VHP climbdown on temple date
Two-hour battle over twin statues
CBI grills Hindujas
Hurriyat softens stand on passports
President Bush takes unity vow
Calcutta Weather

Allahabad, Jan. 20: 
The VHP dharam sansad climbed down on its declaration on announcing the Ram temple construction date and fixed March 12, 2002 as the deadline for the Vajpayee government to “remove all the hurdles” facing the task.

A resolution on the Ram mandir passed at today’s dharam sansad, however, warned that if the government failed, the VHP would start construction on the Ayodhya site on any auspicious day after the March deadline which coincides with the Shivaratri festival.

The dharam sansad also declared its plans to launch an Ayodhya-Delhi “Chetavni Sant Yatra” (warning march by sadhus) from February 18 to 25, 2002 during Parliament’s budget session. The sadhus would demand from the President and the Prime Minister that the disputed site be handed over to the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas trust.

Today’s resolution also threw up an action plan for the sadhus from November 26 this year as a warming-up for the temple construction. According to the plan, jap yajnas would be held in “several lakhs of villages” to teach people to chant hymns in praise of Ram.

VHP sources admitted that after repeatedly warning that it would announce a specific date to begin construction or forcibly take over the disputed land, now in the Centre’s custody, the outfit was compelled to dilute its stand for two reasons.

First, top religious leaders, including the Shankaracharyas, pressured the outfit not to don the temple leadership mantle and risk their support and second, the RSS urged the VHP not to create a law and order problem for the Uttar Pradesh government or the Centre.

On Friday evening, after the opening session of the sansad, the VHP top brass, including president Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, working president Ashok Singhal and vice-president Acharya Giriraj Kishore, called on Shankaracharya of Puri Swami Nishchalanand at his Kumbh camp.

The Shankaracharya told The Telegraph: “I made two things clear to the VHP — their decision should not help any political party and create dissension within the Hindu samaj or throw up a major law and order problem. Second, they should work under our leadership. Does the river Ganga flow into the ocean or is it the other way around?”

The Puri Shankaracharya said he had made it clear to Singhal that construction should begin only after the land was “properly” acquired and a date should not be announced in haste.

Except VHP-loyalists like Mahant Ram Chander Das Paramhans, Swami Nritya Gopal Das and Acharya Dharmendra, who are not regarded as “influential” clergymen, not a single prominent Hindu religious leader was spotted on the dharam sansad’s dais.

VHP sources admitted that following Paramhans’ out-of-turn announcement yesterday about launching construction on Shivaratri in 2002, there were “frantic” calls to the outfit’s leaders from the BJP and the RSS asking them to hold their horses.


Calcutta, Jan. 20: 
Residents demanding that a children’s park should not be crowded with statues fought a pitched battle with police for over two hours in Park Circus.

As the situation threatened to spin out of control with the protesters hurling brickbats at the police and stoning passing vehicles near the Park Circus 7-point crossing, the Rapid Action Force had to resort to a lathicharge and lobbed nearly 25 teargas shells.

Nearly 10 policemen and several demonstrators were injured in the violence which brought traffic to a standstill for hours.

Rubiya Park, near the Park Circus tram depot, was used by children as a playground. Trouble began a few months ago after the Aswini Dutta Memorial Committee, armed with an order from the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, took over the maintenance of the park. Within months, the committee installed the statue of freedom fighter Aswini Dutta.

Residents protested, but another statue, of poet Mukunda Das, was set up shortly in the park.

When their pleas to remove the statues went unheard, some decided to hold a meeting this morning at the Park Circus crossing to “draw the attention of the authorities”.

Claiming that the park maintenance committee was “misusing its powers”, some residents stormed the park to pull down the statues. This triggered off the violence, with the police, already on the alert, moving in.

Deputy commissioner of police (Eastern Suburban Division) Mihir Bhattacharya, who came to the spot to control the situation, said four persons were arrested on charges of rioting.

Traffic came to a halt for well over three hours in the entire Park Circus area. Commuters were stranded at Gariahat and Park Circus crossings during the day.

“We have been telling them for some time that there used to be no statue in this park. But despite this, some people have been insisting on filling up precious playing space with the statues,” said Shakeel Amjad, who lives on Shamsul Huda Road just a few yards away from the park.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee visited the area along with Congress MLA-turned Trinamul Congress leader Sultan Ahmed. The residents calmed down after Mukherjee promised that the statues would be shifted to Ballygunge Park.

“This is basically a children’s park and as the residents are not willing to have statues here, I have allotted a separate plot of land in the Ballygunge Park area,” Mukherjee said.

“We cannot deprive our children of a park which they have been using for years. We will go for a bigger movement if the statues are not shifted,” warned Ahmed.

Mukunda Datta, one of the key members of the Aswini Dutta Memorial Committee, admitted that the decision to install statues at the park was not “well-timed and judicious”. “We should have respected the sentiments of the residents,” he said.


New Delhi, Jan. 20: 
The special trial court in the Bofors case today refused to grant permission to the Hinduja brothers to leave India and ordered them to be available for interrogation by the CBI for three days starting today.

Additional sessions and district judge Ajit Bharihoke said in a brief order that the CBI should interrogate the three brothers — G.P., P.P. and S.P. — till Monday when he will take up afresh their applications seeking permission to go abroad.

The bureau was directed to file replies to the applications by Monday.

The moment the brief order was pronounced in the packed open court, the Hindujas were herded to the CBI headquarters here where sleuths began the interrogation which is expected to continue over the next two days.

“Normal procedure is to keep the accused inside the headquarters itself, but the Hindujas might be allowed to retire to their five-star hotel at night,” an officer said.

While Gopichand and Prakash Hinduja left the CBI headquarters after half-an-hour, Srichand stayed there for three hours.

The investigating agency has accused the brothers of receiving 81 million Swedish kroners from the now-defunct AB Bofors in the howitzer gun deal.

Bharihoke, who had granted bail to them yesterday on a bond of Rs 2 lakh and surety of like amount, rejected their appeal to allow them to travel abroad.

The Hindujas, accompanied by their counsel, entered the CBI headquarters but bureau officials said the lawyers would be kept at a distance from the brothers at the time of interrogation.

“The lawyers would be within the vicinity of the brothers but not at a hearing distance at the time of questioning,” the officials said. Rajender Singh, senior counsel among the battery of lawyers hired by the corporate czars, said the brothers will be available and they will cooperate with the CBI as per the court direction.

Singh said after the hearing that the “accused have readily agreed to submit themselves before the CBI for questioning”.


Srinagar, Jan. 20: 
The All-Party Hurriyat Conference today appeared to have softened its stance on getting passports for the five leaders selected to visit Pakistan, saying travelling to the country is “not our goal”.

“We are not stubborn regarding the issue of passports. Obtaining passports and going to Pakistan is not our goal,” Hurriyat chairman Abdul Gani Bhat said after a meeting of the organisation’s executive committee.

Bhat criticised the Centre’s delay in taking a decision on issuing the passports. “Hawks are out to derail the peace process and don’t understand the rationale behind the Hurriyat members’ keenness to travel to Pakistan. We want to resolve the problem peacefully and that is why we want to travel to Islamabad,” he said.

“It is for the government to decide whether or not to issue the passports. We won’t ask for it now. We have decided it,” he added.

The Hurriyat’s climbdown came hours before Pakistan accused India of a negative attitude that it said could cause the chance of resolving the dispute to “slip away”.

Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Riaz Muhammad Khan said Pakistan was hoping Hurriyat leaders would be able to visit the country soon. “We hope that the formalities for their travel will be completed soon.

“However, with the delay and with the visibly... negative attitude on the part of the Indian authorities, the opportunity for addressing the Kashmir dispute by initiating a peace process, appears to be slipping away,” he said.


Washington, Jan. 20: 
George W. Bush took over as the 43rd President of the US here today and pledged in his inaugural address to bring unity to the country through “civility, courage, compassion and character”.

A powerful combination of bad weather, Bill Clinton and protesting Americans cast a grey pall over the ceremonies, already diminished by the failure of the new President to win a majority of popular votes and a Supreme Court intervention to stop the vote count which might have changed the outcome of the election.

It was a day on which Bush should have been at the centre-stage. But all of today — and yesterday — America’s focus was on Clinton, who cut an eleventh hour deal on investigations which might have led to his indictment on the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the months ahead.

Americans were transfixed by one of the last acts by the Clinton administration. Linda Tripp, a Pentagon employee who squealed on her “friend” Monica Lewinsky and brought out Clinton’s most publicised extra-marital tryst, was fired from her job after she was “reclassified” as a political appointee. All political appointees ended their tenure in the administration today. Tripp was fired after she refused to resign on her own.

A small number of protesters also began to assemble for demonstrations that may rival those against President Richard Nixon in 1973 when his limousine was pelted.

A loose coalition of activist groups expect about 20,000 protesters to mass in the capital for a Day of Resistance against what they say is Bush’s “illegitimate presidency”.

With diverse causes ranging from anger over the electoral system to opposition to Bush’s views on abortion and the death penalty, activists said they wanted peaceful demonstrations but feared the police response.

Security is the tightest ever for an inauguration. Ten checkpoints have been set up along the parade route from the Capitol to the White House.

Washington’s deputy police chief Terry Gainer said everyone entering the area would be searched for contraband but he said the police would be polite and respectful. “There’s plenty of room for everyone to both enjoy themselves and to protest,” Gainer said.

Most of the Secret Service’s 2,800 agents and 1,200 uniformed officers are on duty. All of the city’s 3,600 police officers will be working along with 1,400 more brought in from surrounding areas.

Bush got up at 6:30 a.m. and had coffee with his brothers Marvin and Jeb, the Florida governor, at Blair House, a Bush aide said.

Bush begins his day going to St. John’s Church, the so-called Church of the Presidents, near Blair House, the official US guest house. In late morning, Bush and his wife, Laura, join President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary for coffee at the White House.

The two will ride together to the Capitol for the swearing-in ceremony. Attending will be Bush’s father, former President George Bush, who took the same oath 12 years ago and then lost the White House to Clinton four years later.

Bush is the first President’s son to win the White House since John Quincy Adams in 1825.

Following the oath, Bush will deliver his inaugural address which he has said will be short, possibly only 10 to 12 minutes.

After the official events at the Capitol, Clinton, now a private citizen, will head off to his new home in Chappaqua, New York, while Bush will go to the White House where he will review the inaugural parade in his honour.




Maximum: 26.9°C (0)
Minimum: 11.1°C (-3)



Relative humidity

Maximum: 90%
Minimum: 39%


Mainly clear sky. Minimum temperature likely to be around 12°C
Sunset: 5.11 pm
Sunrise: 6.25 am

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