3-state launch pad for strikes
SC turns selective about govt panels
Snub for Musharraf
Broacha bug bites Bill in Barcelona
Laloo elixir for Bhojpuri movies
Hinduja trial to resume
Ignored minorities take panel to task
Sinha salve on Lanka
VHP sees Parliament as temple hurdle
Calcutta Weather

Midnapore (Paschim), July 12: 
People’s War activists are planning to set up a “guerrilla zone” in the jungles of West Midnapore, from where they can trigger strikes across the state, including in Calcutta.

Parts of Bankura and Purulia in Bengal, Mayurbhanj in Orissa and East Singhbhum in Jharkhand will come under the zone, which will serve as the operational base of the group, interrogation of about 75 arrested Naxalites has revealed.

Calcutta has come within the gunsight of the militants for the first time, with the group chalking out plans of hit-and-scoot assassinations and explosions in the city. People’s War activists had rented houses in fringe areas like Rishra, Arambagh, Dakshineswar and Dum Dum under fictitious names in preparation for the Calcutta strikes, police said.

“The plan is to use the forest areas as an operational base for their terrorist activities against the state machinery and the police,” West Midnapore superintendent of police K.C. Meena said. The dense jungles could serve as a permanent shelter for the Naxalites.

The People’s War activists have already identified 20 police station areas spread across Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand, Meena said. An area of 450 sq km in the “guerrilla zone” is dense forest and about a hundred square kilometres comprises small hills.

Garbeta, Goaltor, Lalgarh, Salboni, Binpur, Belpahari, Jamboni, Gopiballabhpur, Nayagram and Sankrail police stations in West Midnapore, Banduan and Poradi in Purulia and Ranibandh and Raipur in Bankura have been earmarked by the People’s War activists.

The “guerrilla zone” can also be used as an escape route to Orissa and Jharkhand in case of an emergency because, being covered by forest, it is usually shunned by the police. Besides, very poor villages, whose residents often sympathise with the Naxalites, encircle the forests.

The group has drawn up a blueprint of the routes they can use through Orissa to reach People’s War strongholds in Andhra Pradesh. The June 26 arrest of People’s War activists such as Sudeep Chongdar alias Manik revealed that “Deepak”, a frontline Naxalite, had used one such route to elude state police and escape to Andhra Pradesh.

The People’s War had entrusted 12 frontline activists to draw up the blueprint for the proposed zone, police said. However, all of them have been absconding since the crackdown on the Naxalites began.

Police sources said the force has identified sites in the hills of Bhallukkhola, Bhallukbasa, Rajabasa, Metalia forest, Mayurjharna Machkandna and Chedapathar where the militants practised using firearms. Most People’s War activists based in Bengal were believed to have undergone guerrilla training in these hilly areas.

The activists are being fed arms and cash from their central committee based in Telengana in Andhra Pradesh, police said.

The support is sourced through well-marked out routes in the forests and the hills connecting the three states.

Senior police officers of Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa have already held meetings to review the situation on the ground. Forest officers have also been alerted of the situation in the trouble-prone, but uninhabited region.


New Delhi, July 12: 
In a judgment that could affect the composition of inquiry commissions and tribunals, the Supreme Court today laid down guidelines to discourage sitting judges from being deputed to such panels.

A division bench of Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Justice K.G. Balakrishnan said reports of inquiry panels were never taken seriously or implemented as they were “recommendatory in nature” and not binding on the government.

They said in “political issues”, “extraneous” methods were being used to even challenge the independence of the judiciary.

The judges said the chief justice of the high court concerned should keep in mind the “dignity” and “independence” of the judiciary when a request comes for deputing a sitting judge to a panel or tribunal or when consulted on such deputations.

The court said “it is not desirable” to appoint a sitting judge to a tribunal as the other adjudicating members were “non-judges” and were also “not qualified” to be judges.

Second, even in a judicial commission “it is not desirable” to depute a sitting judge because the judge would come under the disciplinary authority of the executive. This, the judges said, would undermine the “independence” of the judiciary.

The court, however, said a sitting judge could be deputed to an inquiry panel under the Commission of Inquiries Act and to a tribunal arbitrating on controversies between states on sharing of waters (like the Cauvery dispute).

The court also said a sitting judge could be deputed to bodies, tribunals or commissions “wherein only a judge could perform the function and none else” or as a member of the finance or law commission. However, the judge concerned should be accorded the “dignity” under Article 124(4) and 217(1) of the Constitution.

If a judge had only a “short term” left for retirement, he could be sent on the condition that he relinquish his position before taking up the assignment, the court said. However, the period of deputation would be included in his total service.

The apex court judgment came on a batch of petitions filed by lawyers of Madras High Court, who contended that after the appointment of one of the high court judges as chairman of the state consumer court, he ceased to be a judge of the high court.

However, the high court’s appointment was not altered.


New Delhi, July 12: 
The world seems to be coming round to the view that President Pervez Musharraf does not want to stop infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir completely.

In a report released in Brussels on Wednesday, the International Crisis Group, a multinational organisation, observed that Musharraf appeared to be telling the West to either accept that he cannot fully stop the export of terror into Kashmir or get ready for a less accommodating regime in Pakistan. The general is believed to be playing on fears that his government would be replaced by a fundamentalist one if it totally cut off support to the Kashmir cause.

“The Musharraf government seems to be implying that it is at the limits of the steps it can take against extremist groups, and that the West should tolerate cross-border insurgency operations in Kashmir or risk facing a new government that could be far less accommodating,” the report said.

The ICG operates out of Brussels and New York and is chaired by Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland. Former foreign minister of Australia Gareth Evans is the President and CEO. Former US Congressman Stephen Solarz is the vice-chairman.

The ICG said Islamabad had not abandoned its long-term goal to bleed India both politically and economically through Kashmir, and ensured that militants continued to work for either the independence of Kashmir or its annexation to Pakistan.

Refusing to buy the general’s line on regime change, it recommended that Pakistan should “follow through rigorously on President Musharraf’s commitment to end all support for cross border militants and to close any training camps for such individuals in Pakistan and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir”.

The ICG agreed with New Delhi’s assessment that Islamabad would do its utmost to ensure that political parties and groups in Kashmir boycott the Assembly elections, scheduled for later this year. “Pakistan’s deep-rooted desire to avoid anything that would appear to legitimise India’s control of Kashmir could well be pushing it to encourage cross-border incursions as a way to discourage participation in the elections — even though provocative steps risk triggering a war,” it said.

The ICG also listed a set of recommendations for India. It advised New Delhi to “closely monitor and control the activities of the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir”, implying that they should be reined in so that there were no human rights violations in the state.

It also urged New Delhi to “reconsider its long-standing objection to deploying monitors on the Indian side of the Line of Control, who could help observe movements across it”. India is unlikely to agree to this, as it would mean giving in to Pakistan’s campaign for third-party involvement in Kashmir.

The ICG said restoration of democracy in Pakistan could marginalise extremists and fundamentalist forces and lead to eventual peace with India. But Washington would have to continue its efforts to urge India and Pakistan to exercise restraint. New Delhi would also have to be persuaded to reopen diplomatic and military channels of communication with Pakistan.


Barcelona, July 12: 
There’s a new AIDS virus — Cyrus Broacha. India’s most popular VJ pulled off something of a coup here.

Bill Clinton got so involved in the MTV — Staying Alive — Global Forum on HIV/AIDS hosted by Broacha that he squatted among his youthful audience and stayed on some 40 minutes longer than scheduled. No one complained, least of all the global music channel which decided to use the bonus footage to create an additional full-length show. Certainly not the world’s crusaders — every second person newly infected is under 25.

The forum featured other heavies such as Rupert Everett (My Best Friend’s Wedding), Dr Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, Dr Paulo Texeira, director of Brazil’s National STD/AIDS Programme, Archbishop Raphael Nzeki of Nairobi, and Vicki Ehrich, external relations director of Glaxo SmithKline.

And there was our Cyrus orchestrating this impressive panel as it was relentlessly grilled by the hand-picked audience of 20 somethings, several of them infected themselves, some working with other infected youths, all of them restoring the word “positive” to its earlier unstigmatised meaning.

At this show shot in a futuristic studio set up in Barcelona’s Olympic stadium, Clinton turned out a command performance, which left even the congenitally cynical media gobsmacked.

It was easy to scoff at the special setting laid out for Clinton. The other panelists appeared in threes; Bill was the soloist. The others sat on formal sofas as though for a chamber orchestra. These were replaced by a designer high chair more at home in a jazz bar. Clinton didn’t saunter on stage with his saxophone, but he certainly jammed with the crowd.

He slipped into the audience — the only one of the panelists to mingle with the 50-odd young persons. He worked the crowd, shaking hands with each one of them, addressing them by name, talking about his experience in their countries and defusing any tension they may have had in confronting the man who has built up a charisma quite independent of office.

The spindly chair was obviously uncomfortable, but Clinton’s body language didn’t miss a beat. He got off it at the first opportunity to reinforce his celebrated people skills.

From the first boyish grin it was clear that for the kids on stage, he was part of the gang.

That’s why they heard; the reason they listened was because he was so manifestly informed on the subject. Drawing from his experience and involvement via his co-chairship with Nelson Mandela of the International AIDS Trust, he showed them how to work their way round a callous system.

“It’s much easier to find the money if you go with a clearly defined plan on how it will be spent.” He spoke of India’s resources being diverted to defence, and while Indian leaders continued to hem and haw about cultural taboos, China had upfront confessed that its numbers of HIV infected were actually twice what they’d estimated a year ago.

Cyrus confessed that he found himself observing Clinton “like an animal in study”: he was the perfect human relations machine. He wasn’t too bad at it himself. He had to juggle a formidable set of balls: celebrity, sensitivity, angst, to say nothing of a problematic ear-piece and a viewership arguably higher than the sum total of dollars pledged to the Global Fund for AIDS.

He kept all the balls in the air and didn’t drop his infamous sense of humour. Introducing his most celebrated guest, he said: “Mr Clinton and I go back a long way. I’ll go all the way back to India, and he’ll go all the way back to the USA.”

No wonder Bill Roedy, president of MTV Networks International, looked so pleased when asked why Cyrus was chosen to host this show. “Why Cyrus? Because I love him. He’s really talented. He talks straight. He doesn’t preach. He’s irreverent. And he uses humour very well to ensure that viewers stay with the show. Even as serious an issue as AIDS has to be entertaining if we want to get people to listen.”


Patna, July 12: 
Bad times for Bhojpuri films? No problem, Laloo is the cure.

The Bihar strongman could be the elixir the ailing film industry needs, feels Smita Thackeray, daughter-in-law of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. He could be the hero who could set the Bhojpuri screen sizzling again.

“When Laloo Yadav is so popular in the country, why not resuscitate the Bhojpuri language film industry with his own active role. Why not cast him in key roles?” she said, breaking into a hearty laugh.

Smita, who was in Bihar as part of her whirlwind campaign against video piracy across the country, met the Rashtriya Janata Dal boss and his chief minister wife, Rabri Devi, yesterday.

And she did not mind risking her father-in-law’s wrath by being in line with a host of Mumbai film stars who are all praise for Laloo. Despite Thackeray’s reservations about Laloo, she feels he is a nice man and a unique communicator.

“I found Laloo Yadav a good communicator. He listened to us properly and asked what other state governments were doing. He is a nice gentleman,” she said.

Smita was in the Bihar capital to persuade Laloo and Rabri to grant some incentives to film producers in the state. With her present round of tours over, she would meet deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani on July 15.

In Bihar, Smita, the president of the All-India Motion Pictures Association, interacted with members of the Bihar Motion Pictures Association, which was also hit hard by a string of failures from the Mumbai film industry. Scared by recurring losses, they are hesitant to accept new movies from the country’s film capital.

Some of them are now getting old Hollywood rejects or south Indian semi-pornographic movies to keep the cash boxes ringing.

Smita said she was appalled by the lack of awareness among Bihar film producers who do not even know the amount of bank loans available for producing language films.

According to her, the condition of halls in Patna was woeful. The owners should be allowed to hike the price of tickets by Re 1 for proper maintenance, she felt, and added that she had sought cooperation of the chief minister in checking the exhibition of pirated videos by cable operators which was dealing a crushing blow to the film industry.

Despite her candid praise for the Bihar supremo, Smita preferred to play safe when it came to a comparison between her fiery father-in-law and the RJD boss. Such comparisons, she said, were inappropriate.


New Delhi, July 12: 
The Supreme Court today stayed the acquittal of the Hinduja brothers in the Bofors case and ordered trial proceedings to resume, a month after Delhi High Court had quashed charges against the billionaire trio.

“We are staying the operation of the high court judgment and all proceedings in the matter will go on,” said a three-judge bench of Chief Justice B.N. Kirpal, Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice Arijit Pasayat.

On June 10, Delhi High Court had quashed charges against the Hindujas on grounds that the Central Bureau of Investigation did not get clearance from the Central Vigilance Commission.

Today’s order, which came on a special leave petition filed by the CBI, means that Srichand, Gopichand and Prakashchand Hinduja have to come back to India to submit before the trial court. Proceedings in the case will resume on July 29.

The apex court refused to entertain the plea by Kapil Sibal, counsel for the Hindujas, that trial proceedings should not go on as it would cause “severe prejudice” to his clients.

“We are convinced that this judgment is completely unsustainable,” the judges said. “The Vineet Narain judgment was not meant for this.”

In the Vineet Narain case, popularly known as the Jain hawala case, the apex court had laid down a series of guidelines for investigating agencies.

The court had said the Central Vigilance Commission would be the overall superintending authority of these agencies and they should perform their statutory duties without political interference.

The single-member bench of Justice R.S. Sodhi of Delhi High Court interpreted this to hold that the CBI should get clearance from the vigilance commission for prosecution in a case.

Sodhi had said the trial judge, “in view of the mandate of the Supreme Court, ought not to have entertained the chargesheet filed in violation of the directives”.

He quashed the charges as well as the cognisance taken by the trial court and all further proceedings in the case against the Hindujas. This gave rise to a situation in which cases against the other accused like Ottavio Quattrocchi would have continued but not against the Hindujas.

This was another reason why Sibal argued that “at least” charges should not be framed against the Hindujas. “Then no prosecution in this country would succeed in any case,” the judges shot back.

Sibal continued with his argument, the judges shot back: “If the judgment is not stayed and (trial) proceedings are not allowed, then no prosecution will succeed in this country. Let the charges be framed.”

Today’s order also negated the high court’s view that the CBI should get the vigilance commission’s clearance before filing a chargesheet.

The CBI in its SLP contended that the high court had erred in quashing charges against the Hindujas and that the apex court judgment in Vineet Narain case was meant for “independence” of the investigating agencies without political interference.


New Delhi, July 12: 
Representatives of Muslim religious bodies said they have not been invited to a meeting on Monday called by the National Minorities Commission to achieve communal harmony.

The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, the Milli Council, the Muslim League, the Muslim Majlis, the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Jamaat-e-Ulema, the Muslim Mushawarat, the Muslim Indians Council, the Ahle Hadis and other Muslim organisations feigned ignorance wondering the real objective of the exercise.

“We have not been told. What is the purpose of the initiative? The AIMPLB resolutions have made it clear that there will be no talks with Sangh parivar leaders,” said Kamal Farooqi, a member of the board. He said the board as such was not against dialogue but the broad parameters have to be worked out.

“We have always maintained that we are willing to talk to the government but we have also said we would not talk to the Sangh parivar and there is no shift in that stand,” he said.

Mohammad Afzal, a close associate of the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid and secretary of the All India Congress Committee’s minorities department, said: “There is no point in holding such a dialogue when Sangh parivar outfits keep making threatening noises on Ayodhya.”

Afzal had recently brought seventeen prominent Muslim organisations under one umbrella. He alleged that Trilochan Singh and John Joseph of the panel were scouting for “unknown Muslim entities” to bring them to the negotiating table. “But the government must know their locus standi. Picking obscure organisations to suit political considerations would prove counter-productive,” the former member of Parliament said.

Others, too, sounded pessimistic. Former Delhi Haj Committee chairman Anis Durrani urged the government not to “deal” with “self-styled and self-proclaimed leaders” of the Muslim community. He said post-Gujarat, the Muslim community was wary of the “true intentions” of the Sangh.


New Delhi, July 12: 
Allaying fears in Sri Lanka in the wake of MDMK leader Vaiko’s support for a separate Tamil Eelam, foreign minister Yashwant Sinha has assured Colombo that Delhi continues to remain committed to the “unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity” of the island nation.

Sinha, who reached Sri Lanka yesterday afternoon, also made it clear that India was fully supportive of the measures taken by the Sri Lankan government to find a permanent and peaceful solution to the decade-old ethnic strife in the country.

In a related development, India has decided to replace Gopal Gandhi, its high commissioner in Sri Lanka, with Nirupam Sen, who is at present India’s ambassador to Norway. South Block is reportedly unhappy with Gandhi’s style of handling India’s relations with Sri Lanka over the past few years.

But South Block did not make its displeasure apparent. Instead, Gandhi and Sen will swap places, with the former now taking up his successor’s post as envoy to Norway.

The foreign minister’s decision to visit Maldives and Sri Lanka on his first official tour after assuming the new portfolio in the Vajpayee government, is in itself a confidence-building measure to impress on the two neighbours the importance Delhi attaches to bilateral relations with them.

After finishing the first leg of his journey in Male, Sinha arrived in Sri Lanka yesterday and held wide-ranging discussions with the government in Colombo over the last two days.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga, Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe and foreign minister Tyronne Fernando were among the Sri Lankan leaders with whom Sinha discussed important regional and bilateral developments.

He also reiterated India’s demand for extradition of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam chief V. Prabhakaran, according to PTI reports. Maintaining that there was no contradiction between backing the peace process and persisting with its demand for Prabhakaran’s extradition, Sinha said: “There is no contradiction… our position has been clearly stated from time to time. We have our laws to observe and there is a peace process here.”

India’s request for Prabhakaran’s extradition, pending since 1995, to stand trial for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, is seen as a latent factor that will determine the course of the peace initiative.

In a joint statement issued at the end of his visit, Sinha underlined India’s commitment to unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and to the “restoration of a lasting peace through a peaceful, negotiated settlement that meets the just aspirations of all elements of Sri Lankan society”. He also reaffirmed the country’s full support to the measures taken by the Sri Lankan government to take the peace process forward.

The presence of pro-LTTE entities — like the MDMK — in the ruling National Democratic Alliance in India has been a source of worry for the Sri Lankan leadership.    

New Delhi, July 12: 
Dubbing Parliament the “biggest obstruction” in the path of the Ram temple construction, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad today said it would recruit and train thousands of Ram sadhaks to spread the movement across the country and polarise the nation.

“We have been prevented from building the temple with the acquisition of the land in Ayodhya by an act of Parliament. Dialogues to resolve the issue have taken place several times in the past and the religious leaders have declared that matters of faith are not to be decided by courts. Therefore, Parliament has become the biggest obstruction and it should resolve the issue,” said Ashok Singhal, VHP international working president.

Singhal said the outfit would be meeting leaders of NDA parties, the Congress and the opposition to garner support for the movement.

Asserting that the Ram temple was not a political issue, Singhal said “it is not a political issue but BJP politicised it, which the Congress had done earlier”.

He said while no timeframe had been fixed for the construction of the Ram temple, “there will be some major developments in 2003 based on the people’s strength”. Singhal said the Ram sadhaks would visit villages on foot and cycle to supervise religious programmes aimed at creating awareness.

“We will meet NDA leaders and Congress leader Arjun Singh, appointed by party president Sonia Gandhi to talk to us. We will impress on them that it was a sensitive issue, which could establish Hindu-Muslim unity and we do not want any violence,” he said.

Switching to Jammu and Kashmir, Singhal alleged that the Farooq Abdullah government was engaged in changing the demographic pattern of Jammu and Ladakh by settling a large number of Kashmiri Muslims in these regions.

Announcing a “religious awareness” campaign in Jammu, Singhal said the demand for trifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir was justified, and it was “not communal” but based on “regional discrimination”. He said about 40 Hindu religious leaders would fan out across Jammu and create dharma jagran (religious awareness). He also ruled out the possibility of the VHP reconsidering its demand.

While the RSS has been demanding trifurcation to carve a Hindu-dominated Jammu state and a predominantly Buddhist Ladakh, the VHP went a step further. It demanded the division of Jammu and Kashmir into four parts with statehood to Jammu, union territory status for Ladakh and an enclave for displaced Kashmiri Pandits within the Valley.

“This is not a Hindu-Muslim question. It is a question of regional disparity and discrimination. There are a large number of Gujjar Muslims who also support our demand,” he said.




Maximum: 34.2°C (+2)
Minimum: 29.8°C (+4)



Relative humidity

Max: 90%
Min: 68%

Sunrise: 5.03 am

Sunset: 6.22 pm


Generally cloudy sky, with possibility of one or two spells of rain or thundershowers in some areas

Maintained by Web Development Company