Crown with cry of autonomy
Delhi leaves Nepal gate ajar
VHP heads for Jammu to carve Kashmir
Kalam’s score: 1 hit, 4 misses
Temple talks door shut
Modi govt defies Governor on camps
Sharma is Shabbir in harmony hub
Joint raids to flush out Ulfa
Strike or shut up: Sangh
Calcutta Weather

Srinagar, June 23: 
The crown passed from a father to a son for the second time in Kashmir’s first family as Farooq Abdullah handed the baton to son Omar in the race to acquire autonomy for the state, but the 21 years between one coronation and another showed up a political dynasty in unkind light.

“There will be no peace in the state till you (the Centre) do not give autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh,” Farooq, anointing his 32-year-old son the next National Conference chief, said.

Taking charge months before the state goes to polls, Omar vowed to soldier on, declaring that autonomy was not an empty slogan.

Farooq hugged his son repeatedly and placed his black cap on Omar’s head. Outside the heavily-guarded Sher-i-Kashmir cricket stadium, two rifle grenades fired by militants exploded.

In 1981, at Farooq’s coronation by Sheikh Abdullah, people had danced on the streets of Srinagar through the day and night. Today’s ceremony was attended by 8,000 delegates and many, if not the majority, of them were from outside the Valley.

Twenty-one years ago, people showered petals on new leader Farooq along the route from Mujahid Manzil, the party headquarters in downtown Srinagar, to Iqbal Park. Ringed by the iron curtain of security, Omar was off limits to the people.

To National Conference leaders, it was still a historic occasion. And the party was doing its best to rediscover its moorings as top ministers, bureaucrats, police officers and delegates sang in one voice: “Lehraa ai Kashmir kay jhanday (Flutter high the flag of Kashmir)” after Farooq hoisted the party’s red flag emblazoned with a plough.

The highly emotional Kashmiri song also conveyed the message that the party had not given up its demand for autonomy. Over a sea of red flags being waved by the gathering, the song rose: “Harso lehray har dam lehray taba qayamat paiham lahray (Flutter O Kashmir flag in all directions, all the time and continue to flutter till doomsday).”

Later, the National Conference passed a resolution saying the Centre’s “unilateral and arbitrary” rejection of the autonomy resolution passed by the Assembly in 2000 had sent “negative signals about the legitimacy of our democratic system”.

Farooq told the delegates: “We were promised autonomy and former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao even went to the extent of saying that the ‘sky was the limit’.”

It was a reminder to his ally in Delhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, that a Congress Prime Minister had gone a long way beyond what this government was willing to concede. The Vajpayee government had dismissed the autonomy demand, but later indicated that it was willing to discuss the issue.

There has been speculation about Farooq bowing out of politics altogether and the chief minister strengthened such expectations as he bade farewell to the delegates, saying “khoda hafiz” thrice as tears streaked down his cheeks.

He leaves behind a legacy Omar might find more a burden than a blessing with the National Conference having hit the nadir of its popularity.


Washington, June 23: 
WWhen Nepal’s King Gyanendra and Indian leaders get down on Monday to discussing the nitty-gritty of their bilateral relations, their talks will be unlike any other between India and Nepal in the last half a century.

For the first time since India’s “special relationship” with Nepal was acknowledged by the rest of the world during Jawaharlal Nehru’s prime ministership, looming over these discussions will be the shadow of two major powers, the US and the UK.

The terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11 and the Maoist sub-plot to the terrorist threat to America from South Asia have brought about an undercurrent of change in the fundamentals of India’s ties with Nepal.

Underscoring this change was a two-day international initiative on Nepal, which concluded in London almost on the eve of the King’s departure for New Delhi today.

Hosted by the British government, it was attended by India, the US, Russia, China, Japan, France, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, Australia and, of course, Nepal.

Nepalese sources, who attended the meeting in London told The Telegraph that the basic structure of the conference was a rehash of the meetings held every year in Paris to discuss international aid to Kathmandu.

But they said there were two crucial differences. Most important, India has consistently refused to attend the annual Paris dialogue except as an observer, arguing that India’s assistance to Nepal is a bilateral matter in view of its special ties with the kingdom.

Second was the presence of China at the London meeting. China has all along made the mandatory noises about Nepal, but has, in effect, conceded that the kingdom comes under India’s sphere of influence.

When the Communists were elected to power in Nepal in 1994, Beijing went out of its way to assure the P.V. Narasimha Rao government that it would not be party to any attempt in Kathmandu to play the China card against New Delhi.

By its active participation in the London meeting and its endorsement of China’s presence at the conference, India has signalled that it is no longer averse to greater internationalisation of Nepal’s problems.

Such a change, which has deep ramifications for the future of South Asia, actually started with US secretary of state Colin Powell’s visit to India in January. Nepal figured prominently in Powell’s talks with Indian leaders.

From New Delhi, Powell travelled to Kathmandu, the first US secretary of state to visit Nepal in half a century.

Committing the US unequivocally to a future role in Nepal, Powell prescribed solutions to Nepal’s terrorist threat, which were drastically different from US prescriptions in Afghanistan.

He said in Kathmandu: “You have to fight the terrorist activity. You have to fight the terrorist, but at the same time you must commit your nation and your government to good governance and to ending corruption, to finding ways to move the economy forward, diversifying the economy, taking advantage of the natural resources you have, such as the potential that exists in this country with respect to hydroelectric opportunities.”

In a promise which could have ramifications for the unique nature of trade and transit arrangements between India and Nepal, Powell also talked of Kathmandu’s membership of the World Trade Organisation as a “worthy goal”.

He met military authorities in Kathmandu to discuss US armed assistance to help fight the Maoists. Back in Washington, Powell persuaded President George W. Bush to seek an additional $20 million in emergency assistance to Nepal.

But more significantly, the secretary of state’s visit to Nepal has been followed by unprecedented and intense activity between Kathmandu and Washington.

In April, Nepal’s foreign secretary Madhu Raman Acharya visited Washington for two days and a month later, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba was here.

Deuba became the first Nepalese Prime Minister to visit the White House when he met Bush. The US has, however, been reluctant to play a lead or open role in Nepal unlike in Pakistan or Afghanistan, lest it should upset the Chinese. Washington has already had to assuage Chinese worries by declaring that it does not plan to have a military base in the kingdom.

India has shared its view with the Americans that an international effort to tackle the problems is what is suited for Nepal.

Britain’s minister for international development, Clare Short, echoed India’s views when she said at the end of the London meeting that “Nepal is in crisis and we fully support the struggle against Maoist insurgency. But there is also an urgent need to address the underlying issues...that have allowed the crisis to develop.”

Washington has, therefore, teamed up with London in doing this and has left Whitehall to take the lead. Hence the London meeting and the Chinese presence at the meeting.

The Nepalese are going out of their way to insist that all this does not mean any dilution of their special relationship with India. The King is expected to tell India in the course of this week that what Kathmandu is hoping for to have special relationships with more countries in addition to India to deal with its emergency.

India’s bottomline in the emerging scenario was underscored by union home minister L.K. Advani a few days ago when he said the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohamed had set up bases in Nepal.


Haridwar, June 23: 
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) today demanded the division of Jammu and Kashmir for the creation of a separate state of Jammu, saying this was the only way of pre-empting a “second Partition and the Mughalisation of India”.

A resolution adopted by the VHP’s apex decision-making body at the concluding session of a two-day meeting also sought the bifurcation of the Kashmir Valley.

The resolution said the region to the north-east of the Jhelum river should be reserved for Kashmiri Pandits. The Hindu-exclusive enclave should be given the status of a Union Territory and administered by the Centre, it added. The VHP also sought the status of a Union Territory for Leh and Ladakh.

The resolution said a five-square-km swathe contiguous with the Pakistan border should be declared a “high-security” zone and brought under the army’s permanent control, instead of being patrolled by police.

VHP working president Ashok Singhal declared that the organisation would hold a “massive” Hindu sammelan (congregation) in Jammu on August 11 as a “show of strength” aimed at both the militants and Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah.

He said the creation of a separate Jammu state would automatically achieve the Sangh’s long-standing call for abrogating Article 370 and would, therefore, be an “ideal” solution to the problem.

It would involve the process of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly first adopting a resolution, getting it ratified by Parliament, taking it back to the state legislature in case amendments have to be moved and then securing Parliament’s final seal of approval, Singhal added.

He suggested that in the interlude, the Hindu sammelan would build an ambience and a public mood conducive to the creation of a separate state.

“Farooq is dividing Hindus and clear proof of this was when the National Conference wrested the Jammu seat from the BJP (in a recent byelection). His party had no presence in Jammu earlier. This is the beginning of a deeper design to push the Hindus out of Jammu as well.

“In Tripura, when the VHP organised a big congregation to fight terrorists, it had a positive effect. The Hindus were awakened. We are sure our Jammu gathering will also show the terrorists what stuff Hindus are made of,” claimed Singhal.

While Singhal did not say so, another speaker, Swami Vigyanand, stressed that such a meeting was necessary to whip up the “right mood” before the Jammu and Kashmir elections.

The resolution said the “logic” of seeking a separate Jammu state arose as the Hindus were “discriminated” against even in areas where they or other communities like the Gujjars and the Buddhists were in a majority.

“In government jobs, development projects and education institutions, the Hindus and the Buddhists are being denied their rightful share. Administratively, too, Jammu and Ladakh have been neglected. But in reality, Jammu is two times larger than the Valley and in terms of population equal, while Ladakh is four times the size of the Valley,” the resolution said.

Other speakers suggested that a Jammu state would restore to its citizens the rights and privileges which they now stand to lose if they settled in any other state.


New Delhi, June 23: 
Among the most impolitic questions to be asked in the defence establishment now is how far the achievements of President-to-be A.P.J. Abdul Kalam have actually contributed to national security and to the building of a defence industrial base.

Defence ministry officials quietly say: “This is not the time to raise such questions on the accomplishments of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam”. But officers of the armed services are less discreet in giving their opinion on the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the outfit Kalam headed as director-general, and which is the primary body in charge of military science.

The armed services are the main — almost always the only — users of the DRDO’s products. The other possible user, industry, is virtually not on the scene. It is only over the last two years with liberalisation and new rules that Indian industry is getting into crucial areas of defence production in conventional arms. But the industry mostly wants collaborations with foreign manufacturers, not the DRDO.

On paper, there are facts that are undisputed. The integrated guided missile development programme, which was entrusted to Kalam in 1982 and which built his reputation, still continues to flounder.

Of the five core projects under it, only one — the Prithvi surface-to-surface missile meant mainly for battlefield use — has been inducted by the services. The army’s 333 Missile Group is in charge of it and it was deployed in the standoff since December 2001. The army is likely to constitute another missile group to handle the Agni.

The four other projects are way beyond schedule and have either not been pronounced fit for production or have not been readily accepted by the services for induction. These are the Nag anti-tank guided missile — test-fired again earlier this week; the Akash surface-to-air missile, the Trishul — another surface-to-air missile with a shorter range — and the Agni series.

The programme that can advertise a degree of success is the BrahMos anti-ship missile — which is a joint venture with the Russians.

The success and/or failure of the missile programme cannot, of course, be attributed solely to Kalam. Within the DRDO, scientists say Kalam always delegated responsibility to his associates and they swear by him. Second, they say, “Kalam’s main contribution is in managing scarcities”. In other words, even many of his former colleagues credit him less for his science than for his ability to “manage” scientists. Kalam is an aeronautical engineer by training.

It is in the services — the main users of the products that the DRDO is tasked to research and develop — that a more cynical view of the accomplishments is taken. “Along with the scientists in Barc and associate centres, Kalam is to be credited for the nuclear programme and the ability to think through delivery systems (missiles) for warheads,” says a retired lieutenant general.

“But even the DRDO keeps complaining that the army does not want to use many of its products. That is because, in war, there are no second chances. We cannot risk a gun that might not fire when you pull the trigger.”

Indeed, some of the dreams dreamt by Kalam in a grandiose Plan 2005 conceived in November 1994 are still far from achieving reality.

Here is a sample of the products — listed under Plan 2005 — that military officers talk of wistfully: an indigenous aircraft carrier (or air defence ship that is, by a conservative estimate, 10 years from development), a nuclear submarine (advanced technical vehicle project for the navy), a medium-range bomber, a submarine-launched missile and a laser-guided bomb (which India continues to source in substantial numbers from Krasnopol of Russia and other companies in the West).

The DRDO’s main battle tank Arjun was rejected by the army and accepted nominally after some pressure and with an assurance that India will continue to buy Russian-made tanks (the T-90 tanks are now being delivered to the army). “It will be unfair to Kalam if his contribution is confused only with that of the DRDO,” says the retired lieutenant general. He says Kalam’s conception of a nuclear programme and mapping it out with scientists such as Dr Raja Ramanna, Dr Arunachalam, Dr Santhanam and others in the establishment is his real achievement.


Haridwar, June 23: 
A day after the VHP termed the Ram temple issue “non-negotiable”, its leader Ashok Singhal said he would personally urge the Kanchi Sankaracharya to take back a letter of assurance given to the Prime Minister.

According to the letter, the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas would maintain status quo on the disputed site in Ayodhya and also abide by the court verdict.

Singhal said he would meet the Sankaracharya, Jayendra Saraswati — who attempted to play peacemaker during the shila daan face-off in March between the VHP and the Centre — on Tuesday, when the seer is in Delhi to call on the King of Nepal.

With today’s assertion, the VHP has slammed the doors shut on the government’s hopes for negotiation. The only “concessions” Singhal and Nyas convener Ramchandra Das Paramhans were ready to offer was that the temple would be built “without bloodshed” but on the disputed site.

The VHP was open to a dialogue with Muslim representatives provided they came up with an “agenda” and did not “abandon” the exercise midstream.

The two-day meeting of the VHP apex decision-making body was meant as a wake-up call asking the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government not to ignore the temple issue or be complacent on it. It ended today with a call from Singhal asking Hindus to “unite” and “fight the injustice and humiliation heaped on them”.

“Only religion can unite Hindus because politicians are bent on dividing them. People have to make a choice between dharma shakti (religious power) or rajnitik shakti (political power),” Singhal told the Mandal.

The meeting did not yield a concrete plan of action to enable the Nyas to revive the temple issue. However, it showed up the differences between the members, primarily on how far the VHP ought to go in attacking the Vajpayee government.

BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh, Swami Chinmayanand, a Nyas trustee, walked out of the meeting as protest against the anti-government remarks.

If some speakers yesterday alleged that Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani had lost the trust of Hindus for not doing anything on the temple issue, Swami Vigyananda today alleged that Advani’s so-called proactive policy was yet to be implemented “although he keeps saying we have to change the anti-terrorism policy”.


Ahmedabad, June 23: 
State officials are said to be forcibly evicting inmates of relief camps, defying Governor S.S. Bhandari’s instruction to the Narendra Modi government not to close down the camps until alternative arrangements are made for the riot victims.

Bhandari had informed Congress Legislature Party leader Naresh Rawal that he has directed the government not to shut down the camps till the houses of the victims are repaired and adequate compensation provided to them.

Last week, Rawal, along with Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee chief Amarsinh Chaudhary and the party’s chief whip in the Assembly, Sidharth Patel, had walked out of the All-Party Relief Committee, headed by the Governor, in protest against “forcible closure of eight relief camps without properly rehabilitating the inmates”. Bhandari assured Rawal that he would take up the issue with Modi.

But the Governor’s directives seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Chaudhary alleged that government officials are employing coercive methods to force inmates to return home.

The relief committee has so far held four meetings, the first being presided over by the Prime Minister during his visit to the state on April 4. It was apparently due to his presence that Modi had agreed with all the suggestions put forward by the Congress at that meeting.

The party had proposed the creation of a “material bank” to supply building materials to the victims who wanted to repair their damaged houses in order to return home. “The chief minister, though accepting the suggestion in principle, did not set up the bank,” said Chaudhary.

At a recent meeting of the committee, Modi had also agreed to consider the Congress demand for alternative sites to house those made homeless by the riots. But later he told a group of pro-BJP minority community leaders that the government would not provide any land to settle the victims, who would have to return to their original homes.

The Congress has also insisted on rehabilitation of victims from the worst-affected areas, namely Naroda-Patia, Gulbarg Society and Best Bakery. But the government, Chaudhary alleged, is keen on shutting down all relief camps across the state and more than 35,000 inmates have been told to move out.


Ahmedabad, June 23: 
O.P. Sharma decided to become Shabbir Hussain.

No, he did not convert to Islam when he assumed a Muslim name — Sharma voluntarily opted for a pseudonym to disguise his religious identity while taking shelter in one of the relief camps in the city.

When Ambica Mill-Salat Nagar was attacked by a Hindu mob on February 28, Sharma, 45, along with 22 other Hindu families took shelter in the Madhubhai Mill compound — the only camp in the city where Hindu and Muslim riot victims live together.

At camp No. 45 in the mill compound, Sharma felt safe with Muslims but was not comfortable with his Hindu name. So, for about 15 days, inmates at the camp knew him as Shabbir Hussain.

When one of his Muslim neighbours pointed this out to the camp organiser, the camp in-charge, Fazal Ahmed Shaikh, corrected his name in the yellow card to ensure that Sharma does not face problems getting compensation and other government assistance.

For decades, Hindus and Muslims have lived in harmony in Salat Nagar.

So when they were attacked by a Hindu mob on February 28, members of both communities initially came out to jointly resist the mob before realising that they had been outnumbered and deciding to take shelter in the Madhubhai mill compound.

All 310 houses in Salat Nagar, belonging to both Muslim and Hindu families, were burnt and looted.

Mangilal Bhai, another Hindu who took shelter in this Muslim-dominated camp, explained the rationale behind staying with Muslims.

“I have been living in Salat Nagar for over 30 years. We have no differences; we are like one community. We join Muslims in their festivals and they join us when we observe our festivals. There has been perfect harmony,” 60-year-old Bhai said.

Twenty-year-old Radha and her husband, Kaliya Lal Salat, 22, agree. Though Radha is a tribal from Saurashtra, her religious beliefs do not make her parochial.

In fact, religion is nothing more than an identity to this young tribal woman, who is yet to hear about the VHP and its ideology.

The only thing Radha remembers is that her shanty was also burnt and looted. Her husband was arrested along with her Muslim neighbours for “attacking” Hindus and indulging in rioting.

“When the Hindu mob attacked us, we had to resist. My husband fought bravely. He threw stones and bricks to stop the mob but he could not,” says Radha, with the pride that her husband did not ditch his Muslims friends.

Pradeep Jain, spokesman for the Vishwa Sanvad Kendra, which is affiliated to the RSS, feels that instances of Hindus living in Muslim relief camps were indeed unusual.

But then, this is how it should be, he maintains. Hindu and Muslim victims should be living together, though it was not possible this time as the situation was very different, says Jain. That was why separate camps had to be set up for Hindus, the spokesman pointed out.

In this case, camp No. 45 is a shining example of communal harmony, added Jain.

Despite the communal disturbances and subsequent ghettoisation, this is a locality that will never become a Muslim ghetto.

All 23 Hindus families have decided to stay with Muslims.

Some Muslim NGOs are rebuilding their houses. Once the houses are rebuilt, both communities will go back to living together, says Mushtaq Bhai, a camp official.


Nagaon, June 23: 
Defence minister George Fernandes today said India would soon launch joint operations with Myanmar and Bhutan to flush out militants belonging to the Ulfa and other outfits of the northeastern states from their bases in the two neighbouring countries.

Fernandes, however, declined to divulge details of the joint operations for “security reasons.”

The defence minister also told newsmen here that the Centre was not keen on holding talks with Ulfa immediately as the rebel group had failed to respond to its peace gestures.

“Unlike the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (IsakMuivah), the Ulfa did not respond to the Centre’s repeated appeals to come forward for peace talks. So the Centre has no immediate proposal to hold talks with the militant outfit,” Fernandes said.

The defence minister also ruled out any immediate pullout of troops from their positions on the western border.


New Delhi, June 23: 
The RSS has asked the Centre to steer clear of US intervention on the Indo-Pak border and stop raising the war pitch unless it meant business.

A hard-hitting editorial called “Amerikiyon ka aana (The coming of Americans)” in the June 23 issue of Panchajanya stated: “People are sick and tired of repeatedly bringing the Americans to Delhi as Rai Bahadurs (feudal lords). The option is not to speak the language of war and raise people’s expectations. The option is to dismiss the reports of soldiers getting killed on the border and jawans’ leave being cancelled so that they can be pressed into service urgently. If you (the government) are speaking a certain language then act according to it. It is our problem (the Indo-Pak). We will have to solve it ourselves. Who on earth is the US?”

The editorial was in sync with the BJP’s demand that at no cost must the Centre think of any de-escalation on the border by reducing troops or allowing the Hurriyat Conference leaders to travel to Pakistan for talks.

Playing to the Sangh cadre — reportedly angry with the government for pulling in its punches against Pakistan once diplomatic pressure was stepped up — the editorial asked: “The question that arises is what are we thinking and what do we want to achieve?”

It slammed the government for lacking a clear objective and said for five months Indian soldiers were massed on the border, their leave was cancelled, they were not allowed to attend either marriages or death ceremonies and transfers were stayed. The government claimed its patience had run out and it was ready for a “decisive” war.

The editorial went on to say that the US and the UK were quick to intervene and then the Almaty summit happened. Though Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee forcefully put forth India’s case and achieved some diplomatic success, Pakistan did nothing on its part. But in spite of the lack of reciprocity from the neighbour, before the US defence secretary’s visit, India lifted the ban on Pakistani overflights over its territory and withdrew its naval fleet from the Arabian Sea.

Panchajanya obliquely questioned the Vajpayee government’s claim that infiltration was on the decline, arguing that at the same time there were reports of heavy firing on the border everyday and even Jammu and Kashmir police admitted there was no reason to believe terrorists had stopped crossing the border. Yet, the US, it said, insisted on treating India and Pakistan like two brats at each other’s throats.

The border “truth”, it added, was that India was a victim of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.




Maximum: 31.8°C (-2)
Minimum: 25°C (-2)


8.8 mm

Relative humidity

Max: 97%
Min: 79%

Sunrise: 4.55 am

Sunset: 6.22 pm


Intermittent light rain. One or two spells may be heavy

Maintained by Web Development Company