People’s War ready for talks with terms
DNA test nails Kashmir lie
Panel to vet college claims for extra seats
Golf blooms where guns boom
Indians keep Dreams rolling
Jaya leads rush for a slice of Kamaraj legacy
Minority education institutions’ rights not absolute: Centre
Govt offers Valley Jaitley and powers
Vote-fixing cloud on poll against foreign funds in print
Calcutta Weather

Calcutta, July 16: 
The People’s War, facing a crackdown, tonight said it was willing to hold talks with the Bengal government, if certain conditions were met.

In a three-page statement, signed by “Kishan” on behalf of the politburo and delivered to our office (and mailed to our Patna correspondent), the radical Left group set certain terms for a dialogue.

“As far as talks go, we are always willing but the following minimum conditions must be met.”

The battle for winning the masses must be political

All CPM leaders, particularly in Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia, must disband all their arms not only from their person, but from the stockpiles in their offices

Public meetings must be allowed in all villages irrespective of whether it is a CPM stronghold

The People’s War be allowed to prove in people’s courts the charges against those who have been killed and against whom it has issued a chargesheet.

It was not clear why the group was expressing willingness to hold talks at this point, but much of the statement is a narration of the police crackdown that began recently.

The group also referred to an offer of talks made by senior CPM leader Benoy Konar, and the expression of its own readiness could be a response to that.

Konar, a central committee member, today said the government would not open talks till the group gave up the “politics of murder”. The People’s War, on the contrary, said in the statement it had been forced to take up arms for survival in Midnapore in the face of attacks by the CPM, the Trinamul Congress and even the RSS, did not shun violence.

A public announcement of willingness to talk fits into the pattern seen in Andhra Pradesh and in Nepal. In Andhra, the People’s War Group (PWG) even sat down for talks, which have now all but broken down and been followed by an escalation of violence. Similarly, in Nepal, the Maoists began negotiating, but again the dialogue failed opening the gate for bloodshed that has seen emergency clamped in the country.

In both cases, the groups might have entered into a dialogue to ease the pressure of a crackdown to gain time to consolidate and hit back.

If the People’s War is following the same tactics in Bengal, the situations are not quite comparable because of the vastly inferior strength of its presence, compared with its counterparts in Andhra and Nepal.

Its weakness — the group’s influence is restricted to a few pockets in West Midnapore alone — may also turn out to be the reason for the government declining to talk, deciding instead that crushing is a better option.

For the government, the objective of talks will be to get the outfit to disarm, but even in today’s statement the People’s War swore by “armed struggle to achieve a just and equitable order” in the face of “state terror”.

The statement acknowledged the report (The Telegraph, July 13) that “the Midnapore belt is planned as a guerrilla zone”. “Our ninth congress openly declared that such backward areas be transformed into base areas.”

The statement compared the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government’s crackdown to the one under Siddhartha Shankar Ray 30 years ago, saying that only the scale was different.

It said the latest “round of attacks” started with the arrest of a state committee member, Gautam, and another on June 20. “Since July 4, it has been a mass-scale offensive” by the state machinery.

“Those arrested have been brutally beaten and tortured, and even those not arrested are being continuously harassed… none of these had any day-to-day links with the People’s War and were mere broad sympathisers of the revolutionary cause.”

The statement mentioned the suicide of Abhijit Sinha, the young central excise officer, who killed himself after being picked up by police for questioning on his so-called People’s War links.

It claimed that in Midnapore the crackdown started last September. “Though the arrest and torture of intellectuals (a reference to Kaushik Ganguly, the college teacher who was held earlier this month) has got extensive media publicity, the terror in Midnapore is relatively less featured,” the group said.


Calcutta, July 16: 
Mandible and teeth of source (Grave I) belong to the biological son of Mrs Raja Bano; Humerus of source (Grave II) cannot be excluded of being brother of Ghulam Rasool; Humerus of source (Grave III) belongs to the biological father of Abdul Rasheed; Teeth of source (Grave IV) belongs to the biological father of Shakoor Khan; Femur of source (Grave V) belongs to the biological father of Aijaz Ahmad...

A “confidential” document concluding with these lines left Park Circus, Calcutta, earlier this month. On Tuesday, it took centrestage in the Kashmir Assembly, with the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) report being tabled by chief minister Farooq Abdullah.

The DNA findings “clearly established” that the five people killed by securitymen following the Chattisinghpora massacre of 35 Sikhs in March 2000 were all local civilians and not foreign militants. “The deceased were not foreign terrorists as claimed by the forces who led the operations, but they were innocent civilians,” said Abdullah.

“In view of the gravity of the offence as well as the attempt made by certain officials to destroy the evidence and to ensure fair investigation, I have recommended that the case be taken up by the CBI,” he added.

Abdullah also assured “ex-gratia relief as per rules within two days” to the next of kin, with “one dependant of each victim to be absorbed in government service within a week”.

CFSL sources said the findings were “conclusive” as the tests were carried out “as per international standards”. It was one of the “toughest cases” as “the bodies were burnt, buried, exhumed and buried again before being finally exhumed, over a period of two years”.

This, they say, brings the curtains down on the DNA drama that began soon after the killing, on the eve of then US President Bill Clinton’s visit.

The police had blamed the attack on the Harkat-ul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba. Ashok Bhan, inspector-general of police of Kashmir, had said that “terrorists hiding in Gujjar ‘kothas’ opened indiscriminate fire on a joint party of police and Rashtriya Rifles at Pathribal- Panchalthan in Anantnag district on March 25, 2000”.

He later claimed that “five foreign terrorists” were killed in retaliatory action, but it was impossible to identify the victims as the “kothas” were completely gutted and the bodies charred beyond recognition.

Under pressure to identify the victims, the Jammu and Kashmir police sent bone and tissue samples to Calcutta. But CFSL officials found “several discrepancies” and sent back the samples, stating that they had been “tampered with”.

For months, the Kashmir government kept the CFSL snub under wraps, say sources in the Calcutta laboratory. When the “DNA fudge” became public, it caused a furore in Kashmir with residents of Pathribal-Panchalthal and adjoining areas claiming the five victims had gone missing a day before the security forces claimed to have killed the “five foreign mercenaries”.

In March this year, the government requested CFSL and the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad, to “personally collect” the samples. Dr A.K. Sharma and S. Sathyan from CFSL went to Kashmir “under extraordinary security cover” in April to bring back the samples.


Calcutta, July 16: 
Calcutta University today set up a six-member panel to look into the claims of colleges that have sought permission for admitting students to their undergraduate courses beyond the allotted quota of seats.

The decision to form the committee comes after the university last week told the 200 undergraduate colleges affiliated to it to drastically reduce admission of students to improve the quality of teaching and academic standards.

“The response to the circular is very good and, in fact, this is the first time principals are approaching us (the university authorities) in writing to confess that they had admitted students exceeding their quotas to a large extent in the previous years,” said Suranjan Das, pro vice-chancellor, academic affairs.

Since last week, the university has received letters from principals of at least a dozen colleges seeking permission to admit students beyond their allotted capacities in the current academic session.

The circular, however, said that in “exceptional cases,” colleges may be allowed to exceed the quota, but only with the university’s permission.

The members of the committee will visit the colleges to assess their infrastructure. “We will examine the infrastructure first, compare it with the demand of the principal and then decide how many more students they will be able to admit,” said one of the members.

Before the committee members visit the colleges, the principals have been asked to send specific data to the university regarding the number of applications they have received from students for admission to courses in all three streams — arts, commerce and science.

As part of its drive to improve quality of undergraduate courses, the university has also decided to maintain strict vigil on student attendance.

Das said surprise inspections would be conducted every month in each of the affiliated colleges to check daily attendance. The move has been taken following complaints from teachers. They said though the number of absentees in pass courses was very high in most colleges, the college authorities allowed the students to appear in university examinations after charging them nominal fines.

There is another reason why the university wants to monitor attendance. It has found out that low attendance prompts most principals to admit students in excess of the capacity of their institutions.

“Many heads take it for granted that a bulk of the students will always remain absent, so there will be no problem of seating in the classrooms if excess students are admitted,” said a committee member.


Srinagar, July 16: 
An army officer had commented to The Telegraph correspondent covering the Kargil war: “It’s too beautiful to let go.”

He was referring to Kashmir.

Today, a golfer meant much the same when he said: “I can’t believe my eyes.”

Vivek Bhandari was referring to the Royal Springs Golf Club course — the latest stop on the Indian tournament circuit — on the eastern bank of Dal Lake.

Nestling at the bottom of the Zabarwan hills and overlooked by the famous spring, Cheshmashai, the 18-hole course hosts its first major tournament for four days starting tomorrow.

Despite Saturday’s massacre in Jammu, nearly 100 players have come here for the tournament on the course that was officially opened by Governor G.C. Saxena yesterday. It had its first meet last year, but this is the first tournament on a grand scale.

“We had expected a field not exceeding 75. But entries have already crossed 90 with 10 more on the waiting list. It’s a huge credit to the players that they have not been weighed down by security concerns,” said Digraj Singh, senior vice-president of Tiger Sports Management (TSM), which manages and runs the Indian tour.

Singh is in Srinagar overseeing the preparation for the landmark meet at “the most gorgeous setting for a golf tournament”.

Brandon D’Souza, the president of TSM who visited the venue a week ago, said: “The course looks a picture and surely ranks among the finest on the continent. We kicked off the course with the Sher-e-Kashmir meet last October and Royal Springs will become another permanent stop on the Hero Honda Indian Tour.”

Designed by Robert Trent Jones II, whom D’Souza describes as “one of the top in the world”, the course is a fond dream come true for chief minister Farooq Abdullah, himself a keen golfer.

The course cost Rs 52 crore to lay with turf imported from Australia and that amount does not include the price of the land given by the government.

“It is very well designed, great maintenance, good weather and the beauty around. I had heard about this course but I am pleased to be here,” says Harmeet Kahlon, who won the 2002 Hero Honda championship.

Among the leading players who have already reached Srinagar are Harmeet Kahlon, last year’s Masters winner, Feroze Ali from Calcutta and Ali Sher, both former Indian open champions, Jyoti Randhawa, coming off an accident-induced layoff, Rohtak Singh, Uttam Singh Mundi, Vivek Bhandari and Gaurav Ghei.

“There are also youngsters who have come out recently from the qualifying school of the Indian tour, held recently at Jaipur,” said Sampath Chari, the executive director, tournaments, Professional Golfers’ Association of India.

Chari said the course is fit for an international tournament as “it has the length, excellent practice facilities, driving range, an operational club, changing rooms and everything a player wants”.

Feroze Ali, who plays his game at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, however, believes: “The course needs widening for holding an international tournament.”

But that doesn’t stop him from waxing eloquent. “This is a golf course of international standard. Acclimatisation is not difficult. The air is salubrious. It is heaven.”

Not quite. It is paradise on earth.

And Abdullah’s government is hoping to get visitors back to this paradise. “The administration hopes to use the tournament as a vehicle to control the damage done by negative propaganda,” D’Souza said.

If you’re planning to swing your club in this heavenly field, heed the advice of pros. “The ball here flies longer because the air is rarefied at the elevation. This is a challenge. One has to adjust to it,” said Kahlon.

“The contours of the course offer the player different lies — downhill or uphill — so one has to be sure how he wishes to play his next shot. You have to plan and play here as every hole has got bunkers guarding the green and also a lot of water. That makes a challenge to a golfer,” warns Chari.

Governor Saxena complimented Abdullah and all those associated with the project. “But for the keen interest of the chief minister, this mega project would not have come up so magnificently,” he said.

Abdullah may or may not achieve the autonomy he wants for his state, but he has got his golf course. And now he’s chasing another dream. He wants Tiger Woods, no less, to play there.

(with inputs from Subhro Saha)


London, July 16: 
The musical Bombay Dreams is proving so successful that its run has been extended by another six months, it was announced in London today.

“The show is sensationally successful,” said Peter Thompson, a spokesman for the producer, Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Most nights a “House Full” sign has had to be put up outside the Victoria Apollo, a theatre with a capacity of 2,200.

The main reason for the success of Bombay Dreams is that it has been drawing capacity Indian crowds, including hundreds who have flown in from Mumbai and Delhi.

The music of Bombay Dreams has been composed by A.R. Rahman, with the choreography done by Farah Khan, also from Mumbai.

Lloyd Webber said: “I am absolutely thrilled. It is quite extraordinary that the show has come from zero to being sold out.”

Tickets for the new booking period, covering October 1, 2002, to March 2003, go on sale from tomorrow. The budget for the show amounted to £4.5 million.

He added: “We were nervous about how the show would be received because we knew we had something very different. But it seems to have absolutely captured the imagination of people who don’t normally go to musicals. The audience is different from any I have seen for a long time. We wanted to make people feel that musicals are hip and cool again. Musicals were losing a younger audience and I think we have gone some way to reversing that.”

Apart from the large Asian audience, white people have also seen the show, he said. “There is a considerable Asian presence but there is also a white audience, who are often friends of the young Asians who come to see it.”

When the show first opened, Asians made up 90 per cent of the audience on some nights. It has seldom dropped below 50 per cent.

The musical is expected to open in Broadway in the new year.


Chennai, July 16: 
Kumarasami Kamaraj — of the Congress, for the Congress. Not anymore.

On his birth centenary, the Dravidian parties have laid claim to the legacy of the Tamil Nadu stalwart and Congress veteran, catching the Congress parivar by surprise.

The Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) — set to merge with its parent party on August 14 — sparked the rush when in an attempt to cash in on the centenary mood it vowed to bring back “Kamaraj rule” under a united Congress leadership.

But the ruling ADMK stole the thunder by kicking off statewide celebrations of Kamaraj’s birth centenary yesterday. Chief minister Jayalalithaa led the way by unveiling the leader’s portrait at the University Centenary Auditorium in a grand official function.

“Politically, the Indian National Congress and the Dravidian movement may be poles apart, but none of the great Dravidian leaders from Periyar to Anna to MGR had failed to appreciate the great sacrifices made by Kamaraj, always known for his utter simplicity, selfless devotion to the poor and political astuteness,” the chief minister said in a soul-stirring speech.

Earlier in the day, public works minister O. Panneerselvam had inaugurated a photo exhibition on Kamaraj.

The government function surprised political observers as it was held almost simultaneously with the TMC’s own show at Sathyamurthy Bhavan, where its president G.K. Vasan inaugurated party celebrations. Amma, however, had more surprises in store for them.

Jayalalithaa said her government would carry forward the good efforts undertaken by Kamaraj during his tenure for the overall growth and development of Tamil Nadu — a move many said was aimed at neutralising the “revive Kamaraj rule” slogan of the Congress parivar.

Even as the Tamil Nadu Congress set its celebration rolling at Virdhunagar, close to Kamaraj’s birthplace, leaders across the political spectrum in the state, including the DMK’s youth wing secretary M.K. Stalin, garlanded the leader’s statue here.

DMK president M. Karunanidhi was not to be left behind. The party’s organ, Murasoli, splashed a feature today, reminding people that it was Karunanidhi’s government that had constructed a beautiful mani mantapam (memorial) for Kamaraj in India’s southernmost tip, Kanyakumari.

Mahatma Gandhi is the other leader to have been honoured with a memorial in the temple-town. The environmental clearance was granted by DMK nominee in the Union Cabinet T.R. Baalu, who was environment minister then, it pointed out.

Former state Congress president Vazhapadi K. Ramamurthy, who recently merged his Tamizhaga Rajiv Congress with the parent party, also joined the celebrations, sending up a huge balloon at Guindy to take the Kamaraj legacy to greater heights.


New Delhi, July 16: 
The Union government today contended before the Supreme Court that the governing body of minority institutions should not have “absolute management rights”.

Suggesting radical changes in the interpretation of the right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions, solicitor-general Harish Salve said the right enshrined in the Constitution could not be an absolute one and has to be subject to “reasonable restrictions”.

“Article 30 of the Constitution confers the right to minority to establish educational institutions and administer them. But the right is not so wide to block state laws which are applicable to all and enacted for attainment of secular objectives,” Salve, appearing for the government, said before an 11-member bench.

Salve said that if the right under Article 30 was made absolute, then even if a minority educational institution taught “secession or armed revolution”, the government could not interfere in the management of the school or college.

“Nobody can be allowed to do something against public order under the garb of the right to profess religion,” he said, adding: “Whether majority or minority, the government cannot totally wash its hands of when it is the question of religion.”

He argued that as the Constitution permits legislative intervention in management and administration of secular schools, it was absurd if the same was not allowed in minority educational institutions.

Salve said under the Constitution, there was no such thing as an absolute right as no constitutional system had accepted such rights.

He said general laws meant to achieve secular objectives should be applicable to educational institutions established and administered by minorities. But these general laws should not impair the right under Article 29 or Article 30, he added.

Salve said if the minority institution was wholly funded by the state, then the institution lost its right to administer notwithstanding the rights under Article 30.

“If a minority institution is taking public funds then the right of equality will apply to the institution except for the reservation laws enacted by Parliament,” he said.

The arguments in the case, which resumed today after the court’s summer vacations, will continue on a day-to-day basis. Around 200 petitions have been filed on the contentious issues of who constitute the minorities, what is a minority institution and several others.

These are to be heard by the biggest-ever 11-member bench of the Supreme Court. Other issues include what is religion/language and who are the linguistic/religious minorities.


New Delhi, July 16: 
Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani today confirmed that former Union minister Arun Jaitley has been named the Centre’s interlocutor for discussion on devolution of “greater powers” to Jammu and Kashmir but ruled out conferring the pre-1953 status on the state.

Replying to a Congress-sponsored adjournment motion on the weekend massacre in Jammu’s Qasim Nagar, Advani asked the US to declare Pakistan a “terrorist” state if it failed to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure. However, he did not directly link Pakistan to the Jammu killings.

The tone and tenor of the deputy Prime Minister’s 30-minute speech was much milder compared to those he had made as home minister. A dissatisfied Opposition — barring “unofficial allies” BSP and ADMK —walked out, accusing the government of not spelling out clear-cut steps to deal with terrorism. As a consequence, the adjournment motion was negated by voice vote.

Advani said Jaitley, now a BJP general secretary, would soon hold talks with the Farooq Abdullah government and political parties on devolution of more powers. He said the Centre had rejected the Assembly resolution seeking greater autonomy “as it meant restoration of pre-1953 status”. This would deprive the people of rights they had got under the Constitution after 1953.

“This exercise will begin immediately,” Advani said, adding that Jammu and Kashmir was a special state and the government had no objection to giving it more powers. But he rejected the RSS and VHP demand for trifurcation of the state.

The deputy Prime Minister said the US should declare Pakistan a terrorist state if it could not stop Islamabad from exporting terror. “If the US wants, it can stop terrorism and put an end to terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan by threatening to declare it a terrorist state.”

Maintaining that the global community, including the US, was “not doing enough” to stop Pakistan from sponsoring terror, Advani said Islamabad would not be able to cope with sanctions if it were put on the list of terrorist states.

No big nation was ready to blame Pakistan for fomenting terror and just said they wanted terrorism in India to end, Advani said. He ruled out third-party mediation in Kashmir, and asserted that India would have to fight its own battle against terror.

The deputy Prime Minister said the Centre would ensure that Assembly elections in Kashmir were free and fair. It would create conditions, including providing adequate security, so that a majority of the electorate could exercise its franchise.

Advani said he would prevail on finance minister Jaswant Singh to allot more funds for the modernisation of its police force. He recalled that from 1980 to 2000, the state had received just Rs 14.84 crore as against Rs 60 crore in the last two years. Even Rs 60 crore was “insufficient and inadequate”, he said.

He said that after losing three wars, Pakistan had conceived the idea of launching a covert war in the seventies and implemented it in 1980s through the ISI that set up modules in different parts of India to promote separatism. They tried it in Punjab where “we emerged victorious after ten years”, he said.

Describing the Jammu attack as yet another “naked act of terrorism”, Advani said the terrorists had come only with the intention of shedding blood and creating a fear psychosis among the people.

Observing that Delhi should not expect much from the international community, he said: “We have to fight our own battle against the menace”.

On the view that the government should not trust the US in the terror fight because Pervez Musharraf was their “best bet”, Advani said Delhi would continue to “mount diplomatic pressure” on the world community against Pakistan.


New Delhi, July 16: 
The Indian Newspaper Society (INS), the organisation of publishers of newspapers and magazines, is alleged to have engineered a vote that distorts the opinion of the industry on allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in the print media.

A vote taken by the INS has officially shown that 46 member publications were against FDI and 38 in its favour. But in separate missives to the INS secretariat, major publications — the Indian Express group (both North and South — numbering seven votes), the Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle have pointed out that their votes were not counted by the INS.

The representatives of these groups have consistently favoured FDI in previous executive committee meetings. Member publications of the INS who support FDI now argue that when the INS president, Pratap Pawar, speaks against FDI he is not speaking for the industry as a whole. Had their votes been taken on record, the result of the poll would have been quite the opposite.

Once this is done, it is clear that the majority of publications favours FDI in print. INS gives membership for publications — not for groups. This means that in a referendum, an organisation like Bennett, Coleman & Co. has multiple votes because of the large number of titles it publishes.

Indian Express Group CEO Shekhar Gupta wrote to Pawar after the poll, pointing out that the INS president’s letter inviting the views of member publications did not reach the Express office.

“The correct position is that my office never received this letter,” Gupta wrote.

“Nevertheless, let me state this emphatically on behalf of our group that we support the lifting of curbs on FDI in print media. The arguments in favour of this are too numerous to be listed in a letter. We also believe that while some people may have reservations on foreign control over the print media, our current demand of allowing FDI up to 26 per cent implies no such risks, even if they existed.

“I write this on behalf of all publications in our group which happen to be members of the INS, namely, The Indian Express, The Financial Express, Screen, Express Computers, Jansatta, Samkaleen, Loksatta (Marathi).”

Gupta’s position was strongly supported by the Mid-Day publications chief, Tariq Ansari, who also pointed out that “it would be inappropriate for the INS to address communications to government or parliamentary bodies making strong unequivocal statements regarding the INS position on FDI.”

The INS vote was taken quietly in March but it is only now, after the Union Cabinet permitted FDI in print, that the results are creating a furore in the industry.

Around the same time the INS poll was taken, exchang4media, an Internet mediawatch firm, carried out a survey of 1,000 media professionals, about 300 of whom were from media houses, including heads of the largest magazine and newspaper group. An overwhelming 81 per cent voted in favour of FDI.

A discussion in Parliament on the issue is likely in this session and groups opposed to FDI are lobbying strongly with the Congress and other Opposition parties to force the Centre to revise its view and revert to the anachronistic position adopted by the Cabinet in 1955.

Nine editors and publishers yesterday issued a release pointing out that the Congress itself had sought to lift the restriction.

“We recall that it was the Congress party, under P.V. Narasimha Rao, which started the process of reviewing the policy that had remained frozen since 1955. Indeed, a group of ministers in the Rao Cabinet had by majority vote argued in favour of a change of policy,” the release said.

“More recently, the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, had assured us more than once that she was in favour of precisely the kind of policy that the government has subsequently announced. It may also be recalled that Congress members of the standing committee on information technology had at one stage voted in favour of allowing foreign direct investment in the print media.

“It is quite clear, therefore, that the Congress Party’s position at various times has not been at variance with the new policy.

“We would, therefore, appeal to the Congress Party to not make this a subject of partisan politics, and to facilitate the task of strengthening Indian publishing companies by allowing them access to international capital,” the release said.

The signatories are Aroon Purie (India Today), M.J. Akbar (Asian Age), Narendra Mohan (Dainik Jagaran), Tariq Ansari (Mid-Day), Shekhar Gupta (Indian Express), Chandan Mitra (Pioneer), T.N. Ninan (Business Standard), Venkatrama Reddy (Deccan Chronicle) and Aveek Sarkar (The Telegraph).




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