Jaya TV shows Maran hitting policeman
Mamata mission gains momentum
Exit Governor, enter war without rules
Brought in by DMK, booted out by its ally
Naidu to back ‘any decision’
Pak toes Delhi line on Hurriyat meet
UN seeks global commitment on AIDS
Old war, new battlefield
Jewel thief arrest jolts CPM
No to astrology

 
 
JAYA TV SHOWS MARAN HITTING POLICEMAN 
 
 
FROM SUJAN DUTTA
 
Chennai, July 1: 
The silent Jayalalitha tonight let Jaya TV do the talking and showing.

A day after Sun TV bombarded drawing rooms with pictures of M. Karunanidhi being dragged and shoved by the police, Jaya TV today beamed footage of Union commerce minister Murasoli Maran assaulting a policeman — identified in the voiceover as DIG Mohamed Ali — during the midnight arrests.

The clippings also feature another Union minister in custody, T.R. Baalu, pushing policemen.

Jayalalitha had last night said that the Sun TV clippings were a “deliberate stage-managed stunt” to falsely blame the police and create a bad image of her and her government. “Somebody’s voice was dubbed and an impression sought to be created as though Karunanidhi himself was shouting,” she had said.

Today’s Jaya TV clippings, telecast during the English news bulletin, show Karunanidhi in checked lungi and kurta emerging smiling from a room. Karunanidhi offers his cooperation and seeks permission to change clothes. He is allowed to do so.

The clippings also show an unidentified man suddenly pulling Karunanidhi. Later, Karunanidhi is shown being escorted to an officer’s room in Vepery police station by a constable helping him by the arm.

The footage is accompanied by a statement from Tamil Nadu DGP Ravindranath saying that the police had acted in an impartial and unbiased manner and that the scuffle that broke out was provoked by Maran.

The footage shows Maran pummelling a policeman twice with his right hand.

It also shows a policeman wiping what looks like the region of his face. During the day, a police officer had claimed that one of his colleagues who executed the arrests had a black eye after the operation.

“It is surprising that no section of the intelligentsia or the press is giving the true picture,” Ravindranath says.

“This evening I have asked Chennai police commissioner Muthukaruppan to show the clippings. These will show how fairly, how impartially we have acted in this incident.”

The visuals show Baalu trying to force his way through locked iron gates, possibly those of Karunanidhi’s 21 Oliver Road house. A scuffle takes place when the police try to arrest Baalu and he suddenly falls down.

“The commotion and chaos started only after Maran came into the scene,” says Ravindranath. He claims the visuals show DIG Ali speaking “in a very polite, very decent manner to Karunanidhi.”

For a second time, Ravindranath says that “misbehaviour started only after Murasoli Maran came into the scene.”

The clippings show Maran arriving at Karunanidhi’s house in a Tata Safari with a red light flashing atop.

Jaya TV also claimed that Lok Sabha Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi had said he was informed of the ministers’ arrests within 24 hours as required by the rules.

   

 
 
MAMATA MISSION GAINS MOMENTUM 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, July 1: 
Mamata Banerjee has sent Trinamul MP Sudip Bandopadhyay to Delhi with the message that she supports any decision taken by the National Democratic Alliance on Tamil Nadu.

Mamata, who last night had intimated NDA convener George Fernandes over phone about her stand, today said the arrest of former Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi was “unconstitutional and biased, smacking of political vendetta”.

“I don’t know what decision the Centre will take. It is for the Union Cabinet to decide. But we will fully support any decision the Centre takes in dealing with the situation,” she told newspersons.

The Trinamul leader’s move is being seen as an attempt to inch closer to a rapprochement with the NDA. Party insiders said Mamata asked Bandopadhyay to rush to Delhi with her message to the NDA leadership. Bandopadhyay left for the capital tonight.

Trinamul sources said Mamata’s response to the Karunanidhi incident indicated her willingness to maintain good relations with the Vajpayee government. The Trinamul leader’s criticism of Jayalalitha’s action is significant in the context of demands from some her party’s leaders that the party rejoin the NDA.

Mamata today recounted how, during her stint as Union minister, she was “thrown out of Writers’ Buildings” when she had gone to meet former chief minister Jyoti Basu with a deaf-and-dumb rape victim.

“The communist government in Bengal is the pioneer of the practice of manhandling and harassing members of rival political parties. In 1993, I was physically assaulted by police and driven out of the Bengal state secretariat when I accompanied a deaf-and-dumb rape victim to seek justice from then chief minister Jyoti Basu. This culture has started from Bengal,” the Trinamul leader said.

Reacting to Mamata’s stand on the Karunanidhi issue, state Congress chief Pranab Mukherjee said she was free to take her own decision on different issues.

“We don’t want to comment on what Mamata has done. She has the right to take her decisions based on her own judgment,” Mukherjee said at the Pradesh Congress Committee headquarters at Bidhan Bhavan after attending a programme to celebrate the 120th birth anniversary of B.C. Roy.

“We want the law to take its own course, but at the same time criticise the manner in which the veteran leader and some of his colleagues were treated during the arrest,” the Bengal Congress leader said.

   

 
 
EXIT GOVERNOR, ENTER WAR WITHOUT RULES 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, July 1: 
Tamil Nadu Governor Fathima Beevi today became a scapegoat in the no-holds-barred battle between the NDA and the ADMK.

The unprecedented exit of the Governor is likely to have major implications for volatile Tamil Nadu politics where the NDA and the state government are prepared to pull every trick out of their bags to outsmart the other. The Governor’s exit should not be seen merely in the context of Karunanidhi’s arrest as the incumbent will have a crucial role to play in the Jayalalitha-Centre standoff on all occasions.

For the time being, the Centre’s gameplan is to wait for Jayalalitha’s response and then send an advisory under Article 355 sternly reprimanding the state government.

Sources said a final decision on Beevi’s successor will be taken after Union home minister L.K. Advani’s return from Istanbul on July 3. Till then, Andhra Pradesh Governor C. Rangarajan will continue to hold additional charge.

The decision to recall Beevi was taken last night after Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee spoke to Advani in Istanbul and President K.R. Narayanan. A former Supreme Court judge, Beevi lacked political patronage and paid the price of inviting Jayalalitha, 40 days ago, to take oath as chief minister without consulting the Centre. Delhi was extremely exercised about how an “agent of the Centre” had acted in defiance of the Central government’s stated policy that a convicted person should not be sworn in.

During the Indira Gandhi era, Governors had earned the distinction of being the “rubber stamp” of the Centre. However, Beevi was dubbed as one hand-in-glove with the state government.

To many legal experts, Beevi’s recall has opened a Pandora’s box. “Is it the Governor’s job to submit tailor-made reports to please Delhi?” a former law officer asked. Sources close to Beevi said since the day Jayalalitha was sworn in, she was counting her days in Raj Bhavan and had “no regret” about her conduct as the Governor. After all, during the election campaign in the state, both Advani and law minister Arun Jaitley had declared Jayalalitha “unfit” to hold public office.

The President was sounded about Beevi’s recall last night. However, as the custodian of the Constitution, Narayanan declined to intervene in what he saw as an executive functioning of the Union government. Sources close to Beevi said she had no option but to invite Jayalalitha to take oath. Similarly, yesterday, she had no option but to forward the report based on state government inputs as she had no independent machinery for collecting facts.

Moreover, she had little or no role in the events and decisions taken in Chennai yesterday by the Jayalalitha administration and the police.

The Opposition, which had criticised Jayalalitha yesterday, had to take a hasty U-turn today lambasting the Vajpayee government’s decision to recall the Tamil Nadu Governor. The Congress and the Left made it clear that they would not support the imposition of President’s rule. “There is no case for it,” party spokesman Jaipal Reddy said.

Reddy alleged that the NDA wanted to appoint a “pliable” Governor in the state. “We are totally opposed to the decision of the Union Cabinet to recall the Governor because she had no role to play in yesterday’s incidents. The decision is clearly politically motivated,” he said.

Expressing concern at the Centre’s “partisan” approach, Reddy said: “This step has downgraded the status of the Governor’s institution.” The Cabinet has acted with a “closed mind” without bothering to wait for the report from the fact-finding Central team led by George Fernandes, he alleged.

About the arrest of the two Union ministers, Reddy said the Centre owed an explanation to the nation about the conduct of the Central ministers. “Is it the job of Central ministers to stand between the police and accused persons?” he asked.

The Left parties described the decision to recall Beevi as “undemocratic and unwarranted”.

   

 
 
BROUGHT IN BY DMK, BOOTED OUT BY ITS ALLY 
 
 
FROM HABIB BEARY
 
Chennai, July 1: 
Till Amma took over, all was well on the Raj Bhavan front. Fathima Beevi, a retired Supreme Court judge, was seen as the ideal, non-political Governor — low profile, dignified and distinguished — doing her constitutional chores strictly by the book.

But May 2001 changed that impeccable image. In a shocking decision, the first woman to become Chief Justice of Kerala and the first lady Governor of Tamil Nadu invited the convicted Jayalalitha to form government, after her party had won the Assembly polls by a sledge-hammer majority.

It is a mystery why the National Human Rights Commission member gave Jayalalitha the go-ahead without even consulting the Centre, and could remain one unless she, now free from the constitutional burden, decides to tell her tale.

Her decision to back the chief minister’s brazen act of vendetta against arch rival M. Karunanidhi was the last straw, according to NDA leaders.

That the plug was being pulled on her became evident when trouble-shooter George Fernandes, heading the NDA team to study what he described as a “dangerous situation that could lead to anarchy all over the country”, called off the team’s appointment with the Governor.

Hours after the cancellation came the news from Delhi that Beevi has been given the marching orders. An hour earlier, Tamil Nadu BJP leaders were hinting that she was on her way out.

“She is a fair lady, But for this controversy, she has had a good and clean innings as Governor,” said a veteran journalist.

Ironically, it was Karunanidhi who was instrumental in Beevi’s appointment as Governor in 1997 by the United Front government at the Centre. That she was from the minority community worked in her favour.

Karunanidhi was even reluctant to criticise her decision to swear-in Jayalalitha. He had secured Beevi’s nod to prosecute Jayalalitha for criminal misconduct. Since taking over as Governor from Chenna Reddy, she never got into a row with the DMK government.

Even DMK leaders agree. She changed overnight for extraneous reasons, they allege. Her growing proximity with Jayalalitha has sparked off scurrilous references, though unsubstantiated.

However, a first in so many spheres, Beevi also became the first Tamil Nadu Governor to be recalled by the Centre.

The Governor, whose appointment was unanimously welcomed, has to relinquish office with a tarred reputation. Whether she was at fault or she became a victim of the cross-fire between Jayalalitha and the Centre is debatable.

   

 
 
NAIDU TO BACK ‘ANY DECISION’ 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Hyderabad, July 1: 
The Telugu Desam today publicly opposed the demand for dismissal of Jayalalitha’s government but watered it down by saying it would not go against “any decision” taken by the Centre.

Condemning the midnight arrest of M. Karunanidhi as a “vengeful act that serves no purpose in a parliamentary democracy”, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu tonight endorsed the Centre’s decision to recall the Tamil Nadu Governor, Fathima Beevi. “We will support any decision taken by the NDA government,” he told reporters after the inauguration of the Indian Business School.

Earlier, Andhra home minister Devender Gowd struck a discordant note, categorically opposing the demand for Jayalalitha’s dismissal. “We will not go back on our policy of opposing the imposition of Article 356 at any cost,” the Desam politburo member said, adding that the party could not modify its policies because of one particular situation.

Gowd was, however, quick to add that the Desam would endorse “whatever” action the NDA proposed to take against the ADMK for the “damage” it had done to its southern ally. “We will be bound by our solidarity with the NDA,” the senior leader said.

Dubbing the “vengeful act of arresting the former chief minister at midnight and ill-treating him” a ghastly incident, Gowd said it was a “black spot on the image of Indian democracy”.

There was no doubt that Jayalalitha had taken law into her hands to avenge the “insults” heaped on her in 1996 when Karunanidhi was in power, he added.

Last night, the Desam politburo went into a huddle at Naidu’s residence soon after his arrival from Tirupati. After the meeting, Naidu is believed to have called up Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and said that he would not support the topple-Jayalalitha move as it would prove “counter-productive”. Naidu also spoke to Murasoli Maran.

Naidu has sent a team of senior leaders to Chennai to assess the situation and express solidarity with the DMK. The team, headed by a senior MP, will also study the role of the police and the attack on mediamen.

“Our team will give an independent opinion on the incident so that we can take correct measures,” a party spokesman said. “We want to be doubly sure,” Gowd added, hinting that the Desam was apprehending some Central action against Jayalalitha for messing with its ally.

   

 
 
PAK TOES DELHI LINE ON HURRIYAT MEET 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, July 1: 
Pakistan appears to have agreed to India’s suggestion that a meeting on the sidelines between President Pervez Musharraf and the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference may not be conducive for the summit in Agra.

Cautious South Block officials, however, are trying to prepare themselves for a last- minute surprise if Pakistan indeed insists on a meeting with the Kashmiri leaders on the eve of the Vajpayee-Musharraf talks.

“If they pay heed to what we have said, then the summit can be held on a positive note. But if they decide to embarrass us by organising a last-minute meeting between Musharraf and the Hurriyat, then they may risk jeopardising the next day’s talks in Agra,’’ a senior foreign ministry official said.

Reports from Islamabad suggest that Pakistan has agreed not to jeopardise the positive outcome of the talks between Vajpayee and Musharraf.

But this is also being seen in some sections of Delhi as Pakistan’s attempt to play down the issue.

“This may be a ploy to spring a last-minute surprise by the Pakistanis,’’ a senior foreign ministry official said.

The Hurriyat leadership had written to Vajpayee and Musharraf for a meeting before the forthcoming summit. Pakistan, which acknowledges the Hurriyat to be the “true representatives of the Kashmiris’’, had agreed to the proposal.

India, however, does not share this view. It feels the Hurriyat is one among the several Kashmiri organisations with whom Delhi should hold separate meetings to find a solution to the Kashmir problem.

The Indian approach stems from its stated policy that Kashmir is an “integral part of India” and it should be dealt “internally” by the Indian leadership and not by involving Pakistan or some other country.

The Hurriyat leaders were scheduled to meet Musharraf at the civic reception that was being planned by Pakistani high commissioner Ashraf Jehangir on July 14 — the day Musharraf arrives in Delhi.

A 300-odd guest-list is said to have been prepared But it is not clear whether the names of the Hurriyat leaders will now be struck off the guest-list after the Indian objection.

Agency reports in Islamabad quoted officials as having told the local papers that Pakistan would not press for a meeting between Musharraf and the Hurriyat.

“We are not pressing hard for the meeting. We expected that the Indians would show better judgement and not impede the Hurriyat’s formal meeting with Musharraf. That did not happen. So, at this point, our focus is on the main summit,” an official was quoted as saying.

Pakistani officials have, however, made it clear that the move to drop the demand for a meeting between Musharraf and the Hurriyat should not be construed as Islamabad’s acceptance of Delhi’s stand on the Kashmir dispute.

It is this stress on Pakistan’s part about the importance of involving the Kashmiri leaders in discussions that has started worrying a section in South Block. By indicating that they will not insist on a meeting between Musharraf and Hurriyat on one hand, and stressing on the need to involve Kashmiri leaders in the discussion, Islamabad may spring a surprise at the last minute.

“If that happens, then they are willing to take a lot of risk. Or it may be seen from this behaviour that they are not expecting much from the summit,” an official said.

This nagging worry notwithstanding, the feeling in the Indian establishment is that Pakistan has finally understood the firm message sent out by Delhi and, therefore, it may, at least for the time being, keep the Hurriyat out of the picture.

   

 
 
UN SEEKS GLOBAL COMMITMENT ON AIDS 
 
 
FROM AMIT UKIL
 
United Nations, July 1: 
Theatre, trade, fashion — you name it, and all the global trends emanate from New York, the melting pot of the world. It was from this city, which also houses the UN headquarters, that a historic document— Declaration of Commitment — on HIV/AIDS was adopted last week by 187 nations.

This is the first time that such a unified effort has been made to tackle the dreaded disease and its myriad ramifications. A major objective of the document is to secure a global commitment to enhance co-ordination and intensification of efforts at all levels to combat HIV/AIDS in a comprehensive manner.

The document recommends a comprehensive plan since the epidemic’s “spread will constitute a serious obstacle to the realisation of the global development goals adopted at the Millennium Summit’’, and because many countries do not have the resources to enhance prevention and treatment efforts.

The resolution says the plan must include strong leadership at the national, regional and local levels, which will be complemented by full and active participation of NGOs, the business community and the private sector.

“Prevention must be the mainstay of our response,” the document says, as there is no vaccine or cure for the disease. “Care, support and treatment are fundamental elements of an effective response,’’ it adds.

The Declaration of Commitment is a 16-page document that culminated the three-day special General Assembly session on HIV/AIDS, a document that has been worked on for four months before it was finalised.

In its preamble, the document explains in detail why the UN, as a matter of urgency, had to convene its Assembly and invite 450 civil society organisations from all over to participate in the roundtable discussions.

“The HIV/AIDS epidemic is one of the most formidable challenges to human life and dignity… which undermines social and economic development throughout the world and affects all levels of society – national, community, family and individual.”

Of the 36 million people infected by the virus, 90 per cent are in developing countries and 75 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa. Asian countries, including India, are just beginning to feel the impact. Women, young adults and children, particularly girls, have become the most vulnerable.

For a UN document, the language is open and clear, but thanks to Islamic countries’ pressure, high-risk groups such as gays, sex workers and intravenous drug users are not explicitly mentioned in the document.

   

 
 
OLD WAR, NEW BATTLEFIELD 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Srirampur, July 1: 
A day after Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee organised a massive rally at Esplanade to outdo her rebel MP Ajit Panja’s convention at Mahajati Sadan, the two rival leaders once again spoke against each other at separate meetings here today.

While Mamata was here to inaugurate an intensive cardiac care unit (ICCU) attached to Matri Sadan of the Trinamul-dominated Konnagar municipality, Panja had come to attend the rath yatra at Mahesh.

Mamata was accompanied by party legislators Tapas Roy, Swaraj Mukherjee and Ratna Nag and MP Akbar Ali Khondakar. Panja, on the other hand, failed to rope in any big guns. He had to make do with disgruntled party functionaries from Hooghly, Kesto Mukherjee and Tapan Dasgupta.

Inaugurating the Rs 20-lakh ICCU, funded by Khondakar, Mamata preferred to keep silent on Panja and instead urged party workers to strengthen the organisation to fight the ruling CPM.

When some party workers insisted that she give a statement on Panja, the Trinamul chief said: “I am not bothered about what Ajitda is doing. Our primary task is to take on the state government which is doing nothing for the poor people,” she added.

Mamata said the municipality has done what the state government failed to do in district hospitals over the years. She called upon municipality officials and local leaders to undertake a scheme for supplying text books to poor students free of cost.Khondakar announced that the party will follow “didi’s advice” and set up an education fund in the district.

Panja said grassroots party workers were no more with Mamata because of her “whimsical and erratic style of functioning”.

With folded hands, Panja prayed to Lord Jagannath and said: “Let good sense prevail on Mamata.”

   

 
 
JEWEL THIEF ARREST JOLTS CPM 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Chinsurah, July 1: 
A team of police officials from Delhi have arrested Bidyut Mandal, brother of a local CPM leader, from Uttarpara for his alleged involvement in a Rs 1.5-crore dacoity in the capital.

Police sources said the dacoity took place at a jewellery shop in Lajpatnagar on March 28.

District superintendent of police N. Ramesh Babu said Bidyut, who was arrested on Friday from his brother Ashok Mandal’s house, was produced in Srirampur court and then taken to Delhi for interrogation.

Hooghly CPM leaders today came out in defence of Ashok, saying he is not connected with his brother’s activities in Delhi and would not be expelled from the party.

However, CPM sources said Hooghly district secretary Benode Das has sought a report from the party’s Uttarpara unit. Some leaders from Uttarpara met this morning to discuss the issue. “If necessary, we may later enquire about the matter from Ashok after he returns from Delhi,” a CPM functionary said.

   

 
 
NO TO ASTROLOGY 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Burdwan, July 1: 
Burdwan University has turned down the University Grants Commission (UGC) proposal to introduce undergraduate and post-graduate courses in vedic astrology.

As part of its move to promote astrology as a subject at the university level, the UGC had recently asked Burdwan University to start teaching it.

University vice-chancellor Amit Mullick said the issue was raised at the meeting of the university’s executive council but members rejected the proposal unanimously.

“We have not accepted (the proposal) as we feel students will not benefit from learning a subject like astrology, which has no scientific base,” Mullick said.

A copy of the resolution taken by the council against the introduction of the subject has been sent to the UGC, the vice-chancellor said. According to university sources, the state government, too, had opposed the UGC proposal.

   
 

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