Suryakanta opens fire on party top guns
Council misses text deadline
Children push DD News off air
Jaswant ignores Pervez words, awaits action
Kashmir jihadis recalled
BJP rushes to clear air on Kashmir
Share Laden proof: Pak
Pariahs turn patrons in US’ hour of need
Delhi echoes Teheran on war
Infidel presence on sacred soil lit Osama spark

 
 
SURYAKANTA OPENS FIRE ON PARTY TOP GUNS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Burdwan, Sept. 20: 
CPM central committee member and health minister Suryakanta Mishra today dropped a bombshell, saying the CPM was increasingly jettisoning the concept of collective leadership, allowing individuals to call the shots.

Addressing a members-only meeting, Mishra said the CPM in Bengal was being run by one or two individuals who would encourage personal loyalties and allow party interests to be on the backburner at times.

“Instead of running the organisation through collective leadership, we are increasingly depending on one or two individuals,” Mishra, also panchayat minister, said at the meeting of the party’s panchayat functionaries from Birbhum and Burdwan districts at the Sanskriti Lok Mancha here today.

“All major and crucial decisions are being taken by an individual and not by the leadership,” he said.

“But we have to think about this current trend and I feel that a communist party like ours cannot function this way,” he added.

Mishra said meetings of a number of party committees had become irregular. As a result, the concept of joint leadership is not being followed up.

A central committee member and number three in the state Cabinet, Mishra also came down heavily on a number of district party units, including Burdwan, for not taking into confidence the elected panchayat representatives belonging to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe.

“The results of the last Assembly elections have shown that we have lost a number of panchayats and municipalities despite the fact that we are running the government for the past 24 years. This is because we have not taken into confidence the elected representatives belonging to the backward classes,” he added.

Mishra also alleged that a section of party functionaries expressed their loyalty to some individuals and not to the party. “Many of our leaders now indulge in nepotism and corrupt practices,” Mishra added.

The minister also criticised the party leadership for neglecting long-term development plans during its 24-year tenure.

“We have witnessed a number of elections and before each election, we laid a number of foundation stones and inaugurated various schemes. But these are all short-term measures. We have neglected the long-term schemes for the development of the state. Now we have to think about these long-term projects as panchayat elections are due soon,” Mishra said.

CPM functionaries attending the meeting were stunned because they had not heard Mishra criticising the leadership in such a way.

   

 
 
COUNCIL MISSES TEXT DEADLINE 
 
 
FROM MONOBINA GUPTA
 
New Delhi, Sept. 20: 
The critics of “saffronisation of education” have forgotten to raise one point: What is happening to the new syllabus the NCERT was supposed to have put in place by now?

Its a question nobody wants to answer. “There is a lot of uncertainty over the syllabus and the textbooks,” NCERT staff said. According to them, the hullabaloo over “saffronisation” and the states’ rejection of the curriculum framework drawn up by the council has already made the syllabus “suspicious”.

The work of writing the new textbooks should have been well underway by now, but the NCERT is badly lagging behind its promised schedule of delivering a new syllabus and text books. Savita Sharma, head of the social science department, NCERT, said there was no question of books going into print as the departments were still working on them.

The new social science textbook, for instance, will have an entirely new look with history crammed into just a few chapters, instead of a full book on the subject. It will carry lessons on four subjects — history, geography, economics and civics.

The new books for classes VI, IX and XII should be ready by March 2002. “Is NCERT equipped to produce such large numbers of books in just six-and-a-half months?” asked a former faculty member. There is a long process involved. Originally written in English, the books will have to be translated into Hindi and Urdu.

The new curriculum framework has thrown out of the syllabus history books written by Romila Thapar, Satish Sharma, Bipan Chandra and Arjun Dev — books students have been studying for more than a decade.

   

 
 
CHILDREN PUSH DD NEWS OFF AIR 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 20: 
When the news gets tough, DD’s news channel gets off. Doordarshan is set to phase out its news channel after competition and the demands of the business is forcing the Prasar Bharati management to replace it with a new one that will address children, adolescents and “lovers of music and dance”.

The decision to do away with DD News is part of a restructuring package decided by the Prasar Bharati board. The board has also decided that DD National, the primary terrestrial channel, will take on the mantle of “public service broadcaster”.

This allows the management to exploit the commercial possibilities of the other channels to the hilt. The immediate response of the restructuring has not enthused media analysts though. “What restructuring?” said N. Bhaskara Rao of the Centre for Media Studies.

“I see neither any restructuring nor any repositioning. Prasar Bharati is only re-stating.” The “restructuring and repositioning”, as Prasar Bharati put it, will give Doordarshan’s channels “a distinct brand equity.”

The changes are in the process of being implemented and Prasar Bharati has not given a date by when they will take effect.

A third of the programming on DD National will be devoted to news and current affairs. DD Metro will be a wholly entertainment channel, DD Sports will “promote healthy entertainment, international and domestic sporting events and also traditional and rural sports”.

DD World will be the “window to the international community and the Indian diaspora”.

   

 
 
JASWANT IGNORES PERVEZ WORDS, AWAITS ACTION 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 20: 
After last night’s sharp response to the Pakistan President’s national address, India today came out with a mature reaction, avoiding any harsh words that could “aggravate General Musharraf’s present problems further”. But Delhi made it clear that Islamabad should match its words by strong action against global terrorism.

Delhi also said that while it would support US military action against terrorist camps in Afghanistan, it would press Washington not to limit the war to armed action but explore other options pertaining to the economic, cultural and social arenas.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh justified America’s armed response against terrorists. “Lohe ka jawab, loha deta hai (A strong action has to be matched by a stronger response),” Singh said.

India’s stand is clear. Though it does not rule out the possibility of a military action by the US — and, in effect, supports it — Delhi would want the strikes to be specific and not indiscriminate. Moreover, it wants the military action to be followed by the other options to keep up the heat on international terrorism.

“I don’t want to say anything that will further compound and aggravate the difficulties General Musharraf faces. But I don’t really understand who or what one should lay off from,” the foreign minister said, alluding to Musharraf’s address. “If it is the domestic audience that the Pakistan President is trying to address then I understand. But the central issue is terrorism and not India-Pakistan bilateral relations.”

Singh said he hoped the Pakistani Establishment now realised that what it had been doing all these years — training, financing and sponsoring cross-border terror — was not the correct thing to do. “Pakistan has been sustaining the Taliban regime for years now. I will be very happy if Pakistan converts its words to strong action against global terrorism,” he said. “It does not de-nude India’s position. Rather, it strengthens them.”

Referring to Musharraf’s assertion that India was trying to turn world opinion against Muslims, the minister said the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government has been stressing on the important distinction between terrorism and Islam. “They are not synonymous. The noble faith of Islam does not encourage terrorism of any kind. Moreover, it should be kept in mind that there are more Muslims in India than there are in Pakistan,” he said.

Singh disagreed with Musharraf’s argument that India had no interest in Afghanistan other than installing an anti-Pakistan regime. He said the Bamiyan Buddhas — recently destroyed by the Taliban — were a symbol of Delhi’s deep-rooted links with Kabul.

Moreover, he said a scourge like global terrorism was not the problem of any single country but of the entire world. The foreign minister also rejected the view that the present US-Pakistan engagement would lead to third-party intervention in Kashmir —something India has been trying to avoid for years.

“The US is trying to put in place the widest possible coalition in the shortest possible time to fight global terrorism. This does not amount to third-party mediation,” Singh said.

   

 
 
KASHMIR JIHADIS RECALLED 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 20: 
Taliban leader Mullah Omar has asked jihadi groups in Jammu and Kashmir to return to Afghanistan immediately and brace for the fight against the US.

Foreign and defence minister Jaswant Singh said Indian intelligence agencies have received reports about the Taliban order to the militants over the past few days. Singh, however, made it clear that there has been no change in the activities of the militants in Kashmir. He also admitted that, the tension in the region notwithstanding, there has been “relative quiet” along the Line of Control between India and Pakistan and also along the international borders.

A nagging worry that, however, appears to be creeping into the minds of Indian leaders — with Pakistan agreeing to actively join the US battle against terrorism — was reflected in a simple remark by Singh. “We have now entered a testing phase,” the foreign minister said.

With reports from Washington suggesting a give-and-take deal between the Bush administration and the Musharraf regime in Pakistan, India tried to remind the West, and particularly the US, that Islamabad was a “new entrant” in the war against terrorism, while New Delhi has been battling it for more than two decades. Moreover, the foreign minister pointed out that Indo-US co-operation on counter-terrorism did not begin on September 11 — the day of the terrorist strike in America — but at least two years before that.

During Bill Clinton’s tenure as US President, the two sides had formed a joint working group on counter-terrorism, which had been strengthened after Bush came to power.

Singh also tried to assure the domestic audience to look at the current bonhomie with the US and Pakistan in its proper perspective. “Its geographical location makes it important, but it cannot be called a frontline state in the fight against global terrorism,” Singh reminded the media, at an impromptu press conference this afternoon.

If Musharraf tried to prepare his domestic audience for going with the US in its fight against the Taliban yesterday, then today the foreign minister was trying to reassure the Indian people that all should not be seen as lost between New Delhi and Washington because of Islamabad’s decision.

   

 
 
BJP RUSHES TO CLEAR AIR ON KASHMIR 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 20: 
As Pervez Musharraf sought to link Pakistan’s cooperation with the US against terrorism with the Kashmir dispute, BJP president Jana Krishnamurthi stressed that the “problem” could be resolved only by India and that other countries could, at best, lend a “helping hand”.

Commenting on the Pakistan President’s address and the hint to involve US in the Kashmir dispute, Krishnamurthi said: “We are not surprised at what he says but we are also not going to be guided by what Musharraf says.”

“Even prior Pakistan heads of state have been talking like this — the same anti-India rhetoric, Kashmir and Pakistan’s security concerns. The only new point he added was safeguarding Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. He was primarily addressing a domestic audience,” Krishnamurthi said, reacting to Musharraf’s anti-India tirade.

Krishnamurthi maintained that the Pakistan President was “placed in the most difficult situation of his life” where he had to “safeguard both his government and his official position”. He asked: “When the world is determined to root out international terrorism how can Musharraf exclude his country from this?”

   

 
 
SHARE LADEN PROOF: PAK 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR
 
Islamabad, Sept. 20: 
The Pakistan foreign office today said the US should share evidence of Osama bin Laden’s involvement in the terrorist attacks with the world.

Briefing reporters, foreign office spokesman Riaz Mohammad Khan said world leaders, including President Pervez Musharraf, have stressed that the “evidence and determination should be shared with the international community”.

He said world leaders have counselled patience and deliberations to ensure that, in the war against terrorism, innocent people did not suffer. “The insanity and madness of some terrorists, their networks and groups should not be allowed to push the world into taking hasty actions. This is a new fight and it requires a global strategy,” the spokesman said.

He said a new situation had been precipitated by the September 11 strikes that left thousands dead or missing. “The entire world, including Pakistan, sympathises with the US and we have extended full cooperation in the fight against terrorism,” Khan said.

Khan blasted India for what he said was a vicious and relentless propaganda against Pakistan.

“This is highly disturbing and the worst form of opportunism. President Musharraf being a soldier and a forthright person has just asked India to ‘Lay Off’,” the spokesman said.

About the decision of Afghanistan’s shura, or council of clerics, today, the spokesman said he was not in a position to comment on the decision unless “we receive the decision”. “Once we receive it, we will be able to understand the verdict of the shura,” he said.

Khan said Pakistan was opposed to terrorism in all forms. “In Kashmir, people are facing repression for more than two decades for their right to self-determination,” he said.

About calls for agitation against Musharraf’s support to the US action, Khan said the General had elaborated to Pakistanis the threat to Pakistan. “The President did not withhold anything and took into confidence the people of Pakistan and all segments of the society. He reposed confidence in the people of Pakistan and he respects their judgement,” he said.

“Our forces are capable of catering to any contingency and was also capable of doing so in 1971. But at that time we had committed some mistakes, which should not be repeated,” he said.

   

 
 
PARIAHS TURN PATRONS IN US’ HOUR OF NEED 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, Sept. 20: 
Yesterday’s enemies are becoming tomorrow’s associates, thanks to Osama bin Laden.

In a historic turnaround in American foreign policy, the Bush administration has approached its arch foe, Cuba, for information about last week’s terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

State department spokesman Richard Boucher confirmed that a US official visited Cuba’s diplomatic mission in Washington —which does not operate under the Cuban flag — and sought any information which Havana might have about the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The American initiative was a result of Cuba’s strong condemnation of the attacks.

At the same time, US secretary of state Colin Powell made an unprecedented phone call to Sudanese foreign minister Osman Ismail Mustafa and sought his cooperation. It was a sequel to Sudan’s offer to play a constructive role in combating terrorism. Boucher called the conversation “a good beginning”.

Sudan and Cuba are both on America’s list of countries which sponsor terrorism. Another state designated as a sponsor of terror, Syria, has also been approached for help.

The state department has acknowledged that it is heartened by Iran’s response to the attacks, but has denied any contacts so far with Teheran. However, there is talk here that Switzerland has been in touch with Iranian leaders on behalf of the US.

Canadian newspapers yesterday reported a phone conversation between the foreign ministers of Iran and Canada, but Ottawa has denied that it was acting as a go between with Teheran for the US.

Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov, who is here for talks, said: “One more time, the fact proved to be true, is that terrorism does not recognise borders”.

At the same time, Boucher reiterated that agreement with Pakistan for cooperation in fighting terrorism was entered into “without any demands, without any conditions, without any quid pro quos”.

However, an influential Senator, Sam Brownback, said today that the US should lift trade sanctions on Pakistan and vote for World Bank loans “so the population can see a positive reason to engage with the US”.

French President Jacques Chirac said after talks with President George W. Bush that he was in favour of anti-terrorist action, but only if its aims and strategy were first agreed upon.

Chirac’s reaction was lacking in the total support which the White House had expected from a fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member.

“Obviously, military cooperation is conceivable,” Chirac said at a press conference.

The President said France reserved the right, “like all Nato countries, to evaluate for itself the means and nature of any military intervention it conducted.”

Bush is now having talks with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri and will soon meet foreign ministers from China and Saudi Arabia.

   

 
 
DELHI ECHOES TEHERAN ON WAR 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Sept. 20: 
Making common cause with Iran, India has said Islam should not be equated with terrorism and the global fight against it not “limited to an individual and any single manifestation alone”.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh spoke with Iranian counterpart Kamal Kharazzi over phone yesterday on the global situation unfolding after the US strikes. The duo felt the situation called for “effective action which was needed to be based on co-ordinated action and co-operation by the largest possible number of countries”.

Iranian ambassador in Delhi M. Moosavi also called on home minister L.K. Advani in North Block to discuss bilateral “co-operation in security related matters”. Sources said both countries sought to know the other’s perception of the US situation and how it sought to help.

India denied reports that it was preparing to offer its airbases to the US troops and had even identified them in the last Cabinet Committee on Security meeting.

Dubbing the report “totally incorrect”, foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said “it was not only ill-timed but also ill-conceived”. She claimed India had neither offered airbases nor had the US asked for access to them.

Despite its growing closeness to the US, India values its relations with Iran, which continues to be America’s bete noire. Over the years, the BJP government has made special efforts to mend and strengthen ties with Teheran, and the common Taliban threat has speeded up the process. Iran and India, along with Russia, are the main backers of the Northern Alliance, the only opposition to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The upswing in Indo-Iranian relations was reflected in the Teheran Declaration signed this April during Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee’s visit. In the declaration, both countries condemned “terrorism in all its forms” and decided to coordinate their efforts to fight the menace. Iran is also an important provider of India’s energy requirements and the seat of Shia Islam. Its geographical location in the Persian Gulf also makes it strategically important.

But the foreign ministry spokesperson sought to suggest that Jaswant’s conversation with the Iranian leader was part of the consultation process begun by India in the recent past. Delhi has also been consulting the US, Russia and the UK in the last few days.

India’s attempt appears to be to consult with major world players to evolve a consensus on tackling global terrorism. By consulting countries in the Arab world, India is trying to tell the domestic audience that it is not only trying to enlist the support of the West but also that of its traditional friends.

   

 
 
INFIDEL PRESENCE ON SACRED SOIL LIT OSAMA SPARK 
 
 
FROM SHRABANI BASU
 
London, Sept. 20: 

Tall figure with aristocratic demeanour

As US investigators search for clues leading them up to the door of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban ask for evidence in response to demands for handing him over, the Saudi fugitive’s biographer says he alone had the capability to mastermind the September 11 attacks.

Peter Bergen, who met bin Laden in his hideout in Afghanistan and covered the hijacking of the Indian Airlines aircraft to Kandahar in 1999, says there are several reasons that the 44-year-old millionaire is the chief suspect in this case.

First, the operation required recruits sufficiently motivated to commit suicide, the former CNN correspondent says in an article in The New Republic. Bin Laden’s group, al Qaida, employed suicide bombers in the 1998 attacks against two US embassies in Africa and in the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen 11 months ago.

Second, last week’s attacks also required pilots capable of flying jets into their targets. “And al Qaida has actively recruited pilots capable of flying such planes,” says Bergen. “In 1993, the group even purchased a jet in Arizona, which was flown to bin Laden’s base, then located in Sudan by a pilot the group had hired.”

Bergen, who met bin Laden in March 1997 in eastern Afghanistan, says the man being accused of the worst terrorist act in history was a tall figure with an aristocratic demeanour who was then walking with the help of a cane. He spoke in a mild manner, belying the rage of his words.

Son of a wealthy Saudi construction magnate, the family had the honour of renovating and maintaining Islam’s holiest sites, Mecca and Medina. Within weeks of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the 22-year-old Bin Laden travelled to Pakistan to support the holy war against the Russians.

“What we benefited from most was that the glory and myth of the superpower was destroyed not only in my mind, but also in all Muslims,” he told Bergen in 1997. With the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, Bin Laden turned his attention to other jihads and founded the al Qaida or “the Base’’. Al Qaida’s main target now became the US.

Bin Laden had developed a dislike for the US from the mid-1980s because of Amercian support for Israel. In 1990, when American troops were despatched to Saudi Arabia, this dislike “mutated into hate”, says Bergen.

“Armed infidels of both sexes were trespassing on sacred Arabian soil. For Bin Laden, this defied the dying words of the Mohammed: “Let there be no two religions in Arabia.”

Bin Laden’s anti-American attacks began as early as 1992, says Bergen, when he bombed a hotel in Aden, Yemen, that housed US servicemen. The attack killed two Australian tourists. A year later, he allegedly shifted base to Somalia, where he started training Somalis to bring down US helicopters with rocket-propelled grenades. In 1995, four of his men confessed to being trained in Afghanistan to blow up a military facility in Riyadh, killing five American soldiers. Then in 1998 came the attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed over 200 people.

For New Year’s Day 2000, al Qaida had plotted a terrorism spectacular spanning the globe. They planned to bomb Los Angeles airport, sink a US warship in the Gulf and bomb tourist sites in Jordan. But the attacks were foiled.

Last October, bin Laden’s men attacked the USS Cole, one of the most advanced destroyers in the US navy as it was refuelling in Aden and killed 17 American sailors.

This June there were strong indications of renewed attacks. Bin Laden’s followers threatened the US embassy in Yemen. The embassy was temporarily closed and FBI investigators shifted. The same month two men were picked up in New Delhi where they were planning to blow up the visa section of the US embassy.

They admitted to acting on orders from bin Laden’s lieutenant who orchestrated the Cole attack. In July, the state department warned of increased terrorist activities against US interests in the Arabian peninsula.

Bergen says bin Laden frequently circulated publicity and recruitment videos, which either gave indication of attacks to come or celebrated past attacks.

Last year, a few weeks before the attack on the Cole, bin Laden’s video had shown him wearing a curved dagger, typical of Yemen, which he had not worn before.

This summer, a new two-hour recruitment tape made by al Qaida was circulating in West Asia. Again, it was a subtle indicator of further action, a usual tactic of al Qaida.

On the new videotape, bin Laden and his advisers make references to Muslims suffering in Chechnya, Kashmir, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Indonesia, and Egypt. However, for bin Laden, the greatest insult to Muslims is the continued presence of the Americans in Arabia.

   
 

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