A prayer for gift of life
Rethink signal from VHP
Delhi in joint peace plea
Where had all the soldiers gone?
Governance in doubt
Saha record incomplete, says nurse
Education as freedom
Calcutta Weather

Ahmedabad, March 1: 

Gujarat keeps lighting pyres of the living

The army marched in Gujarat. The killings continued — funerals of the living. Godhra, where 58 people died two days ago consumed by flames in locked train compartments, was the pyre again for 30 frightened villagers driven into their homes to be burnt alive.

A funeral procession cast away its veil of mourning and exploded into a mob of killers, torching houses inside which the pursued were huddled. Official sources said eight people died in the incident, but unofficial estimates put the toll at above 30.

An agency report suggested vengeance for the death of three persons earlier in the day as the motive for the attack at Pandarwada, 70 km from Godhra.

The incident reduced to ashes chief minister Narendra Modi’s claim of a gradual return to normality. “Since yesterday evening, incidents of violence have come down to a large extent. Many districts are peaceful today,” he had said.

In two other arson attacks in villages near Godhra, more than 50 houses were torched and one report spoke of 20 deaths.

Late tonight, in Mehsana district to the northwest of Ahmedabad, a mob surrounded a village of 250-300 people and started setting ablaze houses and shops.

In Ahmedabad alone, more than a hundred have died, most burnt alive. The toll in three days of rioting, starting with the attack on the train, now stands at over 250.

Their faith in the rule of law trickling back with the thudding footfall of marching soldiers, Ahmedabad’s frightened citizens came out on the streets today to look at the remains of rioting.

Death was strewn carelessly in the debris. The burnt-down eyes in the charred skull of former Congress MP Ehsaan Jafri stared out of their sockets. Ghoulish.

His bungalow was set ablaze by a mob that had surrounded it, prompting Jafri to open fire, according to the authorities, who could not, however, explain why police had not responded to frantic calls for help for hours. They, including the chief minister, blamed the septuagenarian Jafri for provoking the attack by firing, but had no answer when asked what had provoked Jafri.

Gujarat’s avenging passion for death by fire came alight at a state transport work shop and its surrounding slums at Naroda on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, where 67 people died in a midnight mayhem. Over thousand people threw a ring around the area, dragged people out of homes and stabbed them, finally setting fire to the slum.

Here, too, the chief minister’s blame fell on the owner and driver of a tempo that bore down upon a scooter-rider and then crushed to death two people, triggering the mob fury. This version was described as “rationalising the sequence of the incident”.

Despite the presence of the army — some 3,500 soldiers have arrived in the state — in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot, the rioting has not stopped. This afternoon, mobs targeted the Juhapura area in Ahmedabad, torching shops, though the chief minister claimed “Friday was by and large peaceful”. He was, of course, speaking in relative terms: “Going by the scale of violence that took place yesterday.”

“The army has come in Ahmedabad, but the problem is spreading in other areas of the state,” a police officer said.

Modi denied that activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal had any role in the violence because, he said, none of over 1,100 people arrested in the state belonged to either of the outfits.

A joint appeal by the Vajpayee government and the Opposition came out of Delhi, calling for restraint as the odd incident erupted ominously in other states. Two people were killed in Uttar Pradesh and one in Rajasthan as ripples of tension from Gujarat reached Bengal in the east and Andhra Pradesh in the south.


New Delhi, March 1: 
After blowing hot and cold for several days, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad today signalled it was ready to reconsider its decision to begin work on the Ram temple from March 15.

The VHP set the condition that the Centre would have to give a written assurance that it would allow puja of the temple pillars on an “undisputed” portion of the land now in government custody from March 15 — its deadline to begin construction. The outfit indicated it was willing to give the Centre an unspecified time frame to decide when it could start construction.

VHP general secretary Acharya Giriraj Kishore said: “If the Centre wants us to withdraw our andolan (agitation), we want a written assurance before March 12 that we will be allowed to place our stone pillars on a small part of the undisputed land and start puja from March 15.”

For the record, he added that the final authority for changing the programme rested with the sants and dharmacharyas who were expected to meet soon. It is learnt that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee may meet the clergy once his government works out the details of disentangling the Ayodhya dispute.

Among the other demands of the VHP and the RSS, which is mediating with the Centre on the former’s behalf, are:

An early opinion from the law ministry on the status of the “undisputed” land acquired by the government and whether this could be handed over to the Ram temple trust for construction. RSS sources said it was conveyed to the Centre that the ministry should also write to the court seeking clarification on whether this process could be legally completed so that there were no more “stumbling” blocks in the VHP’s path.

The Centre should immediately delink the Godhra massacre from the Ayodhya goings-on and dispel the impression that the Sabarmati Express was attacked as a reprisal against the kar seva.

The demands were conveyed by the Sangh’s joint general secretary in charge of its political wing, Madan Das Devi, to the human resources development minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, and Rajya Sabha MP Balwant P. Apte, who called on him separately yesterday.


New Delhi, March 1: 
Setting aside suspicions about the Vajpayee government’s will to control retaliatory attacks in Gujarat, the Opposition today joined the ruling coalition in issuing a joint appeal for restraint.

At the suggestion of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, leaders of the two sides signed an appeal urging people of all communities to stop the violence in Gujarat. The decision was taken at a one-and-a-half hour meeting in Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s residence.

“We urge the people to isolate the perpetrators of violence and defeat their sinister designs. It is our collective responsibility to promote brotherhood and national unity at all costs,” read the appeal, signed by Vajpayee, Sonia, home minister L.K. Advani, parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan, the BSP’s Mayavati, Telugu Desam leader Yerran Naidu, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, the CPM’s Harkishen Singh Surjeet and the CPI’s A.B. Bardhan.

Sources said the BJP top brass looked “worried and downcast”. The Opposition demanded a CBI inquiry into the Godhra carnage, saying a judicial probe instituted by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who has little credibility, would not go down well.

“We appeal to the people of Gujarat, the Hindus, Muslims and those belonging to other communities to maintain peace and communal harmony,” the signed statement said.

Rare as the gesture was, signalling a rallying of political forces at a time of crisis, the Opposition remained unconvinced by government explanations on why the killings continued for two days in full view of police.

Earlier, Congress spokesman Jaipal Reddy said: “Any state government with the minimum sense could have anticipated the reaction. But the Modi government failed miserably.”

The CPM’s Somnath Chatterjee condemned the governments at the Centre and the state for “wilful” inaction.

“It is not just a failure of the government to control the situation. They deliberately allowed it to get out of hand,” Chatterjee said.

At the meeting, all the leaders denounced the communal role played by Gujarat police.


New Delhi, March 1: 
Gujarat today is the Indian soldier’s nightmare come true: while he is eyeball-to-eyeball at the border, there is no one to watch his back.

Caught in the classic security conundrum — a war on two fronts — the army is taking the flak for delayed action.

After 36 hours of bloodletting, the first of the troops flown into Ahmedabad, Rajkot and Vadodara began moving into riot-torn localities at 11 this morning. They had to be flown from reserves’ stations in south India because the bulk of the forces is on the border. On the face of it, the delayed reaction is a monumental failure of the army in Gujarat, to which the Union minister of state for defence, Harin Pathak, belongs.

Fact is: by Thursday afternoon, the southern command in Pune, liaising with the 11 Division headquarters in Gandhinagar, had contingency plans ready, well before a formal request was made by the Gujarat government. Even so, the first request made by the Gujarat government in the evening — after a full day during which frenzied VHP-led mobs ran amok — was for the army to be put on “stand-by”.

It was later at night, nearly an hour after the Cabinet Committee on Security had met, that the decision was taken to deploy the army.

But it still took about 12 hours for the army to move into Ahmedabad after the request was made. No army, no professional army, can take so long to make up its mind.

What is overlooked is that except in Kashmir and in the Northeast where the armed forces’ Special Powers Act is operative, the army is not its own master.

At the defence headquarters in New Delhi, the top brass is blaming the Gujarat government. Even in normal times, there is a largish complement of the army in Gujarat because it is a border state.

“Our forces are as familiar with the state as can be but there is little we can do blindfolded,” said an officer here, who was provoked by some intensive questioning.

From midnight last night, after the defence ministry issued orders to bring reserves into Gujarat, the air force has flown several sorties on 16 aircraft — four Ilyushin 76s and 12 Antonov-32s from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

On an average, an Il-76 can carry 300 plus men and an An-32 more than 50. Defence minister George Fernandes said in Gujarat that two brigades of the army — roughly 4,000 troops — have moved into Ahmedabad, Rajkot and Vadodara. The last of the sorties were still being flown early this evening.

The immediate decision taken at army headquarters was not to bring troops from the front.

Since most of the formations in Gujarat have sent their men to the borders, the troops brought in from south India could not move with their own vehicles. The aircraft are not so large that they can be stashed with both men and materiel.

By 2.30 am, the first planeloads of troops were in Ahmedabad, In Delhi, at the army headquarters, it was taken for granted that the troops will fan out by dawn. But that was not to be.

The troops flown in were unfamiliar with territory, did not have maps, guides, enough vehicles and asked the civil administration for 65 vehicles.

By law, the troops also had to be accompanied by magistrates. If the troops had to open fire, it would be only with the permission of the magistrates. There weren’t enough magistrates available.

Asked why the army needed such elaborate preparations in towns and cities where rioters were running amok, official sources said the army was going by the book. “By the book” meaning the army was going step by step: (a) Mapping the trouble-torn area, (b) sending out reconnaissance patrols, (c) conducting flag marches, (d) Getting magistrates to accompany them, and (e) combing/taking action as the situation demands.

For nearly nine hours since the first troops landed and till 11.30 am this morning when 12 columns — between 70 and 90 troopers make up a column —finally began the flag marches, the army was in Gujarat, ready to move in, but did not have the wherewithal. Those nine hours will have made the difference to over hundred lives.


New Delhi, March 1: 
Having made “good governance” one of its principal planks while coming to power at the Centre, the BJP-led alliance is finding it increasingly difficult to keep its promise.

Threatened, ironically, not by the political Opposition but by a member of the Sangh parivar determined to carry out its Hindutva agenda, the Vajpayee government is floundering. Taking tough action against those who have been the government’s most vociferous supporters and the religious right that brought it to power in the first place has been difficult for both the Prime Minister and home minister L.K. Advani.

While forming the NDA coalition, both Vajpayee and Advani had insisted that ideology was not an essential for good governance. The differences between the BJP and the likes of the Telugu Desam, the Samata Party and the DMK could make no impact on the common minimum programme that the coalition partners had drawn up, they had said.

Leaders like Vajpayee and Advani are doing a tightrope walk now, hoping to keep its Hindutva votebank intact while at the same time being forced to take measures to quell the spiralling violence. The government is relying on tough administrative measurers coupled with an attempt at persuading the VHP to desist from its stubbornness.

So far, the Centre’s record has been dismal. Faced with its toughest challenge since coming to power, the Vajpayee government appears unable to act because of its inherent ideological contradictions. Cabinet ministers know very well that the crisis has the potential of not just bringing down the government but also a test case for the BJP-led central administration. How it handles the situation would have far reaching effects on the party’s future election prospects.

For Prime Minister-in-waiting L.K. Advani, this is a testing time. As the man responsible for the rath yatra and catapulting the BJP to national limelight, Advani has the Sangh’s support. But to become Prime Minister, he needs to appeal to a much larger audience and show that he is able to rise above narrow, sectarian considerations.

The Centre has been able to do precious little to contain rioting in Gujarat. When news of continuing violence came in yesterday, the Centre took all the right decisions. The Cabinet Committee on Security decided to deploy the army in Gujarat. But the state administration waffled as rioting continued and the toll kept mounting.


Calcutta, March. 1: 
The nursing superintendent of Advanced Medicare and Research Institute (AMRI) on Friday said the medical records of Anuradha Saha during her stay at the hospital are incomplete.

Nurse Sutapa Chanda, cross-examined at Alipore court on Friday, is one of the five defence witnesses.

Saha was admitted to AMRI on May 11, 1998, and was treated there till her transfer to Breach Candy Hospital, in Mumbai, on May 17. But records of her treatment at the centre have been put down only till 2 pm of May 14. “There are no records of the patient’s daily input or output of fluids after that,” she said.

Nurse Chanda identified two of the three doctors, charged with negligence, as well as Saha’s husband, Kunal. Asked whether she remembered patients admitted at AMRI, she replied: “No, that is not possible but since I have followed the developments in this case in dailies and on television, I can recollect most of the events.”

On the administration of Prednisolone, a steroid, she admitted that it had been given to the patient as per the prescription of consultant dermatologist Baidyanath Haldar.

She said she was introduced to the patient by Balram Prasad, an AMRI doctor. “The patient’s husband used to spend the entire day in the fourth-floor, super-deluxe cabin. On one occasion, he had asked me for a sterile rubber sheet,” she added.


Calcutta, March. 1: 
A new chapter of Round Table was launched on Friday, called Kolkata Aspire Round Table, with a “tie-up” with Unicef for its education projects.

Round Table, a registered NGO, hopes to work with Unicef for its project, Freedom Through Education. “Our focus will be on educational projects, and we want to work closely with NGOs and government agencies to improve infrastructure in state-run schools,” said Prashant Jalan, chairman of the new Table.

Carrie Auer, state representative, Unicef, was present at the event, and spoke of the projects Round Table can adopt to impact the lives of children in Calcutta.

“Unicef wants to form strategic partnerships with civic groups, and it seems that Round Table and Unicef share some of the same objectives,” said Auer.

‘Educate Every Child’ is one of the basic ground rules for child rights under the Global Movement for Children.

Round Table has been actively involved with the Shikshalaya Prakalpa project, a joint-sector effort involving government and non-governmental agencies, launched last year to provide every urban child a chance to go to school.




Maximum: 32.3°C (+1)
Minimum: 21.3°C (+3)



Relative Humidity

Maximum: 93%,
Minimum: 36%

Sunrise: 6.02 am

Sunset: 5.35 pm


Partly cloudy sky. Minimum temperature likely to be around 23°C

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