Picnic bleeds on Kashmir minefield
Cancer drives mother, son to death
Ashram-bound George rattles allies
School, not entry, for all
Calcutta Weather

Srinagar, Sept. 8: 
A group of schoolchildren on a picnic was sucked into Kashmir’s minefield of violence which exploded with chilling regularity today in the run-up to the mini-summit between Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf in New York this month.

Eleven-year-old Nadia Fayaz was killed and 12 of her classmates as well as a teacher wounded when their bus, bound for a health resort in Pahalgam, ran over an improvised landmine in south Kashmir’s Anantnag. However, the children travelling in three other buses escaped unhurt.

Nadia, whose face was disfigured by shrapnel, could not be identified for as many as six hours. Her body was brought to the police control room before being handed over to relatives. Nadia’s father, Fayaz Ahmad, had died last year.

Anxious parents thronged the police hospital. “My whole family was on the road till late this evening. We had no information about our daughter. It’s only now that we saw her. She is safe as she was travelling in another bus,” said Abdul Rashid, father of one of the picnic-bound children, in the evening.

A teacher of the school said four buses had left for Pahalgam this morning, but it was only the last that hit the explosive device. “The bus did not take the full impact but only a part of the explosive device,” a police officer said.

The spasm of violence also claimed six BSF personnel, including a commandant, and three armymen. A landmine blew up the bullet-proof vehicle of S.S. Dihiya, 161 BSF commandant, in Jammu’s Udhampur, killing him and his five guards. As news of the blast reached Udhampur and Ramban, reinforcements were sent to the spot. Massive combing operations have been ordered in the area, sources said, adding that the bodies were brought to Ramban.

Militants also ambushed an army convoy on the Srinagar-Kupwara highway near Natnussa village this afternoon, killing three soldiers and injuring seven. Police said the militants fired grenades on the vehicles.

Sources said escorts of the convoy fired back. Authorities have sealed the area. An explosive was detonated on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, injuring a soldier. Militants also gunned down the block president of the ruling National Conference, Haji Ghulam Rasool, in Srinagar.

Lashkar-e-Jabbar, the militant group which imposed the burqa diktat, today asked non-Muslim women living in Kashmir to apply “bindi” and wear saffron dupattas for identification and exempt them from the burqa order. It asked Hindu and Sikh “sisters” to have some identification mark to avoid any action proposed by it against Muslim women without veils.


Calcutta, Sept. 8: 
Tragedy begets tragedy.

A cancer patient today put an end to his life on coming to know that the news of his ailment had prompted his mother to commit suicide.

Shyamal Debnath, a 30-year-old resident of Khardah in North 24-Parganas, had been suffering from blood cancer for the past six months. He was admitted to Nilratan Sirkar Medical College and Hospital.

Early on Saturday, he committed suicide when he heard that his mother had hanged herself after she learnt about the disease he was suffering from.

Around 3 am, hospital workers noticed Shyamal’s body hanging inside the toilet. They called the doctors who declared Debnath dead.

No one had seen him enter the toilet. “It was early morning and all other patients were asleep,” an officer of the Entally police station said.

Shyamal Kumar Rudra, the hospital superintendent, said Shyamal was depressive. “His family members also told us that he had become unusually silent for the past few days,” he added.

Rudra said Shyamal was admitted to NRS Hospital on July 12 with anaemia. “We didn’t know he was suffering from blood cancer. In the course of regular medical check-up, a low haemoglobin count was detected. Further tests revealed that he had been suffering from blood cancer,” he stated.

Amal Debnath, the victim’s elder brother, said : “Last month, my mother, Renubala, committed suicide on knowing that her younger son did not have any chance of survival.”

The 75-year-old woman used to visit her son in hospital everyday. “We had kept the news from her. Somehow, she came to know about it. The next day, she hanged herself,” Amal said.

Shyamal fell ill in March this year. The family admitted him to Khardah Balaram Hospital. But the authorities there advised a transfer to a bigger hospital. “We, then, admitted him to a nursing home in Howrah. After a few days, the doctors there declared him fit. Shyamal was brought back home,” Amal recounted.

A few weeks on, Shyamal fell ill again. He was rushed to Howrah General Hospital. But the doctors referred him to any city hospital. “We took him to NRS Hospital where he was detected with blood cancer,” Amal said.

Shyamal had recently got married to 23-year-old Tandra. “She also came with us. But she fainted as soon as she entered the hospital premises. So we sent her back home,” Amal recalled.


New Delhi, Sept. 8: 
Before the dust has settled on his new-found fondness for the RSS-affiliated Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), George Fernandes has left for Chitrakoot to meet veteran Sangh leader Nanaji Deshmukh, leaving friends of the Prime Minister’s troubleshooter uneasy about his intentions.

Nanaji, as he is popularly called, is a quintessential Sangh supporter and was the general secretary of the erstwhile Jan Sangh. Barring his occasional appearance in the Rajya Sabha, Nanaji, one of the Sangh leaders known to be not well disposed towards Vajpayee, is confined to his ashram in Chitrakoot in Uttar Pradesh.

Fernandes’ fellow socialists are baffled: Why is he trying to endear himself to the RSS and share its platform when he should be seen to be on the side of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee? The SJM, which has been criticising the economic policies of the government, is considered a “red rag” for the Prime Minister and several eyebrows were raised when Fernandes this week shared its platform where the government’s economic policies were criticised. Even human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi, an ardent Swadeshi proponent, has shunned the SJM to be in the good books of the Prime Minister.

A senior NDA leader, belonging to the old socialist school, said: “We are at a loss to understand as to why should Fernandes stick his neck out?”

But leaders who are close to Fernandes said there is no mystery. Out in the cold after the Tehelka revelations and with his colleague railway minister Nitish Kumar gaining control over the party, Fernandes is looking beyond Vajpayee and the NDA to win the next elections.

He can no longer bank on the Kurmi votes in Bihar. There is a lurking suspicion of sabotage from within as the equations in the party are fast changing. The Nitish camp was irked with Fernandes for giving a long rope to Jaya Jaitly, who, according to most of the Samata MPs, brought about the party’s downfall.

The old socialist war-horse has scented trouble and is searching for a safe constituency. Whether in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh or Karnataka — three places he may like to contest — the RSS cadre could bail him out. Fernandes, sources said, had also tilted towards Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. He had a few meetings with Yadav in the recent past, fuelling speculation that he may think of contesting from Uttar Pradesh.

With or without the Samata, Fernandes may do a Chandra Shekhar, winning elections despite the absence of a party apparatus. Chandra Shekhar manages to win his seat each time as mainstream political parties tacitly help him.


New Delhi, Sept. 8: 
Atal Bihari Vajpayee toasted literacy day with a promise of “education for all”, but his government could not find enough room for a group of children who were sent special invitations to see him make the pledge.

Underprivileged children and volunteers walked out of an international literacy meet at the high-security area of Vigyan Bhavan after being refused entry by the Prime Minister’s security.

A group of 45 people, mostly children and women, screamed slogans at the security personnel stationed around the venue. Some tore their invitation cards.

B.P. Pandey, an associate co-ordinator with an NGO in Jahangirpuri, said: “We were sent special invitations to attend this literacy meet. But the security personnel are not allowing us to go in.”

Radha, a 16-year-old girl, added: “We were looking forward to attending the meeting. We have been waiting since 9 am. Now I am tired and want to go home.”

Muktesh Chander, DCP, Prime Minister’s security, however, said: “What kind of security problem can children pose to anyone? They must have been denied entry because of lack of space.” The meet was organised by Unesco and the National Literacy Mission.

Volunteers associated with NGOs like Asha, Navjyoti and Ballika Trust, too, were angered by the attitude of the securitymen. “The children were very excited about attending this meet and seeing the Prime Minister. They missed their work and came all the way here,” said a volunteer.

“These children are very poor. They not only fend for themselves but also look after their family members. They work in houses and earn wages. By missing a day’s labour, they have lost on their money,” she added.

Kamala, another volunteer, said: “So much money has been spent to organise this meeting. It is meant for children who don’t have access to proper schools. The very people the government is spending money on are denied access.”

According to Panday, 600 invitation cards were sent to various learners, volunteers, coordinators of literacy programmes and area organisers but 250 people were made to wait outside the auditorium.




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