militant Gorkha leader’s ultimatum spread panic among councillors in Darjeeling, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee announced that he would visit the district shortly.

“Efforts are on to create a fresh political disturbances in Darjeeling and we are alarmed. We shall resist the movement by all means,” Bhattacharjee said.

Jyoti Basu will also visit North Bengal next month and address meetings. The CPM’s state secretary, Anil Biswas, is camping in Siliguri.

The administration shifted focus to Darjeeling after the recent encounter between suspected Naga militants and police in Kalimpong. The government suspects that Chattray Subba, leader of the Gorkha Liberation Organisation, has links with the militants and has ordered his arrest.

However, Subba raised the stakes by issuing a two-month “ultimatum” to the 28 Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) councillors on the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council to resign and join his campaign for Gorkhaland.

Rattled by militant leader Chattray Subba’s outburst, the GNLF councillors have stopped attending office and are not taking phone calls.

He had earlier written to GNLF chief and council chairman Subhas Ghising, asking him to disband the panel. The councillors were warned of dire consequences if they did not comply.

Ghising has rushed Kalimpong MLA Gaulon Lepcha to Calcutta to apprise the chief minister of the developments and seek greater security for the region, besides additional protection for councillors. The chief minister said in Calcutta the government was in regular touch with Ghising.

Most of the councillors have switched off their cell phones. Calls to their homes and offices meet with a curt reply — “Councillor sahab ghar-ma chai naa. Bholi contact garnohosh. (The councillor is not at home, contact later).”

Calls to GNLF Kalimpong branch president C.K. Pradhan’s home evoked a similar response. “The councillor is out of station. We cannot tell you whether he will return tonight or not,” a family member said.

Ghising did not comment on the growing belligerence of Subba — his former comrade — but sources said he had “discussed the law and order situation with Darjeeling superintendent of police Sanjay Chander”.

“Though the GNLF chief did not seek additional personal protection, he asked for more security for all his councillors in the wake of a threat perception from the Subba-led Gorkhaland Liberation Organisation-NSCN(I-M) combine,” a source said.

Ghising has “sufficient” security, the sources added. “He is provided protection by a group of hand-picked commandos belonging to militant cadre from the heyday of the Gorkhaland agitation in the mid-eighties,” they said.

Contacted on his cell phone, GNLF Kurseong branch committee president and councillor-in-charge of tourism Indra Narayan Pradhan denied receiving any letter from Subba.

“No, I have not received any such letter and have nothing more to say. I will speak to you later.” Efforts to contact him later proved futile.

The police are yet to make a breakthrough in their efforts to arrest the Naga militants believed to be holed up in the jungles of Jaldhaka, bordering Bhutan. Two search operations were mounted today from Jaldhaka and Gorubathan in Kalimpong.    


 
 
DECADE DEADLINE FOR SCHOOL-FOR-ALL DREAM 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 16: 
The Centre today set 2010 as the fresh target for achieving the “elusive” goal of universalisation of elementary education.

The decision to set a revised target came after the Cabinet approved the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, an integrated literacy programme drawn up by the human resources development ministry.

The programme has been on the anvil for nearly two years ever since human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi announced it after a meeting of state education ministers in Delhi. The Rs 1,000-crore plan will target children between 6 and 14. According to the scheme, three years from now the children should be enrolled in schools, education guarantee centres or bridge courses.

Unlike the National Literacy Mission, the Abhiyan will focus more on retention and achievement than on enrolment.

One of the glaring drawbacks of the National Literacy Mission was its failure to sustain its progress in the post-literacy phase, when neo-literates relapsed into illiteracy, especially in educationally backward states.

The Abhiyan, ministry sources said, will shift its focus from educationally backwards states to backward districts with a “back to school” slogan for children in the 10-14 age group. The accent will be on girl children and those from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

The National Family Health Survey for 1998-99 shows 80 per cent of boys in the 11-14 age group attend school as against 67 per cent girls. The drop-out rate for girls is also much higher.

The ministry’s annual report says: “Concerted efforts at Universalisation of Elementary Education have resulted in a manifold increase in institutions, teachers and students.”

Though access to school is no longer a major problem, there are other hurdles that lie in the programme’s route. “The SSA has been launched to cover these pitfalls,” says a ministry official.

To make the scheme a success, programmes like Operation Blackboard, district primary education programme, non-formal education and restructuring and re-organisation of teacher education are already in place.

As the government believes that a holistic method will achieve better results, the SSA will have a convergent approach so that all existing education programmes can be brought under it.

Divorce Bill

The Cabinet has approved introduction of a Bill to end discrimination against Christian women seeking divorce, reports UNI.

The Indian Divorce (Amendment) Bill, 2000, is intended to amend the Indian Divorce Act, 1869, which does not give the same rights to Christian women when the question of divorce comes up.    


 
 
CRASH REPORT 
 
 
OUE SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 16: 
The Mi-8 helicopter crash in the Rann of Kutch, in which seven BSF and IAF personnel were killed, was caused either by pilot error or mechanical failure, a report by BSF director-general E.N. Rammohan says.

The six-page report, submitted to Union home minister L.K. Advani by the outgoing BSF chief today, says there were no indications that the helicopter was shot down by Pakistani defence personnel.

Rammohan’s findings says that men on the five fishing boats that Indian securitymen wanted to watch were not Pakistani defence personnel.

The report says that soon after taking off from Koteshwar, near Naliya air base, Indian securitymen on board the chopper spotted five fishing boats in the marshy Kori Creek area. To identify the men in the boats, a BSF deputy inspector general asked the pilot to lower the helicopter. As the helicopter came closer, both the personnel in the Mi-8 noticed fishing nets had been cast in the swampy waters. By that time, however, the chopper had lost height. Suddenly, there was a muffled sound. The helicopter went up a few feet and then started to plummet. According to the report, which quoted the five survivors, the fishermen who had withdrawn the fishing nets did not either come to their rescue or try to flee. On the contrary, they remained around the crashed remains of the helicopter for more than two hours, before disappearing. Apparently, the boats negotiated a nullah before making good their escape. “It can be conclusively said that the men on the fishing boats were not Pakistani defence personnel,” the report says. “Otherwise they would have tried to kill or capture our men.” Though efforts are on to retrieve parts of the ill-fated helicopter, which had crashed about 14 km from the international border on November 12, large chunks of metals remain submerged more than two feet under the swamp. Though it will be a while before the IAF’s court of inquiry reaches any conclusion, the BSF chief’s assessment only highlights that the Air Force has not been properly maintaining its aerial surveillance aircraft. Soon after meeting Rammohan, the home minister decided to visit Bhuj on Saturday to meet the survivors and get a first-hand account of the circumstances leading to the crash. The survivors, some with badly broken bones, are undergoing treatment at a Bhuj hospital, but have been declared out of danger.    


 
 
SMOULDERING SOREN IN BURN MODE 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
 
Ranchi, Nov. 16: 
Shibu Soren is back to where he fights best — the streets.

Addressing a huge rally on Birsa Munda’s birthday yesterday, the JMM chief — still in a deep sulk for being denied the chief minister’s post — threatened to “identify all the corrupt contractors in the district and burn them alive”. He said government officers will be gheraod in every block if they failed to complete projects in time.

The “Guruji” of Jharkhand politics had Laloo Prasad Yadav by his side. The RJD chief pledged full support to Soren to pull down the BJP-led government in the new state. Soren, in turn, made light of Laloo’s earlier opposition to Jharkhand and his animosity towards the JMM. “All is fair in politics. I am fighting a bigger enemy now,” Soren said.

Soren declared war against the Babulal Marandi government. “We will not let the government go to the people because the people do not support the National Democratic Alliance. We are their natural choice,” he said.

Renewing his crusade against the contractor-politician-bureaucrat nexus after 30 years, Soren said all the “enemies of the tribals” would be punished according to traditional tribal law. He turned the clock back by three decades, attempting to set the jungles of the Santhal Parganas on fire with his “quiver of poisoned arrows and wooden crossbow”.

The JMM chief planned to whip up tribal sentiments to regain some of his lost clout. “The people of Jharkhand have always identified with Soren the fighter and not Soren the politician. By donning the warrior’s armour, ‘Guruji’ may redeem the sin he committed by hobnobbing with corrupt politicians,” said Deosaran Bhanat, JMM general secretary.

In the early sixties, Soren made his mark as a stormy petrel in Dumka by waging a war against the exploitation of tribals by moneylenders and liquor traders.

After his father was gunned down following an altercation with moneylenders over payment of dues, Soren picked up a group of young tribals to flush to flush out the moneylenders. Soren’s group was accused of killing more than 100 moneylenders in the process.

Sources said the “mahajans” were shot with poisoned arrows which brought instant death.

The “dikus” (moneylenders from outside) would trap the tribals in debt and grab their land when they failed to repay. As a result, huge tracts of tribal land were illegally occupied by the moneylenders.

Soren said the malpractice would return with the installation of the BJP government.

“This is a government of businessmen and unscrupulous traders who will eventually convert the tribal homeland into their colonies. All they are interested in is the region’s natural resources,” Soren alleged.

The JMM chief also feels the Congress is wavering. He feels that the party is leaving him out in the cold when there is near-consensus on his leadership.    


 
 
MINISTRY FENCE TO KEEP OFF POACHERS 
 
 
FROM RUDRA BISWAS
 
Ranchi, Nov. 16: 
The BJP today left nothing to chance when it inducted most non-BJP partners into the first Jharkhand ministry. The move pre-empts the JMM-RJD combine from swiping the four Independents who hold the key to the fate of the Babulal Marandi ministry.

The chief minister said after the swearing-in that BJP MLAs will be inducted in the second phase of expansion next week after they are cleared by the BJP high command.

Those inducted into the ministry are Joba Manjhi and Sudesh Mahato of the UGDP, Baidyanath Ram and Lalchand Mahato of the Dal (U), Ramachandra Kesri, Madhu Singh, Ramesh Singh Munda, Jaleshwar Mahato and Bachchan Singh (Samata) and Samresh Singh (Independent) who jumped into the NDA bandwagon at the last minute.

Senior Dal (U) leader Inder Singh Namdhari, who is tipped to take over as the Speaker of the Assembly, was left out of the ministry. Sources revealed that Namdhari was offered an important portfolio but he decided to take up the less-exacting role of the Speaker on health grounds.

One surprise exclusion was that of Madhav Lal Singh who along with Samresh Singh had joined the NDA after assuring all political parties of their support over the past two months.

However, today’s induction of most non-BJP MLAs into the ministry has left the JMM with no armour, who were hoping to cash in on the dissidence factor to topple the Marandi ministry during the trust vote next week.

JMM sources revealed that it has convened a meeting of JMM, RJD, Congress and Left party MLAs on Monday at the MLA Club at the Russian Hostel to draw up its strategy to challenge the Marandi government during the trust vote.

The sources revealed that one of the ideas gaining ground in the JMM-RJD camp is to train their guns, including launching mass agitations, at the nomination of former IAS official Prabhat Kumar as the first Jharkhand Governor.

During his tenure as an IAS official, Kumar was indicted for negligence of duty during the demolition of the Babri masjid. The BJP-led NDA had launched a vilification campaign against RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav and Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi when they were chargesheeted in the animal husbandry scam and the disproportionate assets case respectively.

The Opposition will now use the same weapon against the installation of a chargeshee- ted person as the Jharkhand Governor.    


 
 
TRIBAL CONGMEN DEMAND PARTY CROWN 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Ranchi, Nov. 16: 
A day after the birth of Jharkhand, tribal Congress MLAs told Sonia Gandhi that they would not tolerate the rule of non-tribals within the party.

The MLAs pointed out that as most Jharkhand Congress legislators are tribals, the Jharkhand Pradesh Congress Committee president and the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader in the Assembly should be tribals.

The memorandum by the seven Congress MLAs deman- ded the appointment of an AICC observer for the nomination of a tribal as the CLP leader. It suggested that Ghatshila MLA Pradeep Balmuchu be chosen as CLP leader in the Jhark- hand Assembly instead of former Bihar CLP leader Furkan Ansari.

Balmuchu, a former Bihar minister of state for planning and a leading contender for the Jharkhand CLP leader’s post, said with six tribal MLAs of a total of 11 Congress MLAs, they were ready to face any election on the CLP leader.

Tribals have for long been neglected and social justice demanded that the trend be reversed in Jharkhand, Balmuchu added.

Among those who signed the memorandum are Sawna Lakra, Deo Kumar Dhan, Alamgir Alam, N. Tirkey, Rajinder Singh and Manoj Yadav.

The tribal move has caused a lot of concern for Ansari, who has been lobbying with the party leadership to nominate him to lead the Jharkhand legislature party and nominate a tribal to head the PCC as the Ansaris were a dominant force throughout Jharkhand.    

 

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