Centre eyes legal gun to police states
Tense Farooq in autonomy gamble
Fixing, what fixing: Azhar
Murder witness dies in custody
Cry of a child in the womb of massacre
Anil, Subhas to share dais
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, June 18 
The Centre is planning to amend Article 355 of the Constitution to enable it to intervene directly in the law and order issues of states.

Government sources said there is �serious consideration� to frame laws which will allow the Centre to �regulate� law and order in states. Plans are also afoot to transfer police and public order subjects from the state list to the concurrent list.

The amendment is being planned to spell out clearly the parameters for Central intervention in the law and order of states. The issue is constitutionally a state subject but is not defined sharply.

The Centre will broach the issue at a meeting of state chief secretaries, home secretaries and directors-general of police on June 28. There is enough indication that all chief ministers will be sounded when they meet Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani in the first week of July to discuss internal security.

State governments, particularly those opposed to the coalition at the Centre, are not likely to take kindly to the move. The last time the Centre tried to invoke Article 355 was in Bengal after a spurt in pre-poll violence ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

The home ministry had then sent a note to the Left Front that unless it checked the violence, the Centre would have no option but to invoke Article 355.

�The time has, perhaps, come for the Centre�s pro-active intervention in the management of internal security. The era of paper advisories seems to be giving way to the imperative of Constitutional directions and the next step will have to be action under Article 355,� a government source said.

Officials argued that Article 355 obliged the Union government to protect every state against internal disturbance. They pointed out that the Centre had never invoked Article 355 for suo motu deployment of security forces nor intervened by issuing directions under Articles 256 and 257.

The Centre sees for itself a role in tackling caste wars and curbing poll-related clashes, as well as checking extremist violence in Madhya Pradesh, Andhra, Orissa, Bihar and Maharashtra. The home ministry is also not satisfied with the states� response in checking ISI activities.

The Prime Minister�s Office has already cleared the setting up of a high-level, four-member team headed by Union home secretary Kamal Pande to study and recommend the establishment of a Central Law Enforcement Agency to investigate �federal crimes�.

The proposed agency will have the Constitutional authority to investigate all designated federal crimes in any part of the country without having to take permission from state governments.    

Srinagar, June 18 
The political climate in the Valley has reached a peak on the eve of the special session of the Assembly to discuss autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir.

As chief minister Farooq Abdullah moved to seize the initiative from rival political forces � the Hurriyat in the main � on the question of delivering the long-promised autonomy package, the Opposition in the state alleged he was indulging in �gimmickry�.

While the leader of the Jammu and Kashmir People�s Democratic Party, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, alleged that Abdullah�s only aim in calling the special session was to �sabotage� Delhi�s efforts to establish dialogue with the Hurriyat, the state BJP leadership said the chief minister was trying to provoke sentiments on the autonomy issue because the National Conference was feeling isolated.

�Whenever he is weak and isolated, Abdullah raises the autonomy issue,� said Abdul Rashid Kabli, state BJP vice-president. �This is nothing but a political stunt,� he added.

Mufti, who returned to full-time politics after his daughter Mehbooba built a base for herself in Anantnag, rubbished Abdullah�s move. �He is just raising the bogey of autonomy, because he wants to sidetrack the Centre�s talks with the Hurriyat,� he said.

The National Conference � and Abdullah � have watched with growing nervousness as the Centre has released one Hurriyat leader after another and more than dropped hints that it is preparing for talks. If the Hurriyat goes to the negotiating table and is able to fetch a promise on greater autonomy, Abdullah sees his political fortunes dwindling further.

He has been upset about the Centre�s intentions of opening talks with the Hurriyat and has said privately that he felt �betrayed� by the BJP government, of which he is an ally. His son, Omar, is Union minister of state for commerce and industry.

The chief minister has been telling colleagues and private audiences that elements in the Centre are trying to keep him out of the autonomy talks and are also keeping him in the dark on the possibility of Centre-Hurriyat negotiations. No wonder, National Conference leaders and rank and file are eager that a resolution on autonomy be passed in the session beginning tomorrow.

Pressure is growing from within the ruling party on a slightly harder line as many feel that if it is not able to bargain with the Centre now, it will become more politically outflanked than it is now.

A meeting presided over by Abdullah was held at the residence of general secretary Sheikh Nazir Ahmad yesterday. Most MLAs favoured a resolution being moved and passed during the week-long session in Srinagar.

Stringent security arrangements have been made around the Assembly, which was recently targeted by the militants.    

Hyderabad, June 18 
Investigators around the world can pack their bags. Mohammed Azharuddin doesn�t think there is any match-fixing in cricket.

�As far as I know, there is no such thing as match-fixing,� he told UNI in an interview.

Reaffirming what he had told a Hyderabad-based paper last week, the former captain said he had no intention of staying away from the game till his name was cleared. �Cricket is my livelihood, my passion, my love. One mere allegation. Why should I resign?� the stylish batsman said.

Almost all of the interview was an iteration of what he had said earlier, except for the explosive allegation that he was being �victimised because he belonged to the minority community�. But there was no retraction of that statement either.

What he clearly intends to pursue is legal remedy and his list of defamation candidates is growing by the day. As soon as his counsel, Mahesh Jethmalani, returns from abroad, Azhar will despatch legal notices to Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Manoj Prabhakar, tax official Vishwa Bandhu Gupta, a weekly magazine, a Mumbai eveninger, an Internet portal and fast-food outlet McDonalds. Hansie Cronje can also brace for an Azhar legal missile. �I don�t know why Cronje has done this. My lawyer will be sending him notice also,� he said.

Azhar is sticking to the conspiracy theory. �I can�t explain, but I know this is a much larger gameplan, a conspiracy with the sole intention to malign me. Particularly in the last two years, I had a feeling of being victimised,� he said. This is the period when he has been in and out of the team after Sachin Tendulkar was handed back the captaincy.

�Why did the press keep quiet when 16 bookies attended a cricketer�s wedding and gifted his wife an expensive diamond necklace? Doesn�t this prove I alone am being singled out? There is a lobby of jealous ex-cricketers who want me out of the team,� Azhar said.

Drawing strength from Allah, family and friends, Azhar said he had nothing to hide. �This house (in Hyderabad) is rented. My flat in Mumbai is very ordinary. All my accounts are clear.�

Arguably, the best-dressed player in the Indian team, Azhar acknowledged that people do talk about his clothes. But, then, �nowadays, even children want only Polo, Versace, Reebok shoes. They do not like Bata,� he told the news agency. Wonder, what Thomas Bata would think of this slight.

Latif offer

Former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif has volunteered to appear before South Africa�s commission, adds AFP. �Cronje�s confession was not full. He should have named Australian players who are also involved,� Latif said.    

June 18 
The Uttar Pradesh government�s pledge to protect minorities lay in tatters on Sunday after the sole eyewitness to the murder of a Christian missionary died in �illegal police custody� and a suspended station house officer was caught while trying to bury the body.

Vijay Kumar Ekka, the 23-year- old cook who witnessed the murder of Brother George Kunjikundam on June 7 near Mathura, was picked up from his home by Sunil Kumar Sharma, the SHO who was suspended after the missionary was killed.

Sharma was later found in a field near his house with the body of Ekka, which bore multiple injuries. Sources said a panicky Sharma had earlier rushed Ekka�s body to the district hospital, where he was told that the patient was already dead.

Sharma claimed in a first information report that Ekka had gone to his house to make some �disclosures� and had �strangulated himself�. Amid mounting pressure and spreading outrage, the police arrested Sharma and an alleged accomplice, constable Dinesh Kumar Upadhyaya. Both have been charged with murder and lodged in Mathura jail. A magisterial probe has been ordered.

Agra Archbishop Vincent Concessao, who saw Ekka�s body last night, said in Delhi: �There were no ligature marks on Ekka�s body to show that he had committed suicide. He was tortured and there were injury marks near his eyes, nose and shoulder.�

Ekka�s neighbours also said Sharma had been �repeatedly picking him up and beating him up� on one pretext or the other. They added that the suspended officer had been harassing Ekka�s wife Gloria.

Ekka and his wife drew the officer�s ire after they lodged a first information report, saying that around 10 assailants had barged into the St. Francis School in Navada, 8 km from Mathura, and killed Brother George, who was the warden of the boys� hostel.

Ekka had also mentioned that �the fifth such attack on Christian missionaries and their institutions has left the community terrorised�. The police have been claiming that the crime was committed by a gang of dacoits. Around 12 Bavarias, a tribe from Rajasthan, were rounded up a few days ago, but were freed after preliminary interrogation.

Archbishop Concessao said Ekka was held illegally at Navada police station for seven days. Ekka had complained to the brothers of the congregation that he was being tortured. �Vijay would say that the policemen poured water through his nostrils, applied electric shock and inserted pins through his nails so that he owned up to the murder of George,� the archbishop said.

The archbishop had appealed to chief minister R.P. Gupta on June 7 to intervene and protect the minorities. The chief minister had expressed serious concern and directed the administration to take immediate steps to provide security to �all those who feel a need for it�.    

Mianpur (Aurangabad), June 18 
Enveloped by a strange silence, over 2000 people � including Laloo Prasad Yadav � waited for the pyres to be lit. But as the coils of smoke began to rise from the first pyre, the silence was shattered by a child�s heart-rending cry.

Ten-year-old Randheer, who had seen his 15-year-old brother being shot in the neck by Ranbir Sena men, was still living in the nightmare. The Sena bullets had killed his mother too.

Randheer and his brother had started running when they saw the marauding crowd almost upon them. But his brother fell down, was caught and shot as Randheer hid himself behind haystacks.

As the boy lay groaning, Laloo held his hand and lifted him. Fifteen yards away, a sudden rumble of fire rippled across the rows of pyres and the horizon was lit up. The silence had been replaced by the mourners� wails.

The day dawned dark and overcast after 40 villagers were massacred by the Ranbir Sena in Mianpur on Friday night. Twenty-five bodies, the skulls smashed by close-range firing, were cremated on an open field adjacent to the village. Fifteen others were cremated later on Saturday as police handed over the bodies after conducting the post-mortem in the village itself.

Mianpur village, comprising over 100 mud hutments, had been the placid home of the poor Yadavs, Paswans and other backward groups. Last season, the villagers, most of whom are small landholders, had a good crop, reflected in the new straw roofs.

The domination of the Yadavs appears to have prompted the Ranbir Sena to identify the village for their �retributive justice�, borne out by the brutality of the caste carnage.

The Sena had strewn the muddy lanes separating one row of mud houses from another with bodies of women � their skulls were blown up and brains splattered on walls.

Children, helpless and unprotected, were killed with casual brutality. At the southern end of the village, a 10-year-old boy had tried to run away. He fell in a nullah. He was shot in his ear in the murky ditch.

The savagery has Mianpur numb with grief. �We are about to lose our sanity. The nightmare refuses to end,� says Vinod Kumar, a 45-year-old who lit the pyre of his pregnant wife.

The backdrop to the killing could not be more picturesque. This part of Aurangabad, neighbouring Tuturkhi, Senari and Harsha, seems like God�s own country in its pastoral grandeur.

The fertile grasslands and patches of forest were sustaining the rural economy. The lands are dotted with sprawling water tanks.

Tranquil though it appears, Mianpur had been tense since the massacre at Senari last year. Last March, the MCC had hacked to death 34 Bhumihar men, sparking off a wave of tension in all the villages and sharpening caste polarisations.

The cycle of revenge started. The Sena men had been suspecting that the Yadav-dominated Mianpur village, just 3 km from Senari, had a hand in the killings of Bhumihars, although the villagers refuted this allegation.

The Ranbir Sena this morning owned up responsibility for the killings. �This is our answer to the Senari, Afsar, Dalelchowk and Baghora Bara massacres�, said Sena spokesman Samshed Bahadur Singh in a release.

Challenging Laloo�s style of functioning, the release said the bloodbath would continue as long as the state government would maintain its discriminatory rule.

The police today said 10 persons have been following last night�s raids. They are being interrogated. The marauders appeared to have come from Bhojpur district, headquarters of the Ranbir Sena, police said.

�The accused appeared to be new recruits. A new feature of this massacre is that all victims were shot on their body parts above the neck,� said a senior police officer in Gaya. Paramilitary forces have been deployed in the area.

Bihar director-general of police K.A. Jacob said he would take action against police personnel at Saharsha outpost for not taking prompt action.

Residents called a bandh today in Aurangabad.    

Calcutta, June 18 
With the CPM leadership making it clear that it wouldn�t tolerate any public linen-washing, state secretary Anil Biswas and transport minister Subhas Chakraborty have decided to patch up for now and jointly address an election rally in Salt Lake on Wednesday.

The two feuding veterans agreed to sheathe their knives after being told that their public spat might cost the party in the June 25 civic polls, where the Trinamul Congress-BJP combine has emerged as a major challenger.

The leadership�s tough-talk came after both Biswas and Chakraborty issued statements and counter-statements for nearly a week, much to the party�s embarrassment. There was also the fear that it could send a wrong signal to workers at the grassroots level and encourage dissidents.

�The joint rally, we hope, will help us salvage the lost ground,� a senior party functionary said.

Sources in the party said chief minister Jyoti Basu, who personally intervened to broker the temporary truce, called for the joint meeting.

It was the transport minister who triggered the controversy last week when he openly criticised the Left Front government for ignoring the plight of daily-wage earners in the state.

Stung by the remarks, an infuriated Biswas shot back, saying the minister should resign if he thought that the government had done nothing for them.

The situation took an ugly turn when Chakraborty, reacting to Biswas� suggestion, said at Writers� Buildings that he wouldn�t step down at the instance of others.

Despite the pre-election patch-up, party insiders say that though Chakraborty has agreed to share the dais with Biswas, he would only campaign for those who are close to him.

They said he would address a rally in ward 11 where his brother-in-law Nanda Gopal Bhattacharya was a contestant and also take part in a rally in ward 21 where one of his close aides, Asim Guha, was in the fray.

Sources close to Chakraborty said he wouldn�t, however, campaign in wards 9, 15 and 23, where his rivals were contesting. In the last two, Subhas-loyalists are reportedly backing the dissidents.

The CPM is determined to retain the Salt Lake civic body. It has decided to rope in high-profile leaders like Politburo member Biman Bose and a host of ministers � including Asim Dasgupta, Satyasadhan Chakraborty, Ashok Bhattacharya, Anju Kar and Minati Ghosh � for campaigning.    

Maximum: 33.7�C (normal)
Minimum: 27.7�C (+1)

RAINFALL: 9.6 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 94%, Minimum: 67%


A few spells of light rain with one or two showers or thundershowers.
Sunset: 6.21 pm Sunrise: 4.54 am    

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