Special arrest force hunts for Badal son
Hills rumble reaches Sonia
Madarsa crackdown fear crosses border
South voice for Bengal feat

 
 
SPECIAL ARREST FORCE HUNTS FOR BADAL SON 
 
 
FROM GAJINDER SINGH
 
Chandigarh, June 22: 
Punjab police are raising a special team to “arrest” Rajya Sabha member and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh on a charge of attempt to murder for his alleged involvement in the assault of the father and brother of photojournalist Naresh Sehgal in 1999. The charge was registered yesterday.

The incident allegedly took place when Sukhbir, a former Union minister and son of former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, was campaigning in his constituency for the Lok Sabha polls, which he lost to rival Congress candidate Jagmeet Brar.

“We have orders from the government to arrest Sukhbir and produce him in court. We first have to find where Sukhbir is at the moment. If he is in Delhi, then we will go there,” said a senior police officer.

Sehgal, who had petitioned Punjab and Haryana High Court to direct the police to register a case against Sukhbir and his aides, said the assault was intended to kill him.

Sukhbir has been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code following a high court directive in March this year. The court had asked the police to book a case against Sukhbir and others involved in the alleged assault within three months of the ruling.

Deputy superintendent of police Raghubir Singh said investigations had been completed and efforts would be made to arrest Sukhbir.

The police have named Rampal Bargari, an Akali leader, the co-accused.

The registration of an attempt-to-murder case against Sukhbir has sent shockwaves in the Aklai Dal. The party is already reeling under the impact of the cash-for-job scandal and the imprisonment of a former state minister on corruption charges.

“The Amarinder Singh government is entering into a dangerous confrontation with our party. He seems to be taking revenge. Even in the Assembly, he has been treating even Parkash Singh Badal shabbily. We are ready to face any charges. Taking use of the police to settle political scores with us will boomerang on him. Already, those whom the government had projected as approvers in the recruitment scam are turning out to be the main players,” said an Akali leader.

Former finance minister and Akali Dal general secretary Kanwaljit Singh, however, refused to term the case against Sukhbir as “vendetta”.

“The sections under which Sukhbir has been booked are minor and bailable. But since the matter is sub-judice, it would not be right to comment on the move,” the former finance minister said.

The registration of the case against Sukhbir follows Amarinder’s warning to Akali leaders that his government would not spare them if they were found guilty of “anything”.

The chief minister, who has been facing criticism for having placed in the Assembly a budget that does not mention the date when the additional burden of “user charges” would be implemented, will, according to Congress sources, use the Sukhbir “card” to divert public attention.

“The chief minister has proved that he is adept at handling difficult situations. We all agree that the budget hides more than it reveals, but it is necessary. The Sukhbir case will give him the leverage to get the Akalis around to accept the budget. Kanwaljit Singh has already refused to term the registration of the case as ‘vendetta’,” a close aide of the chief minister said.

   

 
 
HILLS RUMBLE REACHES SONIA 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 22: 
All is not well between Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Uttaranchal chief minister Narain Dutt Tiwari. Their differences have forced the party to call off a meeting of the manifesto-implementation committee this month in Nainital.

Last week, Tiwari was in Delhi for three days but could not get an appointment with the party president.

In Congress circles, Sonia’s move to deny him an audience has fuelled speculation that she is not happy with the functioning of the Tiwari government.

The rift comes in the wake of allegations that the chief minister has scant regard for the state unit and complaints against the liquor policy, meagre budgetary provisions for women and his refusal to opt for a new capital away from Dehradun. Sonia’s office has been flooded with complaints that a land mafia was influencing the government against shifting the capital from Dehradun to some hilly region.

Tiwari’s detractors have told Sonia that a new capital would have kicked off development activities, provided employment without imposing too much burden on the exchequer as the state had to bear only 10 per cent of the cost of the new capital.

Eyebrows have been raised over Tiwari’s move to appoint Avtaar Singh Negi as the state’s legal officer. Four months ago, Negi had unsuccessfully contested the Assembly polls on a Nationalist Congress Party ticket from Almora. Uttaranchal Congress unit chief Harish Rawat told Sonia recently that he was finding it “impossible” to defend Tiwari’s actions.

Tiwari’s failure to hold any major party meeting in Uttaranchal, too, is posing problems.

However, the Tiwari camp has blamed Rawat and the state unit, pointing out that the poll manifesto was packed with promises that did not have Tiwari’s approval. These leaders said Tiwari should be given more time to settle down.

   

 
 
MADARSA CRACKDOWN FEAR CROSSES BORDER 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, June 22: 
Pervez Musharraf’s crackdown on madarsas has sent shock waves across the border with major Islamic schools in India fearing a similar drive accompanied by witch-hunting.

On the face of it, Muslim leaders and scholars are putting up a brave front, claiming that the events in Pakistan would have no bearing on India. But in their heart of hearts, they apprehend that the BJP-led government at the Centre might follow Musharraf in regulating their funding.

According to Maulana Rabey Nadvi, rector of Nadwa School in Lucknow and the new chief of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, madarsas in India are doing an “excellent job” of imparting education in the broader context of meeting literacy goals.

Nadwa School is one of the most respectable madarsas in the country with several branches in smaller towns.

Maulana Asad Madni of Deoband and Maulana Israrul Haq Qasmi of Milli Council said there was no need for further checks as state-run madarsa boards and other regulatory bodies were already monitoring their activities. Madni recalled that the madarsas had played a pivotal role in the freedom struggle.

“It is highly iniquitous even to think that the madarsas that performed such a great job for the nation would indulge in something that is not in national interest,” Madni said.

The Muslim law board is also circumspect about the Centre’s desire for a regulatory framework, ostensibly to check sectarianism and fundamentalism.

The law board is set to pass a resolution giving clean chits to hundreds of madarsas at its ongoing general body meeting in Hyderabad. The board had recently conducted a survey in Rajasthan after there were unconfirmed reports that madarsas were becoming “breeding grounds” for activities of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.

Board member Kamal Farooqui said: “We checked the antecedents of these madarsas and their financial dealings and we saw nothing improper or illegal.”

Muslim leaders feel it is wrong to judge the functioning of the madarsas by “Pakistani standards”.

In Pakistan, many madarsas receive huge funds from politically-motivated campaigners from West Asia. In India, most restrict themselves to imparting religious education.

Law board member and MP G.M. Banatwallah said he was “shocked” by a report prepared by the Union home ministry that said thousands of madarsas had mushroomed along the India-Nepal border. “I checked it with the home secretary and he told me that most of these madarsas were on the Nepalese side,” Banatwallah said.

   

 
 
SOUTH VOICE FOR BENGAL FEAT 
 
 
FROM M.R. VENKATESH
 
Chennai, June 22: 
In Calcutta, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee led a quiet commemoration of the Left Front’s 25 years in power in Bengal, burying revolution and embracing reforms.

From Chennai emanated the loudest echoes of the celebrations with the Tamil Nadu CPM seizing on the Bengal mascot to boost its sagging image.

Estranged from the ADMK and thrashed in the Assembly bypolls, the Left here has launched a campaign to expose Jayalalithaa’s shortcomings by highlighting the Left Front’s achievements.

The CPM has found a theoretical tool in Bhattacharjee’s handling of the reform-induced complex process of social change in Bengal to take potshots at Amma’s ham-handed approach to economic reforms.

A CPM team, led by N. Varadarajan and freedom fighter N. Sankariah, is sending across this message subtly thorough a thoughtfully produced 16-page Tamil booklet, Varalaru Padaikkum Merkku Vangam (History Creating West Bengal.)

Moreover, the party has invited Nirupam Sen, Bengal minister for commerce, industry and industrial reconstruction and planning and a key member of Bhattacharjee’s reforms team, to address meetings at Coimbatore and Madurai on June 24 and 25.

The booklet — giving more prominence to Jyoti Basu though Bhattacharjee, too, is featured on the cover — documents how the Mandal Commission lauded Bengal for ensuring a sustained 6 per cent growth in agriculture post-’77, thanks to the farmer-friendly policies that went along with the massive land reforms. “West Bengal’s achievement thunders the right policies it adopted for the growth of agriculture and it is such progressive policies that can regenerate villages in Tamil Nadu,” it lectures.

The CPM laments that the Left Front government earmarks 25 per cent of its budgetary allocation for education, but in Tamil Nadu, it is a mere 4.67 per cent, contending that Jayalalithaa “needs to follow West Bengal’s path”.

Taking a jibe at Tamil Nadu’s “indifference” to sick industrial units, the party points out that Bengal “has strenuously managed to turn around 18 of the 68 sick public sector undertakings in that state”.

   
 

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