BJP hints at ‘tougher’ measures
Border tension damper on Atal trip
Cong backs Vajpayee move
MPs panel on House security
Sabbatical for shopping junkies
Federal agency for internal security
Surjeet fires Joshi salvo

 
 
BJP HINTS AT ‘TOUGHER’ MEASURES 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Dec. 22: 
The BJP today indicated it was happy with the Centre’s decision to recall the Indian high commissioner from Islamabad, but said it expected a series of “tougher” measures against Pakistan in return for the attack on Parliament.

There were, however, subtle differences in the tone and tenor of articulation, depending on who was saying it. While party chief K. Jana Krishnamurthi was cautious to the point of sounding dove-like, others like Central minister M. Venkaiah Naidu were more aggressive.

BJP sources said the slight differences in tone was because the party and the government were still sizing up the public mood to find out if people were satisfied with the move to recall the envoy or wanted something “stronger and more direct”.

Krishnamurthi said in Mysore the decision to recall Vijay Nambiar was the “first of many moves the government will be making soon to root out terrorism from the country”. But Naidu went a step further, telling reporters in Bangalore that the government could consider snapping diplomatic ties with Islamabad if Pakistan “continues in the same way of aiding and abetting terrorism and interfering in India’s internal affairs”.

In the capital, BJP national secretary Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said in a signed statement that Pakistan should be declared a terrorist state if the global coalition forged after the September 11 strikes on New York and Washington was serious about combating terrorism.

Krishnamurthi said Delhi was sure of its position in handling the fight against terrorism but was circumspect when asked if its logical conclusion was war with Pakistan. The situation, he said, was such that the government should not be “hustled” into action as various factors had to be taken into consideration. He made it clear that what India wanted was not a war with Pakistan but against terrorism.

Naidu, who sounded more hawkish, seemed to be playing to the sentiments of hardliners. “I don’t want to specify or quantify what steps are in store. But the government is serious. The entire country is agitated over cross-border terrorism, cutting across party and community lines,” he said.

According to him, Delhi wanted to send a “strong signal” by recalling the high commissioner. “There’s much more in store. People of the country want some hard decision to root out terrorism,” he asserted.

Naidu said India was trying to convince the international community that Pakistan was not serious about fighting terrorism and had joined the international coalition for only “strategic, political and monetary reasons”.

But Krishnamurthi struck a more conciliatory note, saying he hoped Islamabad would respond positively to India’s demarche and not compromise with terrorism. He said that Pakistan, after the World Trade Center bombings, swore to counter terrorism with the rest of the world. “We hope that it would keep its word.”

The BJP chief emphasised it was time for India to stand united in the fight against terrorism to safeguard its sovereignty and democracy.

Krishnamurthi said no organisation should say or write anything that could hurt any section in the country. “Some are giving a twist to the whole situation, but terrorism has no religion,” he said.

   

 
 
BORDER TENSION DAMPER ON ATAL TRIP 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Dec. 22: 
War clouds looming large on the Indo-Pak horizon have robbed Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of his hard-earned annual vacation.

The Prime Minister who was planning a quiet retreat into his picturesque Manali resort after the winter session of Parliament has decided to stay put in the capital as New Delhi has launched a diplomatic offensive against Pakistan, fuelling speculation of an imminent flare-up on the border.

Vajpayee’s only trip outside will be to Kathmandu to attend the Saarc summit between January 4 and 6, where he will take care not to meet Pervez Musharraf.

Last year, Vajpayee spent his annual holiday at the scenic Kumarakom resort in the backwaters of Kerala. His vacation attracted national media attention as he penned his famous Kumarakom Musings in a bid to allay doubts about his secular intentions.

Vajpayee spent his 2001 New Year at his favourite Manali retreat along with his family that was out of bounds for the media due to unprecedented security.

The Manali resort in Himachal Pradesh, perched aside a rivulet and a temple, so enchanted Vajpayee that he bought a piece of land there to build a cottage where he could spend some time every year.

Instead of taking a vacation, the Prime Minister will spend his days in Delhi in tune with the sombre national mood in wake of the terrorist attack on Parliament. Vajpayee’s birthday on December 25 is also expected to be a low- key affair.

A kavi sammelan will be organised at the Ficci auditorium on Vajpayee’s birthday. Seven well-known poets including Surendra Sharma, Manickchand Verma and Neeraj, who penned lyrics for Hindi films, will regale the audience on the Prime Minister’s birthday.

An English translation of Vajpayee’s Hindi poems will be released on the occasion.

Development and welfare schemes will be launched in all BJP-ruled states and fruits will be distributed in hospitals to mark the birthday. Sources said some schools had put in requests to allow children to meet the Prime Minister. Since it is Christmas, some priests have expressed desire to wish him in person.

Rural development minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said he would visit four villages in Andhra Pradesh on December 25 and distribute agricultural implements to peasants.

On December 29, the Prime Minister will address an emergency BJP national executive, the main agenda of which is to discuss the security scenario in the wake of the terrorist attack on Parliament.

   

 
 
CONG BACKS VAJPAYEE MOVE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Dec. 22: 
The Vajpayee regime’s move to recall its Islamabad envoy has found favour with the main Opposition party on the ground that extraordinary situations demand extraordinary measures.

Officially, the Congress has chosen to keep silent. But, in private, senior leaders, well-versed in diplomatic nuances, said the government was within its rights to recall Vijay Nambiar.

They also disapproved of the CPM leadership’s statement that the government should have consulted the Opposition before taking such a major decision.

A retired foreign secretary, who is not part of the Congress, played a pivotal role in bringing the main Opposition party in tune with the government. He shuttled between 7 Race Course Road and 10 Janpath to ensure that the nation appeared united in the fight against terrorism.

A Congress working committee member justified recalling the high commissioner. “It was an administrative decision based upon inputs that were available to the government. Surely, the government is not expected to convene an all-party meet on these kind of steps,” he said.

“We have been in the government and we are, in fact, the government-in-waiting. So we understand the government’s compulsions and responsibilities.”

According to the Congress, the Vajpayee government has not indulged in sabre-rattling or war mongering since the attack on Parliament and its response so far has been mature. Sonia herself has taken the lead in asserting that her party should not be seen as opposing the government for the sake of opposition.

The Congress chief is convinced they wanted to foment large-scale trouble by wiping out the entire political class. She chaired several meetings before formulating the Congress’ response on the terror issue, vetoing hawks who wanted to score brownie political points.

At one such meeting, Sonia said that while there should be no hesitation in pointing out the government’s lapses, the Congress should send out a strong signal that the whole nation was one in the fight against terror.

Congress leaders have admitted that if India goes to war, the party would lose ground in the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Manipur. But it is prepared to pay that price because the nation’s honour is at stake.

“In any case, we are not much of a player in Uttar Pradesh,” said a senior leader, who conceded that the party could suffer in Punjab and Uttarakhand.

Rashtrapati Bhavan intruder

Barely a week after the attack on Parliament, securitymen at Rashtrapati Bhavan detained a middle-aged man identified as Shiv Kumar who was moving in a “suspicious manner” near Gate No. 29 on the Wellington Crescent Road side at 2.30 pm, police sources said.

The intruder claimed he was a resident of south Delhi but could not provide any proof about this or what he was doing there in the wee hours, the sources said. He was not carrying arms nor were any documents recovered from him.

   

 
 
MPS PANEL ON HOUSE SECURITY 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Dec. 22: 
Lok Sabha Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi today constituted a 10-member joint parliamentary committee headed by deputy speaker P.M. Sayeed to decide on a fool-proof security cover for Parliament in the wake of the December 13 attack on the House.

The Speaker had consulted Rajya Sabha chairman Krishan Kant before constituting the joint parliamentary committee on security, which has seven members from the Lok Sabha and three from the Rajya Sabha. The JPC will hold its first meeting on December 28.

Some of the recommendations of the expert panel include forming an integrated Parliament complex by including the Parliament Annexe and Library building and closing down Talkatora Road for general traffic, arming the Parliament watch and ward staff, opening a strong room inside Parliament to store sophisticated arms and building bullet-proof rooms for VIPs.

Besides Sayeed, other members of the JPC include, from the Lok Sabha, Somnath Chatterjee (CPM), Vijay Kumar Malhotra and Anandi Charan Sahu (BJP), Shivraj Patil (Congress), Ramji Lal Suman (Samajwadi Party) and K. Yeran Naidu (Telugu Desam). The Rajya Sabha members in the JPC are former CAG T.N. Chaturvedi, former Chief Justice of India Ranganath Mishra and former army chief Shankar Roy Chowdhury.

Afzal remand

Mohammad Afzal was today remanded in police custody for seven days, while the other three accused in the attack were remanded in 14 days judicial custody by a city court that also admitted the confessions of two of them under the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance.

Afzal and Hussain, associates of the five terrorists who attacked Parliament, became the first accused in the country to record their confessions under the Ordinance.

Police will take Afzal to Kashmir to help track down the leaders of Jaish-e-Mohammad. Delhi police expect Afzal to show them the places where training camps are being run by terrorists.

   

 
 
SABBATICAL FOR SHOPPING JUNKIES 
 
 
FROM CHANDRIMA BHATTACHARYA
 
Mumbai, Dec. 22: 
Have you done it? Was it more painful than you thought, or less?

Thousands are joining a global movement that only requires their wallets to be shut. It is the Buy Nothing movement, gaining momentum as a bid to break the most stubborn of all habits, shopping.

All that the protesters have to do is to keep their own purses buttoned up, and help others to keep theirs buttoned up, too. And buy nothing for just one day — the official Buy Nothing Day (BND). It falls in November, a day after Thanksgiving Day, the official onset of the Christmas shopping season in the West.

This year, the Buy Nothing Day on November 23 was celebrated in style, from Vancouver in Canada, where it all started, to several places in the US, to the UK, Sweden, France and Japan. Taiwan celebrated its first BND this year. If it was not celebrated in India, the day has its advocates whose names are listed on the Web.

If the anti-shopping brigade’s favourite weapon is irony, their mascot is Santa Claus. In Cairns, Australia, a corporate Santa was found whipping “consumer zombies”, dressed in black with large barcodes on their front, into buying more and more.

The zombies had their faces painted white with some green touches and were all chained together from the right ankle. With shopping bags hanging from outstretched arms, they chanted: “Greed is good”, “Buy more” and “One more purchase and I’ll be happy”.

They were being “encouraged” with a whip by the corporate Santa bearing large logos of multinational corporations to keep on consuming obediently.

Two others carried a Buy Nothing Day banner which said: ‘Stop Shopping, Start Living, Buy Nothing!’

In Sundsvall, Sweden, a local organisation had six Santas planted in local buses and in shopping malls to give a “Christmas speech” to the people. They spoke about the “importance” of giving each other many and expensive gifts. “The best way to show your love for someone is to buy expensive and a lot of Christmas gifts.” The joke didn’t go down too well with everyone. The guards at the shopping malls became very angry.

Sometimes BND had more serious consequences. “We chalked the sidewalk in front of all the mall entrances, writing ‘Buy Nothing Day, TODAY!’” writes Ninja JD, St. Cloud MN to the online site of Adbusters, a magazine that spoofs ads and actively promotes the buy nothing cause.

Ninja says: “It took the mall security about 10 doors (one-third of the entrances) to start looking for the ‘hooligans’. So we went inside to go ‘shopping’ and left little messages in sweat-shop clothes, from sweat-shop children. Then we asked mall security for time, went back outside to finish our chalking and called it a day.

Unfortunately, they got my friend’s licence plate number and banned him from the mall for 30 days because he impeded commerce. Boo hoo.”

Some celebrated it quietly. “I watched the masses congregate in front of Macy’s department store on the day after Thanksgiving, jockeying for position as they waited for the store to open and smiled. It’s a little easier to understand the obscenity and ridiculousness of it all when you take a step back and choose NOT to participate,” writes Liz from New York City.

A small group in Fairbanks, Alaska, staged a peace march right through the local mall.

But Buy Nothing Day is not just a day. It is a way of life. It was to draw attention to some very important aspects of contemporary life.

“We’re slaves to our consumption patterns and it’s hard to know how much so until we break them. That’s what Buy Nothing Day is about. It’s an experiment in self-awareness and self-control in the service of a broad global message,” says Adbusters, which also promotes the “anti-commercial”.

One anti-commercial, a television ad, has an animated pig superimposed on a map of North America, smacking its lips and saying: “The average North American consumes five times more than a Mexican, 10 times more than a Chinese person and 30 times more than a person from India.”

It did not have many takers from the major television channels. BND, though it has started to attract media attention from all parts of the world only recently, was started way back in 1992 by a former ad executive.

Kalle Lasn, an advertising executive-turned-anti-consumerism activist, after working in advertising in Tokyo in the late 1960s, moved to Canada and became a documentary filmmaker.

It was in the 1980s that his activist streak got sparked while he was watching a local forestry company’s commercial promoting clear-cutting as “forest management”.

Outraged, he put together his own TV ad documenting the downside of clear-cutting and the need to save old-growth trees. But local TV stations “refused to sell us the air time even as they were running the other side’s campaign,” he says.

One of the things he did next was start the Buy Nothing Day. He envisaged it as a grassroots campaign against Christmastime commercialism. His strategy: Attack Christmas shopping one day at a time, beginning with the season kick-off on the day after Thanksgiving.

Lasn also promotes the TV-turnoff-week.

   

 
 
FEDERAL AGENCY FOR INTERNAL SECURITY 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Hyderabad, Dec. 22: 
The December 13 attack on Parliament has convinced the NDA government of raising a federal agency to deal with internal security, said minister of state for home Vidyasagar Rao.

All the state governments that had initially opposed the proposal for a federal agency and a federal law to try offences related to the internal security of the country had now come round to the Centre view, Rao told reporters.

He added that the newly-formed Bureau of Immigration would take over the functioning of all 65 checkposts in the country, 19 at airports, 30 on major road links and the remaining 16 at ports. “Twenty-three checkposts will be taken over from the state governments in a few months and the rest will be gradually handled by the bureau,” the minister said.

The minister said there was a 7.6 per cent rise in immigrations in the year 2000, and that 17,979 (mostly from Bangladesh) of the total 26,60,862 immigrants had violated The Foreigners Act. India had deported 6509 foreigners in the same period.

He said 52,987 foreigners had overstayed in India, of which 13,505 were Pakistan nationals. “Nearly 2000 of them have absconded or gone underground,” Rao said, adding that many of them might be aged people staying with their relatives in India.

The minister said the government had proposed a comprehensive policy to promote communal harmony that aimed at correcting the general impression that Islam meant jihad.

“Terrorism and Islam are two different things,” he said. “There are more Muslims living in India than (in) Pakistan.”

Rao said the communal harmony policy and campaign were also aimed at convincing the country’s minority population that Islam also stood for communal harmony and not merely war against other religions.

   

 
 
SURJEET FIRES JOSHI SALVO 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Dec. 22: 
After George Fernandes, it is human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi who is the CPM leadership’s favoured bete noire.

The party is now knocking at the door of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, known to the “liberal” face of the BJP for “justice”.

Senior party MP Somnath Chatterjee had yesterday written to Vajpayee, drawing his attention to Joshi’s statement, threatening to put Left-wing historians behind bars by using the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance.

Today CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet himself went on the offensive, authoring a second letter to Vajpayee, complaining about Joshi.

The CPM leader has charged the Prime Minister for failing to rein in Joshi for his “unabashed propagation of Hindutva ideology”. And this, Surjeet has stressed, puts a question mark on Vajpayee’s secular credentials. “It exposes your secular proclamations and justifies apprehensions of a threat to India’s pluralistic, multi-cultural society,” Surjeet said.

This is the first time Surjeet has taken it upon himself to write to Vajpayee on a subject like education. But political overtones to the controversy are becoming stronger by the day and the CPM general secretary therefore has thought it fit to pitch in on behalf of his party.

In his letter, Surjeet has told the Prime Minister that Joshi is changing the syllabus at the fiat of the RSS. “Any person who is raising questions about it is labelled anti-national or Westernised,” he wrote. He drew the Prime Minister’s attention to Joshi “pushing” through the curriculum despite serious protests from many state governments who met in Delhi two months ago to express their reservations about the curriculum.

But the HRD minister has gone a step ahead with deleting portions from school textbooks — a move that has pitched the controversy over “saffronising education” really high. Surjeet has accused Joshi of packing all educational institutions with his men — something the Congress-Left too had done, during they days in the sun.

B.R. Grover, the CPM general secretary accused, was appointed the ICHR chairperson as a “reward” for “organising evidence” on behalf of the VHP during the controversial run-up to the demolition of the Babri masjid.

Other institutions like the Indian Council for Social and Scientific Research, the Indian Institute of Advanced Studied in Simla, the All India Council for Technical Education, the Archeological Survey of India and the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts have also been “revamped”, Surjeet informed.

   
 

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