Carnage in Jammu ends calm
Future buries India’s past
Rail row sent back to Cabinet
Modi poll plot rolls on rath
Calcutta Weather

 
 
CARNAGE IN JAMMU ENDS CALM 
 
 
FROM MUKHTAR AHMAD
 
Srinagar, July 13: 
Militants struck at a Jammu slum this evening when residents were watching the cricket match on television, leaving 24 dead in the biggest massacre since the Kaluchak attack in May that had brought India and Pakistan on the brink of a war.

The Centre reserved its comment late tonight but the massacre is expected to top the agenda of the Cabinet Committee on Security, which is scheduled to meet tomorrow.

The carnage came a few hours after new foreign minister Yashwant Sinha said infiltration across the Line of Control had gone up after an initial drop and added that India would not resume talks with Pakistan till the Musharraf regime dismantled the militant camps.

This followed statements by the US state department yesterday that infiltration had come down substantially.

State director general of police Ashok Suri said a group of two to four militants sneaked into the Qasim Nagar locality and hurled two grenades. “As the people came out, the militants sprayed bullets from their automatic weapons on the slum dwellers,” he said. A Reuters report said the militants were disguised as Hindu holy men.

Three persons were killed near the temple in the locality, where the militants fired from their automatic weapons. “Thirteen persons died on the spot while seven succumbed to their injuries in the hospital,” Suri added. A child was among the 13 who were brought dead to the hospital.

Thirty people have been wounded in the strike, 15 of them seriously. All the injured are in hospital.

As the news of the massacre travelled, panic gripped Jammu city. People rushed back home and army and police personnel were sent to the spot immediately.

The troops encircled the area and engaged the militants in a heavy gunbattle. “We can still hear the sounds of gunfire,” said Ramesh Kumar, a resident, when he was reached on telephone.

“The troops returned the fire and the area has been completely sealed. The Jammu bypass road has also been closed for traffic. No movement is being allowed and heavy firing exchanges are continuing in the locality,” said a police official.

But Suri said that after the heavy firing, the militants had escaped towards the adjoining hills. “Army and police are searching the hills. The firing has stopped. But the searches are continuing,” he said. No one has claimed responsibility.

   

 
 
FUTURE BURIES INDIA’S PAST 
 
 
BY LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Calcutta, July 13: 
Just over a year ago in Kandy, Mohammed Kaif was worried about being “blacklisted” by Sourav Ganguly for posting the Test-winning runs.

The captain, after all, was left unbeaten on 98 — that, too, when he was going through an indifferent patch and a hundred would have meant so much.

Cut to Lord’s late this evening and, again, the decisive runs came from the unassuming Allahabadi’s blade. This time, an absolutely overwhelmed Sourav — whose fingers were glued to his Maa Chandi locket for the last half-an-hour — nearly choked Kaif (87 not out off 75 balls) with affection.

Indeed, had vice-captain Rahul Dravid and others not “intervened”, Kaif would have been receiving medical aid instead of personally collecting the MoM award after the most scintillating one-day final in recent memory.

The two-wicket win (326 for eight) not just gave India the NatWest Trophy, but ended the nearly four-year wait for success in tournaments featuring three or more teams.

Moreover, with Kaif (India’s U-19 World Cup-winning captain) and Yuvraj Singh (69 off 63 deliveries) stitching a phenomenal recovery, the Indians consigned to the Thames talk of being poor chasers.

Clearly, only a team with extraordinary character, among other attributes, could have got past 325 with three balls remaining. And, after being down for the count at 146 for five.

Though India shut out Pakistan during that memorable 300-plus chase at Dhaka’s National Stadium in January 1998, the No.1 spot is held by Ricky Ponting’s Australians. Earlier this year in Port Elizabeth, they smashed 330 for seven to shock South Africa.

Today, though, a lot more was at stake and if Nasser Hussain — who was far from unflappable — had to concede that the Indians “played out of their skin”, Sourav spoke of the win being “unbelievable”.

While lauding his team collectively, Sourav did single out the Kaif-Yuvraj duo. But for their aggressive 121-run partnership (sixth-wicket), the bubbly would have been overflowing in the England dressing room. Despite Sourav’s own scorcher (60 off 43 deliveries) at the top of the order.

Having come through the ranks together, Kaif and Yuvraj understand each other perfectly. In a crisis, that helps.

Incidentally, a few months ago, both co-starred in an electrifying win over Zimbabwe. But, then, it’s the Lord’s effort which will be recounted many times over.

Lord’s, of course, continues to remain special. Obviously, this NatWest win can’t equal Kapil Dev’s lifting of the (Prudential) World Cup in 1983, but beating England on home turf — less than a fortnight ahead of the Test series — is still significant.

Postscript: Kapil, by the way, was at the Ganguly residence earlier in the day (for a TV shoot) and, seeing a pujari, had assured Sourav’s parents their prayers would be answered.

“It’s a matter of keeping faith,” Kapil later told The Telegraph. It’s that, yes, and much more.

   

 
 
RAIL ROW SENT BACK TO CABINET 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, July 13: 
The Centre tonight sought to buy time on carving up railway zones by referring the issue back to the Cabinet after talks led by the Prime Minister failed to break the deadlock.

The decision came after extensive talks among Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, NDA convener and defence minister George Fernandes and railway minister Nitish Kumar.

The move to bring the Cabinet back into the picture may have a salutary effect on the monsoon session of Parliament, which begins on Monday, at least for a couple of days. Both the Trinamul Congress and the Left may hold their fire, pending a fresh look by the Cabinet.

It may also help dilute further the rail-roko stir launched by Trinamul today in several parts of Bengal.

Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee was also invited to the talks in Delhi, but did not attend. Sources said she might arrive in the capital tomorrow.

Unless the Prime Minister’s camp comes out in support of Mamata, the Cabinet, which has several ministers from Bihar, is unlikely to completely overturn the decision to divide the railway zones.

A proposal, mooted by some interlocutors early this week as a compromise formula, suggested the handover of the cash-rich Dhanbad division to Eastern Railway and creation of a new division at Bhagalpur with Malda and Katiahar.

Fernandes, who had yesterday ruled out a rethink on the issue, tonight said the proposed Cabinet discussion could not be termed a “review”. Fernandes said Kumar made a detailed presentation on the move to create new zones and divisions since 1996 and his presentation will be placed before the Cabinet next week.

Asked if it meant the government was inclined to review the Cabinet decision, Fernandes said: “Review is too big a word.” He said “the entire issue of the subject of controversy” will be discussed.

Sources close to Kumar, however, said the process of creating new zones at Hajipur and Jaipur (for which notifications have already been issued) will continue.

Fernandes, who was expected to reach here on Sunday morning, was asked by Vajpayee to cut short his visit and reach here today itself, fuelling speculation that the Prime Minister is keen to work out a deal on the eve of the monsoon session of Parliament.

Sources close to Vajpayee said he was not pleased with Fernandes foreclosing the issue yesterday.

Even Advani did not say so. After meeting an all-party Bihar team on Thursday, Advani had said the matter involved relations between two states and that the government did not want to hurt the sentiments of any particular state. He said it was up to the Cabinet and the Prime Minister whether or not to review the bifurcation decision.

   

 
 
MODI POLL PLOT ROLLS ON RATH 
 
 
FROM BASANT RAWAT AND RASHEED KIDWAI
 
July 13: 
Narendra Modi is trying to hardsell the Jagannath rath’s incident-free yatra as a sign that peace has returned to Gujarat and the state is ready for early elections. The chief minister is expected to recommend dissolution of the Assembly any day after Monday’s presidential polls.

The Congress also moved into poll mode, with party president Sonia Gandhi asking state unit chief Amarsinh Chaudhary and legislature party leader Naresh Raval to step down.

Although Modi is keen on polls ahead of schedule, the BJP leadership is divided on the issue. Party sources said his biggest hurdle is Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who is not yet convinced the situation has returned to normal. However, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani yesterday indicated that elections could be held immediately after the monsoons.

That Modi is busy highlighting the yatra “achievement” became clear today when Advani spoke on the issue in Delhi. “I am happy that the Jagannath yatra went off successfully… The chief minister rang up and told me so,” he told reporters.

If Modi recommends dissolution, the Governor will forward it to the Election Commission, which is reportedly not in favour of early polls. In the event of the poll panel returning the recommendation, the Centre can put the state under President’s rule.

Sources close to Modi said he has been waiting for the yatra to pass off peacefully and will be boosted by the return of the riot victims to their homes from relief camps, where they had taken shelter fearing fresh violence.

Mohsin Quadri, chief coordinator of the Shah-e-Alam relief camp, said those who had sought refuge would start leaving from tomorrow. Of the 2,000-odd people still in the Dariaykhan Ghummat relief camp, only those from Naroda Patia and Chamanpura will stay back, said Ataullakhan, the in-charge.

BJP sources said Modi could now try to convince the Election Commission that the situation is conducive for early elections. The party has authorised him to decide when to hold them.

Not all BJP legislators are, however, keen to go to polls as the party did not do well in the municipal elections. But a section of the BJP, including Modi, feels that local issues dominated them and the polarisation that followed the riots will see the party through.

BJP state general secretary Nalin Bhatt said Modi would prefer to hold elections in the first week of October before Diwali and Dussehra. Till then, he would try to expedite the rehabilitation process.

NGOs have already begun repairing and rebuilding houses for riot victims and the process is likely to be completed by September-end.

Stakes are also high for the Congress, which is banking on “peaceful” Gujaratis. Sonia told party colleagues recently that Modi’s exit would be a lesson for all those who believe in making electoral gains through communal frenzy.

The high command got several surveys conducted to gauge public opinion. A survey commissioned by a private agency soon after the riots had presented a grim picture, projecting the Congress way behind the BJP. However, last month, an internal survey showed the Congress neck and neck with the BJP.

Chaudhary’s exit is a major victory for Kamal Nath, the AICC general secretary in-charge of Gujarat, who has been insisting on a change of guard because of the state unit’s lacklustre performance during and after the riots.

Former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela is one of the front-runners to replace Chaudhary.

Nath, who is under pressure to deliver Gujarat to his party, has drawn up a list of 32 state ministers from Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and put them in charge of various districts.

Sources said the Congress general secretary is confident the Congress would win at least 100 of the 182 Assembly seats.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 36.5°C (-5)
Minimum: 28.9°C (+3)

Rainfall:

Nil

Relative humidity

Maximum: 92%,
Minimum: 58%

Today

Sunrise: 5.03 am

Sunset: 6.22 pm
Generally cloudy sky with possibility of rain or thundershower in some parts
   
 

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