Smug Atal orders Bihar conquest
Penalty for mental torture at home
Imam sets Babri price for mission to save Buddhas
Chupke crores for Chori Chori
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New Delhi, March 6: 
With headaches in Delhi out of the way, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has given the green signal to “interested” players in Patna to dislodge the Rabri Devi government.

The presence of three Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) dissidents — Nagmani, Sukhdev Paswan and Anwar-ul Haque — at an Id lunch hosted by BJP minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussain confirmed that Operation Bihar was being masterminded not just by the Samata Party, the Janata Dal (United) and the Lok Jan Shakti Party. The BJP has as much a stake in the developments in Patna as other NDA constituents, party sources said.

The BJP high command’s decision to activate its strategists coincided with a renewed effort by dissidents in Laloo Yadav’s party to rope in more legislators.

The dissident camp, led by RJD working president Ranjan Yadav, today claimed the support of three more MLAs. The rebels had earlier claimed the backing of 40 MLAs, enough to legalise a split, but they have turned cautious in anticipation of a pre-emptive strike by Laloo.

Justifying the BJP’s role, a party leader hailing from Bihar said: “Laloo is one of the main stumbling blocks in our quest for absolute power. Our aim is to somehow get rid of him. Who forms the government and how, and whether we offer outside support or become a part of it or opt for fresh elections, these questions are secondary.”

The sources said if Laloo’s party eventually splits, it would mean more MPs for the BJP-led coalition and another state government in the alliance’s stable.

Out of Laloo’s seven MPs in the Lok Sabha, only two — Kanti Singh and Raghuvansh Prasad Singh — have reportedly decided to stay back. In the Rajya Sabha, Laloo is expected to be left with three of his 10 members.

“But more than numbers, it is the feeling of running the governments in two of India’s most crucial states, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which will add to the BJP’s stature,” stressed a party leader.

The Prime Minister’s decision to set his sights beyond the capital has also been spurred by his government’s ability to hold its own against the Opposition. The government has weathered the Balco storm in Parliament and managed to survive the Gujarat quake debate with only a few bruises.

Besides Bihar, the developments in Bengal and Tamil Nadu have buoyed the BJP in the run-up to the Assembly polls. “Our main objective is to ensure that the Congress is trounced in these elections,” said a BJP leader, referring to the split in the Bengal Congress.

“Contrary to the general perception, we always maintained that Mamata Banerjee would not ditch the BJP and hitch her stars to the Congress bandwagon. We were sure it was the Congress that would break and join the BJP-Trinamul combine and we are being proved right,” he added.

In Tamil Nadu, the BJP is keenly observing the twists and turns on the Jayalalitha front. The ADMK leader today tried to pacify the Congress, smarting under the Pondicherry swipe delivered yesterday, by offering more seats. But the Congress has virtually rejected the overture.

The lone source of worry for the BJP is the discordant notes being struck within its own ranks about some aspects of the budget. The party has released a booklet to allay fears among its cadre over the fallout of labour reforms and a small-saving interest cut.


New Delhi, March 6: 
Overriding protests from the men’s lobby, the government has included mental torture in a Bill which will outlaw domestic violence.

The draft of the Bill covers “physical, sexual, verbal, mental and economic” violence at home. It does not lay down what constitutes “mental” harassment, though some organisations representing men had claimed that the ambiguity could be used to find fault with even “innocuous” taunts.

However, officials involved in drawing up the Bill pointed out that the objective of the legislation was to “protect” the physical and mental well-being of women.

The Bill bears the stamp of the draft submitted by Lawyers Collective, with almost all its suggestions incorporated.

“The Bill defines domestic violence as any act, omission or conduct which can harm or has the potential of harming or injuring the health, safety or well-being of a woman,” says the note prepared for the Cabinet’s approval by the Department of Women and Child Development. “Such violence could be physical, sexual, verbal, mental or economic,” it adds.

The draft Bill has also widened the concept of “domestic relationships”. The legislation will be valid not only for married couples but also couples in a live-in relationship. It will cover any couple “if they have at some stage lived together in a relationship in the nature of marriage, whether or not such relationship is recognised as marriage under the law”.

The guidelines will also cover “mothers, sisters and daughters” in the household, says the note.

At the core of the Bill is the role of the protection officer. The officer, appointed by the state, could be an individual or institution, like a non-government organisation, widely accepted by the community and easily accessible.

“On being contacted by a victim of domestic violence, the protection officer can pass a protection order,” the draft Bill says. The order can prevent the aggressor from entering the victim’s house or office, selling her property or depriving her of her economic resources and harming those helping her.

The order would be valid for two years and violation would be punishable by imprisonment up to three years or a fine that could go up to Rs 20,000 or both. The draft Bill says the protection officer should keep track of “all” incidents of domestic violence in the area under his or her jurisdiction.

The Bill has specified the financial relief the victim would get. This includes loss of earnings, medical expenses, maintenance for herself and for the children, loss or damage of property and compensation.


New Delhi, March 6: 
Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the imam of the country’s most important mosque, the Jama Masjid, today triggered a controversy by equating the Taliban’s destruction of Buddha statues with the Babri masjid demolition.

Bukhari said he was willing to talk to the Taliban to prevent the demolition if Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee denounced the Babri masjid destruction as a “shameful” act.

In the eyes of the Muslims, Bukhari lacks the stature of his father who had also headed the same place of worship. But this is the first time that a Muslim cleric has spoken out against both the Babri demolition and the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in the same breath.

Progressive Muslims have been denouncing the Taliban atrocities. But they have not been viewing the damage to Afghanistan’s pre-Islamic heritage in the context of the Babri demolition.

Bukhari said today he was prepared to travel to Afghanistan and hold talks with the Taliban to stop the destruction of the statues. Not much may be left to save, though. Nor was it clear why the Taliban, which have defied world opinion, should listen to a cleric from India when their own religious leader has issued the edict to destroy the statues.

A quarter of both the Bamiyan statues has been destroyed, Reuters quoted the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press as saying. There was a lull in shelling the giant Buddhas today because of Id-ul-Zuha.

The Taliban, which repeated during the day its vow to smash the statues completely, offered a faint ray of hope tonight. The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, said an appeal from “religious scholars of the Arabic world may help”. “So far, we have not received any message or proposal which is based on reasons of Shariat. If there is such a message, it will be considered,” Zaeef told Reuters Television.

In Delhi, addressing an Id congregation, Bukhari said: “I am willing to talk to the Taliban. I am confident I will be able to prevail over them and stop the demolition. But one condition would have to be fulfilled. The Prime Minister of India will have to say that the demolition of Babri Mosque was a shameful act.” The Jama Masjid head was unwilling to be overcritical of the Taliban action.

He said: “I do not condemn the Taliban decision. When the Babri mosque was demolished in India, Islamic countries reacted sharply. The then Indian government had said it was the country’s internal affair. Why cannot the Taliban decision be taken as their internal affair?” Bukhari added that the Taliban action had to be looked at in the context of the Babri demolition.

None of the political parties has as yet connected the two incidents. But some Sangh parivar organisations have taken not just a critical but also a zealous stand.

The Bajrang Dal has spoken ominously about a backlash against Muslims. Acharya Giriraj Kishore, vice-president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, appeared equally defiant. He said: “Muslims should bear in mind reactions to these incidents can happen anywhere.”


Mumbai, March 6: 
Chori Chori Chupke Chupke may have landed Bharat Shah in jail, but certainly not in penury.

As the Bollywood financier cools his heels in a dark, dank prison cell awaiting trial on charges of links with the underworld, his film — or rather the film he claims to have financed — has turned out to be a sellout.

The blockbuster, starring Salman Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta, scheduled for release on Friday, has netted over Rs 16 crore, with all 325 prints sold out, 90 of them overseas. This is against the production cost of an estimated Rs 13 crore.

Bollywood watchers expect the film, riding on a wave of controversy, not just to live up to the high expectation of its producer Nazim Rizvi — also in jail — but to his mentor, gangster Chhota Shakeel, a Dawood Ibrahim confidant, who, police said, was the real financier.

The D Company will not benefit from the court-supervised release because the entire proceeds will go to the state treasury. But Shah will, though for a different reason.

In a curious turn of events, Shah’s company, VIP Movies, bought a few days ago the right of the film’s distribution to the financial capital and a few other areas that traditionally generate much revenue for Bollywood.

Mumbai alone gives distributors 20 per cent of the country’s entire revenue.

Santosh Singh Jain, a Bollywood distributor, appointed by the court to sell the film to distributo-rs in the country and abroad, said he sold Shah’s company the film’s distribution right for Mumbai, Gujarat and parts of Karnataka.

“Bharatbhai’s company paid me Rs 2 crore, the amount I had asked for. So, I sold it to him. What’s wrong with that? No other buyer had come up with a better offer,” Jain told The Telegraph.

Jain said he did not have “legal problems” because the court did “not bar me from selling the film to any company or individual”.

He said Shah, a diamond merchant, had the “world rights” of the film. “He would have distributed it in India and abroad had he not been arrested.” Jain said the film has generated “a lot of interest” because of the controversy. “All 325 prints are gone.” In Mumbai alone, the biggest market for Hindi movies, 50 prints were sold, followed by 48 in Delhi.

Jain, who is designated as the court receiver, said he had so far collected Rs 12 crore from the sale of the film. Before his arrest, Shah had collected another Rs 4 crore as advance to sell the film to distributors, which he handed over to the court trying him and Rizvi under the harsh Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act.

Jain said the proceeds would be deposited in the state treasury pending the outcome of the case. “But those buying the film from us for distribution have nothing to do with the case and can function independently.”




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