Nepal alert along border
Bloc takes on Big Brother in public
Trinamul threatens bandh over tariff
Undertrial released on forged bail
Jail-bound Laloo cries foul, Rabri in tears
Jaya in decree deal strikeback
Enter, the virtual Opposition leader
House sealed with hideout slur
Aurangzeb wins over Akbar in text book
Kashmir catches Benazir on wrong side of border

Chandaguri (Eastern Nepal), Nov. 26: 
India and Nepal have stepped up border vigil following the Maoist mayhem in the Himalayan kingdom.

Nepal has rushed armed forces to its border bases in a bid to seal the escape route of rebels who, besides attacking the security forces, yesterday torched an Indian school bus in Kathmandu.

“We have been instructed to put the security on high alert,” a senior Nepal police official here said. The government has announced a state of emergency and declared the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) a terrorist organisation.

Referring to a secret conclave between north-eastern rebels and the Maoists at Biratmore last August, Jhapa district superintendent of police Ganga Pandey said: “We suspect the rebels, under pressure from the Nepal army, could try to slip into India and take shelter in safe houses in north Bengal which we believe they have already established with the help of the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation and the United Liberation Front of Asom.”

The rebels, he added, have established strong links with Indian militant outfits. “We apprehend that militants based in north Bengal and Darjeeling hills may provide the Maoist rebels logistic support. We had recently discussed the issue with our Darjeeling district counterparts to work jointly in containing militancy along the international border,” Pandey said.

Expressing concern over the development in Nepal, police commissioner, Jalpaiguri division, Akhil Kumar Jain, said: “We don’t want the Maoist rebels to spill into our territory. All preventive steps are being taken to check the rebels from entering India. Round-the-clock patrolling has also been introduced to deter such elements from sneaking into our country.”

Central and state intelligence agencies in north Bengal, meanwhile, are trying to find out if the Maoist leaders held a meeting before the strikes. On August 15, 124 of Nepal’s top Left leaders, including the Maoists’ second-in-command, Babu Ram Bhattarai, held a secret meeting at a farmhouse on the outskirts of Siliguri.

Envoy plea to Buddha

Nepal consul-general Jubaraj Bhusal today urged Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to intensify vigil along the Bengal-Nepal border to ensure that the Maoists do not escape to India, reports a staff reporter. The envoy also asked the chief minister to take up the matter with the Centre.

Bhattacharjee, who left for New Delhi this afternoon, assured the envoy that he would take up the matter with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani.


Berhampore (Murshidabad), Nov. 26: 
The Forward Bloc today accused the CPM of not making serious efforts to strengthen unity among the Front partners even after promising an “improved Left Front” on assumption of office for the sixth consecutive term in May this year.

State Forward Bloc secretary Ashok Ghosh told a rally here that the CPM would have to do away with its “narrow politics” for the sake of unity among the Front constituents.

“The CPM will be proved wrong if it feels that the unity among Front partners can be monitored from its Alimuddin Street headquarters,” the Bloc chief said.

Addressing today’s open session of the party’s Murshidabad district conference here, Ghosh also came down heavily on chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee for not taking any initiatives to form a “core committee” to oversee coordination among the Front constituents.

“We took a resolution that an apex body comprising ministers from all Front constituents will be formed to ensure better governance but nothing has materialised so far on this score,” he regretted.


Calcutta, Nov. 26: 
Mayor and Trinamul Congress leader Subrata Mukherjee today threatened to call a bandh if the government did not stop CESC from implementing its increased tariff structure.

Leading a two-day dharna of Calcutta councillors in front of the CESC headquarters at Victoria House, Mukherjee said: “They (Calcuttans) don’t even know why year after year figures are added onto unit charges in the name of surcharge, fuel surcharge and arrears in their electricity bills. The consumers are totally confused. To make matters worse a hike in the tariff has been announced.”

The mayor said Trinamul would hold protest rallies in front of all CESC offices in the city. “If necessary we will go for a Calcutta bandh,” he added.

The two-day dharna by councillors of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation began this morning. MLAs Saugata Roy, Tapas Roy, Subrata Bakshi, Tarak Banerjee and Paresh Pal also attended it

In a related development, the Trinamul’s youth wing also unanimously accepted the proposal for a city bandh in protest against the increased electricity tariff.

Trinamul youth wing president Sanjoy Bakshi said the proposal for a bandh would be placed before party chief Mamata Banerjee and the state leadership for approval.


Diamond Harbour, Nov. 26: 
The administrative and judicial systems in South 24-Parganas district have come under intense fire after an undertrial, Sukur Ali Molla, was released from Diamond Harbour jail on the basis of a forged bail order of the Alipore Sessions court.

Court sources said Molla was first arrested by the police from Usti on October 12 when he and his associates assembled to commit a dacoity.

He was produced in Diamond Harbour court the next day and remanded in jail custody after his bail plea was rejected. He was produced in court on November 9 but the magistrate once again rejected Molla’s bail prayer.

The same day, one person claiming to be Molla’s lawyer went to jail and produced a release-on-bail order from the Alipore Sessions court. Molla was released on the basis of the order.

After coming across the “release” of Molla, sub-divisional judicial magistrate Amar Kanti Acharya immediately issued a new warrant to arrest him. Molla was picked up from his house at Khajer Pole in Usti on November 17. He has been remanded in judicial custody.

District superintendent of police Deb Kumar Ganguly said: “I will see if my officers employed in the court are in anyway connected with this incident. After that I shall take necessary action if anyone is found guilty.”

The Diamond Harbour court has served show-cause notices to four of its workers involved in the day-to-day business of the court as the bail order was routed through the office of the sub-divisional judicial magistrate.


Ranchi, Nov. 26: 
Laloo Yadav went to jail for the fifth time after the special CBI court rejected his bail petition in a fodder scam case and remanded him in judicial custody for 14 days.

The RJD president, along with former Bihar chief minister and co-accused Jagannath Mishra, has been lodged at the Bacon Factory guest house in Kanke, which has been turned into a camp jail by the Ranchi district administration.

The duo has been accused of siphoning Rs 182 crore of animal husbandry department money in connection with fodder scam case RC-47A/96. Ironically, the once-flourishing Bacon Factory had to close shop because of the fodder swindle.

Laloo’s chief minister-wife Rabri Devi, who broke down while watching on TV pictures of her husband being taken to jail, is rushing to Ranchi tomorrow.

The hearing began around 11 am and by the time judge H.C. Mishra pronounced his ruling at 3.40 pm, a pall of gloom had descended on the hundreds of RJD workers who had managed to enter the court campus.

Laloo appeared lonely as he emerged from the court. Minutes later, pandemonium broke out as the crowd surged forward to catch a glimpse of their “supreme leader”.

More than a dozen people, including RJD parliamentarian Ramdev Bhandari and Bihar minister Ramchandra Purve, were injured in the police lathicharge on the crowd.

Laloo said the Supreme Court had sent him to Ranchi so that he could get bail. “But I have been denied bail. Justice has never been done to me,” he added.

Ajay Kumar Trivedi, counsel for the RJD chief, said he would move the high court on November 28 for regular bail after receiving the certified copy of the CBI special court orders tomorrow.

Laloo and Mishra surrendered before the special CBI court in the morning. Mishra arrived around 10.15 am without fanfare and was immediately ushered to the courtroom which was kept out of bounds for the public and the media. Half-an-hour later, Laloo’s motorcade drove in with at least half-a-dozen Bihar ministers in tow.

Among the ministers accompanying Laloo were Ramchandra Purvey, Shivanand Tiwary, Md. Taslimuddin, Abdul Bari Siddiqui and Shyam Rajak. Though Laloo had promised that none of his ministers or supporters would accompany him on his “last journey”, even his brothers-in-law Sadhu Yadav and Subhash Yadav gave company.

Arguing for Laloo, former Union minister Ram Jethmalani said that since the apex court had already granted bail in a similar fodder scam case (RC-20/96) and because no new charge could be proved by the CBI, the special court should grant bail.

Citing recent judgments of the various high courts, Jethmalani pointed out that in all cases in which his client’s bail had been extended, there was not a single instance of misuse.

However, the CBI advocate argued that RC-47A/96 was the most important of all fodder cases with a record fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 182 crore from the various state treasuries. He said though the money was meant for purchase of fodder and medicines, all procurements were made only on paper.

Refuting Jethmalani’s contention that numerous chargesheets had been framed for similar offences, the counsel said the investigating agency would furnish additional evidence which has not been produced earlier to prove conspiracy at the highest level to rob the treasuries.

The court, after hearing both counsels, remanded Laloo and Mishra in judicial custody. Mishra, however, left the choice of the place where the two former chief ministers would be lodged to the district administration.

The court accepted Laloo’s request for “Z-category” security inside the camp jail following his plea that he feared for his life in NDA-ruled Jharkhand.

The judge directed the state government to make arrangements for the posting of 10 personal security staff to ensure Laloo’s safety. Directions have also been passed to ensure the services of a medical team for Laloo.

Following the court directives to lodge both Laloo and Mishra in jail, officials of the Ranchi district administration decided that the two VIP prisoners would be taken to the Bacon Factory guest house.


Chennai, Nov. 26: 
ADMK chief Jayalalithaa today dismissed as “meaningless remark” Karunanidhi’s opinion that her party’s support for the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance indicated her bid to get closer to the BJP and get corruption cases against her withdrawn.

Speaking to reporters after meeting recently elected partymen to local body posts, Jayalalithaa said her arch rival’s comments should be best ignored.

The DMK chief had expressed apprehension that the terror Ordinance could be misused to settle political scores with rivals. He pointed out that though the infamous Maintenance of Internal Security Act in the early seventies had safeguards, it was still used against the DMK.

Jayalalithaa said the ADMK had explained its stand on the Ordinance and reasons to back an anti-terror legislation. “I do not know what Karunanidhi is afraid of and why he is ranting in this fashion,” she said.

The ADMK chief welcomed Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s plea to have a “code of conduct” for members for the proper functioning of Parliament and state legislatures.

She declined to comment on whether the government planned to privatise the public transport system after the recent bus strike over the bonus issue. She also refused to say if any more Cabinet changes were in the offing after the sacking of Valarmathi Jebaraj.

The ADMK chief admitted that there was a “serious financial crisis” in the state. “We have already placed a white paper in the Assembly on this and are taking all possible steps to meet the situation,” she said.

It is learnt that the byelection to the Andipatti Assembly seat — from where Jayalalithaa is widely expected to contest if there is a favourable court verdict in the Tansi land case — could be clubbed with the bypoll for the Saidapet Assembly seat in the city. The Saidapet seat is due to be filled by February 14 next year.

Though Jayalalithaa may be out of the government, the surging crowd this evening at Avvai Shanmugham Salai, that houses the party headquarters, gave enough indication that Amma was in full command of the party and the administration.


New Delhi, Nov. 26: 
It was a red letter day for the CPM MP from Bolpur, Somnath Chatterjee, today when the leader of the Opposition, Sonia Gandhi, virtually handed over the baton to him to thrash out Opposition unity.

Sonia readily accepted Somnath’s invitation to break bread with other leaders ostensibly to discuss floor management and achieve the larger goal of cornering the Vajpayee regime.

Normally, the leader of the Opposition takes such initiatives. But as a newcomer to the Lok Sabha, Sonia has too many opponents standing in her way.

Sharad Pawar has serious reservations about her foreign origins, so has the RSP’s Abhani Roy. Mulayam Singh Yadav, too, does not relish the prospects of playing second fiddle to Sonia.

Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayavati and ADMK chief Jayalalithaa are known Sonia baiters. On the eve of the monsoon session, Sonia had hosted a tea party for the Opposition leaders, but it turned out to be a disaster.

Opposition stalwarts such as Mulayam, Pawar, Mayavati, Ajay Chakraborty, Amar Roy Pradhan, Abhani Roy and even Somnath Chatterjee stayed away under some pretext. To add insult to injury, these very members attended a similar tea party hosted by Manmohan Singh in a room adjoining Sonia’s chamber.

This incident sent shock waves across Congress circles. The Sonia camp realised that more than her party, she was the common target of many Opposition leaders.

Sources close to Sonia said she had no qualms about playing second fiddle to Chatterjee. “As a parliamentarian she respects him. Sonia’s top priority is to checkmate the BJP and NDA allies. To achieve that goal, she is prepared to swallow some bitter pill and humiliation,” said an AICC official.

Congress leaders, however, said Chatterjee’s elevation to the status of de facto leader of Opposition would be temporary.

When Somnath Chatterjee was asked about his new role, he laughed it off. The leader of the 32-member CPM parliamentary party said, as an Opposition MP, he was merely trying to get like-minded parties together to checkmate the BJP.

“Just wait till (the) Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls. Once we and Mulayam Singh Yadav work out a post-poll coalition, Sonia will regain her leader of the Opposition status,” said a party MP


From Mukhtar Ahmad 
Srinagar, Nov. 26: Security forces in Kashmir have begun enforcing the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance without waiting for the political tug-of-war in Delhi to end.

According to a top police officer, 10 persons have been arrested under the controversial law and the house of one of them sealed. Ghulam Mohammad Dar’s wife and daughter were thrown out of their Safakadal home in Srinagar before it was sealed today.

A few days ago, the special operations group of state police had found a pistol, 37 rounds of ammunition and two wireless sets in the house. Police alleged that Dar had given shelter to Al-badr chief Nayeem, killed by the special operations group at Chitrahama near here on November 21.

Dar has been booked and his house sealed under the Ordinance. Under Sections 8 and 9, police can seal any place from where illegal arms and ammunition are recovered. “We can also seal any house that is being used as a hideout by militants,” the officer said.

Law minister Mushtaq Ahmad Lone confirmed that the Ordinance “was already in force”.

Jammu and Kashmir chief secretary Ashok Jaitly added that so long as Parliament does not reject it, the Ordinance will be in force. But he was doubtful that police had enforced the Ordinance. Jaitly pointed out that the state government has not drawn up guidelines for its use yet.

In Delhi, the Vajpayee government is scrambling to strike a consensus, necessary to get the Ordinance passed in Parliament.

Jaitley in decree race

Law minister Arun Jaitley is working overtime to amend the anti-terror Ordinance before Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee calls an all-party meeting to forge a consensus on the issue, reports our special correspondent in Delhi.

By the time Vajpayee calls the Opposition leaders, the government hopes to have made the changes necessary to allay their fears.

Most Opposition parties and some members of the ruling National Democratic Alliance have rejected the Ordinance as “draconian”, but the Centre is trying to turn them around and have it passed in Parliament.

“Once we have shown our willingness to change, we are confident the Prime Minister can persuade the parties to review their stand. After all, all parties agree on a new anti-terrorist law,” a senior official said.

The Vajpayee government did not take all parties into confidence while drawing up the Ordinance though home ministry officials spent hours poring over Britain’s Terrorist Act 2001, which took nearly six years of consultations with parties and public institutions before it was passed as law.

Government sources said the three points that the law ministry is reworking are those unacceptable mainly to its allies.

During the NDA meeting, the allies had expressed certain reservations about the Ordinance. They were unhappy with the restrictions it appears to impose on the press. Journalists reporting on individuals or organisations dubbed terrorist by the government could be hauled up for questioning or even locked up in prison for refusing to divulge information on their sources.

The law ministry is hoping to ensure that the new law is in agreement with reporters’ right not to reveal their sources. The NDA also wanted an assurance that the Ordinance would not be misused to target Opposition parties or a particular community.


New Delhi, Nov. 26: 
It’s now officially Akbar vs Aurangzeb.

When the National Council for Educational Research and Training “rewrites” history in its new social science textbooks for the next academic session from March, it will ensure that Aurangzeb has more space in the chapter on medieval history than Akbar.

“Why should we give so much space to Akbar and less to Aurangzeb? After all, Aurangzeb had many more activities to his credit than Akbar,” says Hari Om, the sole professor of history in the council. The social science text books are being authored by NCERT faculty members. The professor is digging into history and an old debate: was Akbar more significant than Aurangzeb?

Right wing academics have always blamed Left-liberal historians for expanding on Akbar’s reign because of his “secular” politics and squeezing out Aurangzeb’s rule because he represented the “tyrannical” face of Islam.

Satish Chandra, whose textbook on medieval history has been reviled by the NCERT as “biased”, says: “When they say Aurangzeb engaged in more activities than Akbar what they mean is destroying temples.”

“I find it very strange when someone tries to make out Akbar’s rule as less significant than Aurangzeb’s. It was Akbar who laid down the entire administrative structure — the revenue system,” he underlines.

But the authors of the new NCERT textbooks believe they have a “historical” role to play — to set the record “straight” by dropping “distortions” from the new textbooks and also the “irrelevant”.

History, in any case, will have to undergo a massive surgery to fit into the new social science textbooks, which will teach not only history, but civics, geography and economics as well. In the process, “unwanted” parts of history the current NCERT authors believe to be unnecessary will be cut out.

For instance, Professor Hari Om, who will author the section on modern Indian history, says: “Why should we elaborate so much about the 1857 mutiny? We will just sum it up — its causes and the fallout.”

There will be also other events that will be pruned. But what about world history? That is still a grey area.

Prof. Hari Om says he was “astounded” when he read the present textbook on modern India authored by Arjun Dev. “There is no mention of the Day of Direct Action — a call given by the Muslim League. The author is soft on Jinnah and the League,” he says.

The motto of the present academic debate seems to be to get even with the “past”. “So far, the Congress and the Left have had a field day. Then nobody said anything,” said a BJP leader.

So where does that place history? Nobody knows. The ruling party is ready to script history the way it wants it to be taught.

The authors in the NCERT feel R.S. Sharma has quoted only one source when he talked about beef-eating being a practice during ancient times. “There are other sources also,” they say.

When they write the new texts, are they going to mention all the sources, including the one that mentions beef-eating? The authors prefer not to answer.


New Delhi, Nov. 26: 
Benazir Bhutto’s attempt to relaunch her political career stumbled on a crucial point today after the former Pakistan Prime Minister described “Azad Kashmir” as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

For the uninitiated, it may be just semantics. But for any Pakistan-watcher, it is a faux pas.

Successive regimes in Pakistan have described this part of the troubled state under their control as “Azad Kashmir”. It is India which describes it as “Pakistan-occupied Kashmir” and Benazir, who is hoping to return to her country soon and fight the elections, slipped on an issue which strengthens India’s point of view.

Though she is on a private visit, Benazir’s interactions with the Indian leadership and the media are being closely watched by the military rulers in Islamabad.

The leader-in-exile, who is projecting herself as the messiah of peace and voice of moderation, has been stressing that a military dictatorship should not be foisted on Pakistan by outsiders only for geo-strategic reasons. Her comments are aimed both at the Pervez Musharraf regime and the West, which has now turned out to be the military ruler’s best backers. So her Kashmir slip becomes all the more significant as it could be used to question her credibility.

Benazir attended a crowded news conference at Taj Mahal Hotel after addressing a CII-sponsored seminar on “Social development and women’s empowerment”. Dressed in a flaming red jacket and her trademark white dupatta covering her head partially, the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party walked into the news conference flanked by Sanjiv Goenka and Tarun Das — two senior-most CII functionaries.

After a brief opening statement that stressed on democracy and the need to break the “invisible Berlin wall” between India and Pakistan, Benazir faced the media. She spoke about the origin of the Taliban, the price she had to pay in Pakistan for her democratic values and, of course, Kashmir and India-Pakistan relations.

Benazir evaded a question on whether the Line of Control (LoC) could be converted into an international border, saying: “Our recollections and perceptions differ on the issue.” The hint was clear: she was not going to endorse what Indian leaders often claimed had been agreed to by her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, during the Simla Agreement of 1972 — a document which she feels should be the guiding principle in normalising bilateral relations.

However, she said if the two sides could not resolve their dispute, they should develop a mechanism for “conflict management”. She cited the mechanism set in place by India and China to settle their border dispute and said it was an ideal model.

Benazir referred to the UN resolution on Kashmir, saying the right of self-determination of the Kashmiris should be kept in mind while solving the dispute. But she made it clear that as this was one of the most contentious issues where the “gap was the widest” in perceptions of the two sides, attempts should be made to resolve issues like trade and people-to-people contact as differences on these issues were not as wide.

The former Prime Minister lauded Indians for choosing democracy and said it was high time that in Pakistan, too, the intelligentsia came out strongly in favour of democracy.


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