Ally tells BJP to lay off Ayodhya
Team on test ban recce
Murder stench in old man?s death
Student hangs himself
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, Dec. 18 
The Ayodhya outcry refused to die down, with the DMK, a partner in the ruling alliance at the Centre, asking Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to rein in ?hardliners? in the BJP who were raising issues like the Ram Mandir and a uniform civil code.

DMK president M. Karunanidhi said after his party?s day-long general council meeting here that the party ?believed? Vajpayee when he said the BJP had no ?hidden agenda? and no plans to rake up the temple issue.

?We hope our hopes will not be belied as Vajpayee is an honest man,? said Karunanidhi. But, the Prime Minister ?should control the hardliners in his party,? he added.

Karunanidhi said the DMK would ?vehemently? oppose any move to construct the temple where the Babri mosque stood. ?The DMK will not allow any individual agenda to be implemented,? he warned.

On the private member?s Bill on a common code, he said it was not a Bill introduced by the government.

The BJP, which is facing fire from Opposition and treasury benches alike over the renewed Ayodhya controversy, today tried to gain upper hand by challenging the Congress? commitment.

The ruling party demanded that the Congress spell out whether it would rebuild the Babri mosque if elected to power.

?The Congress should make it clear whether it would construct a mosque at the site of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya if it comes to power,? BJP vice-president J.P. Mathur told reporters today.

Referring to a statement by P.V. Narasimha Rao promising to reconstruct the mosque shortly after it was brought down, Mathur said: ?The Congress should clarify if it abides by the former Prime Minister?s statement or not.    

New Delhi, Dec. 18 
An expert team from here is leaving tomorrow for Washington to meet US officials in an attempt to tie up the loose ends before Jaswant Singh resumes talks with Strobe Talbott.

The foreign minister?s next meeting with the US deputy secretary of state in London is crucial as it could be the last round of Indo-US talks before Delhi decides on signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

President Bill Clinton is likely to come to India in March. The BJP government, therefore, might have to take a decision on the test ban treaty within the next few weeks.

Singh and Talbott have, during their several rounds of discussions, tried to harmonise their positions on proliferation and disarmament. Now the experts of the two countries are meeting to sort out technical and other details.

India is willing to sign the CTBT but wants access to dual-use and other sophisticated technologies that the West has so far denied to it. The US, on its part, is keen to know the fallout of the Senate refusal to ratify the treaty.

How and why India wants to separate the three stages ? signing, ratification and deposition of the instrument of ratification ? of the treaty will perhaps also come up for discussion.

The two joint secretaries of the Indian foreign ministry ? Alok Prasad, in charge of the Americas division, and Rakesh Sood, who looks after Disarmament and Strategic Issues ? will leave tomorrow night and return on Christmas eve.

Their discussions will be mainly with Bob Einhorn, assistant secretary of state for non-proliferation and Mathew Daley, adviser in the state department on South Asia. The talks will be held on December 21 and 22.

The expert-level talks are of special significance as they start at a time when the Vajpayee government has begun sounding out parties to build a consensus on signing the CTBT. Yesterday, it explained its stand to the Congress.

Prasad and Sood will have to explain to the Americans the mood in India on the government?s consensus efforts. This factor can be used to show the US that it is important to quickly sort out differences on the issue.

The experts? interaction bridges the time gap between the previous and the coming Jaswant-Talbott meetings and gives the two sides a chance to discuss issues like non-proliferation, exports control and disarmament.

India and the US already have an Agreement on Co-operation on Science and Technology, signed in 1984. The arrangement basically required Delhi to give an assurance to Washington that the technology acquired from America will not end up in the hands of nations hostile to the US.

But that arrangement now needs to be upgraded. The talks process has made India aware that for the US, the rules of engagement differ for different countries. At the moment, Delhi finds itself in a position not too comfortable. It wants a better deal and would like the US to understand its requirements, creating a situation where both sides have confidence in each other.    

Calcutta, Dec. 18 
The decomposed body of an 80-year-old man, suspected to have been murdered, was recovered from his Lake Avenue residence this afternoon.

Police have identified the man as Anil Mitra, former employee of a multinational bank.

?Preliminary findings indicate that Mitra was murdered as there are strangulation marks around his neck as well as stab wounds on other parts of his body,? said the senior deputy commissioner of police (armed police), Banibrata Basu.

A team from the Tollygunge police station broke down the door of Mitra?s apartment and brought out his body after the building caretaker complained of a stench from the flat.

He was found lying in the bathroom, clad in a lungi and a vest. The police said robbery was not the motive for the murder as the almirahs were untouched and no personal belongings were missing.

Basu said Mitra, who had no children, lived alone after his wife died. A maid who looked after him has been absconding for the past couple of days. ?We are looking for her and we believe the murder was committed two days ago,? the police officer added.

The victim, detectives said, was an introvert, and though he had been ailing for some time he did not seek assistance from some relatives who lived on the floor above. Only the caretaker would occasionally enquire about him.

The police are investigating why the caretaker did not inform them earlier even though he had noticed the apartment door shut for two full days, especially as Mitra had not told him he would be away ? as he always did.

?We are investigating whether there was a revenge angle to the incident and the role played by the maid,? said an investigator.

Mitra?s body was sent for post-mortem. No murder weapon has yet been found from the scene of the crime.    

Calcutta, Dec. 18 
Abhijit Sarkar, a first-year student of B.E.College, committed suicide in the college hostel this afternoon.

The 19-year-old locked himself in a bathroom around 2.30 and hanged himself using a nylon rope, the police said. Abhijit did not leave a suicide note. The Shibpur police station has registered an unnatural death case.

Abhijit?s friends told the police that the student of architecture was dissatisfied with his performance in a test on Friday. He also told them that he was not prepared for another test on Monday.    

Today?s forecast: Mainly clear sky. Not much change in night temperature. Max. temperature: 27.4? C (normal) Min. temperature: 15.5? C (+ 1? C) Maximum humidity: 82% Minimum humidity: 47% Rainfall: Nil Sunset: 4.50 pm Sunrise: 6.17 am    

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