Colonel killed in violence spurt
Shut and open case at Presidency
Election Commission freezes Dal ?wheel?
Reunited dynasty in strike mode
Calcutta weather

Aug. 7 
A day after the midnight raid on an army camp in Kupwara, militants struck again, killing a colonel and two jawans in Kayeegam village. The colonel was the commanding officer of4 Rashtriya Rifles.

Stung by the back-to-back attacks, the home ministry is reviewing Operation Rakshak, the counter-insurgency operation in Jammu and Kashmir. In yesterday?s attack on a Rashtriya Rifles camp, an officer and six jawans were killed.

The killing of the colonel today highlights once again that the epicentre of violence in Kashmir is now Kupwara district. Even during the Kargil war, no officer of such a senior rank figured on the casualty list. The seniormost officer killed in the conflict was a lieutenant-colonel.

It is against this backdrop that the home ministry is taking a fresh look at Operation Rakshak, because it is now clear that militants are bent on targeting Indian jawans and their seniors in terrorist-infested zones of the state.

Counter-insurgency operations are headed by Rashtriya Rifles, which is managed by the defence ministry and is technically an army unit. But its pay packets are funded by the home ministry.

Col Balbir Singh was killed on the spot when his vehicle ran over a landmine. The two jawans, who were travelling with him, also lost their lives. Their vehicle was badly damaged.

The militants were believed to have been hiding in the area when the mine went off. They also fired on the vehicle from automatic rifles to ensure no one survived.

Col Singh was returning from the helipad nearby, where he had gone to see off a senior army officer. The officer had come to the area for a spot check at Chak Nutnassa, the site of yesterday?s militant raid.

Reinforcements were rushed to Kayeegam village. Security forces cordoned off the area and launched a combing operation to arrest the militants. At Rafiabad village in Kupwara, seven militants were killed in an encounter. Two soldiers died in the clash.

The home ministry has admitted that there are over 1,000 militants holed up in the state.

After a meeting last night, attended by home minister L.K. Advani, defence minister George Fernandes, Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah and other home officials, it was decided that an offensive would be mounted in terrorist-infested areas like Kupwara, Doda, Rajouri, Poonch and Udhampur.

Advani agreed that the killings were a planned move to demoralise the jawans. In recent weeks, there have been at least five militant attacks on Indian security targets.

With two army corps having moved to the border since the Kargil conflict erupted, there is a shortage of security forces to tackle insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir. The home ministry had earlier admitted that about 70 more companies were required.

So far, the shortfall has not been made up. There will be even more pressure on the existing troops once the Election Commission moves the forces to different parts of the country in accordance with the poll schedule.

At a rally in Ludhiana, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee warned Pakistan against attempts to promote ?cross-border terrorism? and warned that there was a ?limit to our restraint?. On the Pakistani intrusion into Kargil, Vajpayee said: ?If we wanted to, we could have crossed the LoC, but we did not.?    

Calcutta, Aug. 7 
Presidency College was declared closed sine die ? and then reopened nine hours later ? in a drama that stretched from dawn to dusk today.

Buckling under pressure from students and Alimuddin Street, principal Netai Charan Mukherjee and director of public instruction (DPI) Piyush Kanti Ganguly revoked their decision and reopened the college at 4.35 pm. The notice declaring the college closed was put up at 6.45 am after a night-long siege by students.

Angry signals from the CPM apparatchik ? who indicated that closing the college was an over-reaction ? made the authorities do a double-take. ?Some academicians thought the college should not be closed during admissions,? said Ganguly, hedging on who the orders had come from.

?It was the DPI?s decision to close down and and it was he who directed us to reopen. It has certainly been a bit of an embarrassment for the teaching community of the college,? said the principal.

Mukherjee said today ?a group of students forcibly? prevented him from attending the inquiry into the alleged molestation of a student by a teacher. The students ?kept him confined in his room till 6 am?, although the victim and her parents had said they were satisfied with the action taken by the college.

The students, who were asked to vacate the campus, blocked College Street from about 11 am and demanded the institution be reopened. They also wanted the authorities to report the alleged molestation to the police, revise the cost of application forms to post-graduate courses from Rs 15 to Rs 5 and ask a teacher of the Hindi department to apologise for an intimidating statement.

Nearly 10 hours, much rhetoric and traffic disruption later, a notice ? signed by a professor of the physiology department on behalf of the principal ? said classes would resume from Monday.

Throughout the gherao, the students stuck to their stand: the siege will continue till the molestation is reported to the police. Ganguly was present during the gherao, as were many teachers.

Despite the banter and games of carrom that teachers and the DPI played in the principal?s chamber late into the night, the students continued the gherao in batches. Finally, a little after dawn, with merely half a dozen students on guard, the teachers threw a cordon around the principal and escorted him out.

?There were two options: calling in the police or closing the college sine die,? said Ganguly. ?We decided on the second.?

He said they had tried to contact the minister for higher education but failed to locate him. Once the closure was decided on, the minister was contacted. ?Confining the principal for so long was torture enough,? Ganguly said.

But the students, shepherded out of the college after a notice was put up and the main gate padlocked, hit back by 7 am. By that time, police trucks were swarming College Street, as were Special Branch personnel. The students smashed the padlock, rustled up hand-painted posters, lined up benches and blocked the street.

As the blockade and speeches continued, the DPI told the students? union secretary over a police phone that the principal would reopen the college on Monday. But the students were not impressed and said they wanted an assurance in writing. At 4.35 pm, a notice was tacked onto a post just behind the main gate, proclaiming that the decision to shut the college had been revoked.    

New Delhi, Aug. 7 
The Election Commission today froze the Janata Dal?s ?wheel? symbol but gave ad hoc national party status to the rival factions led by Sharad Yadav and H.D. Deve Gowda. The panel said both groups must inform it by tomorrow what names they had chosen for themselves.

The freeze means neither group will be able to derive advantage from the symbol.

It also simplifies things for the BJP, whose Karnataka unit was opposed to fighting elections in alliance with a Dal faction which included caretaker chief minister J.H. Patel. Patel will now have to contest on a Lok Shakti ticket and make his workers accept Ramakrishna Hegde?s leadership.    

New Delhi, Aug. 7 
Materfamilias has rallied her brood around her.

With Sonia Gandhi deciding to take the plunge from Amethi, son Rahul and daughter Priyanka ? inheritors of the Nehru-Gandhi legacy ? are ready to put other engagements on the backburner and provide the emotional bulwark for their mother?s electoral debut. It?s all but official: grooming the family for the next millennium has begun in earnest.

To help Sonia Gandhi during her gruelling six-week campaign, Rahul has quit his job with a securities broker in London. Priyanka, said to be Sonia Gandhi?s closest friend, has been through a marathon workout of Vipasana (Buddhist method of meditation) as she readies to be by her mother?s side.

Sonia Gandhi is apparently keen to give Rahul a ?fair chance? in politics. ?It is a myth that Priyanka is more politically inclined or Sonia Gandhi wants to encourage her alone. The fact is that both Rahul and Priyanka take active interest in politics, and as a mother, Sonia Gandhi has an open mind and may not object if either opts for the final plunge,? a party leader close to 10 Janpath said.

He said Rahul had been getting more and more interested in politics after Sonia Gandhi resigned as Congress president following the revolt led by Sharad Pawar.

?He was deeply moved on knowing the manner in which thousands of partymen persuaded Sonia Gandhi to withdraw her resignation,? the leader said. Rahul briefly left for London, but returned this week ?for good?, the source added.

The trio now tries to spend as much time together as possible. ?They discuss a range of issues such as choice of venues for Sonia Gandhi?s meetings and the security aspect. None of them wants to take a chance and they all keep cautioning each other,? a Congress leader said.

Sonia Gandhi?s personal security has been beefed up following threats.

On behalf of the party, Oscar Fernandes, Ahmad Patel and Mani Shankar Aiyar interact with the security agencies and government establishments about Sonia Gandhi?s tour schedule.

Despite the late hours ? she gets barely six hours of sleep ? Sonia Gandhi is determined to have ?at least? one meal a day with her children and discuss finer points of the party?s strategy and campaign.

Priyanka goes through Sonia Gandhi?s tour programmes and adds the necessary punch to the Congress president?s speeches.

Recently, she included a smattering of Marathi in a speech to be delivered on Pawar?s home turf in Pune district.

Though the AICC chief is known for her sartorial elegance, Priyanka has the final say in what Sonia Gandhi should wear each day.

The Congress chief is under pressure to field Priyanka from Phulpur near Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, a seat which used to be represented by Jawaharlal Nehru. Rahul?s name has been recommended for Rae Bareli, which was Indira Gandhi?s parliamentary seat.

However, Sonia Gandhi is reluctant to field them on grounds that her adversaries will accuse her of ?perpetuating the dynastic hold? over the Congress. In this context, Rahul and Priyanka are expected to play an influential role behind the scenes.    

Today?s forecast: A few showers with thunder

Temperature: Maximum 29.2?C (3?C below normal)
Minimum 24.9?C (1?C below normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 98%
Minimum 86%

Rainfall: 8.5 mm

Sunset: 6.12 pm
Sunrise: 5.13am

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