Hizbul fires charge of truce break
States meet Veerappan demands
Vajpayee red carpet for �PM� Chaudhry
Formula to make maths easy vetoed
Calcutta weather

Srinagar, Aug. 6: 
As the focus slowly shifts to the August 8 ceasefire deadline set by Pakistan-based Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Salahuddin, strains have begun to erupt between the government and militant commanders on the ground here.

In a terse statement issued today, Hizbul Mujahideen�s commander Masood, who was part of the first round of talks with the government on August 3, blamed the army for violating the ceasefire in several places and said the attitude of the security forces did not portend well for negotiations.

The Hizbul alleged one of its cadre, Shabir Ahmed alias Jaanbaaz, had been killed at Gul Arnaz in the Udhampur region yesterday and several of its followers were being harassed in different areas of the Valley.

�Atrocities are being committed on our supporters and their relatives in several places and the security forces are coercing our cadre to surrender their weapons,� the statement said.

It affirmed that talks with the government on the modalities of ceasefire will continue but significantly did not fix a date. The Hizbul also denied that any meeting with representatives of the government or the army had taken place after the first round.

�Our commanders have had to return to the field because of the atrocities being committed by the security forces and the pressure on our cadre to surrender,� the statement said, explaining the reason for the absence of talks after the first round.

But the alleged ceasefire violations by the army may not be the only reason why Hizbul commanders have not returned to the negotiating table. One of the chief reasons, sources say, is deepening division within Hizbul ranks over the propriety of holding talks with the Government of India.

Khalid Saifullah, who had been appointed by the Hizbul to lead the talks, has so far refused to come overground and lead the negotiating team. Sources say Saifullah is very close to Salahuddin and has not yet received clearance from his Pakistani bosses to be part of the negotiating team.

In fact, the Hizbul team of commanders ready to talk to the government remains arrested at four. Fazal Haq Qureshi, who led the Hizbul commanders at the first round, had earlier said at least six of them would come to the second round of negotiations.

Saifullah�s refusal to join is an embarrassment not only to the Hizbul commanders here but also to the government which claimed to have �wrapped up� the entire team of senior Hizbul commanders for talks.

Besides, no other militant group has responded to the government�s or the Hizbul�s appeals to come overground and hold negotiations. On the contrary, Kashmiri political and militant outfits have debunked the Hizbul for �selling out� to New Delhi and jettisoned themselves from the entire initiative. The All-Party Hurriyat Conference, the political face of militancy in the Valley, remains firm that talks cannot be relevant unless Pakistan and all Kashmiri groups are involved.

The Hizbul rank and file at the ground level has itself been thrown into confusion with conflicting signals emerging from the leaders based here and in Pakistan. There are indications that many among the Hizbul cadre may not be ready to give up their arms, if it comes to that; they may shift loyalty and join other groups. Invitations from other underground outfits based in Pakistan have already begun to arrive.

The chief of the Pakistan-based Al-Badar group, active in insurgency in the Kashmir Valley, has claimed in a statement from Islamabad that many Hizbul boys were already joining forces with his group in the Valley.

Al-Badar boss Bakht Zameen Khan said: �The decision of some Hizbul leaders to hold talks with India has opened serious rifts within the organisation. Some Hizbul commanders have said that the decision was taken without their knowledge and they are now coming over to join us.� He also called Abdul Majid Dar, Hizbul�s India boss who announced the ceasefire, an �infidel� and said: �He has fallen into the Indian trap, we are ashamed of him.�

Observers here are getting increasingly convinced that serious confusion, if not deep differences, have erupted within the Hizbul ranks here. The divisions, according to them, are not only between the commanders here and in Pakistan but also within the senior leadership based in the Valley itself. �It is significant that through all this process Abdul Majid Dar himself has remained totally silent,� said a senior Kashmiri leader not wanting to be named, �If he was sure things were going to plan after his ceasefire announcement, he would have said something somewhere.�    

Aug. 6: 
Karnataka went on air this evening with the �acceptance of all 10 demands� put forth by Veerappan for the release of Raj Kumar, hoping that the political-ethnic charter is not the tip of an iceberg.

The decision to meet the demands, conveyed through a cassette, was taken after a meeting between the chief ministers of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, S.M. Krishna and M. Karunanidhi, in Chennai.

After Karnataka relayed the acceptance over All India Radio � the only link from Bangalore to the bandit�s hideout � Krishna said he had information that mediator R. Gopal, Veerappan and Raj Kumar �were discussing� the issue.

Krishna drove to Raj Kum-ar�s house and assured the actor�s wife the crisis would be over soon. He said he was hopeful of the release of the hostages in a day or two. Top officials echoed him, but said they had not ruled out more demands.

Asked about reports that Veerappan had sought Rs 50 crore, Karunanidhi dodged a direct reply. �The Rs 50 crore demand is not found on the cassette we heard,� he said. But highly placed sources in Bangalore insisted that �the bandit will get a huge booty�.

Veerappan�s 10-point charter made public by the two state governments (see chart) was remarkably devoid of any demand for immediate personal gain. Instead, they covered issues with profound implications and wide scope, allowing the governments to couch their �acceptance� in vague bureaucratic jargon.

Only one demand was accepted with no strings attached � the release of Veerappan�s 51 alleged collaborators detained un-der Tada. Another condition wa-s met when the Karnataka government agreed to instal a statue of Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar in Bangalore. But in a reciprocal gesture, Chennai will host a statue of Kannada poet Sarvajna.

Referring to the demand to release Cauvery water, the chief ministers said an authoritative body had been set up with the Prime Minister as chairman. Asked if Tamil Nadu will demand more water, Karunanidhi said: �This is not the time to do so.�

On making Tamil an additional administrative language in Karnataka, they said the Centre had made it mandatory last year that government notices should be issued in a minority language wherever such a section constituted more than 15 per cent of the population.

As for �adequate compensation� to the Tamil victims of 1991 Cauvery riots in Bangalore, they said a relief authority had been constituted. The chief ministers promised to consider most other demands �favourably�.

However, the nature and overtone of the demands shovelled fuel into speculation that Veerappan may not be operating on his own this time. Krishna declined comment on the �two voi-ces� on the cassette or confirm whether there were �other political forces� behind Veerappan. �I�m not an expert in detecting voices. As we have met his demands, I hope he will release the hostages immediately,� he said.

However, speculation was rife that an extremist outfit, the Tamil National Liberation Arm-y, could be collaborating with Veerappan, who reportedly provides arms training to the group.    

New Delhi, Aug. 6: 
In a move to assure the domestic audience that it has not washed its hands of the Fijian developments and tell the international community not to ease the pressure on the present regime of the Pacific island nation, the Vajpayee government plans to give a �hearty welcome� to deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry when he arrives here on August 17.

Delhi is yet to formally accept the ouster of the Indian-origin premier by �criminal elements� in the island nation. Officially, it continues to describe Chaudhry as the Prime Minister. But it is not immediately known whether India will regard his trip here next week as an official state visit by the head of the Fijian government.

Politically it wants to do so, but technically it cannot. Short of an official visit, Delhi can reaffirm its support to Chaudhry by laying out the red carpet for him when he arrives here. It is not clear whether �the hearty welcome� will be in the form of a civic reception. But if it is, it should not come as a surprise. The coalition in Delhi will take this opportunity to drive home a few points.

India also refuses to acknowledge Pervez Musharraf as the �chief executive� of Pakistan and insists on calling Nawaz Sharif the Prime Minister. Letting off the pressure on Fiji would carry similar implications for Pakistan, which, too, is in the diplomatic doghouse.

Chaudhry was released last month after remaining in the Fijian parliament building as hostage for over eight weeks.

Since the political crisis started in Fiji in May, Delhi has taken the lead in building international pressure on the island to restore democracy, but so far without much success.

Addressing Tulsidas�s 500th birth anniversary celebrations, Atal Behari Vajpayee referred to George Speight, who held Chaudhry hostage, as �the criminal who had triggered a crisis in Fiji.�

Vajpayee insisted the democratic constitution of the island nation, which emphasises the existence of a multi-racial electorate, should be restored as well. He pointed out that the large number of people of Indian origin in Fiji had contributed greatly to the island�s development and should be given the chance to participate in governance.

The reason Delhi does not want to relieve the pressure on the island also stems from its fear that it will create a bad precedent. Fiji and Pakistan, both Commonwealth members, had been suspended from the body�s councils. If world leaders accept the ouster of Chaudhry, nothing will stop them from adopting a similar stand on Pakistan.    

New Delhi, Aug. 6: 
There is bad news for students with a Maths phobia. The new curriculum, in the last stages of preparation, will not give them an option of studying a simpler course in mathematics, physics and chemistry after class VIII. The curriculum committee restructuring the syllabus has favoured the continuance of the present mathematics and science syllabi till the 10th standard.

The draft report on curriculum had suggested two levels of mathematics and science courses after class VIII � a higher course for students who want to pursue the subjects later and a simplified course for those who will opt for humanities.

�We are of the opinion that there should be an undifferentiated general curriculum. The final round of discussions is over and we will submit the curriculum document to the Centre within a fortnight,� said R.K. Dikshit, a member of the curriculum committee in the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).

The draft curriculum report has been debated in the states and one of the controversial issues was restructuring the mathematics and science syllabi. �Experience has shown that a majority of students fail in mathematics at the end of class VIII,� the draft report says. It quotes some educationists who feel that mathematics should be compulsory only till class VIII while others advocate two kinds of courses to ease the pressure on students. �Our main focus of discussion has been how to de-stress the system � make it more flexible,� said Dikshit.

More than a decade has passed since the school curriculum was last restructured. In 1988, the NCERT drew up a new curriculum framework based on the 1986 National Policy of Education. �Our role is advisory. It will be up to the states to incorporate our suggestions,� stressed Dikshit. So far, most states have followed the NCERT guidelines.

A debate on two sets of courses in mathematics and science is not new. Two decades ago, the Ishwar Bhai Patel Committee suggested restructuring the mathematics and science syllabi, but a majority of the educationists rejected it, fearing �discrimination� among students. �It was decided that there should be only one course and diversification should be allowed after the secondary stage,� said the curriculum draft committee report.

It, however, added: �Still many feel very strongly that there are also students who are bright, motivated and should be offered a different course.� The NCERT�s curriculum committee had begun discussions on the new syllabi with academicians and educationists. Later, it organised seminars in different states to receive their suggestions on the draft report. Human resources minister Murli Manohar Joshi had assured that the final document would be ready by the end of July.

Apart from suggesting a two-tier mathematics and science course, the draft curriculum report emphasised the importance of English as a global link language � an emphasis that attracted the wrath of some educationists who perceived in it an attempt to sidestep Hindi and other regional languages.    



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Relative humidity

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A few spells of light rain with one or two showers or thundershowers in some parts of Calcutta and its neighbourhood.
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