MPs lobby to keep Sangh away from JNU helm
Atal under fire for saffron text defence
PM minorities appeal to Bangla
Mulayam to champion trio cause
Advani damper on state poll funds
Chennai downs disco shutters
Scramble for slogan to sell Laloo march
Minister pays for brother’s action

 
 
MPS LOBBY TO KEEP SANGH AWAY FROM JNU HELM 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 24: 
Fifty-four MPs, representing the Parliamentary Forum for Education and Culture, have appealed to the Prime Minister to ensure that whoever is appointed the new vice-chancellor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University should be “a person of both intellectual prominence and academic and personal integrity”.

Prominent academics, scientists, artists and politicians fear the RSS might manipulate the appointment. The term of the last vice-chancellor ended on November 14.

“It is reported that the main reason for the indecision by the government was the fact that while the human resources development ministry would like to have someone sympathetic to the Sangh parivar, the academic community is opposed to this move and would like someone with an open mind to be at the helm of affairs,” the MPs said in a memo to the Prime Minister submitted on November 18.

The fear in a section of the non-BJP political class is that former education secretary M.K. Kaw and a couple of others, perceived to be pro-establishment, are being considered.

Those who signed the memo included BJP ally and Telugu Desam MP C. Narayana Reddy, also a Gyanpith award winner, eminent scientist Raja Ramanna, two former human resources development ministers — Arjun Singh and S.R. Bommai — noted lawyer F.S. Nariman, former Chief Justice Ranganath Mishra, filmmaker Mrinal Sen and journalist Kuldip Nayar.

Briefing reporters here today, Eduardo Faleiro, convener of the forum, said the human resources development ministry was doing everything in a secretive manner. He said it was a matter of serious concern that the ministry was treating education as a “state secret”.

   

 
 
ATAL UNDER FIRE FOR SAFFRON TEXT DEFENCE 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, Nov. 24: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has justified changes in high school history texts proposed by the National Council for Educational Research and Training, and said the government is prepared to have a debate in Parliament on the issue.

At a luncheon hosted by BJP parliamentary party spokesman V.K. Malhotra today, Vajpayee told reporters that the presentation was “one-sided” and needed rectification.

“It is one-sided and we are trying to rectify it,” he said.

The Opposition reacted strongly to the Prime Minister’s defence. Congress spokesman Anand Sharma said: “We are vehemently opposed to it. The government is trying to communalise and Talibanise education.”

The CPM accused Vajpayee of acting on behalf of the RSS. CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury said: “The PM’s justification confirms the fact that he is acting entirely at the RSS’ behest and is implementing their agenda of communalising education.”

The CBSE has ordered quite a few passages to be deleted from history texts for classes VI, VII and XI. They relate to the consumption of beef by Hindus and how it was served as a “mark of honour to special guests”, the participation of Jats in plundering raids in the region around Delhi and court intrigues and the division of labour as legitimised by the caste system and Brahmanical indoctrination.

The BJP sought to deflect the Opposition attack by asking the Congress to “clarify” whether it was in favour of continuing with the passages that “offended” the “sentiments” of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Jats.

It maintained that a portion on Guru Tegh Bahadur Singh was expunged on the basis of a resolution passed by the Delhi Legislative Assembly in October.

As soon as Vajpayee reached Malhotra’s residence and took his seat on the lawns today, the BJP’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha showed him the documents supporting the BJP’s arguments. Malhotra had given these documents to reporters yesterday.

Earlier, in a statement issued by the politburo, the CPM demanded withdrawal of the CBSE circular asking affiliated schools not to teach certain portions of the history texts. The party held human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi responsible for the “obnoxious decision which will be widely viewed as the Talibanisation of the education system”.

The deletions were done with a communal and sectarian viewpoint, the CPM said.

“It is shocking that even a true depiction of the oppressive caste system has been censored,” the statement added.

Congress member in the Rajya Sabha, Eduardo Faleiro, at a news conference, said his party did not intend to politicise the issue, but wanted to “stop injecting (of) poison in children’s mind”.

   

 
 
PM MINORITIES APPEAL TO BANGLA 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 24: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today urged Bangladesh to create “suitable” conditions so that those who fled their homeland and came to India after the change of government there could return safely. He also implored the Khaleda Zia government to let the country’s minorities live without fear.

“Their (the Bangladesh government’s) priority should be to see that Hindu refugees in India are allowed to return, resettle and live in peace,” Vajpayee told reporters at a luncheon hosted by BJP chief whip in the Lok Sabha V.K. Malhotra.

He added that conditions should be created to ensure that more Hindus were not forced to leave Bangladesh. “We are talking to their government,” the Prime Minister added.

The BJP and other Sangh constituents had taken up the issue of alleged atrocities on Hindus after Khaleda Zia came to power.

In private, they had voiced their unhappiness with the Prime Minister’s principal secretary and national security adviser, Brajesh Mishra, for not taking up the issue “strongly enough” during his mission to Dhaka last month.

Speaking on government formation in Afghanistan, Vajpayee said while India was “playing its role”, he was not sure what form the final dispensation in Kabul would take.

“We were among the first to set up a mission in Kabul (after the fall of the Taliban) and for this we have been congratulated by many countries,” he said.

While it was generally agreed that the international alliance against terrorism would not stop its fight against terror after Afghanistan, India would continue to fight militancy on its own, Vajpayee said.

“We have been trying to evolve a consensus on jointly fighting terrorism for a long time. There’s a Security Council resolution which we would like all countries to adopt,” he added.

Vajpayee denied that there was any proposal to build a military alliance with the US and said US ambassador to India Robert Blackwell, in a recent meeting with him, did not even indicate anything to this effect.

Activist arrested

A court in Bangladesh yesterday sent noted writer and human rights activist Shahriyar Kabir to Dhaka Central Jail on charges of “anti-party activities”. He was detained on arrival at Dhaka’s Zia International Airport from a visit to India, where he highlighted the recent violence against minority Hindus in Bangladesh, reports our correspondent in Dhaka.

Civil rights activists, writers and Opposition political parties have condemned the arrest of Kabir, who is the acting head of Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, a civil rights group campaigning for the trial of those who collaborate with the Pakistani military during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence.

Kabir was first detained by police detectives at the airport on arrival from Calcutta last night, but they did not give any reason. He was then taken to the central office of the special branch of police for questioning.

He was produced in court yesterday where he was refused bail.

   

 
 
MULAYAM TO CHAMPION TRIO CAUSE 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Bareilly, Nov. 24: 
The Samajwadi Party kicked off its election campaign at its state convention here today, by announcing an agenda that is focussed on three sections of society — kisan, mussalman and naujawan.

Angry at the BJP for holding many of its activists in prison for allegedly supporting the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India, party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav clearly indicated he would go after the BJP and the BSP, but spare the Congress.

The Samajwadi also released its political resolution, focussing on the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance and “state-sponsored atrocities on Muslims”.

The resolution paints a dismal picture of the “declining fortunes of Dalits and the worsening condition of farmers”.

Hinting at the “BJP’s attempts at dividing the nation”, Mulayam said his party would definitely come to power if the country didn’t break into pieces by then.

“Satta mein zaroor ayenge,” the Samajwadi chief said amid deafening applause, adding, “agar desh rahega to.”

In an obvious attempt to neutralise recent efforts by chief minister Rajnath Singh to woo minority votes by announcing a string of sops, the Samajwadi painted the BJP as the persecutor of minorities.

Yadav said the Ordinance was not being promulgated to contain terrorism but to terrorise Muslims, appealing to all thinking persons to reject the chief minister’s proposal of implementing a clone of the central legislation, in case the Centre failed to get it passed.

Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh, one of the authors of the political resolution, said the BJP was pushing through the terrorism Ordinance only to garner Hindu votes.

“Poto has affected the Muslim psyche very badly,” the Samajwadi leader said, adding that the party would go from village to village explaining how disastrous the Ordinance would be for the nation.

Expressing horror at the BJP’s “blatant attempts at fudging voters’ list and trying to win polls by raising the number of Hindu voters,” the Samajwadi chief lashed out at the BSP for compromising on its Dalit agenda.

Yadav said he had proof of the BJP-BSP nexus for 100 seats, lashing out at BSP leader Mayawati for what he called “selling” Assembly tickets to BJP contenders.

Amar Singh, who kept mum on the Congress and desisted from taking pot shots at Sonia Gandhi, clarified that the reason wasn’t friendship but indifference towards the Congress.

The resolution assured farmers that the Samajwadi Party would work overtime to get them their dues.

“Your stocks will not rot anymore and lie in unattended heaps in front of a government that refuses to buy it,” Mulayam told farmers at the convention.

“The days of the evil BJP are numbered, there are bright days ahead for everyone in the state,” he added.

While expressing confidence of “storming back to power” in Uttar Pradesh, Yadav said he would “get there and get there alone.”

The Samajwadi Party has also ruled out any pre-poll or post- poll understanding with any other party.

   

 
 
ADVANI DAMPER ON STATE POLL FUNDS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 24: 
Home minister L.K. Advani today asserted that state funding of elections would not help solve poll-related problems and said the government was considering two reports on poll reforms to curb the use of money power in elections.

Advani said poll reforms were being given a high priority and cited the recent decision to amend the constitutional law relating to the election of Rajya Sabha members.

However, at a time when the political battlelines have been drawn over the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, the Opposition may see Advani’s announcement as yet another attempt by the government to push its own agenda without taking the non-NDA parties into confidence. So far, the government has not convened a single meeting either of the NDA constituents or the Opposition to discuss the poll reforms.

Addressing a workshop on “Money and Democratic Politics”, organised by the Election Commission, the CII and the commonwealth secretariat, the home minister said: “The Rajya Sabha members would now be elected through open balloting so that there is no scope for malpractice in the form of cross-voting or of buying MLAs.”

He said the government was considering two reports on poll reforms — the all-party Indrajit Gupta committee report on poll financing and the Congress’ report on the issue of donations.

The Gupta committee report’s recommendations speak of assistance that could be given by the state with no public funding in cash but in kind, the home minister said. He added that the government was considering the possibility of encouraging individual contributions and see whether some tax relief could be given on that.

Advani assured that whatever legislation was needed to curb the use of money power would be implemented. “However, dependence on sources for large contributions is never a happy experience. And, if necessary care and diligence is not shown by the leadership, it can have very negative consequences on a political organisation,” he said.

   

 
 
CHENNAI DOWNS DISCO SHUTTERS 
 
 
M.R. VENKATESH
 
Chennai, Nov. 24: 
After setting the country agog by hauling away former chief minister M. Karunanidhi in the middle of the night last June, K. Muthukaruppan, the commissioner of Greater Chennai, has triggered another debate by cracking the whip on discotheques.

After quick “inspections” (euphemism for raids) of nearly 50 hotspots, including almost all the star hotels, over the past couple of days, the no-nonsense officer has ordered discos to be shut for “violation” of licence provisions.

Not that Chennai has a swinging nightlife to talk about. But, with one stroke, Muthukaruppan has made it clear that conventional morality is more sacred than “misguided” youths gyrating in a burgeoning metropolis still struggling to come to terms with the age-old conflict between tradition and modernity.

With only a month to go for the renewal of the licences by the city police, Muthukaruppan said he found that though the hotels had taken permission to only organise Indian cultural dances, “they are running discos, defeating the very objective of the licence”.

“Even if they have folk dances, we don’t mind. But we cannot ape the West totally,” the police chief told The Telegraph today. He was unabashed about the police having a “role in protecting culture”, but quickly added that “I don’t say we are doing moral policing”. But if the hotels are violating the conditions, the law allowed cancelling the licences, the officer believes. Justifying his action under the Places of Public Resort Act and the Madras City Police Act, Muthukaruppan maintained that they were intensifying their implementation and warned of more “periodic inspections”.

The officer justifying the ban said mostly upper-middle class youth — staying in the city to pursue some course and flush with disposable money — were frequenting the discos, which were becoming “dens of drunkards and drug-addicts”.

But the denizens of Chennai are asking should the police regulate culture, given the ominous political overtones? They point to the anger building up against the saffron brigade for trying to protect Hindu culture from western influences and interfering with the school syllabi.

Dismissing these impressions, Muthukaruppan asserted: “I can only go by certain laws; if I am given the power to regulate the cable TV operators, I will do that also.” Political parties, notably the Left, too, are sceptical about the commissioner’s moral activism. “Police can never regulate culture,” said a CPI leader in Tamil Nadu. “No ban achieves the intended objective,” emphasised journalist V. Krishna Ananth.

   

 
 
SCRAMBLE FOR SLOGAN TO SELL LALOO MARCH 
 
 
BY TAPAS CHAKRABORTY, SHASHANK SHEKHAR AND RUDRA BISWAS
 
Patna/Ranchi, Nov. 24: 
From Jayprakash Narayan’s Total Revolution to Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi March, Laloo Prasad Yadav’s lieutenants are digging deep into history to find a parallel for their supreme leader’s journey to Jharkhand tomorrow.

In response to the Supreme Court’s directive, the Rashtriya Janata Dal president will surrender before the CBI special court in Ranchi trying the fodder scam cases on Monday. “We will abide by the court’s order but we will not surrender before the RSS-BJP combine conspiring to dump Laloo Yadav in jail,” a senior RJD leader said.

Party ideologues are wracking their brains to coin appropriate slogans for the mammoth procession that will start from Patna at 8 am tomorrow and is expected to reach Ranchi late in the night. For the past two days, RJD party leaders variously called it a “Journey of Truth” and “Laloo’s Dandi March”. Today, Laloo’s aides said they would describe the journey as a march for “Jharkhand’s Liberation”.

“Laloo lao, Jharkhand bachao; pakhandi ko dur hatao (Bring Laloo and save Jharkhand, chase the crooked out),” read the RJD festoons readied for tomorrow’s rally. Senior leaders pasted the colour-printed slogans on the front and rear glass of their vehicles that will form Laloo’s cavalcade.

The mood at Patna’s 1 Anne Marg — where Laloo stays with his chief minister-wife Rabri Devi — is one of anxious excitement. The RJD boss spent the day receiving telephone calls from his commandants vowing to rally behind him in huge numbers as senior leaders worked overtime to give finishing touches to tomorrow’s “mission”.

Laloo has often likened himself to Krishna battling injustice in Kurukshetra. Keeping the image in mind, his associates will provide a number of “chariots” on which he will stand and address crowds between Baktiyarpur in Bihar and Burmu in Jharkhand.

“The journey will be elaborate and more dramatic than the one in 1997 when Laloo Yadav had first conceived the plan to surrender and avoid the ignominy of being arrested at 1 Anne Marg,” said Shyam Razak, Bihar’s power minister and one of the main organisers of the journey.

The Jharkhand government is leaving nothing to chance. The state machinery has geared up for every eventuality once their VIP “guest” lands in Jharkhand. Staff at the Birsa Munda Central Jail in Ranchi have been shuffled while 27 officials of various grades are being transferred from Hazaribagh, Chas-Bokaro, Dhanbad and Giridih to Ranchi on the orders of state home secretary Sushma Singh.

Superintendent of police (Ranchi, rural) Umesh Singh said that in case the CBI court refuses to grant bail to Laloo and orders that the RJD leader be confined at the Bacon factory guest house in Kanke, he will ensure that no mobile phones are provided. “We will go strictly by the jail manual,” Singh asserted.

The RJD camp received a setback after its legal eagle Kapil Sibal reportedly expressed inability to travel to Ranchi to defend Laloo.

The RJD chief will now be represented by two Patna-based lawyers, P.N. Pandey and Chittaranjan Prasad, along with Ajay Kumar Trivedi of Ranchi.

CBI joint director (east) U.N. Biswas, who is heading the fodder swindle investigations, arrived in Ranchi this morning.

   

 
 
MINISTER PAYS FOR BROTHER’S ACTION 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Chennai, Nov. 24: 
In a minor reverberation in the O. Panneerselvam-led ADMK Cabinet in Tamil Nadu, minister for backward classes Valarmathi Jebaraj was dropped, the third to be sacked from the ministry so far.

A Raj Bhavan communication late this evening said the portfolio held by Jebaraj was allotted to C. Shanmugavelu, minister for dairy development.

Jebaraj recently lost her position as the ADMK women’s wing secretary. Party chief Jayalalithaa was unhappy over the involvement of Jebaraj’s brother, Manoharan, in the stabbing of Jebaraj’s close aide and former reporter of Tamil biweekly Nakkeeran, Shanmughasundaram, at Madurai.

While Jayalalithaa appointed party MP Gokula Indira as the new women’s wing secretary a few days ago, Shanmughasundaram’s death last night at a Madurai private hospital came as a further embarrassment to the minister and party leadership. Jebaraj’s brother was taken into custody by Madurai city police yesterday.

Jebaraj, who defeated DMK’s P.T.R. Palanivelrajan in the May polls, has turned a liability for the ADMK, prompting Jayalalithaa’s action, sources said.

   
 

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