Pakistan replies with ceasefire till LoC
Iron wall of death on tracks
Infotech law net first catch
Campus toughs face karate girls
Calcutta weather

Delhi and Islamabad, Dec. 2: 
In a deft move aimed at convincing the world that it wants to talk peace, Pakistan today made its first response to Delhi’s truce call by promising “maximum restraint” along the Line of Control to “strengthen and stabilise” the ceasefire in Kashmir.

“With immediate effect, the Pakistani armed forces along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir will observe maximum restraint to strengthen and stabilise the ceasefire,” Pakistani foreign secretary Inamul Haq said at a news conference in Islamabad.

Delhi did not react immediately to the announcement but officials indicated that the real issues of infiltration and cross-border terrorism were yet to be addressed by Islamabad. They argued that Pakistan, in any case, should be showing restraint along the LoC and the international border.

Haq said Pakistan expected India to respond to the call and stop firing at Pakistani forces across the LoC. “The government of Pakistan expects that the government of India will reciprocate this initiative and cease firing across the LoC,” he said.

The Pakistani foreign secretary added that India’s suspension of military action would be “meaningful only if it is combined with a purposeful dialogue” for a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir issue.

He said not just Islamabad and Delhi, but the Kashmiri leadership should also be involved in the talks, adding that the tripartite negotiations can start immediately after Ramzan.

In order to improve the atmosphere for such a process, Haq asked Delhi to agree to allow UN observers to be posted along the LoC.

Haq said Pakistan was prepared to enter into a meaningful dialogue with India to address the Kashmir issue “in conformity with the UN Security Council resolutions, principles of justice, international law and past agreements” between the two countries.

Delhi’s reluctance to respond immediately to Pakistan stems from several reasons. First, when Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee made the ceasefire announcement on November 19, Pakistan, too, had taken a few days before reacting. Second, Delhi wants to send the message that Pakistan’s announcement that its armed forces would show maximum restraint does not mean much. India believes this is something Pakistani soldiers should be doing in any case and it should not be seen as a major concession.

India has been insisting that for talks to begin, Pakistan has to create the “right atmosphere” by stopping infiltration into Kashmir and by making a unilateral announcement on not aiding cross-border terrorism. None of these “crucial issues” were addressed by Haq today.

The Pakistani officer’s assertion that a peaceful settlement to the Kashmir dispute should be found according to the UN resolutions and bilateral agreements is also a little confusing.

Delhi insists that after the Simla Agreement of 1972, the two sides had reached an agreement on settling disputes bilaterally without involving a third party. This in effect means that the UN resolutions are no longer relevant.

But Haq’s remarks indicate that Islamabad is still harping on its old position and making no attempt to renew the efforts the two sides started during the Lahore peace process in February last year.

The Pakistani announcement, therefore, appears to be a response to reports that attempts are being made for resumption of talks. Since Vajpayee’s announcement, the military regime in Islamabad has been under mounting international pressure to reciprocate with a similar gesture.

A section of the Indian media also carried reports today hinting at a possible dialogue between the two sides after Ramzan if Pakistan helped in honouring the ceasefire. A member of a New York-based thinktank was quoted as saying that a meeting between Vajpayee and Pakistan’s military ruler Pervez Musharraf could be held immediately after Ramzan if the ceasefire stuck. Haq’s announcement may have been made with this in mind.

But Delhi has a problem with the Musharraf regime in Islamabad for his army’s role in last year’s Kargil intrusion. That it was done when the Indian leadership had taken a big step to normalise ties with Pakistan is something which the BJP-led government is not going to forget in a hurry.

It is, therefore, imperative that Islamabad assures Delhi it is willing to cut off support to militants for creating the atmosphere that will lead to talks.    

Jivanpura (Punjab), Dec. 2: 
The credibility of Indian Railways lay mangled this morning amid a heap of bodies as a passenger mail from Howrah crept past a belated flash-gun warning and hurtled into the derailed wagons of a goods train in Punjab.

At least 40 people were killed and 139 injured when three bogies of the Amritsar Mail leapt up like a rising bridge after crashing into the wagons lying in its path.

Twenty-eight died on the spot, about 20 km from Patiala, and 12 in different hospitals at Fatehgarh Sahib, Rajpura and Patiala, S.P. Mehta, the Northern Railway general manager, said. The accident occurred 40 km from the site where the Sealdah Express had rammed into three derailed bogies of the Frontier Mail in 1998, killing 220 people.

Only nine bodies were identified till late tonight. None was from West Bengal. On the list of injured provided by the railways, only one — Mumtaz Alam of Calcutta — was from the state.

Railway minister Mamata Banerjee, who cut short her visit to Midnapore and left for the crash site, said she did not rule out sabotage. “There may be sabotage behind the accident,” she told reporters in Midnapore.

However, officials in Punjab said preliminary inquiries suggested that the coupling between the fourth and fifth wagon of the goods train got disconnected. “In the process, 11 wagons got derailed with four jumping on the up line. The train from Howrah, running at a speed of 85 kmph, rammed into them,” Vijay Kumar, Ambala divisional manager, said.

Kumar told Punjab Governor J.F.R. Jacob, who reached the disaster site, that the goods train crew fired a warning flash and tried to contact the Amritsar Mail driver, who applied the emergency brakes. But by then, it was too late as only two minutes separated the derailment from the collision. The railway minister has announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the relatives of the dead and Rs 1 lakh each for the injured.

Officials said the accident occurred at 5.37 am. The impact of the collision smashed and overturned the passenger coaches. The casualties took place in the three general compartments — 4856A, 3514A and 8895A.

Rescue efforts began immediately after the accident with villagers from Jivanpura rushing to the site with lanterns on hearing a loud bang.

“It was very cold and we had just finished reciting our prayers when we heard a loud bang followed by shrieks and cries of help. I looked out from my house but could not see anything. I turned back but stopped after I heard cries for help.

“I woke up everyone in my house and asked them to go to the railway track. I then told my neighbours to rush out with lanterns,” said Sardool Singh, whose house stands about 300 metres from the accident site. He also sent one of his sons to a nearby gurdwara for help.

One of the first to be rescued was the driver of the mail train, Jagdish Chander. He was pulled out of the engine which had plunged into the ditch to the left of the tracks and was resting under two smashed compartments.

“The driver said he had applied the emergency brakes but could not save the train from ramming into the derailed wagons,” said Bachittar Singh, who heard about the accident through an announcement made over the loudspeaker at the local gurdwara.

Several villagers suffered cuts trying to rescue the passengers. Devinder, a milkman, had to have 14 stitches on his hand after he hurt himself while pulling out a woman. The Punjab government has decided to gift Rs 10 lakh to Jivanpura village for the role played by its villagers in rescuing the passengers.

Survivors said they were asleep and were flung out of their berths under the impact of the collision. “I thought I was going to die when I heard the shrieks. A little later, I could see lanterns in the dark and voices of comfort that help was on its way,” said Dinesh Kumar.    

Calcutta, Dec. 2: 
Police have filed the first case in the city under the information technology Act after arresting two computer engineers on charges of data theft and destruction.

The engineers, both in their mid-twenties, have been booked on charges ranging from tampering with documents, illegally accessing, copying and damaging data stored in a computer.

The detective department said, if proved guilty, they could be sentenced to three years in prison and fined up to Rs 1 crore under Sections 65, 66 and 43 of the infotech Act. The police had earlier arrested a person in the city for hosting a hate website, but the infotech Act had not come into force then.

The two engineers were working with Transcription Laboratories, a firm on Ganesh Chandra Avenue. “The company establishes contact with doctors abroad through the Internet and reaches their prescription to local patients,” said deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Banibrata Basu.

The two have been accused of copying documents stored in the transcription firm’s computers and erasing data from the hard disc. After lifting the information, they submitted their resignations in August, the police said.

Armed with the required data, they floated a firm on Royd Street and ran operations similar to that of their erstwhile employer.

Soon after they left the job, Transcription Laboratories discovered that its data had been wiped out. The manager of the firm, Tridib Mitra, lodged a complaint with the detective department on September 9.

The sleuths then raided the duo’s office. The data missing from the previous firm were found in the computers there and the two were arrested, the police said.

Two computers, some CD-ROMs and floppy discs were seized from the office of the accused. Basu said both were released on bail after being produced in court on Saturday.    

Lucknow, Dec. 2: 
It’s a short course on “beating the daylights out of men”.

As the six-footer hulk charged menacingly at her, Bhavna whipped out a nanchaku and hit the man squarely on his right shoulder. He came down in a heap. A huge roar of applause erupted from the 500 girls present.

They were all students of Lucknow University, where sexual harassment is the favourite on-campus sport. The girls cannot take a step without being heckled, whistled at or even grabbed at.

They will now hit back — with flying kicks.

Last Wednesday, they were taking their first lesson in a defence course — initiated by themselves and designed to reduce to pulp the teasers, whose ranks are swelling everyday.

“It was going out of control,’’ said Malini, who lives in the university’s Kailash Hostel, at the centre of the action. “We had to hit back, and hard, at all those goons who think they can tease us, touch us and harass us and still get away with it. After all, offence is the best defence.”

Twirling a stick in the air, Rashmi, another student, added with passion: “Recently a study conducted by senior professors of the university revealed that on an average a girl is subjected to some form of sexual harassment on the campus at least three times a day. The guys don’t seem to learn. It’s time to teach them to behave.”

It’s as much a mindgame. The girls will not only be taught how to deal with harassment physically but also “psychologically”.

“It is very important for them to learn to shed patriarchal notions of women being weak and too delicate to look after themselves,” said Nishi Pandey, who is helping the girls deal with harassment in their daily life.

“These girls have to understand that it is not unfeminine to defend oneself in whatever ways one can,’’ Pandey adds.

The girls, with the help of some teachers and an NGO, have adopted a multi-pronged strategy.

In the morning they attend “de-conditioning” lessons by psychology experts who teach them on the “female stereotypes that have been superimposed by men’’.

A martial arts expert comes to teach them taekwondo and karate in the evening. The girls are also being taught to “read’’ body language, so that they can assess and perceive danger. “This will help them in identifying men who have a very aggressive body language, those who are potentially dangerous,’’ says Pandey, adding that it is always better to avoid a problem when possible.

The girls are also lectured on laws pertaining to sexual harassment and the “most effective’’ ways of filing FIRs.

Then comes the best part — the part, Malini says, when they actually “beat the daylights out of men”.

So upbeat are the girls that they have pooled in their pocket money and set up a gym of sorts using scraps of metal lying about in the campus. “This is just the beginning,’’ says Arpita, a second year BA student. “Right now we have to make do with whatever we can lay our hands on. We are working towards a full-fledged gym with the required equipment.’’

The “Kailash experiment’’ has been so inspiring that girls from other colleges have asked Pandey to let them in.

The girls now move in groups and have formed “special teams’’ which monitor the movements of some of the campus’s bad characters. A day before the course started, they caught an eve-teaser and made him hold his ears and frog jump in public. Some of the girls even wanted his head shaved and him paraded on a donkey. “Though the boys didn’t like what they saw yesterday and held a meeting to deal with the new phenomenon, it was obvious that they had got the message,’’ says Bhavnas.

“No more messing around with us,’’ she adds, juggling her kendo sticks.    



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Minimum: 17.5°C (+2)



Relative humidity

Maximum: 85%,
Minimum: 36%


Today: Mainly clear sky. Minimum temperature likely to be around 15°C
Sunset: 4.47 pm
Sunrise: 6.06 am

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