Testing time for trio over verdict on ‘Test’
Enter, an ICC family man
Food & film to suit Bollywood shoots
Pak twist in PM terror roster push
Decree meet moves to Round 2
India on Bonn backbench
Lawmakers in for longer slog
Husain’s drama of absurd
Sangh scholar snowed under history ‘holes’
Calcutta Weather

 
 
TESTING TIME FOR TRIO OVER VERDICT ON ‘TEST’ 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Centurion, Nov. 23: 
Sourav Ganguly must wait till March, if not June, to know whether he missed a Test owing to muscle spasms. Rahul Dravid doesn’t know if he became India’s 28th Test captain today. And Connor Williams must wait to know whether or not he made his Test debut at SuperSport Park.

Till the International Cricket Council (ICC)’s executive board ratifies or overturns chief executive Malcolm Speed’s decision to withdraw official status to the ‘Test’, which started today, it will remain a first-class fixture.

(At stumps, India was 221 for eight.)

Unless an emergent meeting is called, the executive board will meet in March in Colombo. Its recommendations will be placed at the annual conference in London, held in June for some years now.

“Two countries are playing a five-day (first-class) match. That, in effect, is the status,” Denis Lindsay said. Appointed by the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) to replace the ICC-assigned Mike Denness, Lindsay said he was “only fulfilling” the match referee’s duties.

Whatever the understanding between the UCBSA and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Lindsay doesn’t see himself as a conventional match referee. He confirmed having spoken to Denness, but added: “What we discussed isn’t for the public... In any case, what has gone is under the bridge. Let’s look forward to good cricket.”

That is easier said than done. South African captain Shaun Pollock admitted that the circumstances had “taken the edge out” of his players’ effort. Moreover, Pollock felt, the ICC “would not” grant recognition at a later date.

“Personally, I don’t see it happening... Indeed, the status must be clear before players take the field... Where I’m concerned, it’s a practice game ahead of our trip to Australia,” he said.

Dravid, though, insisted that the Indians were treating the match as an official Test. For emphasis, manager M.K. Bhargava added that Virender Sehwag, slapped a one-game ban by Denness, was not played “only” because this match “was like any other Test”.

The ICC sees things differently. Where the governing body is concerned, the Indians have ‘conceded’ the (official) third Test and South Africa have won the three-game series 2-0. The ICC has already told Pollock this.

The episode is nothing short of bizarre. That a male streaker ‘scaled’ the fencing before lunch only drove this home. For now, the question is if the ICC will split. Unless there’s a dramatic shift, India and South Africa should have the support of five of the other eight Test-playing nations. Sri Lanka, however is keeping its options open.

Initially caught in the BCCI-ICC crossfire, today it’s the UCBSA that is in the line of fire.

While dismayed former South African captain Kepler Wessels termed the happenings “shameful”, ex-India captain Ravi Shastri blamed the ICC. He said: “We wouldn’t have reached this stage had the world body agreed to put Denness’ disciplinary action on hold. How can cricket itself be threatened?”

The general feeling is cricketers have become pawns in the larger game between administrators of different hues. This sentiment can’t be rubbished.

   

 
 
ENTER, AN ICC FAMILY MAN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 23: 
Indian cricket board chief Jagmohan Dalmiya is ready to talk peace with the ICC after having got his way.

But he hasn’t had his way in full yet. That will happen once Virender Sehwag takes the field in the opening Test against England in Mohali from December 3.

“So much has happened over the last 24 hours. There are still seven days to go before the first Test. Let’s see what happens,” Dalmiya said.

He said the Indian board would write to the ICC soon. “We have to see how we can get back to the game. Controversies will not help cricket. We will work out the issue with the ICC, we are a family.”

The ICC also tried not to make things any worse than they already are. It dismissed as speculative British media reports that India and South Africa could be banned.

Dalmiya appeared to be signalling to the ICC to hold an executive board meeting. He said the ICC president or the chief executive had the powers to convene a special meeting. “During my tenure I had introduced the system of having a teleconference for sorting out important issues.”

The BCCI’s working committee, which is meeting in New Delhi on Monday, will decide on the board’s future course of action.

Dalmiya today spoke to his UCBSA counterpart Percy Sonn who confirmed that they were treating the third ‘Test’ as “official”. Match referee Denis Lindsay has termed the match “unofficial”.

The response from Dalmiya was dismissive. “It’s not for him to decide. There’s nothing wrong with him saying that since he does not want to get into any controversy.”

“As far as the BCCI and UCBSA are concerned, all parameters of a Test match have been fulfilled. We will welcome discussion and are hopeful that the matter would be sorted out amicably in the ICC,” Dalmiya said.

The BCCI chief discounted the possibility of a split in the ICC, saying: “The controversy on this is unnecessary and irrelevant.”

   

 
 
FOOD & FILM TO SUIT BOLLYWOOD SHOOTS 
 
 
FROM CHANDRIMA BHATTACHARYA
 
Mumbai, Nov. 23: 
Location. Production. Post-production. Stunts. Talent. Transport. Catering. Everything, including tandoori food in mobile kitchens, is available Down Under, the “one-stop backdrop” for Bollywood producers, the Australian government promises.

An increasing number of Hindi films are being shot in Oz. A major part of Dil Chahta Hai was shot there last year. Aaap Mujhe Achhe Lagne Lage, starring Hrithik Roshan and Amisha Patel, is being filmed there now.

To make things easier for the men from Mumbai, the Australian Trade Commission and Australian Tourist Commission held a news conference today to release “Your Guide To Filming in Australia”, a manual for Bollywood producers. The guide was “produced” by Films and Casting Temple, a company “pioneering Indo-Australian film and media” relationships.

The volume contains “Handy Hints” by Anupam Sharma, the Sydney-based actor-director from Films and Casting Temple. As cost-saving devices, he advocates a location survey prior to the actual shooting and the hiring of Australian crew. He also promises excellent post-production technology and authentic Indian food.

But the slim 10-page guide — which looks like any glossy tourist brochure — seems more of an official statement of the Australian government’s interest in Bollywood rather than an information guide.

Australia is raking in the moolah from Mumbai. Over the last three years, Bollywood has spent around Rs 43 crore on the continent. “Last year was especially good,” says Sharma.

There is another reason for an official body to step in. “Since shooting has become popular in Australia, a network of agents has cropped up. So producers going there find themselves giving commissions to everybody for everything. With information made easily available here, that should stop,” Sharma added.

The manual hardsells all Australian locations as shooting paradises, be it Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria or Western Australia. There is an ad from “Billu”, who feeds Indian crews with Indian food, and other caterers, and firms providing state-of-the-art film technology. There are names of contact persons for various aspects of filmmaking.

Another attraction is the “friendliness” of the Australian people, reminded Shabbir Wahid, Australian consul-general and trade commissioner. Actress-VJ Raageshwari, who shot a music video in Australia, recounted a number of instances of the friendliness. Maggie White from the Australian Tourist Commission said the number of Indian visitors to Australia has crossed 40,000. “We aim to have 105,000 Indian visitors in 2005,” she added.

   

 
 
PAK TWIST IN PM TERROR ROSTER PUSH 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Nov. 23: 
In an attempt to curb Pakistan’s manoeuvrability, India today urged world leaders to bring in force a global list of individual terrorists so that any organisation they join would automatically be outlawed.

The formal proposal came along with a joint declaration by India and the European Union. The statement urged all states to “refrain from providing moral, material or diplomatic support to acts of terrorism, and prevent the use of their territory for sponsoring terrorist acts against other states”.

The declaration has come barely a day before the EU delegation leaves for Pakistan for talks on the regional situation, particularly in Afghanistan.

Some sections in the Indian leadership were disappointed after the delegation clubbed a visit to Pakistan with the second India-EU Summit. But the wordings of the declaration, which states that “even moral and diplomatic” support to terrorists will not be tolerated, must have raised their hopes about the West’s seriousness in combating global terrorism.

Islamabad has often justified its involvement with the Kashmiri movement by saying that it provides only diplomatic and moral support to groups engaged in “the freedom struggle”. But the growing international opinion, reflected in the joint declaration adopted today, makes it clear there will be few takers for such justifications.

At today’s meeting, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee welcomed the EU decision to harmonise national legislations on financing and sponsorship of terror. “We should also suggest internationally recognised global lists of terrorist organisations based on objective criteria,” he said. “Perhaps, we should go one step further and prepare a global list of individual terrorists, so that any organisation which they join would automatically be labelled a terrorist organisation.”

The Prime Minister said Pakistan, despite its decision to join the international coalition against terror, was continuing cross-border terrorism in Kashmir. “We want cross-border terrorism to stop completely and hope that it be sooner than later,” he added.

Another significant document signed by the two sides was on scientific and technological cooperation. Though it has not been said in as many words, the agreement may also take care of India’s quest for access to dual-use and other sophisticated technology.

The EU is India’s largest trading partner and accounts for nearly one-fourth of its exports and imports. Though the special emphasis at today’s summit — the second of its kind after the one held in Lisbon last year — was on economics and trade, none can deny the European body’s importance as a political entity.

Two of its major players – the UK and France — are among the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, while Germany may well become the third member once the council comes up for restructuring and expansion. But unlike in the past, this was a truncated India-EU summit. Some of the EU’s important members like Chris Patten, its commissioner for foreign affairs, and Javier Solana, the representative of the European Commission, were absent, forcing the two sides to do away with the second day’s interactions.

But Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstad, who is the current president of the EU and led the delegation along with Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, said the absence of some members should not be seen as an attempt to downgrade the summit’s importance.

Asked whether it signified that there was less political content in this year’s summit, Verhofstad shot back: “Does it mean that neither I nor Mr Prodi have no political role to play?”

He said Patten and Solano had recently met the Indian foreign minister, Jaswant Singh, in New York but could not be present here as they were sent on an important mission to central Africa.

   

 
 
DECREE MEET MOVES TO ROUND 2 
 
 
FROM SEEMA GUHA
 
New Delhi, Nov. 23: 
The meeting of the consultative committee of the home ministry, called to iron out differences between the government and the Opposition over the controversial anti-terror Ordinance, was a damp squib and took neither side an inch closer to resolving their differences.

Another round of consultations, however, are due on Monday, though with the battlelines already drawn there is little chance of a breakthrough. The government has promised to listen to the Opposition and modify some clauses in the Ordinance.

Much of the blame for the mess the government finds itself in over the anti-terror Bill is primarily because of its failure to correctly assess the political mood in the country, coupled with the arrogance of power.

Depending largely on the terror phobia, which gripped the US after the Black Tuesday attacks, the government just went ahead with an Ordinance without consulting the Opposition.

So poor has been the government’s planning that it has not been able to carry its National Democratic Alliance partners along. The allies, like the Opposition, want substantial changes before extending support.

Marxist MP Somnath Chatterjee, a member of the committee, dubbed this morning’s meeting “totally unproductive”. “It was basically a reiteration of old positions by various parties,” he said.

The Opposition is in no mood to bail out the government. “The ball is definitely in their court, let them tell us what are the clauses they are willing to change,” Chatterjee said.

The Congress party’s Jaipal Reddy wants the government to scrap the current Ordinance and start afresh.

The Congress feels the current Ordinance needs too many changes and that it would be better for the ruling party to begin on a clean slate.

There is no opposition to an anti-terror law, but all parties believe that a crucial and sensitive Bill of this kind, which may veer on the side of suppression of human rights, demands wider consultations.

The parties are furious with home minister L.K. Advani and the BJP for trying to brand those who do not support the Ordinance as anti-national. Much of the BJP’s executive meeting in Amritsar was spent in trying to psyche the Opposition into submission. Some BJP leaders challenged the Congress to make it a public issue.

That campaign more than anything else raised the hackles of the politicians.

Advani and the BJP believed that the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US, and the horror it evoked worldwide also created a fear psychosis in India.

Riding the terror wave, the government quickly brought in the anti-terror Ordinance without any consultations with the Opposition and announced that it would be placed in the winter session of Parliament.

   

 
 
INDIA ON BONN BACKBENCH 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 23: 
Indian special envoy Sati Lambah is leaving tomorrow for Bonn, the venue of Monday’s United Nations-sponsored meeting of Afghan groups.

Neither India, nor any other country can participate in the meeting. Nor will they be allowed in as observers for the proposed talks, meant exclusively for various Afghan groups so that they can work out a broadbased and fully representative regime in Kabul.

By being in Bonn, Indian officials will not only be able to “closely monitor” the developments, they will also be in touch with other key players who are bound to be there.

Arun Singh, joint-secretary in the Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan division of the foreign ministry, is also likely to accompany Lambah. The two were part of India’s diplomatic mission to Kabul and had returned to Delhi yesterday.

India and the European Union came out with a joint communiqué at their summit here this afternoon. The two sides called for an “independent, broadbased, multi-ethnic (and) truly representative” regime which responds to the needs of the Afghan people and “respects the legitimate security interests” of other countries.

Both sides expressed the hope that “the current evolution of events will ensure that Afghanistan is no longer a basis for terrorist organisations and training camps…” Supporting the central role of the UN within a wide framework of international consultations, the two said they were willing to contribute towards peace, stability and reconstruction in the war-ravaged country. “We are committed to humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan and its long-term reconstruction needs after return of peace. We reaffirm warm and friendly ties with the people of Afghanistan,” the communiqué said.

In his recent meeting with Burhanuddin Rabbani, who is recognised as President of Afghanistan by the UN, Lambah had expressed Delhi’s desire to continue its friendly relations with Kabul. An appreciative Rabbani and other senior members of the Northern Alliance, who were present at the meeting, told the special envoy that Kabul now needed a more broadbased regime. But how this will come about and what steps were required to be taken were not discussed.

India, which has a liaison office in Kabul, is trying to operate at two levels – being part of the political process so that it can be in touch with various Afghan groups, both within and outside the country, and by emphasising on humanitarian assistance and reconstruction work.

Delhi, which has left behind eight doctors to run the Indira Gandhi hospital in Kabul, is planning to send more medicines and an additional team of doctors. India had sent five tonnes of medicine to the Afghan capital on November 21.

The Jaipur Foot programme, which has been widely acclaimed in the war-torn country where there are a large number of land mine victims, is also being revived. India plans to supply 1,000 such artificial limbs.

   

 
 
LAWMAKERS IN FOR LONGER SLOG 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 23: 
A conference of political leaders on Sunday plans to evolve a consensus on methods of increasing the number of sittings in Parliament from about 80 to at least 100 per year.

The conference, which follows alarm over the sharp decline in the number of sittings of Parliament and state legislatures over the years, is also expected to make a minimum number of sittings per year mandatory for Assemblies.

The meet, which has been convened by Lok Sabha Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi and will be attended by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, will also try to formulate a code of conduct for members — the first of its kind in the country. “Right now, whatever code of conduct exists lies scattered in the rules of business and is largely unfocused,” maintained official sources.

Government sources said if a consensus was arrived at about increasing the number of sessions per year, the decision would be enforced through a constitutional amendment.

An agenda paper prepared by the government on the declining duration of legislative sessions revealed that while during the first Lok Sabha from 1952-57 the House on an average had 135 sittings per year, during the seventh Lok Sabha (1980-84) the House had sat for only 93 days per year.

Worse, between 1993 and 1997 the Lok Sabha on an average met for just 77 days and the Rajya Sabha for 71. During 1998 and 1999, when general elections were held twice, the Lower House sat for 64 and 24 days, respectively, and the Upper House for 59 and 23 days.

The paper noted that the situation was “much more alarming” in the states. Between 1993 and 1997, the average sittings per year ranged from a low of seven days in the Arunachal Pradesh Assembly to a high of 55 days in Kerala.

In the same period, the 425-member (now 403 after Uttaranchal’s creation) Uttar Pradesh Assembly had only 23 sessions on an average, Rajasthan 23 and Punjab 24. Bihar and Madhya Pradesh fared marginally better with 31 and 49 sessions, respectively, while West Bengal came a close second to Kerala with 52 sessions. The special committee, constituted by the Speaker, on Procedural Uniformity and Better Management of the Time of the House, suggested that bigger states should have a minimum of 100 sittings and smaller ones at least 60.

Sunday’s conference is also expected to address the need to have a sharply focused code of conduct which, among other things, will make it binding on treasury benches to respond to the business raised by the Opposition within a specific time-frame. The Opposition’s grouse against the government is that its legislative demands were treated in a “cavalier” fashion by the ruling coalition.

The code will also make it incumbent on ruling party and Opposition leaders to “discipline” their members.

   

 
 
HUSAIN’S DRAMA OF ABSURD 
 
 
FROM ELLA DATTA
 
New Delhi, Nov. 23: 
This was a theatre of the absurd. Instead of building up to a climax of applause and encores, the show even before it got into a swing ended with a splutter.

For the last two days, 85-year-old Maqbool Fida Husain has been setting the stage carefully. A canvas was stretched to cover one whole wall of the Vadhera Art Gallery. The adjacent walls and ceiling were covered with a black cloth. On the canvas, Husain was painting Knightwatch 2001. It was done mostly in khaki brown and black on white. It showed soldiers clustered in groups. There was a figure of a mother and child in the right-hand corner. The painting, Husain says, has been inspired by Rembrandt’s Night Watch (1642).

Husain was supposed to enter the gallery at six this evening and finish the canvas before an invited audience to make a statement on the gloomy global scene.

He made an entrance half-an-hour late wearing a leather waistcoat, dark jeans, blue shirt and carrying a yard-long brush which also does duty as a swagger stick, emblem of authority and a magician’s wand. The throng of bejewelled, perfumed, beautifully clad Husain fans stirred with suppressed excitement. There was a surge forward in the overcrowded gallery.

Some Wagner music was playing in the background. Husain wanted Wagner because of its associations with violence and power in Nazi Germany. Even as he entered, director Husain took over. “Louder music!” he shouted over the heads of the adoring fans. The volume was stepped up a few decibels. The Delhi dolls sniggered. Husain dabbled and doodled on the margins of the painting. “Louder,” ordered Husain. The volume was turned up even more.

But even as the music soared and filled the small gallery space, the electrical system went on the blink. The darkness descending in the gallery was murkier than the Night Watch. The stentorian notes of Wagner were silenced effectively.

“Lights,” demanded Husain. “Lights,” shouted his entourage. No lights obliged. In the end, the gallery staff fished out two fat candles and placed them on the stairway. The fashionable gathering trooped out to slake their thirst, sate their hunger and rub shoulders with the great artist on the lawns downstairs.

Asked why he chose to do a painting inspired by Rembrandt, Husain said that he wanted to reflect on what was happening in the world today. The violence and the unrest that is taking place all over the world and not in any particular place. He said that he had always been moved by Night Watch since he first saw it in the late fifties. He said: “I consider Rembrandt the greatest humanist painter.”

So, like a barefoot knight, the young-at-heart artist is ready to rush in where other more circumspect painters would opt for restraint. Remember Indira Gandhi as Durga during the Emergency? Or the Assassination series recording a spate of political murders? Husain has always sought to leave his brushmark on canvas whenever there has been a major political development.

He bristles, however, when asked if he had used such an austere palette before. “Of course, I have,” he says shortly. “I have been painting since the last 50 years. I have done 40,000 paintings. How many would you have seen? No one could have seen all of them. I have used all kinds of colours.”

   

 
 
SANGH SCHOLAR SNOWED UNDER HISTORY ‘HOLES’ 
 
 
FROM MONOBINA GUPTA
 
New Delhi, Nov. 23: 
Why are freedom fighters like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal and Aurobindo Ghosh called “extremists”? Why is Akbar praised for putting into place an efficient administrative system? Why are Rajput chiefs shown supporting the Mughal empire?

For Dinanath Batra, who has been appointed by the NCERT to review history textbooks, there is no end of complaints. Batra is the head of the Akhil Bharti Shiksha Sansthan, which runs a chain of 20,000 schools of the RSS.

In his review Bhartiyakaran ke Virodhi, (Against Indian culture) Batra has listed a series of “distortions” in history textbooks authored by Romila Thapar, R.S. Sharma, Satish Chandra and Arjun Dev. These books will soon go out of circulation once the NCERT introduces a new social science textbook in consonance with the restructured curriculum from the next academic session.

The list of “distortions” pointed out by Batra is interesting because it reveals the “mindset” of the present policy-framers who disagree with virtually every interpretation of the scholars.

“Satish Chandra’s medieval India textbook for class XI minimises the contribution of early Rajputs and other Hindu groups,” says the review. “Its 222 pages are just filled with Muslim history.”

Underlining all the objections is the belief that the authors were dismissive of Hindu religion and have tried to glorify Islam and its rulers. Some samples of statements in the present NCERT textbooks and Batra’s responses to them:

Most prominent among new leaders were Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai and Aurobindo Ghosh. They came to be known as the extremists (Arjun Dev).

Batra: The author has shown great disrespect to these leaders by calling them extremists.

An efficient administrative system developed under Akbar’s rule helped them (the Mughals) maintain stability for the next 150 years (Satish Chandra).

Batra: This is an unnecessary glorification of the Mughal empire. It was very unstable during Aurangzeb’s rule and stability could have lasted a maximum of 100 years.

In religious matters, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan were enlightened and broadminded because of which they won the support and loyalty of the people (Satish Chandra).

Batra: That they committed atrocities are not mentioned. It is a highly controversial statement. Moreover, it is a historical impossibility to win the loyalty and support of all subjects. There was dissent even in Ramrajya.

Rajput chiefs during Akbar’s time provided strong support to the Mughal empire. They, however, revolted against Aurangzeb when he tried to interfere with their privilege of inheriting ancestral land (Satish Chandra).

Batra: An objectionable observation because it treats Rajputs as minions of the Mughals. It fails to underline their resistance.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 30.9°C (+2)
Minimum: 22.4°C (+5)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative humidity

Max: 96%
Min: 54%

Sunrise: 6.01 am

Sunset: 4.46 pm

Today:

Generally cloudy sky. Possibility of light rain in some areas
   
 

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