Jaya springs probe panel on Delhi
Sonia plea for UTI investors
Paswan fires at Laloo on arrest threat
BJP in date dilemma for executive meet
DD dampens Wimbledon spirit
Panja briefs coalition cabinet
Probe into artist’s ‘suicide’ in Japan
Atal faces truce deadline
Chauhan justifies Indira killing

 
 
JAYA SPRINGS PROBE PANEL ON DELHI 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Chennai, July 7: 
In a move that has silenced the Centre, Jayalalitha today set up a one-man commission to probe the alleged police excesses during the arrest of M. Karunanidhi and two Union ministers, Murasoli Maran and T.R. Baalu.

Neither Maran, nor Baalu was available for comment, though both are known for their quick responses. Maran, who met Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee today, said: “I will react on Monday.” The 30-minute meeting with Vajpayee took place soon after he met home minister L.K. Advani.

NDA convener George Fernandes, who this morning had accused Jayalalitha of “terrorising the judiciary and prosecution witness” in a signed statement, was also silent.

The commission, headed by a retired judge of Madras High Court, A. Raman, will give its report within three months to the state government, an official release said in Chennai.

Home ministry sources said “the probe practically meets a lot of the Centre’s requirements which were conveyed in the directives issued to the Tamil Nadu government”.

Sources in the BJP described Jayalalitha’s move as a “shrewd” one. They said the DMK would have to accept it if the commission gave the policemen a clean chit.

The terms of reference of the inquiry commission will be to probe if there was any excesses on the part of police while arresting Karunanidhi, Maran and Baalu on June 30. The decision to appoint a commission of inquiry comes a day after Jayalalitha met Governor C. Rangarajan at the Raj Bhavan yesterday.

Karunanidhi, who was lodged in the central prison at Chennai, was released on July 4. His son, M.K. Stalin, was released from the central prison in Madurai this morning after the principal sessions judge, Chennai, granted him conditional bail yesterday.

But his brief spell in prison appears to have brought him closer to his brother, M.K. Azhagiri, who, was taken into preventive custody. Azhagiri, who was estranged from Karunanidhi and had fielded rival candidates against the DMK during the elections, went to the prison to welcome his brother. Stalin, the prime accused in the Rs 12-crore flyover scam, was lodged in the Madurai prison since June 30.

While granting bail, the judge observed that “the way in which the complaint had been lodged, FIR registered and time taken to decide the arrests, without examining witnesses and not interrogating them after their arrest would go to show that the FIR had been lodged with ulterior motive and meant to put them behind bars immediately”.

Stalin told reporters at the prison gate that principal sessions judge Ashok Kumar had portrayed a clear picture of the nature of the case filed against him. “The judge’s observations and questions to the government pleader are enough to show what type of case was filed against me.”

He said he would be in Chennai to face the cases and would not give lame excuses like “back pain” to escape arrest.

Stalin said Jayalalitha, who could not even contest the Assembly elections due to her conviction in corruption cases, was trying to frame false charges against the DMK and the flyover case was one example. Stalin said the prison was overcrowded but the officials were cordial. “‘We were not treated badly,” he added.

   

 
 
SONIA PLEA FOR UTI INVESTORS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, July 7: 
Indicating that her party will grill the government over the freeze on US-64 units, Sonia Gandhi has sent a letter to Atal Bihari Vajpayee urging him to “protect the interests of small investors”.

“I would strongly urge the government to carry out a thorough investigation into the management of the US-64 scheme and to take immediate steps to ensure that the interests of small investors are not only fully protected but also enhanced,” Sonia has written. She has underlined that the issue is of national relevance. It is the second time in three years that Unit Trust’s flagship scheme, US-64, has let down ordinary investors and created a “crisis of confidence”, the Congress president has reminded.

In the last few sessions of Parliament, the Opposition has not been short of issues on which to embarrass the government. Before the monsoon session begins on July 23, the Opposition has once again issues with which to hit at the Centre.

Sonia’s letter to Vajpayee suggests that the Congress is going to demand an adequate and satisfying response from the government on the UTI debacle.

“The entire episode,” Sonia has written, “is a damaging indictment of the government’s management of the economy. Millions of senior citizens, pensioners, ex-servicemen and salaried professionals have put their hard-earned savings into this scheme.”

She hoped that “they will now see credible and effective action to restore their trust”.

   

 
 
PASWAN FIRES AT LALOO ON ARREST THREAT 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, July 7: 
Former Bihar chief minister Laloo Prasad Yadav’s reported threat to arrest Union ministers, fanning social tension in the state, has evoked sharp criticism from Lok Jan Shakti Party president and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan.

Paswan said he will take up the matter with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as he had earlier been attacked in Bihar.

Taking a cue from Jayalalitha, Laloo had said on Wednesday that Central ministers visiting Bihar have a habit of issuing “irresponsible” statements, creating social tension and law and order problems.

He said the police could file cases against them and they could be arrested. The RJD chief had threatened that Union ministers from Bihar would meet the same fate as that of DMK’s Central ministers.

Paswan said he has written to home minister L.K. Advani and will also take up the matter with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He said a delegation of his party’s office-bearers will also call on the Prime Minister to personally explain to him the situation in Bihar.

The communications minister alleged that there have been several attempts on his life in Bihar by supporters of rival political parties. “I was attacked on two occasions during rath yatra and once my vehicle was damaged,” Paswan claimed.

He said eight Lok Jan Shakti workers were killed by rival political party supporters in Rosera in north Bihar recently.

He came down heavily on the Congress, the CPM and the CPI for supporting the RJD government in Bihar, saying those who backed the Emergency were now backing Laloo.

Earlier, Union agriculture minister Nitish Kumar had also taken strong objections to Laloo’s threat and had dared the Bihar strongman to arrest him.

   

 
 
BJP IN DATE DILEMMA FOR EXECUTIVE MEET 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, July 7: 
The BJP has deferred its national executive — scheduled to be held in Amritsar on July 18, 19 and 20 —because of the Prime Minister’s “rushed schedule”.

The national executive was sandwiched between Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s visit, which ends on July 16, and the monsoon session of Parliament, beginning July 23. Although BJP leaders were aware of these dates while planning the Amritsar session, party sources said the schedule could be “far too hectic” for Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who has just had a knee operation.

The sources said: “It was felt that the Prime Minister may not be able to prepare himself adequately either for the executive or Parliament since there was a gap of just one day between Musharraf’s visit and the Amritsar meet and two days between that and the monsoon session. Therefore, we were requested to rethink on the dates.”

The other reason for postponing the executive was the “fluid” political situation, both internal and external. The political resolution which is customarily adopted at the executive meetings reflects the developments between two sessions, with elaborate comments and a critique, if necessary.

With Manipur still on the boil and the Indo-Pakistan summit concluding just before the scheduled dates, BJP sources maintained it would have been “difficult” to draft a considered resolution. “We will have to know what is the outcome of the summit. And since it is too big an event, it cannot be treated cursorily by us,” sources said. In case the summit does not yield anything tangible, the BJP, like the government, may be caught on the backfoot: “We will have nothing to celebrate and because our government is in power, we cannot be critical either,” the sources added.

On the economic front, too, there was considerable disquiet within the BJP on the recent chain of events, beginning with the bust-up on Dalal Street to the UTI crisis. Although the party is expected to seek a clarification from finance minister Yashwant Sinha at a meeting of chief ministers of the six BJP-ruled states on July 10, sources admitted that the economic resolution — which, too, would have been introduced at the Amritsar session — could not have recorded “our real feelings”.

“After all, we cannot openly challenge the government’s policies nor can we tick off the finance minister for bringing things to such a pass. Vetting the economic resolution would have meant allowing the differences within the BJP to be brought to the people’s attention. And this is something we can afford to do without just before Parliament opens,” the sources said.

   

 
 
DD DAMPENS WIMBLEDON SPIRIT 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, July 7: 
For the first time in several years there will be no live telecast of the Wimbledon semis and finals because Doordarshan has decided it is not worth its while to buy the rights from the All-England Lawn Tennis Association.

Asked why Doordarshan was not telecasting the semis and the finals live, Prasar Bharati CEO Anil Baijal said: “We may not have got the rights.”

Another officer said: “This time the rights have been given to somebody else.” One source said Doordarshan found the price asked by the organisers as too high.

The broadcaster was also not confident if it had the wherewithal to effectively market the time for advertisements and make the telecast financially viable.

In the past, Doordarshan had exclusive rights to telecast the action from the Centre Court live from the semi-finals onwards. In 1997, Stracon marketed commercial time during the Wimbledon telecast for Doordarshan.

That later led to a row and a CBI case. Raids were carried out in the homes of Doordarshan officials and of Siddhartha Ray of Stracon.

This year, ESPN-Star Sports has the exclusive Asian cable and satellite rights to the event. But its telecast of the semi-finals and the finals will be “deferred live”. This means the pictures seen on television screens in India will be of the action that took place three hours earlier.

Asked why STAR was not telecasting the semi-finals and finals live in India, a spokesman for ESPN-Star Sports said the All-England Lawn Tennis Association, organisers of the event, usually gave priority to telecast live the climax at Wimbledon to national broadcasters with terrestrial (as distinct from cable) transmission capability.

This time, Doordarshan decided that ESPN-Star Sports could go-ahead and telecast the Wimbledon semis and finals. Star Sports has telecast the matches at Wimbledon live till the quarter-finals but it does not have the right for live telecast of the events at Centre Court during the semis and the finals.

“For the last three or four years, we have telecast Wimbledon live till the quarter-finals. The semis and finals are telecast live by the national broadcaster and we telecast them ‘deferred live’. For us nothing has changed,” a spokesman for ESPN-Star Sports said. In fact, ESPN-Star Sports has bought the rights for deferred telecast for three years.

   

 
 
PANJA BRIEFS COALITION CABINET 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, July 7: 
Efforts to bring back the Trinamul Congress into the NDA gathered steam with George Fernandes dusting the red carpet in anticipation and rebel MP Ajit Panja submitting a “situation report” to the coalition’s Big Three.

Panja apprised Fernandes of the situation in Bengal. “I have understood that all Trinamul workers and elected representatives, except Sudip Bandopadhyay and Mamata Banerjee who are undecided, want to come back to the NDA,” Panja was quoted as having told Fernandes.

“I personally feel that the Trinamul should be included in the NDA,” Fernandes later said.

In his talks with L.K. Advani, Panja brought to the home minister’s notice the Salt Lake stadium arrest scandal. Panja said he called on Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee as well. Asked what was their reaction, he said: “Naturally, at such meetings, they do not indicate their mind.”

He, however, appeared happy at having got appointments with the senior NDA leaders.

“When Mamata, Sudip and I were together and sought time with the Prime Minister, we used to get it immediately. Even now, I get appointments immediately, even though I am now independent of them,” Panja said.

Panja’s flurry of activity in the capital comes amid reports that Mamata — among the first to support the Centre in the standoff with Jayalalitha — was not keen on Delhi accommodating him after Trinamul’s return.

Asked if he was expecting a Cabinet shuffle, Panja said it was the Prime Minister’s prerogative. He declined to give credence to reports that Mamata has worked out a deal with the NDA.

But the NDA appears to be keen to stitch together its old alliance. Fernandes, while welcoming Trinamul, also held out an invitation to the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), the estranged partner of the ADMK front in Tamil Nadu, to join the ruling alliance at the Centre.

PMK chief S. Ramadoss was unhappy with ADMK chief Jayalalitha for her rejection of his party’s demand for a Rajya Sabha seat. The arrest of M. Karunanidhi and two Union ministers, which Ramadoss criticised, alienated him further from Jayalalitha.

Justifying his desire to reinduct the PMK and the Trinamul Congress, Fernandes said: “In politics, parties adopt various means and go in various directions. We have worked together, stayed together (in the NDA) and fought elections together.

“If a certain party has tried an experiment by remaining away, we should not make it a ground to keep them at a distance,” Fernandes told a television channel.

   

 
 
PROBE INTO ARTIST’S ‘SUICIDE’ IN JAPAN 
 
 
FROM SUCHANDANA GUPTA
 
Bhopal, July 7: 
A leading tribal artist, who was desperate to return home and had written to his wife that his employers had rejected his appeals to come back, has allegedly committed suicide in Japan.

The Madhya Pradesh government has ordered a CID inquiry into the death of Jangan Singh Shyam, who was awarded the Shikhar Samman, the highest state honour for artistic excellence, about a decade ago when he was 30.

Shyam left for Japan three months ago to work in a museum. This was his third visit to the country. The artist’s visa expired on June 20 and he wanted to return to his wife and three children in Bhopal.

But his employers persuaded Shyam to extend his visa by three months so that he could complete his paintings, earliest by July 27.

Shyam’s letters to his wife Nankusiya Devi suggest that he was under pressure. Shyam was unhappy working for Rs 20,000 a month. On July 3, he allegedly hung himself from the ceiling of his kitchen in Nigata, near Tokamachi town. The letters are now with the CID team, which will soon leave for Japan. Nankusiya has blamed an artist from Bihar who worked in the same museum for Shyam’s death.

Shyam was working as an artist-in-residence in Mithila Museum near Tokamachi since April 13. The museum is acclaimed for promoting the Madhubani style of art. Lately, it had started promoting other Indian arts.

Though a deal was worked out and Shyam’s departure was fixed for January this year, the artist was unwilling to go. After persuasion, he left in April.

“My husband wanted to return. He called me once and asked if I could send some false emergency telegrams so that he could say his wife and children are sick,” Nankusiya said.

“But that Bihari artist served as a spy. He would listen to our conversation and go to the director of the museum to tattle. Whenever Shyam spoke to me, he was scared. He said there was someone eavesdropping. He last called me on Sunday,” she said.

“He was depressed. He kept telling me the authorities got his visa extended and he would have to stay back for another month, maybe till August. He also said they were making him work hard but were not giving him good money.”

Two days later, Shyam’s wife was told her husband had committed suicide. The curator of the Mithila Museum, Miyoko Hasunuma, said: “After June 27, he (Shyam) stopped shaving and looked very depressed. We asked what was troubling him but he did not say anything.”

Memorial meet

A condolence meeting was held this morning under the aegis of Crafts Museum to mourn Shyam’s death. Sanskriti chairman O.P. Jain, Jaya Jaitley, M.F. Husain, Manjit Bawa, NGMA director Rajeev Lochan, Vivan Sundaram and art critic Geeta Kapur, writers Nirmal Verma, Krishna B. Vaid, development commissioner of handicrafts Tinu Joshi and others paid homage to Shyam’s memory, adds our special correspondent from Delhi. Artists Husain and Bawa and writer Verma spoke out against the exploitation of artists. Bawa said taking advantage of their innocence, folk and tribal artists are made to sign bonds.

   

 
 
ATAL FACES TRUCE DEADLINE 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, July 7: 
Tension gripped Manipur once again as the state’s MLAs and MPs today gave the Prime Minister 24 hours to give a categorical assurance that the Nagaland ceasefire extension would be withdrawn by July 31, failing which they threatened to resign en masse.

After an all-party meeting, the Manipur representatives rejected the Centre’s move to ensure the territorial integrity of the north-eastern states in the wake of the ceasefire extension beyond Nagaland.

The leaders said people wanted nothing less than withdrawal of the ceasefire extension to Manipur. If the Centre does not make a categorical assurance to this effect, all the 60 MLAs and the three MPs would resign tomorrow.

Former chief ministers Radhabinod Koijam, R.K. Dorendra Singh, W. Nipamacha Singh, Assembly Speaker S. Dhananjay Singh and former deputy chief minister Chandramani Singh were among those present at today’s meeting. Thirty-nine MLAs and three MPs have been camping here since violence erupted in Imphal on June 18.

Asked why they were not satisfied by the move to get a parliamentary resolution passed on the state’s boundaries, Koijam said Manipuris want nothing less than withdrawal of the ceasefire extension. He said he was not sure of the “sanctity” of the proposed resolution. The meeting felt that there were instances of parliamentary resolutions not being honoured.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani are scheduled to hold talks with the all-party team tomorrow to find a solution to the crisis.

   

 
 
CHAUHAN JUSTIFIES INDIRA KILLING 
 
 
FROM GAJINDER SINGH
 
SAS Nagar (Mohali), July 7: 
Khalistan ideologue Jagjit Singh Chauhan today condemned violence but justified the killings of Indira Gandhi, Harchand Singh Longowal and Beant Singh, saying they had committed a sin against the Khalsa Panth.

“Akali president Longowal, who began the morcha demanding certain rights, did not continue it after Operation Bluestar. He should have done it. He betrayed the Khalsa nation. He began the morcha and then signed the accord with Rajiv Gandhi. Longowal could also have raised his voice against Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale for allegedly ordering the killings of Hindus. But he did not. As far as Indira Gandhi is concerned, she ordered the army into the Golden Temple. If the Gandhi family does not apologise and repent for the army action, it will suffer. It is willed by God. Beant Singh, too, did many wrongs. It is a historical inevitability,” Chauhan said.

The Khalistan protagonist was talking to reporters at a hospital, where he is being treated for various ailments. He was accompanied by counsel Ranjan Lakhanpal and Swami Chetananand.

Striking a conciliatory note, Chauhan said he was not in India when orders to kill Hindus were attributed to Bhindranwale. “I cannot say anything. But such statements were anti-Sikh. If Bhindranwale ordered the killings of Hindus, then it is not the work of a holy man,” he said.

Chauhan felt killings in Punjab in the Bhindranwale era began following a grand design. “Those who planned killings were, I believe, Naxalites,” he claimed.

The self-proclaimed president of Khalistan saved his most bitter barbs for the Akalis. Chauhan slammed them for holding him responsible for vitiating the peaceful atmosphere in Punjab. “They are my friends. Yet no one among them has even had the courtesy to call me and inquire about my health,” he said.

Lashing out at chief minister Parkash Singh Badal for stating that he would not be allowed to join the Shiromani Akali Dal, Chauhan said: “I have come back to die a peaceful death in India. Why should I join their dirty politics which is overflowing with corruption and nepotism? I have not spoken to any Akali leader about joining their party.”

Apart from corruption and nepotism, he accused the Akali government of mismanagement of finances and colossal unemployment. “I was finance minister of Punjab. In nine months we built 2,200 km of link roads. That was no mean achievement. But the will to work was there then,” he said. Chauhan blamed the Akalis for Punjab’s sufferings. “All Akalis were involved in the morcha that Longowal began. The Akalis believe in Jatvaad. It is very dangerous. They treat others like ants. It is the politics of selfishness. Badal opposed my return to India. The Akalis do not even read their party manifesto. They do not have any Panthic agenda. There is total mismanagement in Punjab. I feel ashamed to call them Akalis,” he added.

Chauhan claimed that he had always raised his voice against violence and alleged that his voice was “never allowed to reach India. I always stood against violence and still stand against violence. I feel the intelligence agencies were behind a lot of killings during the terrorism era”.

   
 

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