Pervez solves protocol poser for PM
Delhi cure for little Pak hearts
BJP to appoint state watchdogs
MLAs meet ahead of deadline
Rebel killed at mosque
VHP sends early warning
Bangalore’s art gain is city’s loss
Mamata buys return time
Independent, not Shiv Sena MP: Jethmalani
Gadar rioter untraced

 
 
PERVEZ SOLVES PROTOCOL POSER FOR PM 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, June 20: 

President to play Musharraf host

The Prime Minister, after all, will not host the guest from Pakistan. The President will.

With Pervez Musharraf having himself installed as President, it will now be up to K.R. Narayanan to receive him during his scheduled visit to India next month.

The move has ensured that Musharraf’s official stature has gone up ahead of the summit with Vajpayee. The general, who till yesterday was Pakistan’s chief executive, has now climbed two notches above Vajpayee on the protocol ladder. In India, the President and Vice-President are senior to the Prime Minister in rank.

With his elevation in status, Musharraf appears to have solved a knotty problem for South Block mandarins in charge of protocol. A month ago, when Vajpayee surprised both Indians and Pakistanis by inviting Musharraf to Delhi, officials in the protocol department had to scurry to the rule book to see what was in offer for a “chief executive” of a country. Predictably, they found nothing. Delhi has played host to several heads of states, governments and even a few former Presidents and Prime Ministers, but never to a chief executive of a country.

The Prime Minister’s advisers tried to solve the problem by arguing that since Musharraf was the chief executive of Pakistan, he should be regarded as the head of government as well. “Irrespective of the nomenclature, Musharraf will be seen as the head of the Pakistan government,” an official in South Block had said recently. Though this was accepted by Protocol with large doses of salt, the controversy remained whether or not the visit could be termed a “state visit”.

According to Indian protocol conventions, the tag of a state visit is given to both visiting Presidents and Prime Ministers — depending on the importance that Delhi wants to accord. Usually, a junior minister is sent to the airport to receive the guest.

But there are exceptions. Foreign minister Jaswant Singh had gone to the airport to receive President Bill Clinton in March 2000 though junior minister Ajit Panja was already there. The gesture signalled the importance India attached to Clinton’s visit.

For a visiting dignitary, the formal welcoming or reception takes place at the Rashtrapati Bhavan forecourt. Depending on whether he is the head of state or only head of government, the President and, in the case of the latter, the Prime Minister becomes his official host. During the 21-gun salute and guard of honour, it is the official host who will have to stand beside the visitor.

If the guest is a head of state, then President gives an official banquet, which is the main attraction in his programme, while the Prime Minister hosts a luncheon for him. But if the visitor is the head of government, then the Prime Minister becomes his official host and organises the banquet for him. The President, in turn, hosts a luncheon.

The banquet’s venue is also set. If it’s a presidential banquet, it is held at Rashtrapati Bhavan. In the case of the Prime Minister, it is held at Hyderabad House.

In Indian protocol parlance, an official visit is akin to what in many other countries is known as a working visit. This is mainly reserved for heads of states or heads of governments of the neighbouring countries or those who frequently visit India. Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga, King Dorjee of Bhutan and Palestine leader Yasser Arafat are among those who often come to India on official visits. This in effect means that during their stay in Delhi, they want to cut out the frills and concentrate on discussions with the Prime Minister. Such visits normally do not stretch beyond one day.

But though Musharraf has solved the problem to a large extent as far as protocol formalities are concerned, he has not resolved all of them. With his insistence that he wants to spend the substantive part of his stay in India discussing bilateral problems with Vajpayee, questions are still being asked what role President Narayanan will play apart from officially welcoming him to the country.

   

 
 
DELHI CURE FOR LITTLE PAK HEARTS 
 
 
FROM AMBEREEN ALI SHAH
 
New Delhi, June 20: 
At a time when Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf are preparing to hold talks to mend bilateral relations, doctors at a Delhi hospital are busy mending little hearts from Pakistan.

In the past few months, more than 10 children from Pakistan arrived in the capital for cardiac treatment.

“I have conducted around 30 such surgeries,” said a paediatric cardiac surgeon at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

Four-year-old Zoha made her maiden visit to India yesterday, as she and her parents arrived at the capital last evening. “Dil kae paas walae nas bandhae hue hai,” explained her father Anwar Tariq for the visit.

While Zoha is blissfully asleep, her parents pray for her recovery. They were advised by Dr Masood Sadiq, a specialist of cardiac diseases at the Children’s Hospital in Lahore, to come to India for treatment.

“Pakistan has excellent facilities for adults, but the country has very few paediatric cardiac specialists. There are only two known physicians from Lahore and Rawalpindi,” said Tariq.

Tariq, works with a cement firm at Bhakkar, 320 km away from Lahore.

He had sent Zoha’s medical reports through e-mail and was asked to arrive in India immediately for the operation. AIIMS sent a letter to facilitate the visa processing, which Tariq got in 14 days.

Three-year-old Afreen, who has a hole in her heart, also came here last week from Karachi along with her parents, Junaid and Fauzia. “Dr Mehnaz Ateeq of the Agha Khan Hospital, Karachi, gave us the choice to get the operation done either in Canada, the UK or India,” said Junaid.

The Pakistani couple opted for India because it was cost-effective. While the cost of treatment in India came to Rs 4 lakh, in UK it would amount to 22 lakh.

“Not only is the treatment cheaper, we also don’t have any language problem. Besides, India is culturally similar to Pakistan and we feel at home,” said Fauzia.

“Afreen will be operated a day after. Tomorrow she will be going through a number of tests,” said Junaid.

Though happy with the doctors, Junaid and Fauzia have a grouse against the Indian officials in Islamabad.

“We had a lot of trouble getting our visa. We showed the fax that was sent by the doctors in India, but our visa was refused. We finally had to bribe the official by paying Rs 2,200,” said Junaid.

The sixth floor of AIIMS takes the appearance of a mini-Pakistan as parents from the neighbouring country wait for their children, mostly between four months and five years, to recover.

“Delhi is becoming a favourite place for the treatment of Pakistani children. AIIMS has several patients coming from Mauritius and Bangladesh. But Pakistani children are topping the list,” said a paediatric cardiac doctor at AIIMS.

   

 
 
BJP TO APPOINT STATE WATCHDOGS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 20: 
In what is being seen as a wake-up call to its Lok Sabha MPs, the BJP has announced its decision to appoint pramukhs who will oversee the working of one or a cluster of three to five parliamentary constituencies.

The pramukh will be appointed by the Central leadership and not the state units.

The decision was taken today in a meeting of prabaris (in-charge) of various states, chaired by BJP president K. Jana Krishnamurthy.

Although the official explanation in a press statement, issued by general secretary Maya Singh, for taking this decision was to “strengthen the party organisation and make it more viable at all levels in the next few months”, BJP sources said the concept of appointing pramukhs was primarily to enable central leaders to get feedback and inputs on the goings-on in the states through their hand-picked nominees rather than state leaders.

The pramukhs, sources said, will be in a “better position” to give a more “objective” assessment of the political scenario since they were expected to remain aloof from the factional feuds that plague the BJP.

“They will act as coordinators and facilitators between the state and the Central high command,” explained a BJP functionary. The decision, sources said, came about after the situation in Uttar Pradesh was sized up after last week’s working committee meeting in Saharanpur.

It was felt that given the “factional feuds” among Uttar Pradesh’s big four — chief minister Rajnath Singh, his Cabinet colleagues Om Prakash Singh and Lalji Tandon and state BJP president Kalraj Mishra — it is “virtually impossible” for the high command to get an honest picture of what exactly is happening in the state.

“Without this we cannot accurately plan our strategies and issues for the Assembly elections,” sources said.

The pramukh, who is expected to get a bird’s eye view of the parliamentary constituency that he has been assigned, will also be in a position to take stock of the Assembly segments as well, sources said.

“He or she will be able to tell us objectively what our strengths and weaknesses are and what those of our opponents are, which social sections have turned away from us and why,” they added.

The decision was also perceived as a means of raising an alternate structure of leadership because by the BJP’ own admission, most of its state units have been unable to throw up strong leaders after the existing ones have moved to the Centre.

Sources said if, in the central high command’s view, a certain pramukh does his job well, he may stand a chance of contesting the elections from the very constituency he has supervised.

It was also decided at today’s meeting that active members should be identified and after being duly trained, involved more closely in party work.

The state in-charges have also been directed to organise units of the front organisations and cells — like the farmers’ morcha, mahila morcha, youth morcha down to the lowest tier of the BJP structure — and activate them.

   

 
 
MLAS MEET AHEAD OF DEADLINE 
 
 
FROM OINAM SUNIL
 
Imphal, June 20: 
As the deadline set by the All Manipur United Clubs’ Organisation (Amuco) and the All Manipur Students’ Union (Amsu) neared this evening, Manipur’s legislators sat down to decide their next course of action, even as sporadic protests continued against the Naga truce extension.

Some of the MLAs have offered to resign, but are yet to actually do so. About 30 elected representatives met this evening at state guest house in Imphal to take a decision on the people’s demand.

The Amuco and the Amsu had asked the 60 MLAs and three MPs to resign, saying “they have failed to perform their duties by failing to block the Naga truce extension”. The people of Manipur people feel that the extension of Centre-NSCN(I-M) ceasefire to the state was a direct threat to the territorial integrity of Manipur.

Officials here, however, feel that tension may ease as the 13 people who had died in police firing on June 18 have been cremated today at Kekru-pat, adjacent to the historic Kangla fort. Curfew will thus be relaxed for two hours tomorrow morning to enable the people buy essential items.

More than 30 people had been injured in the incident. The condition of BJP MLA N. Bihari Singh — who suffered 75 per cent burn injuries when protesters set the Assembly building on fire — is still critical.

Inspector general of police (law and order) Ratnakar Baral today told The Telegraph that situation was under control. He, however, added: “As it is an emotive issue, tension will not die down easily.” Baral said the state administration was doing all it could to calm down protesters.

Though the state capital was quiet, sporadic protests were reported from other districts. Police lathicharged protesters at Bishenpur district today, while yesterday residents of Kakching in Thoubal district defied curfew and burnt effigies of central political leaders.

Additional troops have already been rushed to Imphal from neighbouring states. Official sources said five companies of central reserve police force have already been airlifted from Assam. One battalion of army have reached Imphal and more are on the way.

The headquarters of the 57 Mountain division has been shifted to Leimakhong near Imphal from Mashimpur in Silchar. The general-officer-commanding, Major General Iqbal Singh, is now stationed here supervising his troops in assisting the state administration.

The army was called out after the state police alone could not handle the uprising. The June 18 violence has prompted the administration in seeking army help.

   

 
 
REBEL KILLED AT MOSQUE 
 
 
FROM MUKHTAR AHMAD
 
Srinagar, June 20: 
The new iron-fist policy was set in motion again in Kashmir today as security forces surrounded a mosque in which militants had taken shelter and shot one of them.

Earlier this month, the authorities gave safe passage to two militants holed up in a mosque at Shopian in south Kashmir. But as the policy crystallised, National Security Guards and army troops stormed a mosque at Shangus village in Anantnag last week, killing six militants. Two jawans also died in the raid.

Trouble started today as BSF soldiers entered Milyal village in northern Kupwara. District police chief G.A. Dar said as troops surrounded the mosque early this morning, militants opened fire. During the exchange, four militants came out of the mosque, their guns blazing.

“The security forces killed one militant on the premises of the village mosque, while the others fled towards the nearby forest,” Dar said, adding that “no damage was caused to the mosque during the encounter”.

Reinforcements have been rushed to the area and security forces are searching the village and the forest. “Intermittent firing is continuing,” he said.

However, in Srinagar, official sources said the three militants have escaped.

   

 
 
VHP SENDS EARLY WARNING 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 20: 
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad today advanced the date for starting its Chetavni Yatra (Yatra of Warning) from February 17, 2002, to January 21 next year.

The yatra will commence from the disputed site at Ayodhya and end in front of Parliament House on February 27 when the budget session is on.

The objective of the yatra is to demand that the Centre immediately hand over the disputed land of the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri masjid site to the VHP-sponsored Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas, the trust created to ensure the construction of a “permanent” temple on the land which used to house the mosque.

“We will demand from the government and all the MPs that they make sure the land is immediately handed over for the temple construction,” VHP working president Ashok Singhal told reporters here today. “Even Justice Venkatachaliah had said that the land can be legally handed over for this purpose.”

Singhal said copies of a satellite photograph, retrieved from the National Geographic archives — which shows what the VHP claims to be the “remains of a bridge Shri Ram had built for crossing over to Ravana’s Lanka to rescue his divine consort Sri Sita” — will be distributed to the MPs to buttress the Hindutva brigade’s contention that Ram was not a mythical persona but a historical figure.

Singhal, who had chaired a two-day meeting of the Ram Mandir Nirman Samiti which ended today, said the VHP stuck to the decision taken at the Dharam Sansad last January to begin construction any time after Shivratri which falls on February 19 next year. He said the VHP has marshalled the services of astrologers all over the country to fix a date and time to begin the task.

The meeting also reiterated the Dharam Sansad’s decision to launch a “Jap Jagran abhiyaan” from September 18 to create a “pro-temple” ambience in the country. The jap yagya will end in Ayodhya on November 24, when, Singhal claimed, lakhs of devotees would take a dip in the Saryu river.

The VHP leader denied that the efforts to resurrect the temple issue were meant to help the BJP in the run-up to the UP Assembly election. “We don’t plan our programmes according to elections. On December 6, 1992, there was no election anywhere. Instead, after that, four BJP governments were unlawfully dismissed,” he said.

However, the two-day meeting was not attended by the two leading sants from Ayodhya — Ramchander Das Parmahans, who heads the Nirman Samiti, and Nritya Gopal Das. Singhal said Parmahans was “too ill” to move out while Das was recovering from the injuries he suffered when he was recently attacked.

But apparently the opposition from a large section of the Akhara Parishad — a powerful body of the Hindu clerics of north India — has forced both the Ayodhya sants to distance themselves from the VHP.

During the Kumbh Mela, when the Dharam Sansad was in session, the Akhara Parishad had adopted a resolution condemning the VHP’s “tactics” aimed at “politicising” the temple issue. After that, when Singhal threatened to launch an indefinite fast to protest against the Tehri Dam construction, the Akhara Parishad passed yet another resolution criticising his decision.

   

 
 
BANGALORE’S ART GAIN IS CITY’S LOSS 
 
 
FROM ELLA DATTA
 
New Delhi, June 20: 
Union minister for culture and tourism Ananth Kumar will lay the foundation stone for a new branch of the National Gallery of Modern Art in Bangalore on Saturday. That’s the good news.

Now the bad news: Bangalore’s gain is Calcutta’s loss, again. The latest blow follows on the heels of the May misfortune when Calcutta sulked as Bryan Adams rocked the Garden City after red tape pushed the megashow out of the country’s cultural capital.

When the Town Hall was being restored some years ago, the Union department of culture had approached the West Bengal government, proposing to open a branch of NGMA in Calcutta at the Town Hall or another similar heritage building.

Buoyed by the enthusiastic response to NGMA, Mumbai, the culture department wanted to branch out to Calcutta, a metropolis well-known for its cultural expressions.

But its overtures were stonewalled by then chief minister Jyoti Basu’s government. It was about the same time that Bangalore mooted an NGMA branch and came forward with a heritage building.

NGMA, Bangalore, will be housed at the Manikyavelu Mansion on Palace Road. Situated on 3.5 acres with the typical sloping roof architecture of the Konkan coast, the sprawling mansion is being restored and converted from a private residence into a suitable public building for housing art treasures.

Venkataramanan Associates, the architect firm responsible for designing the Infosys offices, has been entrusted with the assignment. The new NGMA branch will have plenty of gallery space, a library, a research and documentation centre, administrative offices, cafeteria and so on. The stylistic aim of the architects will be to integrate the classical with the modern and revamp the existing structure for the new use.

Saturday’s foundation stone ceremony will be presided over by Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna. The chief guest will be the state minister for culture Rani Satish and other guests of honour will include former Union minister C.K. Jaffer Sharief and the mayor of Bangalore.

   

 
 
MAMATA BUYS RETURN TIME 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, June 20: 
Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee today said she has shelved “for the moment” the idea of rejoining the BJP-led coalition at the Centre.

“For the moment, it is not on my agenda. I am busy these days protecting my workers from the CPM’s attacks in the districts after the Assembly elections,” Mamata said. She will tour the “disturbed areas” across Bengal tomorrow. Mamata will visit Nadia on Sunday.

“Nadia has turned into Chambal, where the lives of our party workers are at stake,” the Trinamul leader said, adding that the party will launch a statewide agitation if the government fails to protect the lives of innocent people. “Where is the rule of law if the police sit idle when our partymen are attacked?” she asked.

Trinamul sources, however, said Mamata will meet her MPs at the residence of party MP Akbar Ali Khondakar in Hoogly on Friday to discuss the possible return to the NDA. She had already discussed the issue with the MPs twice.

Mamata’s indecision on the return has disheartened those party MPs who are keen on clinching the issue at the earliest.

“I feel that Mamata should take a decision on rejoining the NDA soon because this is necessary to protect the lives of thousands of party workers in the districts. Why should the administration listen to us if we are not in the government?” asked MP Bikram Sarkar.

He felt that Mamata should immediately part with the Congress. Sarkar said the Congress was responsible for the defeat of Trinamul candidates in many places.

Reacting to dissident MP Ajit Panja’s plan to organise a convention of party workers at Mahajati Sadan on June 30, an agitated Mamata said: “Don’t ask about Ajitda. He is isolated in the organisation.”

Mamata, however, made it clear that the party would neither suspend nor expel Panja on charges of anti-party activities. “We are not going to give him (Panja) a scope to rejoin the NDA and be a minister in the Vajpayee Cabinet. We are keeping a close watch on the developments,” she added.

   

 
 
INDEPENDENT, NOT SHIV SENA MP: JETHMALANI 
 
 
FROM DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA
 
Mumbai, June 20: 
The Shiv Sena may think of him as a party MP in the Rajya Sabha. However, Ram Jethmalani does not think so.

“I am not a Shiv Sena MP. I am an Independent Member of Parliament,” the former Union law minister said, declaring that he will not back the Sena’s claim for his resigned position in the Union ministry. “I was made a minister on my own merit.”

Jethmalani said he is not a member of any political party. “Though it is true that half the votes I got came from the Shiv Sena, the other half came from the BJP. In any event, the election did not take place because I won uncontested to the Rajya Sabha.”

Jethmalani said he does “not care” which party the berth belonged to when he was made a minister. “I don’t care who gets it now. I am totally indifferent.”

When Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee expands his Cabinet next month, the 77-year-old former minister will be cruising down the Mediterranean in a luxury liner. “I am going on a five-week holiday, so I won’t be around when the expansion takes place. This is the least of my concerns,” he said.

Jethmalani hinted that it still irks him that the Sena did not to fight for him when Vajpayee dropped him from his Cabinet for his public spat with the Chief Justice of India.

He made it clear that he does not agree with the politics of the Shiv Sena. But he does not believe in the BJP’s version of Hindutva either.

“I believe in my own version of Hindutva, which means equality for people from all religions. My version is not their version. The Indian Constitution is based on Hindutva. Some people do not understand it and project it as an anti-Muslim philosophy. It is not true,” Jethmalani said.

He believes Muslims should be “treated with extra affection because they are a minority and have a complex. You should go out of the way to assimilate them”.

Hinduism, he believes, is Catholic. “There is no dogma, no scripture. You need not even believe in God to be a Hindu. Some foolish people are trying to confine Hinduism to one particular dogma. Those who beat their breast about Hindutva do not understand it,” he said.

Jethmalani said though he feels a temple should be built in Ayodhya, it should be constructed through a consensus.

“You can build it when Muslims and non-Hindus lovingly participate in its construction. You want to increase the number of Ram bhaktas, but by demolishing the Babri mosque, you only reduced their number.”

The former law minister said Muslims may agree to the building of the temple provided the approach is “right”. “It may take some time, but it can happen. Osho, for example, has many Muslim devotees even though he continuously criticised Islam as he criticised other religions.”

When deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal ordered Bal Thackeray’s arrest last year after the Srikrishna Commission indicted him for his provocative remarks during the Mumbai riots, Jethmalani was the first to defend the Sena chief.

But his act, he said, went unnoticed. “I backed Bal Thackeray because the case against him was seven years old. It is not that Mr Thackeray has been particularly grateful for that,” he said.

Jethmalani did not comment on the Maharashtra government’s decision to chargesheet a retired IPS officer in connection with the Srikrishna Commission report.

“I have not studied the Srikrishna Commission report, so I cannot comment on it. The matter is now being investigated by the police. The Supreme Court is monitoring implementation of the report,” he said.

Jethmalani said Vajpayee had offered him the ministerial berth and Advani, too, had agreed. He said he does not blame the Prime Minister for not calling him up once before and after he was asked to quit as law minister.

“I have always excused the Prime Minister. He has not been in the best of health,” he said, denying that he was being soft on Vajpayee. “Did I not say that he is wearing a crown of thorns and I do not want to add another thorn to his crown?”

   

 
 
GADAR RIOTER UNTRACED 
 
 
FROM SUCHANDANA GUPTA
 
Bhopal, June 20: 
Who is Arif Masood? For the Madhya Pradesh police, he is the most-wanted under cases of rioting with arms, provoking others with intent to cause rioting, assaulting and injuring policemen and numerous other grave sections of the IPC.

Records say he is the district president of the Youth Congress and runs a private college in the city.

But the Congress office here vehemently denies knowing anyone by that name. Asked whether the party will take action against Masood for instigating and leading a communal riot yesterday, state PCC chief Radhakishan Malviya said: “Who is this Masood? We don’t know any Arif Masood.”

Yesterday afternoon, Arif Masood had led a violent mob armed with choppers, swords, petrol bombs and stones to riot in front of a cinema in old Bhopal which was screening Gadar, a film produced by action-hero Sunny Deol.

The film is a love story between a Sikh youth and a Muslim girl against the backdrop of Partition.

Masood later told reporters that his community had only reacted to the objectionable way in which Gadar has treated Islam.

He said the film showed heroine Amisha Patel as a Muslim girl who married a Sikh youth and then offered namaaz wearing sindoor on her forehead.

Police have arrested 40 people in connection with the rioting since last afternoon but Masood is still “absconding”.

He was last seen mounted atop a vehicle directing the angry mob, armed with swords and choppers to surround the cinema and attack the police.

Chief minister Digvijay Singh has taken a firm stand after the rioting. The involvement of Masood in yesterday’s rioting has angered Digvijay since only four days ago he had made a public statement in Jabalpur, stating that his government would approach the Centre with a demand to ban all extremist communal organisations, including the Bajrang Dal and SIMI from Madhya Pradesh.

At midnight, a huge police contingent reached Masood’s residence in old Bhopal.

A hostile mob awaited the police when they tried to arrest Masood. Here, too, the mob turned violent and pelted stones at random. Till 3 am this morning, a Madhya Pradesh police force stayed put outside Masood’s residence but the man still remains untraced.

A large police contingent, including the Rapid Action Force, has been deployed in the affected Lily Talkies area. Police superintendent Arun Pratap Singh told The Telegraph that Gadar is being screened at the hall and the situation is under control. The film was screened yesterday too for the evening and night shows, he claimed.

   
 

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