Atal on torture-protest tightrope
Ghani lobs logjam back to Sonia
BSF scrambles to sweep away flashpoint footpath
Power-shift in Sangh Delhi durbar
Calcutta Weather

Dhaka, April 21: 
Responding to domestic criticism following allegations of mutilation of BSF jawans’ bodies, the Prime Minister’s Office today announced that Atal Bihari Vajpayee has taken a “serious view” of the situation in the east.

However, keen to avoid a political backlash in the neighbouring country, the Prime Minister refrained from speaking directly to his “friend” and Bangladesh counterpart, Sheikh Hasina.

Vajpayee left it to officials to lodge a “strong protest” with Bangladesh and tell Dhaka that “culprits responsible for such inhuman” action must be brought to book.

Before making India’s position clear, Vajpayee spoke to home minister L.K. Advani, who was in Ahmedabad. Vajpayee asked Advani to tell BSF director-general Gurbachan Jagat to return to Delhi from Shillong and give him a detailed report.

A PTI report said the Prime Minister has convened a meeting tomorrow on the issue. It will be attended by Advani and defence minister Jaswant Singh. Dhaka is believed to have assured Delhi that it would investigate the incident that led to the killings at the Assam-Meghalaya-Bangladesh tri-junction.

The funeral of the 15 jawans was held today in Praharinagar in Meghalaya. All bodies bore laceration marks; some were charred beyond recognition.

The Bangladesh foreign ministry refused to comment on the allegation that the soldiers were killed in cold blood. “We have received the Indian complaints,” said foreign secretary Syed Moazzam Ali. “We shall send a reply to India after we complete thorough investigations.” Other Bangladeshi officials said only autopsy was conducted on the bodies in line with rules.

The Indian leadership has not got in touch with the Bangladesh government directly and has relied on bureaucrats to do so because in the perception of the neighbour, it is the “misadventure” of the BSF personnel that led to the killings.

With elections in Bangladesh due in a few months, an apology by Sheikh Hasina or a direct contact between the Prime Ministers will be construed by the ruling Awami League’s detractors as a “sell-out” to India.

If the deaths had taken place in Pyrdiwah, where the Bangladesh Rifles had encircled the BSF camp, the onus would have been on Dhaka to apologise. But since the killings occurred at Baroibari, where the BSF team had led an assault on a BDR post, Bangladesh feels that the action was justified.

But this did not stop Delhi from taking a tougher stand on Dhaka. The decision to “summon” Bangladesh high commissioner Mostafa Farooque Mohammed to South Block this afternoon displays Delhi’s eagerness to send a message that it can take off the kid gloves. On the day of the deaths, Delhi had taken care to point out that it had only “apprised” the envoy.

Foreign secretary Chokila Iyer lodged a “strong protest” with the Bangladesh high commissioner over the “inhuman” treatment of the BSF personnel. She also pointed to the destruction of property of Indian villagers in Pyrdiwah “even after the two governments agreed to restore status quo ante and defuse tension”.

Iyer asked Farooque to make immediate arrangements for the return of the two wounded jawans undergoing treatment in Dhaka. Echoing the new tune, Jaswant Singh, who heads the foreign ministry also, denied in Patna that Delhi’s response was “casual”.

BSF chief Jagat accused the BDR and the Bangladesh army of using civilians to kill his men in cold blood. “We have proof that our patrol party under deputy commandant B.R. Mondal was trapped into a dialogue by the residents of Bangladesh,” he said.

He said the incident smacked of a conspiracy by a third party. “We cannot ignore recent reports of the ISI being active in Bangladesh,” he added. The BSF chief said his Bangladesh counterpart Fazal Rehman had little to say on the flare-up. “He had no reasons for it and apologised,” Jagat said.


Calcutta, April 21: 
The deadlock in Malda showing no signs of breaking with barely a week to go for the deadline to withdraw candidates, A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury today decided to lob the ball to Sonia Gandhi’s court.

The Malda leader said he would write to his party president to intervene and end the seat standoff with Mamata Banerjee. Sonia had earlier left it to the two leaders to resolve the dispute.

The squabble was initially over the Englishbazar and Harishchandrapur constituencies in Ghani Khan’s backyard, seats to which both parties had staked claim. Besides Englishbazar, Trinamul candidates have filed nominations from Gajole, Ratua and Old Malda.

The Bengal Congress is confident of breaking the deadlock before the last date for withdrawal of candidates. While announcing the Congress-Trinamul combine’s common minimum agenda in Calcutta today state Congress president Pranab Mukherjee said: “There is a problem over the Englishbazar seat in Malda. We hope to resolve it through discussions.” Mamata, however, kept silent.

Mukherjee indicated that the two parties had reached “complete unanimity” on all seats except Englishbazar.

Ghani Khan told reporters in Malda that he would spell out his grievances in writing to Sonia on the Englishbazar seat, where Trinamul has pitted Krishnendu Choudhury against his nominee, Goutam Chakraborty.

Ghani Khan said as per the seat-share agreement, he had left Gajole and Old Malda to Trinamul. He alleged that Trinamul had violated the conditions and fielded a candidate in Englishbazar.

The Malda leader said he had already got in touch with the leadership and would shortly speak to Kamal Nath, the Congress’ general secretary in charge of Bengal. Ghani Khan said he would await Sonia’s directive on how to end the impasse.

Mukherjee said the Dinajpur dispute had been resolved. The Congress has offered Kushmandi in North Dinajpur to Trinamul and has, in exchange, received Itahar and Raigunj in South Dinajpur.

He admitted that some disgruntled Congress leaders had decided to contest as Independents in the Assembly seats given to Trinamul in Murshidabad. “But the Congress leadership will not tolerate any indulgence shown to them by local party leaders,” Mukherjee warned.


Lyngkhat (Meghalaya), April 21: 
Jawans of the Border Security Force have torn down a “renovated” footpath considered to be the epicentre of the eruption of hostilities between Indian and Bangladeshi forces.

The jawans yesterday descended on Lyngkhat village near Pyrdiwah and started smashing the footpath. The villagers quoted them as saying that the demolition was part of the agreement reached at Thursday’s flag meeting between the BSF and Bangladesh Rifles.

The Bangladeshi force had set this as a condition for withdrawing from Pyrdiwah, which official records show as Bangladesh territory in “adverse possession” of India. Border guidelines bar “defensive construction” — the term covers roads — on such terrain.

However, the dust refused to settle down on the footpath, which runs for about 50 metres between Lyngkhat and Lyngkhong villages. The villagers claimed that an existing footpath was being repaired by them and not the BSF as made out by the BDR.

“It was so humiliating for us. We stood there while our footpath was being destroyed by our own jawans. The BDR men and Bangladeshi civilians stood there, clapping and hooting,” said the middle-aged headman of Lyngkhat, Thones Khonglikhong.

He said it was “unthinkable” that the security force of his own country should be doing this. The headman said the footpath had been in existence since the time of East Pakistan. The villagers were only repairing the footpath after they received a grant under a state government scheme, he said.

He claimed that the footpath was “completely” inside India. “We fail to understand why the BSF should go and do the bidding of the BDR,” said a villager, Commanding Khongsam.

The incident has fanned fears among the tribals that the village would be handed over to Bangladesh.

India has been dragging its feet on erecting border pillars — an essential step towards demarcating the areas the two sides have agreed to swap under the Indira-Mujib agreement of 1974.

The villagers said they had started repairing the footpath on March 12 by laying fresh stones. On March 26, when they were preparing the mix to cement the stones, a band of BDR men had surrounded them with guns and told them to stop.

The workers ran away. “I went to the BSF to report that the Bangladeshis had come right to our village, but the BSF said they did not have orders to make any road or footpath. So, because of fear, we stopped the footpath,” said the headman.

He said the villagers wrote to the state government and the Union government about the “aggression” by the BDR.

Bangladesh media quoted foreign secretary Syed Moazzam Ali as saying on Friday that the BSF had demolished an “illegally constructed road” in no man’s land while the BDR lifted its encirclement of the BSF camp. He said the whole problem surfaced over the construction of a road by the BSF, which violates international law.


New Delhi, April 21: 
RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan has been “advised” to shift his base back to Nagpur from the capital. The Sangh’s joint general secretary, H.V. Seshadri, and general secretary in charge of the political wing, Madan Das Devi, will remain permanently on the Jhandelwalan campus.

RSS sources said Sudarshan’s new base implied more than just a change of locale. “It signals a shift in the complex RSS-BJP relationship and, more important, the RSS and Atal Bihari Vajpayee equation,” said a source.

Sudarshan, sources said, was perceived as “soft” on the Vajpayee government or, at least, being unable to take a “tough and uncompromising” stance on the Centre’s policies at a time when the general view within the Sangh was that post-Tehelka, it was “untenable” to defend a “scam-tainted” government. There was also a feeling that Sudarshan was speaking “out of turn too often” and confusing the cadre instead of clearing the air on important issues, especially economic ones.

Sangh insiders said Seshadri — older than Sudarshan and regarded as a man of few words — had advised the sarsanghchalak to return to the traditional headquarters both in his own interest and that of the organisation.

Though Sudarshan was not very enthusiastic about the suggestion, he “had no choice” but to listen. “Even today, Seshadriji is regarded as a super supremo within the Sangh. He rarely speaks his mind, rarely ever phones or meets the Prime Minister or other ministers. But if he ever does, his words carry far more weight than Sudarshanji’s,” the sources said.

Sudarshan’s departure means that effectively, Devi will be the main link between the RSS and the BJP, as well as the government, with Seshadri stepping in only when there is a crisis.

Nagpur has been the RSS nerve-centre from the time of Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, the first sarsanghchalak. Delhi’s Jhandelwalan was a “guest house” for the leaders. When Rajendra Singh took over in 1994, he positioned himself in the capital, officially for health reasons. “He was never in good health and needed constant treatment. So he based himself in Delhi,” said Kishore Kant, the Delhi prant pracharak.

Insiders, however, said the “politically-oriented” Rajendra Singh was more at home with heartland politics, especially that of Uttar Pradesh from where he came, and thought it logistically convenient to base himself in Delhi.

Sudarshan was just inclined to continue with the precedent set by his predecessor.

According to sources, what irked Seshadri and the other functionaries more was Sudarshan’s flip-flop on the charges he himself had levelled against PMO officials Brajesh Mishra and N.K. Singh on the Tehelka scandal.

At a news conference, Sudarshan had blasted the officials as “incompetent” and accused them of wielding extra-constitutional authority. But he retracted his statement after the Prime Minister’s Office issued a stiff denial.

RSS sources also said the recent outburst of swadeshi ideologue and Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh founder Dattopant Thengadi against the Centre at a public rally was a taste of things to come.

“He has virtually declared war on the Sangh’s behalf against the Centre,” said sources. The BMS is the Sangh’s trade union wing.

Though they ruled out an immediate flashpoint, sources said Thengadi was set to organise a series of anti-government rallies across the country which are expected to culminate in a “massive show of strength” in Delhi in August.

Bangaru not to canvass

Former BJP president Bangaru Laxman has decided not to campaign for the Assembly elections, PTI quotes party chief Jana Krishnamurthi as saying today.

“Laxman has decided that till his name is cleared by the Justice Venkataswami Commission in the Tehelka episode, he will not campaign for the Assembly polls and will also keep away from routine party activities,” he said.

Senior party leaders will soon discuss at a “chintan” camp ways to improve the system of accepting large contributions to the party fund, Krishnamurthi said.




Maximum: 38.1°C (+2)
Minimum: 26.2°C (+1)



Relative humidity

Maximum: 84% ,
Minimum: 23%


Mainly clear sky. Maximum temperature likely to be around 38°C
Sunrise: 5.13 am
Sunset: 5.56 pm pm

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