Party sore at distant didi
Sonia clips reminder to get-well card
Warning to Ayodhya truants
Delhi duo in net for web job racket
Mamata mum, party abuzz
Quake flattens homes, not wall of caste
Probe panel steps into Nepal palace
Delhi set to resume Bodo talks
Mix-up case goes to CBI
Largest stupa found in Rajgir

Midnapore, June 8: 
Trinamul Congress workers here are upset with Mamata Banerjee for convening a strategy session in Calcutta and have pointed to the CPM meeting tomorrow in the district to argue that the difference in approach between the two parties’ leaderships may have cost Trinamul dearly.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas will meet district committee members in Midnapore tomorrow. Politburo member Biman Bose and health minister Suryakanta Mishra, who is the MLA from Narayangarh constituency in the district, will be present.

On Sunday, Mamata will meet MLAs and defeated candidates from Midnapore to find out what went wrong. Having claimed a massive wave in its favour in the run-up to the elections, the party managed to win only 10 of the 37 seats.

Biswas and Bose will review the CPM’s poll performance in Midnapore, particularly in the seven Assembly segments under the Panskura Lok Sabha constituency — all of which were won by CPM. Barely a year ago, Trinamul’s Bikram Sarkar had won the Panskura bypoll, defeating the heavyweight CPI candidate, Gurudas Dasgupta.

Trinamul grassroots workers are upset that Mamata is not visiting Midnapore to find out the reasons for the debacle. “Here lies the difference. If Anil Biswas could come to Midnapore to assess his victorious party’s performance, what prevented didi from visiting the district where many of her supporters are running scared because of the CPM’s terror tactics?” asked a district Trinamul leader.

“We have become targets of our own partymen who have been spending days in the camps in Garbeta, Sabang and Pingla. Mamata should have visited the district since it was the people of Garbeta and Keshpur who had brought her into the limelight before the Assembly polls,” he added.

However, CPM insiders said Biswas’ meeting is crucial as the followers of Sushanta Ghosh, the MLA from Garbeta (East), are expected to raise questions about the “injustice” shown to him. Ghosh had to be satisfied with a minister of state berth this time also.


New Delhi, June 8: 
Sonia Gandhi today sought to play down differences with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, sending a personal note wishing him speedy recovery, but adding a reminder on the Ayodhya issue.

The get-well note was in sharp contrast to the last time the Prime Minister was admitted for knee surgery. There were no get-well messages then, no flowers or telephone calls. Instead, last October, the Congress posed a theoretical question to the BJP: who was in command when Vajpayee was undergoing surgery?

Sonia today faxed her note to Breach Candy hospital and sent a copy to the Prime Minister’s 7 Race Course Road residence through a special messenger.

But she took the opportunity to express distress over the delay in removing the shortcomings in a Uttar Pradesh government notification for the trial of three Union ministers in the Ayodhya demolition case.

“We have been informed that the CBI had sent a communication more than a month back... recommending that the Central government should advise the Uttar Pradesh government to rectify the infirmities in the notification.... I strongly urge you to kindly initiate the necessary steps to remove the shortcomings,” she said in her letter.

But Congress-watchers believe Sonia’s get-well message would help ease the strain in relations between the two leaders. Relations between the two hit rock bottom during the budget session, particularly after the Tehelka exposé.

Sonia had complained to home minister L.K. Advani on the concluding day of the session that the government was maligning her son as part of political vendetta.

She was upset with Vajpayee for allowing the CBI to look into a charge levelled by Subramanian Swamy that the KGB had paid kickbacks to the Gandhis. On an earlier occasion, Sonia and Vajpayee had traded harsh words in Parliament after she criticised the government’s functioning during the customary vote of thanks. Vajpayee had lashed out at her conduct as leader of Opposition.

Sonia had virtually accused Vajpayee of “treason” while addressing the Bangalore plenary when she said the Prime Minister was shielding traitors. At the Ramlila Grounds three years ago, she had charged him with telling “white lies” on the Bofors case.

The Sonia camp justifies the harsh words against Vajpayee. Senior Congress leaders pointed out that the Vajpayee regime was not according her “due importance”. The leader of Opposition was kept out of all delegations going abroad. This was unusual because Vajpayee was sent on numerous missions abroad when he was leader of Opposition during the Narasimha Rao regime.

Congress leaders said the party was divided on how to deal with Vajpayee. The hawks favoured taking on Vajpayee on the ground that he alone was the cementing force behind the NDA. The strategy was to target Vajpayee to weaken the ruling coalition.

A small section of Congress leaders, however, held a different view. They said the party had suffered by attacking Vajpayee on Kargil, Tehelka and other issues.

“The Prime Minister has a good image and it is futile to accuse him of being corrupt. The strategy boomeranged. We should have accused him of tolerating corruption instead of dubbing him as corrupt,” a Congress Working Committee member said.

Jaya wishes

Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha has wished Vajpayee a speedy recovery, reports PTI from Chennai.

“I wish to convey my best wishes for your speedy recovery after the successful surgery,” she said in her message sent to the Prime Minister yesterday. “I hope you will be back in your busy schedule very soon and carry on your service to the nation with renewed vigour,” she added.


Lucknow, June 8: 
The CBI special court on the Babri Masjid demolition case has threatened to take action against the accused who skipped hearing and forced the adjournment of another session to frame charges.

The special court said it was unable to file charges against the 26 accused supposed to be in court today as 10 of them were not present. The court’s initial order had designated that for charges to be filed, all the accused must be present in person in the court.

Among the 26 accused who have to be present for filing of charges are former Faizabad deputy magistrate R.N. Srivastava and superintendent of police D.B. Rai.

Taking a strict note of the absenteeism, the court said non-bailable warrants would be issued against the accused if they failed to turn up next time. Judge Srikant Shukla scheduled the next hearing for June 22.

The court also took the view that the language of future court orders will be suitably changed to enable charges to be filed, irrespective of whether or not all the accused were physically present.

The CBI has decided to file a review in Allahabad High Court against the May 4 order, in which the special court had added 13 more persons to the list of those against whom charges were dropped on technical grounds.

The court had dropped cases against Union ministers L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati and 18 others. The Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court had quashed proceedings against Advani and others in the named FIR on the ground that the legal lacunae in the constitution of the special court had to be “corrected first”.


New Delhi, June 8: 
Swindlers have become cyber-savvy.

Delhi police today arrested Narender Singh Chaudhary and Avnish Kumar Rai, two directors of an infotech company in South Delhi, for cheating unsuspecting job-seekers.

The arrests, which come barely a week after another racket involving a computer school and the Mumbai underworld was busted, show how the web is being used to dupe gullible net-surfers.

The background of the crime unravelled today dates back to last December when Rai, a software engineer from Patna, teamed up with Chaudhary, a former sailor in the Indian Navy, to float India Informatic Infotech Private limited.

To bolster their company’s credibility, the two created a website — They claimed it was in collaboration with the Union surface transport ministry and used the Asoka Pillar emblem to back up their claim.

According to sources in the police crime branch, the accused encashed on the information technology boom in the country. Carefully plotting their crime, the duo put out elaborate ads in newspapers announcing some 3,000 vacancies in their company. The posts advertised were spread across the country.

Crime branch sources said India Informatic Infotech did not even register itself with the registrar of companies before the ads were put out. “The advertisements were sent on April 3 and the company registered itself two weeks later. This itself is a crime,” said assistant commissioner of police Vijay Malik.

The ads were taken seriously. According to police sources, around 3,800 applications were received for the posts of district managers, data retrievers and office assistants. Drafts worth Rs 7,500 were enclosed for the post of district manager, Rs 5,000 for the data retriever’s post and Rs 1,000 for that of office assistants.

Bank drafts worth Rs 70 lakh were deposited in South Delhi’s Oriental Bank of Commerce. Of this, Rs 11 lakh was withdrawn for personal use. The rest of the amount was seized by the police.

“The brain behind the establishment of the company was Rai, who is a trained software engineer, a system analyst and web designer trained in Patna,” Malik said. “The main financier of the company was Chaudhary, who had left the navy to become a property dealer.”

A case of cheating has been registered against the duo.


Calcutta, June 8: 
Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee arrived here from Delhi last night amid rumours of her party’s possible return to the National Democratic Alliance before the monsoon session of Parliament.

Mamata avoided the media all day today. Her silence, in the wake of reports of a “patch-up” meeting with NDA convener George Fernandes on Wednesday night, fuelled speculation that efforts for a realignment have been renewed. Her aides neither confirmed nor denied the reports.

But Trinamul sources said Mamata, who has been under constant pressure from some MPs to return to the ruling alliance, is only buying time till the matter fizzles out.

A section of party leaders has urged her not to take any hasty step before the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. These leaders believe the BJP might be trounced in the state and be forced to call mid-term Lok Sabha elections early next year.

Strong opposition to Trinamul’s re-entry into the NDA from the state BJP leadership as well as the Samata Party has further complicated matters.

While the pro-return Trinamul MPs want to go back to the Vajpayee-led government without setting any conditions, others feel this will amount to “political harakiri” and the party will be thoroughly discredited.

Most Trinamul leaders and MLAs want Mamata to concentrate on the state and strengthen the organisation. They feel Mamata should tour the districts and revamp the organisation at the booth level to meet the CPM’s challenge in the next panchayat elections.

“Rejoining the NDA at this juncture will serve no useful purpose as the continuation of the government does not depend on the support of our MPs,” they said.

Trinamul leaders regret that Mamata’s much-hyped Delhi campaign against “the CPM’s poll rigging” lost its edge amid speculation over her possible return to the NDA.

Her inability to clear her stand compounded the confusion among the Trinamul rank and file, who were expecting a fresh offensive against the Marxists.

Mamata will meet party leaders and MLAs from Midnapore on Sunday to find out their post-election problems. A meeting between Trinamul and Congress legislators is scheduled for Wednesday to discuss floor coordination in the Assembly for the coming monsoon session.

Pankaj Banerjee, the leader of the Opposition, has already had preliminary talks with a section of Congress MLAs on the issue. He feels legislators belonging to both the parties should maintain unity inside the House and spare no effort to highlight the new government’s shortcomings.


Dudhai (Kutch), June 8: 
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was impressed. He liked the houses, 500 of them built to rehabilitate Dudhai’s families, all quake-resistant, built in a record 120 days here by an organisation run by former Delhi chief minister Sahib Singh Verma.

Vajpayee handed over the first key to a Dalit. Like Vajpayee, Verma, too, was impressed. But it didn’t take long to lose heart and feel bitter.

It was the Patels. They said no, thank you, we can’t move because the new village — that Verma had named Indraprastha — is too far. That was their official reason, though, “too far” was only 3 km away from where they lived.

But in private, the powerful Patel community of Dudhai conveyed to Verma that they would not accept a Dalit as neighbour.

Verma’s press secretary Jyotironoy Roy said the Patels did not want to move because they felt that if they lived in the same locality in similar houses with Dalit neighbours, there would be nothing to set them apart in the social hierarchy. Their social status would be hurt.

The Patel community’s refusal left Verma and his two-year-old NGO, Rashtriya Swabhiman, with egg on their faces. Especially after Vajpayee lavished praise.

“I would not have believed it had I not come here to see it,” Vajpayee had said. “It is an excellent example of human determination, sincerity and commitment to do what may appear as impossible. If new Dudhai (or Indraprastha, as Verma calls it) can be built in such a short time, then why not Kutch?”

For some, though, it was the pangs of relocation more than the caste divide that led to the refusal. “My forefathers lived there (Dudhai). We would like to remain there,” said Govindbhai Patel.

R.S. Nirama, the resident deputy collector, is aware of the problem on hand. “Though they have refused to move in, we will allot the houses to the Patels. We will see later what to do,” he says.

In February, when the whole nation was grappling with the sordid statistics — Gujarat more than anyone else — Rashtriya Swabhiman got down to the business of building these 500 houses to rehabilitate the 800-odd families of devastated Dudhai. The dream was fulfilled in record time. Then it backfired.

Verma, however, appears undeterred. “Five hundred houses have been built and the remaining 300 houses will be completed by August 15,” he says.

This dream village cost Rs 16 crore. It was a big dream — Verma wanted it to be a place where there would be no unemployment, no uneducated person.

It was to be — Verma believes it will be — a one-of-its-kind place. The only village in the world with all the facilities: schools, college, technical education centre, community centre, handicraft park, agriculture centre, old-age home, orphanage.

There is more on the list: facilities for water harvesting, solar energy... But there’s the one problem that Verma can’t solve or cast away: caste: Patels, Dalits.

The other problem is NGOs. Vajpayee might have showered praise, but some NGOs here have taken on the role of Doubting Thomases.

Indraprastha has 500 pucca houses. Some of these NGOs are wondering aloud if that was a right move and if it wouldn’t have been better to go in for “interim shelters” instead. They are “critical” of the “model village”, which they see as a “cultural imposition”.

“Why did he rename the village in the first place?” is a question that keeps cropping up.

This makes Verma angry. “What’s wrong with that?” he shoots back. “I like the name. I am from Indraprastha. What’s wrong if we rename it Indraprastha?”

This doesn’t impress a Kutch-based NGO. “That is not how a village should be built,” says the NGO’s representative. “We are monitoring the village. We are sure nobody will move in.”

Then comes the denouement: “We doubt if the structures are actually quake-resistant.”


Kathmandu, June 8: 
A week after the massacre, a two-member team entered Narayan Hity palace today to uncover the truth about the killings.

The probe committee, which was given access to Dipendra’s residential quarters, has no parallel in palace history. It met at the Parliament Secretariat in the morning. Official sources in the secretariat later said: “The committee, after the meeting today, entered the palace to access the venue of the Friday night fury. It interviewed palace staff members and other army personnel present within the palace complex on the night of the massacre. It also examined the scene of the royal carnage.”

However, the sources did not specify if any members of the royal family were questioned.

The terms of reference for the probe have been laid down by King Gyanendra, who has given sweeping powers to the committee. The panel has not only been allowed access into the palace, but will also get to interview the surviving royals.

But with two eyewitness accounts holding Dipendra responsible for the regicide already splashed in the media, the delayed probe proceeding have found no takers among Nepalese subjects.

Supreme Court chief justice Keshav Prasad Upadhaya, who is heading the probe, said media reports and eyewitness accounts would not affect the findings.

“Media reports or eyewitness accounts will have no bearing on the probe which we will try to complete within the stipulated time frame of three days. The committee is expected to submit its report on the findings by Monday. If needed, we will work round the clock,” he told reporters here this morning.

The team will inspect the shooting site, interview survivors and conduct ballistic tests before submitting its report. The King has promised to make the report public.

The Speaker of the Lower House of Nepal’s parliament, Taranath Ranabhatt of the ruling Nepali Congress, is the second member of the committee.

Earlier in the day, Ranabhatt also asserted that the team would not be swayed by the account of Captain Rajiv Rai Shahi, a survivor of the massacre. “We are not concerned about anything anybody says. The committee is an authentic body to probe the royal massacre and we will individually interview all the survivors and eyewitnesses.”

At least two relatives have publicly accused Dipendra of the killing 14 members of the royal family, including father King Birendra and mother Queen Aishwarya, in drunken rage.

Breaking its silence, the Girija Prasad Koirala-led government today for the first time came out openly against eyewitnesses going to the press with their version of the massacre before the probe committee has completed its findings.

Foreign minister Chakra Bahadur Bastola said at a news conference: “The eyewitnesses and survivors should not have gone to the press with their versions of the incident before the findings of the probe committee were made public. When the committee has been constituted to investigate the matter, why should they in their individual capacity go public before the probe reports are made public?”

The probe committee was set up on Monday by King Gyanendra, who has found himself under a cloud of suspicion since Friday night’s palace massacre. The new King promised his angry subjects that the panel would uncover the truth behind the killings. But the committee suffered a jolt when Opposition leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, who was named as one of its members, refused to be part of the probe. He alleged that the committee was unconstitutional as it had not been set up by the government. The committee was to have started its probe on Tuesday, but finally started work only today.


Guwahati, June 8: 
Talks between the Centre and the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) to resolve the vexed Bodoland issue are set to resume later this month.

A source in the Union home ministry said the parleys had reached an “advanced” stage before being temporarily suspended due to polls in Assam.

“Now that the AGP is not in power, the Centre would like to take the new Congress government into confidence before resuming the parleys. The Centre will apprise the government about the level of negotiations. Things should be back on track in the last week of June or early July,” he said.

However, minister of state for home, Pradyut Bordoloi, told The Telegraph that the state government was in the dark about a possible resumption of talks later this month. “We have not received any message from New Delhi in this regard. But we are all for resolving the Bodo issue,” he said.

Both the Centre and the BLT leadership have reportedly adopted a “very practical approach” to the Bodo problem, which became complicated after an accord was hastily signed in 1993 to pave the way for formation of the Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC). The situation in the Bodo heartland worsened after the AGP signed an agreement in 1996 with the People’s Democratic Front, the party which was in charge of the BAC.

The omission of 353 villages from the list of areas to be governed by the council did not go down well with some Bodo organisations. The home ministry source said the issue had been “amicably resolved”.

All but 105 of the 353 villages would be brought under the BAC, to be reconstituted as the Bodoland Territorial Council in accordance with the BLT’s demand, he said. “The BLT has agreed to the Centre’s proposal to leave out 105 villages from the purview of the council because these areas do not have a sizeable Bodo population. But it has requested that the eastern boundary of the council be extended beyond the Pachnoi river,” the source added. The BLT is said to have mooted the idea of dividing the proposed territorial council into four districts for administrative convenience. The present council comprises several districts.

The Centre is, however, unlikely to accede to the BLT’s demand to raise a “Bodo regiment” on the lines of the Gorkha and Naga regiments. The pro-talks insurgent outfit wants surrendered Bodo rebels to be absorbed into the proposed force.


Shillong, June 8: 
The Shillong bench of the Gauhati High Court today ordered a CBI inquiry into the Rusith D. Sangma-Deepcharan Kaipang mix-up and asked the Meghalaya government to pay Rusith an interim monthly allowance of Rs 2,500.

The court directed the Meghalaya home secretary to hand over all documents pertaining to the case to the superintendent of police, CBI, Guwahati, within a week.

Issuing an interim order, Justice A.K. Patnaik said a CBI inquiry was imperative to unravel how Kaipang, an undertrial, disappeared and Rusith, a mentally-disturbed person, came to be produced in the court of the additional sessions judge in his place.

He asked the CBI to complete the inquiry and submit its findings to the court within three months.

Justice Patnaik said Rusith’s detention since 1990 and his being produced as Kaipang in court was a violation of his fundamental rights.

“He is entitled for compensation from the state of Meghalaya. As to the amount, it will decided in the final hearing of the petition after the CBI submits its report,” he said.

The judge directed the Meghalaya government to pay Rusith Rs 2,500 every month as interim compensation and bear the entire cost of his treatment at Downtown Hospital.

He also asked the government to provide the money required to hire an attendant.

Justice Patnaik said Rusith should be admitted to Downtown Hospital within a week. The hospital was specifically mentioned as Rusith regained his ability to speak during his initial treatment there. The monthly allowance will be paid to Rusith’s brother Thomas, who, in accordance with the court’s directive, will have to spend it entirely on maintaining his indisposed sibling’s family. The allowance will be routed through the deputy commissioner, South Garo Hills.

Government advocate V.K. Jindal had pleaded with Justice Patnaik to specifically mention in his order that the money to be paid as compensation to Rusith should be deducted from the salaries of the officials responsible for the mix-up.


Rajgir, June 8: 
Archaeologists claim to have discovered the largest stupa in the world. The stone structure, built by King Ajatasatru, is mentioned in ancient Buddhist texts and in the accounts of foreign travellers but was buried in the sands of time for thousands of years.

Stupas were built over the relics of Lord Buddha after his death in 483 BC in Kushinagar. The relics were divided into eight categories and as many stupas were built by the Licchavi kings and by Ajatasatru — who belonged to the Haryanka dynasty of Magadh and had his capital in Rajgir.

Ajatasatru, who died circa 462 BC, is believed to have met Buddha and had patronised Buddhism. He is said to have begged forgiveness for killing his father Bimbisara and ascending the throne of Magadh. Ajatasatru, who, according to some historians, was a follower of Jainism initially, became influenced by Buddha and his teachings.

According to sources in the archaeological survey, the stupa built in Rajgir by Ajatasatru had remained untraced. The Mahaparinirvansutta, a book on the life of Lord Buddha, mentions the stupa, built of brick, and says that its location is somewhere in Rajgir. The stupa is mentioned even in the accounts of foreign travellers like Fa Hien, who has talked of the structure in detail. But till recently, archaeologists believed that the stupa might have been located somewhere in the northern side of the city.

But they abandoned hope after extensive excavations yielded a stone structure. There was no doubt about the stupa being built of brick since Atma Katha , another authentic source of Buddhist stupas, says the structure was brick-made. A search began on the southern side only after this. On the southeastern side of Rajgir town, which had been covered with thick forest, the history-diggers saw a flat land flanked by mounds.

Survey experts, who were working on the possible location of the stupa, decided to excavate this area in 1997. Soon a structure emerged, raising hopes among the excavators.

The structure that has now been unearthed is made of bricks and has two terraces measuring 29 metres by 25 metres. On the top terrace, a structure has been found that matches the description given in Jivakamravana, an ancient Buddhist text. “Although some of the relics were in a broken state, they seem to be authentic. The fact that it was made of brick lends credence to its authenticity,” said K.K. Muhammad, superintendent of the Archaeological survey in Patna.

The area where the relic is located was to have been taken over by the Indian Railways for track expansion. The mounds that surround the stupa were supposed to have been levelled for the purpose. “It was a matter of time. We are lucky that we acted swiftly and asked the railways to leave aside that part of the land,” said an archaeologist.

Along with the stupa, archaeologists have also discovered tools which, they said, could date back to the palaeolithic age. If so, the history of Rajgir will have to be pushed back by several centuries and the town could be established as one of the ancient cradles of human civilisation. Some historians believe that Rajgir was earlier called Vasumati. Vasu, the fourth son of Brahma, is said to have lived in Rajgir and hence the name.


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