India hands list, Pak puts handcuffs
Pak bombers on border prowl
Lashkar head behind bars
UTI faces New Year loyalty test
Tagore copyright freedom at midnight
Cong & Samajwadi are willin’, but won’t say so
Naidu gesture to slain MLA
BJP grapples with Jat jinx
400-sq m mask to dress down Taj
Calcutta Weather

 
 
INDIA HANDS LIST, PAK PUTS HANDCUFFS 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA AND KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, Dec. 30: 
A day after President George W. Bush called Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf, India gave Pakistan a list of terrorists and demanded that they be handed over for trial.

“A list of terrorists involved in crimes in India has been given to Pakistan. If these terrorists are handed over, then certainly I think a situation more conducive to both the countries (for talks) can arise,” Union law minister Arun Jaitley told CNN.

Asked if Vajpayee will meet Musharraf at the Kathmandu Saarc su-mmit next week, Jaitley said it “does not appear” Pakistan is creating a situation conducive to a dialogue.”

On Pakistan’s demand for evidence, Jaitley said: “Maulana Masood Azhar heads an organisation which is responsible for the attack on Parliament and was released from Indian prison through the coercive process of hijacking a plane. Does the Pakistan foreign minister still need evidence?”

Jaitley said while Pakistan agreed to hand over Osama bin Laden if he was caught there, it cannot have a different standard when it came to terrorists on its eastern border.

On what India expected Bush to do, Jaitley said the global community should have the same yardstick which was adopted for the Taliban and bin Laden.

Vajpayee, too, had the same message for Bush when the President called last night in one of the busiest phases of global telephone diplomacy.

Vajpayee told Bush that frequent attacks by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists have made the people of India “very angry” and, as the leader of the world’s largest democracy, he was determined to act “firmly and resolutely” against the menace.

The Opposition today echoed that grim message, lending full-throated support to the Prime Minister.

Vajpayee told a steady stream of callers, ranging from Bush to Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, that the world leaders and “friends of Pakistan” should pressure Musharraf to publicly take a firm and unequivocal stand against the terrorists based in Pakistan and “match his words with action”.

Vajpayee assured the leaders India would show “maximum possible restraint”, but added: “The country is determined to act firmly and resolutely against the terrorists. We have long been facing the menace and the people of the country are very angry.”

Showcasing the consensus on display today at a meeting between Vajpayee and political parties, Delhi has decided to launch a global diplomatic offensive to expose Pakistan’s “half-baked” measures against terrorism.

Delhi has decided to send to other countries high-level delegations that will include representatives of the Opposition. Opposition leaders will head some of the delegations, scheduled to leave for key capitals by the second-half of January.

A suggestion was made to let leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi attend next week’s Saarc meet in Kathmandu.

The government said it had no objection but pointed out that the Saarc convention did not allow it. It was also decided to raise the issue of cross-border terrorism at the Saarc meeting.

   

 
 
PAK BOMBERS ON BORDER PROWL 
 
 
FROM GAJINDER SINGH
 
Jammu, Dec. 30: 
The Pakistan air force has marshalled a considerable number of its bombers along the Line of Control and the international border in Jammu and Kashmir.

“F-16, F-7 and Mirage 3 aircraft have been amassed in the belt adjoining the state. Of the 469 bombers Pakistan has, 35 per cent has been deployed in the region,” a top defence source said.

The heavy concentration of fighter planes has come at a time when some observers were expecting de-escalation after Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s statement yesterday that he would strive to avoid a war.

It also coincided with reports that the F-16 fleet was ordered to take up position as part of a defence blueprint approved by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf yesterday.

After a meeting between Musharraf and his commanders at the Rawalpindi military headquarters, the army also deployed anti-aircraft guns around more installations and cancelled the leave of doctors and para-medics.

The Indian army said it was “ready for any eventuality” but poor visibility was troubling the border forces.

“We feel that it could be used by our adversaries to sneak in terrorists. We are, however, taking no chances. The Line of Control and the international border have been effectively sealed,” a senior officer said.

The army has already laid mines 500 metres within the Indian territory.

“The idea is to thwart Pakistan’s design to push in terrorists. Border villages have been evacuated and camps have been set up to shelter people from Pakistani shelling,” the officer said.

Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged heavy to moderate fire near Akhnoor and Pargwal. About 6,000 people have fled Pargwal, which falls within the range of Pakistani gunners.

Pargwal was peaceful till now as the exchange of fire had been concentrated on the Samba and Harinagar sectors.

Pakistani troops also fired tracer bullets and mortars along the border, Reuters quoted a senior defence official as saying.

   

 
 
LASHKAR HEAD BEHIND BARS 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR AND AGENCIES
 
Islamabad, Dec. 30: 
The leader of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, has been arrested for making “inflammatory” speeches in Pakistan, an official claimed tonight.

“He has been arrested for making inflammatory speeches to incite people to violate law and order,” the official, who refused to be named, said.

Earlier in the day, Masood Azhar, Jaish-e-Mohammad chief, was put in custody for 90 days. Pakistan asked India for “actionable evidence” to be able to launch prosecution against those arrested.

Foreign minister Abdus Sattar said his government had taken “substantive and expeditious” measures against extremist groups. “The Pakistan government in some cases awaits evidence, specially from India, before it initiates the process of prosecution,” he said.

President Pervez Musharraf appealed to the people of India, telling them that Pakistan wants peace. He told reporters after an all-party meeting: “I stand here addressing the people of India now through you that Pakistan stands for peace.” He may fly to Nepal for the Saarc summit via China following India’s overflight ban on Pakistan.

In his most unequivocal comments yet on cracking down on extremists, Musharraf said: “I would like to eradicate all terrorism from the soil of Pakistan.”

But he added that the “tension created by India on our borders, in fact, is creating obstacles and hurdles and it is slowing down the process…”

Azhar has been shifted from his hometown Bahawalpur to Mianwali prison in Sargodah. There was no word about Azhar’s associates. Sattar had said yesterday 50 Jaish activists were held while media reports put the number at over 90.

“We want actionable evidence so that we can begin the judicial process. We are ready to move but you cannot proceed without any evidence,” Sattar said.

Analysts see a subtle change in Islamabad’s official stand on the arrested militants since it has so far maintained that they had been rounded up for indulging in activities against Pakistan.

Sattar’s statement indirectly acknowledges for the first time that Pakistan may be moving against militant groups also in response to Indian calls.

Like Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Musharraf was also conducting an exercise to rally political forces together behind himself in this time of crisis.

He sent a message to former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, in exile in Dubai, for the first time to discuss the current situation.

   

 
 
UTI FACES NEW YEAR LOYALTY TEST 
 
 
FROM SATISH JOHN
 
Mumbai, Dec. 30: 
After stunning investors and the market yesterday by announcing the real worth of each US-64 unit at a dismal Rs 5.94, the Unit Trust of India faces its first big public test in the new year.

January 1 will see the mutual fund opening its sales window for US-64 for the first time in seven months. Few analysts expect US-64 to draw fresh investors, given the low net asset value (NAV) of Rs 5.94. Dhirendra Kumar of Value Research, a research house tracking mutual funds, says bluntly: “It is quite some time away from being purchased by investors.”

The Trust’s primary concern, however, will be preventing a run on the scheme, against which it has already taken pre-emptive measures by restricting repurchase to the first 5,000 units owned by each investor.

Kumar says: “I don’t think there will be a run on the scheme.” The government has guaranteed to meet the difference between the NAV and the repurchase price UTI is offering in January, of Rs 10.50 per unit.

UTI is telling investors that they will be rewarded for staying on, but the obvious question will be if, after all this, anyone is going to believe it.

An investor who bought into the scheme in May this year at Rs 14.55 and seen an erosion in the value of his investment by 60 per cent at an NAV of Rs 5.94 is hardly likely to stay loyal.

US-64 opens for continuous sale and redemption again from January 1 based on its daily NAV. The sale price will not exceed NAV plus 3 per cent of NAV.

The minimum redemption price will be 97 per cent of NAV for redemption within a year of the date of investment, 98 per cent for redemption in one to two years, 99 per cent for redemption in two to three years and at NAV after three years.

For the first 5,000 units of any investor, however, redemption will be at Rs 10.50 from next month, going up 10 paise every month till May 2003, barring June 2002.

For the first time, UTI has also clearly stated that 75 per cent of US-64 money will be invested in debt and 25 per cent in equities. This is intended to make the scheme a lower-risk investment and a less volatile vehicle for putting money in equities.

But the downside is that it will take many, many years for US-64’s NAV, which will now be announced regularly, to catch up with the repurchase price, being offered at Rs 10.50 from next month.

A stock market veteran and a keen watcher of UTI, who also owns an asset management company, said: “A prudent investor will encash his units at Rs 10.50 in January and buy into income funds that promise him regular returns.”

With 75 per cent of US-64 funds in debt, investments will continue to be safe but, with bank deposit and small saving rates also dipping, investment avenues are shrinking for small-time investors wishing to create a post-retirement nest egg.

   

 
 
TAGORE COPYRIGHT FREEDOM AT MIDNIGHT 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Dec. 30: 
As the clock strikes 12 on the last night of 2001, the most-zealously-guarded copyright in Indian literary history, monitoring the works of Rabindranath Tagore, will expire.

And that’s official. Visva-Bharati University will not enjoy “sole authority” over Tagore’s works from January 1, 2002. The copyright had expired 10 years ago under law, 50 years after the Nobel laureate’s death in 1941, but was given a 10-year extension.

In 1991, the then Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor had appealed to Prime Minister and chancellor P.V. Narasimha Rao for an extension of the copyright. In what one Tagore scholar remembers as “an instance of personal friendship prevailing over political antagonism”, it was chief minister Jyoti Basu who finally convinced Narasimha Rao to promulgate an Ordinance extending the copyright by 10 more years.

That gives over at midnight.

What happens after is that the Visva-Bharati music board, without whose endorsement no recorded music of Tagore could see the light of day, will cease to have reasons to exist. Any publisher or individual will be able to print Tagore’s works. Several publishers are believed to be ready to hit the market, ending Visva-Bharati’s monopoly.

Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor Sujit Basu, however, is “hoping against hope” that the government will have a “rethink” on the issue in the “remaining few hours”. “I haven’t been officially informed about the copyright ending yet. But if it’s true, then all of us at the university will be extremely disappointed. After all, the poet himself had wanted it to be like this and had gifted all his works to the university, which gave Visva-Bharati a special prestige and confidence.”

Basu went on to add that if the copyright goes, the “basic premise for the existence of Visva-Bharati won’t be there”. Stressing the need for some kind of a “regulatory body” on Tagore’s works, he said: “There might be repercussions in the long term. For instance, there won’t be any reference point for our children or NRIs on Tagore in the future.”

Basu had urged the human resources development ministry for a second extension.

When Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Santiniketan recently, the vice-chancellor had raised the matter and requested the Prime Minister to look into the matter. Basu also took the initiative to have Tagore declared “heritage poet”, enabling the university to retain some control over the works. This proposal will be forwarded to Unesco, authorised to declare world heritage status.

Basu doesn’t agree that Visva-Bharati has been too straitjacketed in its handling of Tagore songs. “Experimentation is always welcome, but the poet’s original works shouldn’t be abused. Now, who will control that?”

Opponents of this line of argument have questioned the need for control itself. The Visva-Bharati music board’s list of victims, as its detractors call singers affected by its diktats, is long and studded with leading exponents of Tagore songs.

The gag on the late Debabrata Biswas, arguably the best male singer of Tagore songs, had generated a bitter controversy. Among popular artistes, Kishore Kumar got a taste of the music board’s wrath when he sang Chhookar mere man ko in Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Yarana.

Vice-chancellor Basu, however, says: “Unfortunately, Visva-Bharati has often been misunderstood and our music board criticised needlessly. I feel a lot of people who have been clamouring for the rights to go simply want to teach us a lesson because they always think we don’t do enough.”

Mohan Singh, professor of Sangeet Bhavan at Visva-Bharati, expects those who sing Tagore songs not to distort them. “I don’t see any harm in Visva-Bharati not having the copyright.”

Veteran singer Subinoy Roy said: “We must wait and see how the audience reacts to the new recordings. They are very educated and have been used to a certain style of rendition of Tagore. It will be interesting to see how they react to new versions of Rabindrasangeet.”

A Tagore scholar cited the example of Bangladesh where there is no restriction. “Look at Dhaka. They have churned out more talented Rabindrasangeet singers than us in the past 10 years. And no trash (in terms of books) sells as Tagore.”

Basu brushes aside complains that Visva-Bharati publications are of “inferior quality”. In 60 years, it has published 31 editions of Rabindra Rachanabali, the last in 2000 and the 32nd edition is in the works.

Sudhendu Mondal, in charge of Visva-Bharati’s publication division, said: “Visva-Bharati will continue to publish Tagore’s works. If the copyright goes, we will be commercially hit, but our publications will remain authentic.”

Private publishers, happy with the curtain coming down on copyright, foresee a flood of publications in the first half of 2002.

   

 
 
CONG & SAMAJWADI ARE WILLIN’, BUT WON’T SAY SO 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Lucknow, Dec. 30: 
The CPM, which played a key role in breaking the ice between Sonia Gandhi and Mulayam Singh Yadav, has indicated that a tacit understanding is crystallising between the two leaders’ parties.

CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet held out the prospects of a deal between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress despite the absence of a categorical commitment from either.

Singh, who is here to oversee a three-day state conference of the CPM, said the Lok Morcha (People’s Front) would support the Congress’ candidates wherever they are in direct confrontation with the BJP.

Surjeet said the “untouchability’’ of the Congress has “largely diminished” in the present circumstances, pointing out that the main objective behind the realignment was to defeat the BJP.

He announced that the People’s Front would contest Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh under the leadership of Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Surjeet clarified that though the Congress and the BJP were “two sides of the same coin’’ as far as economic policies were concerned, the greater enemy was communalism and its sponsor, the BJP.

Though nothing has been spelled out yet regarding the exact nature of the “understanding’’ between the front and the Congress, something more concrete on the tie-up, including a seat-sharing arrangement, is scheduled to be finalised soon.

It is, however, doubtful whether the Samajwadi Party will get into a seat-sharing formula with the Congress, aware as it is of the latter’s weak position in the state.

But if the ongoing talks come to a fruitful end, Yadav will ensure that in constituencies where the Congress has fielded a strong candidate, the votes do not get divided.

But, in public, both the Samajwadi Party and the Congress continued to insist that they would go it alone. Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee chief Sri Prakash Jaiswal maintained that the Congress has not thought of siding with another party for the polls.

Samajwadi Party state chief Ram Sharan Das said his party was sure of forming the next government on its own and that there was no need for a tie-up with anyone.

   

 
 
NAIDU GESTURE TO SLAIN MLA 
 
 
FROM G.S. RADHAKRISHNA
 
Hyderabad, Dec. 30: 
The Andhra Pradesh Assembly came together today in tribute to the slain tribal legislator from Devarakonda, D. Ragya Naik, shot dead by PWG activists yesterday. The House adjourned after passing a condolence resolution.

In an unprecedented gesture, chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu announced that the TDP would not put up a candidate if any family member decided to contest the bypoll to the Devarakonda seat. Naidu also appealed to other parties not to field candidates and announced Rs 20 lakh for the bereaved family.

Naidu attended the funeral along with the leader of Opposition and Speaker Pratibha Bharati at the slain legislator’s native village. Besides state Congress chief M. Satyanarayan Rao and Jaipal Reddy, the Congress spokesman and MP, over 80,000 tribals attended the last rites.

The House witnessed poignant scenes as widows and kin of several slain legislators appealed to the PWG to give up violence.

“I know the pain of representing my father, who was one of the victims of such acts,” said D. Sridhar, son of former Congress Speaker D. Sripad Rao, who was killed by the Naxalites three years ago.

Naidu held a high level meeting on law and order last night to look into the killing which took place in the presence of nearly 10,000 devotees. Naidu questioned why there was not even a single police picket for the 10,000 visitors to the temple that day.

The all-party meeting on the question of negotiations with the PWG continues to hang fire. Home minister T. Devender Gowd told the Assembly that there was no change in the schedule. The meeting was slated to announce a firm date for the negotiations.

   

 
 
BJP GRAPPLES WITH JAT JINX 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Dec. 30: 
The Uttar Pradesh BJP has admitted that the rivalry between Jat leaders Ajit Singh and Om Prakash Chautala could take its toll on the win-win situation in the western districts.

Briefing the BJP national executive on the party’s position in Uttar Pradesh, the state leadership expressed hope that the problem would be eventually sorted out.

The BJP has formalised an alliance with Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), but the Haryana chief minister and Indian National Lok Dal strong man has also staked claim for seats in the Jat belt. Singh has reportedly put his foot down amid threats from Chautala that he would field his own candidates in all seats contested by the BJP-RLD combine. The state BJP fears this might eat into their Jat votes.

The state BJP leadership said if Chautala remained intransigent, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee would have to personally intervene and ask him to withdraw from the fray.

The BJP’s Punjab and Uttaranchal units also briefed the national executive on the situation in their states, which go to polls along with Uttar Pradesh in February 2002. The Punjab leadership said it did not expect problems over seat-sharing from ally Akali Dal. Sources said it also claimed that the anti-incumbency factor might not work against the Punjab alliance now that the chief minister had rectified the power and water situations.

BJP general secretary (organisation) from Rajasthan Om Prakash Mathur has been put in charge of overseeing the elections in Uttaranchal, as the state leadership did not have the requisite experience to manage affairs in the state going to polls for the first time.

The state units have been asked to shortlist candidates before January 8 after which the BJP’s parliamentary board will meet in Delhi and finalise the names.

At the national executive meeting today, human resource development minister Murli Manohar Joshi gave his opinion on the controversy arising from the changes effected by him in high school history texts. According to BJP spokesman Sunil Shastri, Joshi said he had merely “corrected the distortions” about certain religions that were projected in these texts. There was no agenda to drastically revising history.

   

 
 
400-SQ M MASK TO DRESS DOWN TAJ 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS AND AGENCIES
 
Lucknow, Dec. 30: 
The monument to love is getting ready for war.

As relations between India and Pakistan nosedive and the nuclear neighbours lock themselves in a war of words, officials have drawn up plans to protect the Taj Mahal from possible Pakistani missile and aircraft attack.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the agency tasked with looking after the Taj, has announced plans to camouflage the marble mausoleum with an olive-green canvas canopy to make it blend with its surroundings.

ASI officials said plans were afoot to cover the monument with a canopy made out of 400 square metres of camouflage cloth.

The four corners of the black, brown and green canopy would be tied to the four minarets surrounding the Taj and sprinkled with dry leaves and greens on top to make it indistinguishable from the sky.

“We had covered the Taj Mahal with green cloth in 1971 when war broke out with Pakistan. We must keep ourselves in readiness for such an eventuality,” said ASI chief archaeologist K.K. Mohammad.

“Having prepared the blue-print, we are now in the process of carrying out the desired drill,” the ASI chief added.

The ASI has already commissioned tailors to stitch the camouflage canopy, which will cost the government about Rs 4 lakh.

Besides protecting a national treasure, the idea of covering up the Taj is a military imperative.

An ASI official said on condition of anonymity the identification of the monument could also give away the location of India’s largest air base in Agra.

The Taj, because of its sheer magnitude, can be seen from 35 to 40 km above the earth, officials said.

They added that on a moonlit night, the Taj could be seen from a much greater distance.

“It is just the exercise during the 1971 war between India and Pakistan that is being repeated,” said an ASI official.

Even during the Second World War “some kind of scaffolding had been done,” he added.

The Taj is one of India’s most recognisable symbols worldwide and a must-see destination for almost all foreign tourists visiting the country.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and his wife paid a visit to the monument during their visit to India for the Agra summit in July this year.

The Taj tour set the stage for a rare moment during the summit when the President chose to speak to reporters.

Ironically, the stand-off with Musharraf’s regime has now laid the ground for throwing a veil over the Taj.

But many tourists may have to change their itinerary if war breaks out. “We will also have to take the unpleasant decision of shutting the doors of the Taj,” Mohammad said.

ASI officials, however, said that peace was the best thing for the Taj Mahal.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 26.6°C (0)
Minimum: 13.7°C (0)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative Humidity

Max: 92%
Min: 44%

Sunrise: 6.22 am

Sunset: 4.57 pm

Today

Partly cloudy sky. Minimum temperature likely to be around 14°C
   
 

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