Karunanidhi graft case revived
Amin to stand in for Buddha
Mamata astrology option
Pak’s chance to win back US trust worries India
Story of news behind headline
Cell alert signal in tower collapse
Fatwa call to tell between jihad and terrorism
Atal calls all-party meet
Taliban inured to sanctions
Blair stands by US and Muslims

Chennai, Sept. 14: 
Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa today said her government would prosecute her predecessor, M. Karunanidhi, based on the findings of the Sarkaria Commission, which had probed graft charges during the DMK regime in the 1970s.

In the Assembly today, Jayalalithaa startled members, saying she had revoked an order passed by Karunanidhi in 1989 that “no further action need be taken on the Sarkaria Commission report”.

The House was plunged into chaos after Jayalalithaa contrasted her decision to extend the tenure of the special courts by one more year with Karunanidhi’s “cowardly attitude” in “stalling action” on the Sarkaria Commission cases and passing an order “without a Cabinet meeting”.

The special courts had been set up by the previous government to try corruption cases against her.

When DMK members protested against her statement and demanded proof, Jayalalithaa said she was only reading from the 1989 file that Karunanidhi had signed. “Now that I have cancelled the previous order, it is now possible to file cases against Karunanidhi,” she added.

DMK whip Durai Murugan walked out with his party members protesting against the “undignified” expression used against their chief. But Speaker K. Kalimuthu saw nothing unparliamentary in the word “cowardice”.

As the DMK MLAs trooped out of the House, ADMK members shouted “Go away, go away”. At one stage, several members on either side nearly came to blows. Jayalalithaa had to ask her party MLAs to calm down.

The chief minister said that unlike Karunanidhi she was not running away from the cases against her and was determined to face trial to “prove my innocence in the courts”. Though the ADMK regime under MGR had thought of initiating criminal action against Karunanidhi on the graft charges, “MGR died without taking any decision”, she added.

Murugan said the MGR government took no action on the Sarkaria Commission report as the chief minister himself had admitted there was “nothing in those corruption charges”.

But the DMK leader was strongly rebuffed by finance minister C. Ponnaiyan, who claimed that the Central Bureau of Investigation had “clinching, documentary evidence” in two cases “independent of the findings of the Sarkaria Commission”.

Ponnaiyan also alleged that the DMK regime had favoured certain big companies, close to Union industry minister Murasoli Maran, in giving contracts.

The Cauvery waters dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka also came up.

“I have just written to the Prime Minister, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee, to urgently convene a meeting of the Cauvery River Authority,” she said.

A couple of days ago, Jayalalithaa had thought of directly approaching the apex court for the release of the Cauvery waters. But the court would have asked “whether we had approached the CRA”, she said today.


Calcutta, Sept. 14: 
When Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee leaves for Japan on his maiden foreign trip as chief minister on Saturday, labour minister Mohammad Amin will be handed the job of running the government.

The state CPM leadership today decided to make Amin, a self-effacing and orthodox party functionary who was also a senior minister in Jyoti Basu’s government, the acting chief minister.

Amin’s appointment came as a surprise because it was widely believed that industries minister Nirupam Sen, Alimuddin Street’s first choice in several other areas of governance, would be given the job. “The responsibilities (of acting chief minister) were assigned to him because he is a very senior minister and very experienced,’’ said Anil Biswas, state CPM secretary, confirming Amin’s importance in the pecking order.

The CPM state secretariat today advised Nirupam Sen and health minister Suryakanta Mishra to assist Amin.

During his weeklong tour of Japan, Bhattacharjee will hold talks with various institutions and individuals to ensure the flow of Japanese investments into Bengal. The chief minister will be back in office on September 23.

A CPM central committee member, Amin had earlier overseen ministries like transport and minority affairs. When Bhattacharjee became chief minister in May, Amin was chosen by the leadership to handle labour.


Calcutta, Sept.14: 
Mamata Banerjee today said she would protest if astrology was made “compulsory” but sought to strike a balance suggesting that the subject could be included in the optional list.

“There are compulsory and optional subjects in the curricula. So, the students can always decide whether to learn it or not. We will not tolerate any subject which is forcibly imposed,” Mamata said.

The Trinamul Congress chief also made it clear that her party would not allow education to be politicised. “We are against saffronisation as much as we are against the Left influence on education. We will not allow any political colour to be imposed on education,” she said.

At a convention held by the education cell of her party yesterday, Mamata had defended the BJP’s proposal to introduce astrology in the curricula. “It is the students who should decide whether to study astrology or chemistry. Most people prefer allopathy but that does not stop people from studying homeopathy,” she had said.

Coming down heavily on the CPM-led Left Front, Mamata today said the communists had influenced Bengal’s education system by withdrawing English from the primary level. “We have seen before our eyes how the communists slowly penetrated the state’s education system. So, we have framed a guideline before going into this debate over the so-called saffronisation of education — there will be no politics, be it saffron or red,” she added.


New Delhi, Sept. 14: 
India’s desperate attempts in the wake of Tuesday’s attacks to be counted as an ally of the US in its fight against terrorism have so far been ignored.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s address to the nation this evening highlighted a worry gnawing at the minds of the Indian leadership that the pressure on Islamabad may ease if the Pervez Musharraf regime decides to help the Americans combat terrorism.

Vajpayee said it was not enough to get the terrorists, but also the organisations and states that “finance, train, equip and protect them”. He made it clear that these states must be isolated and forced to stop their support for the terrorist outfits.

The Prime Minister has called off his visit to New York next week to attend the UN General Assembly session.

On the face of it, Pakistan is under pressure for encouraging cross-border terrorism and for its closeness to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which has granted shelter to Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the US attacks.

India has been a victim of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism for several years now and the attacks on the US have vindicated its concern over international terrorism. By aligning with the American effort against terrorism in Afghanistan, India can not only cut off Pakistan’s strategic depth but also the supply line that despatches fresh batches of militants into Jammu and Kashmir.

But the indications so far are that New Delhi does not figure in a big way in the US gameplan.

CNN and other American TV channels have been naming the key allies and important countries President George Bush has spoken with.

Though Vajpayee had written to the American President and offered “unconditional and unambiguous” support, India’s name has not figured on Bush’s list of countries that can be of help to Washington.

To make things worse, the American leadership has been in touch with both Pakistan and China, India’s long-time rivals.

US national security adviser Condaleeza Rice spoke to her Indian counterpart, Brajesh Mishra, early this morning. Ambassador Richard Blackwill, who presented his credentials to President K.R. Narayanan, discussed the situation in the US with him. He had also spoken to foreign and defence minister Jaswant Singh last night. But President Bush has so far not found time to talk to any Indian leader.

Secretary of state Colin Powell today called his Indian counterpart Jaswant Singh along with foreign ministers of Japan, Tunisia, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

It is not yet clear what support India could offer the US in its retaliatory action. There is speculation that New Delhi might provide refuelling rights and grant transit facilities to American troops if Washington plans to launch an assault on bin Laden and terrorist camps in Afghanistan.

India had offered American war planes refuelling rights during the Gulf War in 1991, when Chandra Shekhar was Prime Minister, and will have no problem repeating the offer. It is the extent of help over and above that, which is now being debated.

The US has so far not spelt out either the structure or the level of the attack that it plans to launch against the Taliban.

A multilateral attack, with Nato countries joining in the operations, will make things easier for India even though it is not a member of the Western alliance.


New Delhi, Sept. 14: 
For three days till this evening, CNN has driven its coverage of the strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon under the headline “America Under Attack”. The headline now is “America’s New War”.

When the network channel first came out with “America Under Attack”, many wondered if it was not hyperbole. Even in CNN headquarters in Atlanta there was a debate — between the head of CNN International and CNN but it was clinched in moments.

“Is it appropriate for us to use the phrase America Under Attack on the screen?” asked one. “Well what the hell else is this?” was the response.

The coverage of the events has also seen news pushing out advertisements from the principal channels. Richard Sambrook, director of BBC News on the US disaster said “I doubt many of us have ever been confronted with a story of such magnitude.”

In terms of the body, there have been worse disasters. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki posed questions for journalists then. The fact that it was in the course of World War II that America blew away the two Japanese cities does not make the magnitude of the disaster any less.

More relevant is the point that despite the intense competition, despite the growing number of “captive eyeballs”, channels have covered news without breaking for advertisements. CNN and BBC broadcast without breaking for advertisements for two whole days. CNN continues to do so.

CNBC, too, did not take commercial breaks. “The only issue at such a time is to give comprehensive coverage,” said a spokesman for the channel on the decision.

Star also went without ads and brought viewers live coverage from associate Fox News. “We will not exploit tragedies,” a Star representative said. The coverage of the attack will no doubt be argued for years to come.

In a note justifying the headline “America Under Attack” that promises to go down as a nugget of media history, CNN International chief Chris Cramer wrote: “It was not a day for discussion on the finer points of journalism. I have been in BBC newsrooms as the Challenger Shuttle blew up, as the Berlin wall fell, as the first searing pictures from Ethiopia and its famine were broadcast.

“And of course, 10 years ago when the US and its allies started to bombard Baghdad. And then in 1997, I stood in a control room at CNN as confirmation came that the Princess of Wales had died in Paris.

“But none of this prepared me for the look of horror on my colleagues’ faces and the stunned silence as that second aircraft slammed into the World Trade Center yesterday. And then came the news that a third aircraft had hit the Pentagon and a fourth Boeing 757 had come down somewhere near Pennsylvania.

“Here at CNN’s Atlanta headquarters, the first airliner crashed into the World Trade Center during our morning editorial conference — when representatives from all CNN channels and services come together to plan their broadcast day....

“The descriptions used on and off-air in those first few hours of coverage seemed somehow inadequate. The worst terrorist attack on America ever. The worst assault since Pearl Harbour? The largest modern day media operation since the coverage of the Gulf War?

“Even with the experience CNN has gained in 21 years, this unprecedented terrorist attack against the United States tested even our resources. The logistics of getting staff to New York and Washington literally became a road race, as airports across America shut down.

“This was not a day for the competitive edge. Our coverage was immediately made available to all news organisations, those under contract and those who were not. CNN has undergone some painful — and necessary — restructuring in the past year. More than 400 colleagues, 10 per cent of the workforce, have been made redundant. Yet on Tuesday, dozens of those laid off rang to offer their news-gathering services. Others just turned up. Amidst the madness of yesterday’s atrocity, many of us found that a very humbling experience.”


New Delhi, Sept. 14: 
Cellphone companies in India are trying to unscramble the message from the recent collapse of New York’s mobile phone system after terrorists crashed two commercial jetliners into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

It reads: if you want to keep beeping, get ready to set up a clutch of multiple mobile switching centres (MSCs) — the nerve-centres of the system — through which all calls are routed.

“In India, we work under extremely adverse conditions. We have to worry about continuous power supply and unauthorised constructions — niggling worries that US service providers don’t have. Unlike them, we already have a number of operators who have additional mother MSCs that serve as back-ups. Yes, after the US experience, we may see operators setting up a host of MSCs,” said T.V Ramachandran, the executive vice-chairman of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

Said Rajiv Sawhney, the CEO of Command: “We have 101 base stations, and if any one or two of them are affected, that doesn’t matter much. For example, if the base station on Chatterjee International goes, then the nearest two base stations will take over. This can create a small coverage hole, but the entire network will not be affected.”

Deepak Gulati, the CEO of rival Spice Cell Ltd, echoes Sawhney. “In our network, the configuration is such that toppling of one base station will not disrupt the entire setting. Yes, it may have some local impact, but that’s all.”

A senior executive at AirTel said: “We have one MSC at Okhla and another at a place that we cannot disclose. Our company has a very good disaster management system and setting up of more MSCs is one of the options.” AirTel is the Bharti-owned cellular service provider in Delhi.

Telecom experts here reckon the destruction of the twin towers in New York resulted in the collapse of cellphone service and clogged land lines making it difficult for the survivors to get in touch with friends and families. They also believe that the mother mobile switching centre of the cellphone operator or operators in that city was installed at one of the towers, which led to collapse of the network.

Says a telecom expert: “Normally, a call from a mobile phone originating from any location has to touch base at the mother MSC for billing and identification. The call is then routed to the correct destination by the mother MSC which cannot be bypassed. So, any hit at mother MSC or MSCs will bring down the whole network.”

He, however, added: “The sort of attack that we saw in the US will certainly rip out the most secured network anywhere in the world. So most of the cellphone operators in addition to setting up more MSCs are setting up base transmission stations (BTS). This will help restore the network from one of the MSCs in the bare minimum time — which could range from a few hours to a maximum of one day.”

Ramachandran agrees. “An attack of this nature can throw the whole network out of gear for a minimum of one month, provided the back-up equipment is available.”


New Delhi, Sept. 14: 
Is jihad (fight for religion) a sixth religious obligation for a Muslim after Tauhid (one of God), Namaz (prayers), Roza (fasting), Haj (pilgrimage) and zakat (charity)? If so, who decides the conditions under which jihad can be fought?

Muslims all over the world want religious leaders to issue a fatwa on terrorism and jihad to clear widespread confusion that blurs the line between humanity and anarchy.

Muslim scholars are unanimous that there is a provision in Islam that allows jihad, as Prophet Mohammad and his associates known as Khulfa-e-Rashideens participated in many such wars. But in 21st century nation-states, that brand of jihad has become obsolete. Thus, who has the locus standi to coin the term jihad?

Prominent Islamic institutions in India want Al-Azhar, Rapta-Islami, Mecca-centric Da’wah international and other prominent, apolitical, religious schools in West Asia to take a lead in defining terrorism and jihad worldwide so that innocent youth are not lured into religious fervour against national governments across the globe. In the absence of clear guidelines, many religious schools are accused of becoming breeding ground for jihadis, fundamentalists and cults of violence.

The Mecca-based Da’wah, which prepares quality literature about Islam, made a strong case for “exemplary” punishment for perpetrators of World Trade Center killings and said: “May Allah help us in these very trying times and may He bring to justice all those involved in this act of terrorism, whoever they may be.”

While there is allround condemnation of the attack on America, the Muslim society is edgy over its aftermath. There is widespread feeling that the killings in New York and the unprecedented attack on Pentagon could trigger an international backlash against Islamic groups, leading to some sort of “reaction.”

At present there is no Muslim umbrella organisation that commands worldwide respect in matters such as issuance of fatwas or defining conditions for jihad. Since the fall of Ottoman empire when a Caliph also had the title of Amir-ul-Momineen (head of Muslims), the Islamic society is sharply divided into dozens of groups who differ on almost every issue. Even in civil matters like divorce, there are no universal norms about application of triple talaq or maintenance. When Ayotollah Khomeini had issued a fatwa against writer Salman Rushdie, there was muted criticism about Khomeini’s locus standi but in the absence of a proper forum, Muslims remained divided.

Muslim scholars in India and abroad want the US and other Western powers to hold constant dialogue with moderate Islamic institutions to isolate radical and often violent groups that have mushroomed almost everywhere.

Moderate Muslim leaders are alarmed over the rise of the new breed of Islamists who have been advocating inclusion of jihad as the sixth obligation for every Muslim, as in West Asia, and in Afghanistan by the Taliban. There have been accounts where members belonging to affluent families from Saudi Arabia, Sudan, UAE and Egypt participating in armed struggles of Chechnya, Kosovo and elsewhere thinking that they were performing a religious obligation. Many of these individuals belong to Akhwan-e-Muslemin, which has gained support in Sudan, Algeria, Egypt and is making inroads in the West Asia.

Though the concept of Akhwan’s brand of jihad is completely alien to India, Muslim leaders want religious seminaries like Nadwa, Darul-Ulum and others to take a view on it so that the cult is nipped in the bud.


New Delhi, Sept. 14: 
As speculation about an impending US strike against the Taliban regime did the rounds today, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee summoned the service chiefs and the heads of the Research and Analytical Wing and the Intelligence Bureau to discuss the fallout of such an step.

Vajpayee has also convened an all-party meeting tomorrow to brief the Opposition and NDA leaders on the situation in the wake of terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in the United States.

India had yesterday offered operational help to the US, without making it clear whether Delhi is willing to offer US a base to launch a strike against Kabul.

Parties belonging to the National Democratic Alliance and a few others, including the Congress, are expected to support any move by the Vajpayee establishment to bolster the country’s security compulsions. The left parties, especially the CPM and the CPI, however, have made it clear that they would oppose any move to entangle India in the US military action against unspecified countries. They felt that this would have serious implications on the security interests of the country.

Vajpayee had yesterday briefed leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi on the situation in the country. External affairs minister Jaswant Singh, national security adviser Brajesh Mishra and Manmohan Singh attended the meeting. Sources said the meeting was held at the instance of the Congress, which wanted the government to take the Opposition into confidence on the country’s security scenario.

“In keeping with its policy of winning US approval and acting as its junior partner, the government had immediately announced after the attacks that it is willing to cooperate with the US in all ways if it decides to launch any military action,” the CPM politburo said in a statement here.

The party alleged that the US had arrogated to itself the right to violate the sovereignty of any nation. It said “any unilateral military action can only lead to loss of innocent lives and the vicious cycle of violence and the aggravation of international tensions”.


London, Sept. 14 : 
Economic sanctions against Afghanistan are not likely to pressurise the Taliban regime, a West Asian expert here said today.

“Afghanistan is in an absolutely dreadful situation as it is” said Toby Dodge of the Royal Institute of International Affairs. “It’s in a long-running drought at the moment, dependent on food aid to feed its population — and there’s not enough of that.’’

Afghanistan today is the world’s largest opium producer, its primary export crop. The West already spends millions trying to stop drugs leaking across its borders and further sanctions are unlikely to prove any more effective than current mesures.

The country is practically bankrupt and large parts of its population are facing starvation. The Taliban have cut off contacts with the World Bank and IMF and the only financial assistance is the small amount of humanitarian aid.

The economy of the country has been totally destoryed first by the decade-long Soviet occupation which ended in 1989 and then the civil war which led to the advent of the Taliban. Dodge says that the history of trade blockages against absolute regimes is not encouraging.

Running the ecomony does not feature among the Taliban’s priorities to begin with and he warns that inflicting further pain on a starving population is likely to simply cement the power of the fundamentalists.

“Sanctions don’t work on rogue states or revolutionary ideologies — it reinforces their isolation and their power of the population,’’ he said. Dodge said that in both Libya and Iraq the sanctions strengthened rather than weakened the regimes enabling them to blame the west for the disastrous conditions facing their populations. For an already poor country like Afghanistan, economic blocades would prove useless, he warned. “What sanctions can you impose on a contry which is facing famine anyway.’’

Afghainstan has economic relations with few neighbouring countries — Iran, Pakistan and and non-Muslim states of the former Soviet Union.


London, Sept. 14: 
Tony Blair put in a good word for British Muslims today as the one million strong community began to face the backlash from Tuesday’s American tragedy.

But the British Prime Minister also adopted an uncompromising line today when he addressed a recalled Parliament promising to toughen extradition laws and investigate the financing of terrorism and money laundering. Britain has long wanted an extradition treaty with Pakistan along the lines it has with India.

Blair, who is leading world opinion in standing “shoulder to shoulder” with the Americans, said efforts to curb terrorism would “take time, continue over time until the machinery of terror is destroyed”.

He painted a grimmer scenario than even the one witnessed live on television of the Twin Towers being hit by hijacked aircraft and collapsing. The “fanatics”, he said, “could go further and use chemical or biological or even nuclear weapons of mass destruction”.

The events in America had been of “epoch making proportions,” said Blair. “Those who harbour and help them (terrorists) have a choice - either to cease their protection of our enemies or be treated as an enemy themselves.” When Big Ben stuck 11 am today, Britain came to a standstill as the nation observed a three-minute silence to honour the dead. Afterwards, Blair attended a memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral where the Queen, Prince Phillip and Prince Charles led the mourners.The camera picked out religious leaders of several faith, but lingered on Iqbal Sacranie, spokesman for the British Council of Mosques, who was once a firebrand during the Salman Rushdie crisis, but is today a moderate.

The Daily Mail today focused on hardline UK-based Islamic leaders in an article that will not endear its readers to Muslims in general. It was headlined: These gloating ghouls. The sub-heading read: Cynically exploiting our free speech, Islamic extremists in Britain hail the atrocities.

There was an unflattering photograph of the one-eyed “Sheikh” Abu Hamza, who preaches at a north London mosque. The picture revealed the hook, which replaced the hand that was blown away by a landmine explosion in Afghanistan. He was quoted: “Many people will be happy, jumping up and down at this moment.”

Another Islamic leader, “Syrian-born agitator Omar Bakri”, had apparently experienced “initial delight” on hearing of the outrages.

It is probably the case that Britain has been tolerant in allowing a wide range of Islamic groups to operate from there. Several champion the Pakistani cause in Kashmir. But the country is proud of its tradition of free speech. The British Council of Muslims has complained that the media is picking on the “unrepresentative” views of the extremist Muslim fringe. This is why in his Commons address, Blair emphasised that the “so-called Islamic fundamentalists do not speak for the majority of Muslims and Arabs”. He received the backing of the new leader of the Conservative party, the once-unknown Ian Duncan Smith, 47, who defeated his rival, Kenneth Clarke, 61, by 155,933 votes to 100,864.


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