VHP gives Vajpayee a year on temple
Sonia beats PM to holy dip
Rights noise for Trinamul
Mamata fears for her life
Pilgrimage to IT temple
Calcutta Weather

Allahabad, Jan. 19: 
The dharam sansad of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad is expected to officially announce tomorrow that the construction of the Ram temple will begin on Shivratri next year.

The VHP has summoned two astrologers from Varanasi to determine when Shivratri falls. Sources said it is expected to take place between February 22 and 25 in 2002.

The decision to begin construction at the disputed site was taken last night at a meeting of the 51-member Ram Mandir Nirman Samiti, which was constituted by the VHP at the dharam sansad in Goa last October. The decision was conveyed to the Marg Darshak Mandal (the VHP’s apex steering committee), which met this morning before the dharam sansad began.

VHP sources said that barring a stray dissenting note from a dharamacharya — who felt the temple construction should be deferred to keep the Vajpayee government going as it was doing a “lot of good work” — the majority of the members felt that it could be “sacrificed” in the “cause” of the temple.

“It is time we took a hard look at things and stopped getting sentimental about the BJP government. It is selling the country to multinationals, going on bended knees before Pakistani militants, talking of trifurcating Kashmir and preparing the ground to yield the Muslim majority parts to Pakistan. There are so many internal dissensions within the BJP itself on these issues,” said a member of the steering committee who was formerly associated with the BJP.

“But worse from our viewpoint is putting the temple plank on the backburner because we are constantly badgered by people about it,” he added.

A resolution on the temple is expected to be adopted at the dharam sansad tomorrow in the post-lunch session, which is considered an “auspicious muhurat”.

Ramchander Das Parmahans, the mahant of Ayodhya’s Digambar akhada and the head of the Mandir Nirman Samiti, indicated the date clearly to the media soon after the morning meeting. “No doubt the construction will start with the help of the RSS, Bajrang Lal and the VHP in the month of phagun next year on Vishnu Paksh Shivratri.,” he said.

Parmahans asserted that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was being given adequate time to resolve the issue, as were his predecessors V.P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar and P.V. Narasimha Rao. “But if the government does not hand over the land to the Ramjanmabhoomi trust, we will forcibly occupy it, any time, any moment after the deadline,” warned the mahant.

He also declared that the VHP-affiliated sadhus and sants would stage a march from Ayodhya to Parliament when it is in session to urge the Prime Minister and the President to give away the disputed land to the temple trust.

The two Varanasi astrologers — Nagendra Pandey of Kashi Sanskrit University and Kameshwar Upadhayaya of Banaras Hindu University — have been asked to come up with an appropriate date for the march as well. VHP sources indicated that it could take place either during the budget or the monsoon session.

Shortly after this morning’s meeting, VHP working president Ashok Singhal rushed to buy peace with the religious leaders opposed to his agenda. They were planing to call a parallel sant sansad to come up with their own agenda for construction and unveil their own blueprint.

Singhal is said to have barged into a meeting of the Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad (comprising 13 prime akhadas) and pleaded with the mahants not to go ahead with their programme.

A functionary of the Niranjan Akhada, quoting Singh, said: “We Hindus are all one and must not work at cross-purposes.” His appeal evidently had a salutary effect on the akhada heads who soon revoked their boycott call of the VHP and allowed their representatives to attend the dharam sansad, although in their “personal” capacity.

VHP sources said the key reason for choosing Shivratri and not on an occasion associated with Ram like Ram Navami was the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election, projected to take place in March 2002. “It cuts both ways. It could help the BJP or mar its chances,” the sources said.


New Delhi, Jan. 19: 
With an eye on the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, Sonia Gandhi will take a holy dip in the Ganga on Monday and join the Mahakumbh bandwagon.

The Congress president will reach Allahabad ahead of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Sonia’s aides today talked of her “historic links” with the city where Anand Bhavan, the Nehru-Gandhi family’s ancestral house, is located and reacted angrily when pointed out that the visit could just be another fashion statement.

Celebrities like Sharon Stone, Bo Derek, Madonna and Jennifer Lopez have also promised to take a holy dip, though none has showed up at the mela yet.

Sonia, who will reach Allahabad a few hours after the VHP’s dharam sansad concludes its meeting, plans to visit some of the akhadas ideologically opposed to the VHP and the Sangh parivar.

Sources said she would try to identify with those who swear by a secular brand of Hinduism. In the past, Sonia had made it a point to attend several functions of the Ramakrishna Mission.

According to sources, the Special Protection Group has been given a list of isolated ghats where Sonia can perform her religious rites.

She will be accompanied by Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Sri Prakash Jaiswal and legislature party leader Pramod Tiwari. Both today confirmed January 22 as Sonia’s date with the Mahakumbh.

Congress leaders in the state want Sonia to bring with her both Priyanka and Rahul so that they too can seek the blessings of the river goddess. However, there was no confirmation yet if they would accompany her.

The Congress chief’s decision to take the holy dip has elated the state unit, which feels the gesture would go a long way in countering the Sangh’s campaign against her “foreign origins”.

“It will reinforce our claim that she is a devout and practising Hindu,” a state unit functionary said. Party leaders who called on her after her Lakshadweep sojourn had also been careful not to wish her “Merry Christmas” and merely stuck to the more neutral “Happy New Year”.

Sonia, too, has been cautious, projecting herself as one having equal respect for all faiths. Apart from being a declared follower of the Ramakrishna Mission, she makes it a point to send chaddars to Ajmer Sharief Urs.

Last year, she visited Tirupati’s Sri Venkateshwara temple but left the religion column blank in the visitors’ register. Her explanation was that as a bahu of the Nehru-Gandhi family she did not think it necessary to fill that column.


Chhoto Angaria, Jan. 19: 
The chief investigator of the National Human Rights Commission concluded after his visit here today that there was a massacre, as alleged by Mamata Banerjee, on January 4.

Before meeting the CID probing the incident, Y.N. Srivastava, the commission’s director-general (investigation), said he was “convinced” of the killings. He did not use the services of the local police either, taking the help of CRPF officers instead.

Srivastava and Shibaji Singh, senior commission official, toured the village for two hours.

Keeping district police officials outside, Srivastava and a CRPF assistant sub-inspector Balbir Singh went into Abdur Rahman Mondal’s house, where the incident took place, to find a number of bullet marks on the inside walls. “Go and check the bullet marks on the wall, tell me how many rounds had been fired and from which type of guns,” he instructed Singh. The CRPF jawan came out to say country-made guns were used.

He then asked Singh to examine whether there was firing from the two windows in the back of the house and check if there were bullet marks on the house opposite Mondal’s.

Singh did not find any, leading Srivastava to come to the conclusion that there was an exchange of fire inside the house and no attack was made from outside. He also asked Shibaji Singh to note that there was an explosion inside the house caused by a blast of cartridges possibly stored there.

Srivastava then called the officer-in-charge of Garbeta police station, Nikhil Bose, and wanted to know whether the police had found any blood outside the building. Bose pointed out to a bamboo pole outside Mondal’s house where stains had been found.

Srivastava moved to a house closest to Mondal’s and finding it locked, went to the next all by himself. A sickly woman opened the door and Srivastava entered the house. Emerging from the house after a 15-minute interrogation, he entered the temporary police camp opposite Mondal’s house and called Kunal Adhikary, a state police official.

“Tell me what had happened that day? How many people were killed, where were the bodies? Who are the CPM supporters in this village and who are Trinamul Congress activists?” he asked. A slightly puzzled Adhikary said he did not know since he came to Garbeta only on January 14.

Srivastava told Adhikary.: “We have realised what had happened on January 4 night. We are here only for a couple of hours and have understood what had happened but you are camping here from January 14, but you don’t know anything? You are a great liar.”

Next, he met Mondal’s mother, Kulsum Bibi, and his sister-in-law, who narrated to him what they had seen on January 4 night.

The investigation over, the former Bihar police chief told the assembled newspersons he was convinced about the “killings”.


New Delhi, Jan. 19: 
Mamata Banerjee has told home minister L.K. Advani that her life will be in danger if the Centre did not take action in West Bengal.

The Trinamul Congress leader told Advani yesterday that going by the “record of violence” unleashed by the CPM, “one day I will be murdered and you won’t even find my body. You will not get a chance to place flowers at my body because they will hide the corpse”.

Mamata, who was injured in the leg last fortnight when CPM activists allegedly pelted stones at her, said she had discussed the “massacre” at Chhoto Angaria with the home minister and had requested him to visit the state.

Asked what Advani’s response to her demand for President’s rule was, Mamata said: “He is seriously concerned. He will do something. But I don’t know what.”

Buttressing her contention that law and order was “sinking” in the state, Mamata said: “There was a saying in Bengal that when the babies do not sleep, the mothers will scare them saying ‘bargi ayega (dacoits will come)’. It is now literally true that looteras (dacoits) are freely roaming the streets.”

Sources said the Union home secretary will send for forensic tests the “evidence” furnished by Mamata as proof of the Chhoto Angaria “killings”.

Advani is understood to have told Mamata that he is waiting for the state CID report and the reply to the advisory sent by his ministry to the Bengal government.

Even as Mamata is trying to coax the Centre to take some action against the CPM-led government, the BJP leadership is doing everything possible to keep her happy without making any commitment on Article 356.


Bangalore, Jan. 19: 
Atal Bihari Vajpayee had his first brush with corporate India’s biggest success story in recent times and promptly fell into his favourite Nehruvian routine.

On a visit to infotech trendsetter Infosys’s campus here, the Prime Minister described N.R. Narayanamurthy’s company as a temple of modern India, borrowing — not for the first time — from Nehru. India’s first Prime Minister had called dams the temples of modern India.

“Previously, foreign dignitaries were never satisfied without a visit to the Taj Mahal. Now, they are not satisfied without visiting a wonder of the modern world, namely, the IT centres in Bangalore,” he said.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, Chinese top-ranking leader and former Premier Li Peng, World Bank president James D. Wolfensohn and Mauritius Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth are some of the recent visitors to Infosys.

Had President Bill Clinton come to Bangalore on his India tour, would he have been here? “Sure”, says Infosys chairman Narayanamurthy.

The company has even drawn former US senator Larry Pressler

to the board of directors.

At midday today, Vajpayee spent a

good hour on the sprawling Infosys campus located at the electronics city, 18 km from downtown Bangalore.

Charmed as he appeared to be by what he saw, Vajpayee, in cracking form, delighted the techies with a couplet: “If light can emit from even fading stars, even from a desert a new tree can sprout.”

This was the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to a software company. “Today, if anybody charms the world, it is our young and bright IT professionals who have made India’s name synonymous with excellence in software,” he said.

Built on a 44-acre expanse, the centre houses nearly 2,000 software professionals. “Infosys is a brand that is instantly recognised not just in the West, but even in China,” says an Infoscion, as Vajpayee waved to hundreds of young software geeks before joining Narayanamurthy and other top officials for lunch on the food court, one of the features of the campus.

Referring to the new generation of IT entrepreneurs like Narayanamurthy, Vajpayee said he was pleased to see professional excellence being combined with an ethos of philanthropy. “Tena tyaktena bhunjithahaa (create wealth by ethical means and enjoy it by giving,” he said, recalling the Isa Upanishad.

“It gives us all great pride that we have set the benchmark for other companies. But let me tell you it has not been easy. It is a result of hard work and a determination to prove that Indians could do it, given the opportunities,” says the

bespectacled Narayanamurthy.

Infosys started two decades ago with an investment of Rs.50,000. Today, the CEO — for all the wealth he has created — still leads a spartan life. Not some of his colleagues, though, who are mutli-millionaires, thanks to their shareholding in the company, and live it up.

Even Narayanamurthy’s chauffeur is a millionaire. Infosys’s unwritten credo is “Creation of wealth is not a crime”. Nobody is complaining.

With a turnover of over Rs 1,000 crore, Infosys is setting up here one of the biggest global software centres at a cost of Rs 618 crore. The centre will employ as many as 7,000 technical personnel.




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