Samata-stung BJP stands by truce
Nipamacha guns for Centre
Summit minus history hope
Homework and heartland ache for Atal
Hasina sees border row solution
Gadar protesters fight with Bhopal police
CPI warning on complacency
Pizza degrees in Bihar
Wagon order row
American firm keen to develop state highways

 
 
SAMATA-STUNG BJP STANDS BY TRUCE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 19: 
The BJP has made it clear that the Centre will not review the extension of the Naga ceasefire to areas outside Nagaland despite the backlash in Manipur and the Samata Party’s open criticism of the move.

“The ceasefire was extended with the sole purpose of creating an atmosphere of peace in the entire north-eastern region, including Assam,” BJP general secretary and spokesman Sunil Shastri said. He asserted that both the Centre and the BJP were “committed to maintaining the territorial integrity of all these states”.

To back up his point, Shastri quoted Section 27 of the NDA’s National Agenda of Governance which pledges to “revitalise the north-eastern council, ensure territorial integrity of the north-eastern states and (evolve) special development, administration and security-related programmes”.

“Since the national agenda specifically mentions this fact, it is not a matter which the BJP only has brought in,” the spokesman said to counter the Samata’s charge that the constituents were not consulted before the truce was extended. He claimed that while other north-eastern states had “understood the implications of the ceasefire extension, the Manipuri people were not convinced emotionally”. But the Samata stuck to its stand, saying “peace should be given a chance but after consulting the concerned parties”.

BJP sources said a meeting of the NDA may not be immediately convened to thrash out the differences. “After all, the matter concerns only two constituents — the Samata and Chaoba Singh (a Central minister). So, there’s little point in asking all the constituents to congregate .... If the Prime Minister deems it necessary, he may call (Samata leader and NDA convener) George Fernandes for a meeting,” they said.

There is a tacit admission within the BJP that the situation in Manipur would not have gone out of hand if the Samata had exercised restraint. On June 15 — the day the Centre announced the extension — former Manipur chief minister Radhabinod Koijam had told reporters in the capital that “Manipur would go up in flames, the people are agitated and the youth are on the warpath”.

The BJP’s official response was one of circumspection: “There is no misunderstanding with the Samata,” stressed Shastri. But, in private, three explanations are doing the rounds as to why the Samata had stoked the flames with its statements.

Sources said one reason was “frustration” after losing its government in Manipur. “Let’s face it, the mutual suspicion that was created between us and the Samata during the events leading to the fall of the Koijam government was never erased. The Samata continues to hold the BJP culpable for Koijam’s ouster,” they said. Yesterday, Shastri himself said “some political parties could have instigated the trouble”.

The second explanation was Fernandes’ “restiveness” on being out of the Cabinet. “We never underestimated his capacity to create trouble. Even if he had no role to play in the present round of trouble, the least he could have done is to ask Koijam and Samata spokesman Shambhu Srivastava from shooting off provocative statements,” sources said.

The third reason, sources said, could have been the Centre’s strategy to break the nexus between politicians/bureaucrats and militants in the Northeast which may have triggered an “extreme” reaction. Manipur had resisted efforts by the Centre to refer cases of corruption or those concerning links between the establishment and the militants to the CBI.

After President’s rule was imposed, Governor Ved Marwah reportedly gave his consent to the CBI to investigate cases in Manipur. The move had, apparently, not gone down well with Koijam and other politicians who felt the CBI should distinguish between those who gave money to militants under threat and those who gave out of “genuine sympathy”.

A section of the BJP feels the fresh spell of unease will be over because Fernandes is “bound” to be given back his ministership as soon as he gets a clean chit from the Venkataswami commission probing the Tehelka scam. But others think Manipur’s Samata leaders are “still bargaining for the reinstatement of a popular government which naturally they expect to lead”.

   

 
 
NIPAMACHA GUNS FOR CENTRE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, June 19: 
Former Manipur chief minister W. Nipamacha Singh today lashed out at Governor Ved Marwah holding him responsible for yesterday’s flare-up in the state capital.

“There were obvious lapses in security on part of the state administration. It looks like the administration wanted to get people killed,” Singh said.

Coming down heavily on the Centre, Singh, also the president of the Manipur State Congress Party (Nipamacha faction), said the Central government was responsible for yesterday’s violence as the state was “directly under Delhi’s rule”.

He said the Governor should have taken “extra care” yesterday — the last day of the three-day general strike — as the All-Manipur Students’ Union had joined the agitation.

“Had Marwah taken special steps, the situation could have been avoided,” he added.

Singh had been the most vocal opponent of the extension of the Naga ceasefire to Manipur. He had, in fact, came to power in December 1997 on the issue of Manipur’s territorial integrity.

Angry protesters did not target his residence at Babupara VIP colony here. This indicates that people still recognise his efforts in not allowing the extension of the truce during his tenure.

Reacting to the Centre’s decision to extend the ceasefire to other states of the Northeast, the former chief minister said: “Central leaders think insurgency in the region can be solved by negotiating only with the NSCN (I-M). But it is a wrong concept.”

He questioned the Centre’s decision, asking: “What is the ultimate goal of the NSCN (I-M) and what is the underlying meaning of the ceasefire extension in Naga areas of other states?”

Singh held home minister L.K. Advani and the Centre’s emissary for the Naga talks, K. Padmanabhaiah, responsible for the truce extension.

He suspected a “deep-rooted conspiracy” in the Union home ministry’s decision to extend the truce. “Why did top officials tour the Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur?” he asked.

On Advani’s assurance that Manipur’s territorial integrity would not be sacrificed while holding talks with the NSCN(I-M), Singh said: “Advani’s words cannot be believed. When the ceasefire extension is one step towards the demand for ‘greater Nagalim’ by the NSCN (I-M), how can we trust Advani?”

He said he had met both Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and Advani at a joint meeting in New Delhi in July last year on the issue. “At that meeting, I clearly told both Vajpayee and Advani that if the Centre forced the ceasefire, I will have no option but to resign as the chief minister before such a step was taken”.

Singh reiterated his stand that President’s rule was imposed in Manipur to pave the way for extending the truce. “This was the hidden agenda of Advani,” he said, adding that the Centre had created political instability in Manipur to create the ground for direct Central intervention.

   

 
 
SUMMIT MINUS HISTORY HOPE 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, June 19: 
An historic document on the lines of the Lahore Declaration is unlikely to emerge from the summit between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistan chief executive Pervez Musharraf, in which the stress is on an “unstructured” dialogue and the outcome largely dependent on the chemistry they can create.

Indications are that the Pakistani general is “allergic” to such documents and has laid stress on substance, rather than frills, during the talks. The two sides may come out with a joint statement at the end of the talks, in what is being seen as a deliberate attempt to downplay the hype surrounding the summit.

On the face of it, neither Islamabad nor Delhi expect dramatic results. The summit is taking place mainly because the two principals — Vajpayee and Musharraf — as the head of their respective governments want it to happen. The “top-down” summit is, therefore, being seen as an event where a lot will depend on how the Indian Prime Minister and the Pakistani chief executive hit it off and what kind of chemistry they can create. The stress is on as little preparation as possible to enable the two leaders to assess the situation and use their own judgement rather than being pulled down by briefs from bureaucrats.

The restraint along the Line of Control for the past six months was one of the main reasons that led Delhi to “break the policy of diminishing return of no-talks with Pakistan”. Even if nothing else materialises, Delhi will be happy if Islamabad continues to show the same restraint for another six months after the talks. It will not only help India concentrate on dealing with militancy in Kashmir, it will also strengthen the legitimacy of the border between the two countries.

India faces major problems in being patient and re-building trust with Pakistan. Expectations are high in both countries and there are hopes of — if not overnight — at least a quick solution to some of the important issues like Kashmir. Therefore, the thrust would be on convincing the respective domestic audiences to have patience before bilateral ties can be normalised. Another test for India will be re-building trust with Musharraf, who was responsible for the armed intrusion in Kargil. There are sections, though in the minority, who have questioned the Prime Minister’s decision to invite Musharraf for talks.

Keeping the difficulties in mind, leaders in Delhi and Islamabad are willing to adopt a realistic approach. “If the two sides can agree to meet again, it will be a major achievement,” Pakistan foreign minister Abdul Sattar said in London recently. The Indians agree wholeheartedly.

Being a soldier, Musharraf is sure to cover his flanks well before he puts forward his proposals. Cutting out the bureaucratic verbiage, he is likely to put across his points directly and then use his personal charm to strike a rapport with Vajpayee.

But Delhi feels that Musharraf knows he cannot expect a sea change in India’s position, particularly on Kashmir.

When the issue comes up, India is likely to stress that the trouble in Kashmir was mainly due to the violence perpetrated by militants, who are sponsored, trained and encouraged by Pakistan. But Delhi does not expect any categorical assurance from Musharraf on reining in the militants. He is likely to use it as a major bargaining chip, and every time the issue comes up, he is likely to keep shifting the goalposts further to achieve more concessions from India.

However, there is little that Delhi can concede on this issue. The two sides can talk of a soft border, wider people-to-people contact and major concessions and cooperation in trade and commerce and even information technology, where India’s leadership is acknowledged by the outside world. But the big question remains on what the Pakistani general is going to offer.

Though he is in control and has been able to rally the army and the Pakistani establishment behind him, the question bothering India is whether he is willing to de-link commerce from the core issue of Kashmir. In the past, Islamabad has made any progress in economic cooperation incumbent to forward movement on Kashmir. It remains to be seen whether Musharraf will show enough flexibility and stress on economic cooperation to normalise ties.

   

 
 
HOMEWORK AND HEARTLAND ACHE FOR ATAL 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, June 19: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee fortified himself for the summit with Pervez Musharraf while convalescing at the Breach Candy hospital by going through the declarations and treaties signed between India and Pakistan.

The treaties included the Tashkent and Simla agreements and the Lahore Declaration. Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said Vajpayee used the 14-day period of recuperation to catch up on various books authored by Indian and Pakistani experts on these treaties.

He was also reportedly in touch over phone with the summit managers, including external affairs minister Jaswant Singh and principal secretary Brajesh Mishra. Home minister L.K. Advani was also in the picture.

“The political inputs were given by Advani and Singh while Mishra would brief him on the nitty-gritty of the preparations,” said a source.

After his return to the Capital this evening, PMO sources said, Vajpayee has been resting and is not likely to have any official engagement tomorrow either. He will resume his formal schedule in the Capital on June 21 by chairing a meeting of the Cabinet committee on economic affairs.

In Mumbai, Vajpayee responded in detail to the Manipur violence, but he has left the management of the crisis to the home ministry, PMO sources said. “The PMO is not directly involved. The ground situation is being monitored by the home ministry and Padmanabhaiah reports directly to the home minister,” said a source.

However, the sources did not rule out the possibility of a meeting between Vajpayee and George Fernandes, though the Samata Party leader has not yet requested an appointment.

BJP leaders have noted Fernandes’ silence on the Manipur issue despite intemperate statements by some of his party colleagues. BJP sources felt a one-to-one session between Vajpayee and Fernandes was “advisable” to put the BJP-Samata relationship on an even keel again.

Cabinet expansion and shuffle, another important business on Vajpayee’s agenda, is likely to be deferred until after Musharraf’s visit is over. Sources said it may be carried out just before the Monsoon session, which begins on July 23. The indications were that Vajpayee has done much of the spadework for this much-awaited exercise.

The PMO sources said the other topic of importance on Vajpayee’s mind was Uttar Pradesh. He was briefed on the Uttar Pradesh BJP’s working committee meeting, which was held last week in Saharanpur.

BJP sources said Vajpayee was “greatly concerned” about reports of a fall in the party’s prospects in Uttar Pradesh and the infighting among the leaders.

In the next three days, the BJP will hold a series of organisational meetings here, beginning with a meeting of its state prabharis (in-charge) tomorrow.

The Prime Minister is expected to be briefed about these sessions by BJP president K. Jana Krishnamurthi.

   

 
 
HASINA SEES BORDER ROW SOLUTION 
 
 
FROM FARID HOSSAIN
 
Dhaka, June 19: 
Bangladesh’s border disputes with India will be resolved within the next one year on the basis of the Mujib-Indira boundary agreement of 1974, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in parliament today.

The statement comes a day after Bangladesh officials said that India’s Border Security Force killed one farmer and wounded another along the Patgram frontier village in northern Rangpur district. They said the BSF intruded into the Bangladesh village and fired on the two farmers.

Last week, three Bangladeshi farmers were killed in a similar incident along the border with Malda district.

Hasina told parliament that the Joint Boundary Working Group would meet in Dhaka shortly to discuss demarcation of the disputed border along the Assam-Meghalaya frontier and exchange of enclaves in adverse possession.

Hasina defied a two-day general strike called by her predecessor and Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Begum Khaleda Zia to protest an armed attack on her motorcade outside Dhaka on Sunday. The alleged attack came a day after a bomb blast killed 22 people and injured 100 in the Awami League’s office in neighbouring Narayanganj town.

The boundary working groups were set up last December. They will submit reports with recommendations to the respective governments for marking the undemarcated lands and disputes relating to enclaves and adverse possession of territory. The terms of reference for the two groups were laid down at a meeting held in Delhi this month where both countries agreed to follow a “roadmap” for settling problems on their border.

   

 
 
GADAR PROTESTERS FIGHT WITH BHOPAL POLICE 
 
 
FROM SUCHANDANA GUPTA
 
Bhopal, June 19: 
A section of old Bhopal turned into a battlefield this afternoon when more than 500 people turned violent while protesting against the screening of Gadar, a film starring action hero Sunny Deol and Amisha Patel.

Released last Friday, the film tells the trauma of Partition through a love story of a Sikh boy and a Muslim girl.

The armed protesters swooped down on a 100-strong police contingent positioned outside a cinema hall screening Gadar and a fought a pitched battle. They went on a rampage, throwing stones, bombs and Molotov cocktails, and torched more than a dozen two-wheelers and smashed 10 cars.

Finding themselves outnumbered, the policemen fired teargas shells to disperse the mob. They failed, and were forced to run helter-skelter for shelter.

Two policemen were injured, one of them critically. Superintendent of police Arun Pratap Singh said the protesters had tried to sever the arm of a policeman with a sword. He is in hospital and doctors are trying to save his arm.

The rioting continued for more than two hours this afternoon and ended only when the 800-strong audience bottled up inside the hall rushed out. The agitated viewers chased away the trouble-makers.

Before disappearing, however, they threw a stone wrapped in a piece of paper at the police superintendent. It was an anonymous letter, threatening that if Gadar continued to be screened tomorrow, Lily Talkies, the only cinema screening the film in Bhopal, will be bombed.

Trouble started here last night when Arif Masood, a local Youth Congress leader, met the collector and police superintendent and warned of repercussions if Gadar was screened. Masood also submitted memoranda to the district authorities.

Apprehending trouble, the police had posted 100 policemen outside the hall, where screening started as usual for the morning show from 11.

The show was on at a little after one, when the protesters wearing black turbans began collecting before the hall. Shortly afterwards, they dispersed for a prayer meeting.

The police contingent failed to smell trouble. The district police headquarters had no inkling of events to unfold when at 1.30 pm, a senior police officer called the police control room for intelligence information. The officer was told all is well.

However, 15 minutes later, the armed mob re-assembled outside the hall and all hell broke loose.

   

 
 
CPI WARNING ON COMPLACENCY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 19: 
The Left Front may have romped home with a thumping victory, but there is no room for complacency, the CPI today warned the coalition.

A few hours before a meeting of the front leaders and MLAs, the CPI, in an official statement, said that despite the “historic and rare victory” people’s response lacked spontaneity. “The victory has been rare, significant, historic and momentous. But, let us not miss the fact that there has been no spontaneity in the behaviour of the people. They have been rather indifferent and there have been no serious expressions of joy,” the CPI said. “Why should it happen?”

Warning against any complacency, the CPI said: “We need to keep this in mind before taking any further step. The success achieved in the 24 years of Left Front rule has become static.”

The party today released a document with its analysis of the Assembly poll results.

“Development is a continuous process and we have to keep it going. Once we fail to keep it up, there will be resentment among common people. We have to run the government keeping in mind all these issues,” the CPI said.

Front legislators today met at the CPM headquarters at Alimuddin Street. Jyoti Basu, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and CPM politburo member Biman Bose addressed the meeting. Bose later said they would organise a training programme for the first-time MLAs after the Assembly session. “We will run the government on the basis of joint leadership,” he said.

Basu, who had been a member of the House since 1946, urged the new MLAs to keep in constant touch with their seniors and ministers. “You have to perform as a team inside and outside the Assembly and, for this, an effective coordination among yourselves is urgently required,” Basu told the first-time MLAs.

Bhattacharjee urged the MLAs to attend the Assembly regularly and not skip even a single day’s proceedings. “Ministers, too, would have to be present in the Assembly during question-answer sessions,” he told the meeting.

The Speaker also offered a number of tips to the first-timers regarding proceedings in the Assembly.

   

 
 
PIZZA DEGREES IN BIHAR 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
 
Patna, June 19: 
Higher education in Bihar is “bufetted with so much muck” that “degrees are sold like pizzas from cafe outlets”, the Criminal Investigation Department today told Patna High Court.

It (university education) is as vulnerable as a “rich aunt in Cairo who has bequeathed her property. The aunt could be killed easily sitting by the fireside, a glass of brandy in hand and the angels would not resist this temptation”, said Monoj Nath, inspector-general of the CID’s economic offence wing, quoting Voltaire.

Higher education in the state is up for loot. There are so many loopholes in the universities that getting a degree or appointment is easy. “Why shouldn’t people avail themselves of it throwing rules to the wind?” Nath explained in court.

Submitting his final report on corruption in education, Nath laid bare the gangrene that has set in in Bihar higher education, specially in three universities — Magadh University, L.N. Mithila University and B.N. Mandal University.

The CID team began the probe after the high court took cognisance of the sensational case of a superintendent of police’s wife becoming a lecturer in Magadh University’s law department without completing her course and asked the CID to investigate the matter.

The CID exposed the links of three former vice-chancellors, including a former judge who became VC of Magadh University, with the scams and sought Governor V.C. Pandey’s sanction to proceed against them. Pandey sat on the case for three months before denying permission on the ground that there was no prima facie case against them.

In their battle against the scamster-politician-teacher nexus, Nath and his team had to open a fresh flank — against the Governor. The case came up again when the high court started a suo motu case on the denial of sanction.

Though a sanction remains the Governor’s prerogative, the report is an eye opener.

Admitting the role of touts for the first time, the report said they send up the forms to the principal with some distinguishing marks, depending on the money extorted from the outstation candidates.

The examination forms are similarly filled up and these are not entered in the statutory registers of the college.

“The booty is then distributed among the whole chain, including the tout, the principal, the controller of examinations and the pro vice-chancellors,” the report said.

   

 
 
WAGON ORDER ROW 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 19: 
Former CPI MP and Aituc leader Gurudas Dasgupta today alleged that West Bengal was not getting orders for manufacturing railway wagons due to “a conflict between railway minister Nitish Kumar and former minister Mamata Banerjee”.

Dasgupta said the Trinamul Congress chief had issued orders for manufacturing 24,000 wagons to the five public sector undertakings in the state. But after her exit from the National Democratic Alliance, the PSUs had not received orders for manufacturing even a single wagon.

Dasgupta was addressing officers and workers of five public sector undertakings and private companies which manufacture railway wagons. The meeting was organised by a number of central trade unions, including Aituc, in front of the Eastern Railway headquarters in Garden Reach.

“The decision of not placing orders to the PSUs in the state is political and West Bengal is suffering due to political conflict between Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee,” Dasgupta said.

He also said a delegation would be sent to the Prime Minister to make him aware of the situation. “We hardly bothered about who is the railway minister. But we are much concerned about the future of the PSUs engaged in manufacturing railway wagons,” he said.

Dasgupta said the five PSUs, under Bharat Bhari Udyog Nigam Limited, had also increased the production capacity.

   

 
 
AMERICAN FIRM KEEN TO DEVELOP STATE HIGHWAYS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 19: 
The US-based Global Infrastructure Company has shown interest in developing some of West Bengal’s major state highways.

An eight-member delegation from the firm’s Asia zonal headquarters in Malaysia met public works department minister Amar Choudhury at Writers’ Buildings today.

Though how the firm is to get returns on its investment remain to be finalised, the company has told the minister that it is interested in widening and developing some of the state’s existing highways on a build-operate-transfer basis.

“They have told me that they are going to give me a reply within this week,” Choudhury told reporters. He had provided the firm with details of 21 major roads, including the Haldia-Uluberia state highway and the Amtala-Kakdwip highway, and 11 railway overbridges to develop, he added. Development of the Haldia-Uluberia highway would boost chances of investment in the region and that of the second road would boost tourism, Choudhury hoped.

But the firm was not keen on the project for developing railway bridges, the minister admitted. “They are more interested in developing the roads and will identify the roads they want to work on by the end of this week,” he added.

The final agreement with the firm could be signed within a month, Choudhury said.

   
 

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