Hot pursuit back on BJP agenda
Blast rips court
Delhi team for President�s rule
Chautala tax raj irks big brother
Sakshi �victim� opens can of worms

New Delhi, Aug. 12 
After talking peace for some time, the BJP has renewed its call for a �hot pursuit� policy to tackle terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

Party circles interpreted the call as a revival of the hawkish line toed by home minister L.K. Advani in contrast with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee�s efforts to persist with his peace initiative despite the failed experiment with the Hizbul Mujahideen.

Agencies quoted BJP spokesman Venkaiah Naidu as saying in Chennai today that the National Democratic Alliance government should not give up the option of following the policy of �hot pursuit�. Naidu said that with Pakistan encouraging terror export, the Centre should not abandon the policy of �hot pursuit�.

The phrase � which was frequently used by Advani when he first took over as home minister and plugged a pro-active line in Jammu and Kashmir � disappeared from the BJP�s lexicon once the government said it favoured a �peaceful� solution, which included talks with militant groups.

Explaining Naidu�s statement, BJP sources said their feedback from the ground was that the recent massacres, especially the killing of Amarnath pilgrims in Pahalgam, had sparked a �negative� reaction among the party�s hardcore Hindutva votebank.

The Centre�s efforts to cushion the impact with anti-Pakistan rhetoric, too, had not �gone down well� with the BJP�s supporters, the sources added.

�For years, we had demanded the concept of a hard state which would tackle the militants with an iron hand. The revival of the Amarnath yatra was an election plank. We had criticised the Narasimha Rao government for feeding biryani to militants and bullets to Amarnath yatris (when the militants had laid siege to the Hazratbal shrine in 1993). What is the difference now? If anything, it is worse. The pilgrims were mowed down, but even then we were ready to extend the olive branch to militants,� said a party ideologue close to Advani.

With elections in crucial states like Uttar Pradesh due next year, the BJP seems anxious not to alienate its core support base even if it is unable to retain the new converts.

BJP sources also seemed unhappy with reports suggesting a difference of perception on the Kashmir talks between the Prime Minister�s Office (PMO) and the home ministry, which looks after Jammu and Kashmir affairs.

The BJP�s own �understanding�, said sources, was that while the PMO was keen on publicising the talks with the Hizbul, the home ministry had counselled �caution�. The PMO and the home ministry, the sources pointed out, had also differed in their views on the All-Party Hurriyat Conference.

While the PMO was believed to have regarded the Hurriyat as a �political asset which should be kept on the right side�, North Block had deemed it a �dangerous� force.

Echoing the home ministry�s views, a BJP vice-president said: �Today the NDA has an ally like the National Conference which is fairly moderate and reasonable given the Kashmir scenario. It is at least a tried-and-tested entity.

But if the Centre gives respectability to untested groups like the Hurriyat and Hizbul and brings them into the political mainstream, what will the consequences be? The country will be torn apart. It is like playing with fire.�

Naidu�s statement has also been construed as a covert attack on national security adviser Brajesh Mishra, who is believed to be playing a key role in giving shape to the Kashmir policy.    

Chandigarh, Aug. 12 
A powerful bomb blast in the Ludhiana court premises at 1.25 am today ripped apart a portion of a building. There was no casualty. The police said the bomb was hidden inside a cooler.

This is the fourth blast in the state since March, when nine persons were killed in a bomb explosion in a bus at Tirkhan Majra near Ludhiana. �There seems to be a clear pattern in the blasts. All of these have been taking place between Ludhiana and Jalandhar and are aimed at disrupting day-to-day lives of people,� said Kuldip Singh, Ludhiana special superintendent of police.

Singh said the Lahore bus would be provided with additional security when it crosses Punjab, keeping in view the fact that Punjab Hindu Shiv Sena activists had stoned the bus after the Tirkhan Majra incident. A forensic team has left Chandigarh for Ludhiana to examine the explosives used. �We are not ruling out the use of RDX but are also looking at the possibility of PETN. Militants in Punjab Kashmir are using PETN increasingly,� a senior Punjab police officer said.

Five police guards, who were asleep along with the watchman, have been suspended. They told the police that they had mistaken the blast for some defect in a power transformer installed in the nearby electric pillars.

Singh said the police were informed of the blast at 6.30 am when the policemen woke up.

�Today�s blast has occurred in a high security zone. It seemed to be aimed at taking a large number of lives. The damage would have been enormous had the blast occurred during court hours,� another senior officer said.

The blast took place at a time when the Punjab police had stepped up vigil after intelligence reports that Khalistani and Kashmiri militants could disrupt Independence Day celebrations in the state.    

Midnapore, Aug. 12 
The violence in Midnapore and other West Bengal districts makes a favourable case for the imposition of Article 356 on the state, said the six-member NDA team that toured a number of Midnapore villages today, including Keshpur.

The team feels the democratic system is under threat in West Bengal. �The state government has been unable to provide minimum protection to its people,� said Venugopal of Telugu Desam Party, leader of the team.

The other members of the team are Sanjay Paswan of the BJP, Prabhunath Singh of the Samata Party, Suresh Jadav of the Shiv Sena, S. Krishnan of the MDMK and Sudip Banerjee, Trinamul Congress MP from Bengal.

The team was here at the initiative of NDA convenor and Union defence minister George Fernandes. On its return to Delhi, the team will submit the report to Fernandes, Union home minister L.K. Advani and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

The MPs was gheraoed by nearly 150 CPM supporters at Ramnagar village for half-an-hour. The CPM activists demanded that the team should also look into the damage done to their homes by Trinamul workers. �We want to stay together in peace. But if you don�t hear us you will be responsible for increasing the tension,� a CPM worker told the team.

Later, Venugopal heard out the CPM cadre. He added the team had listened to both the Trinamul and CPM and the team�s report will reflect an unbiased picture on the deteriorating law and order situation in the district.

But the team stopped at places where Sudip Banerjee and local Trinamul leaders took them to. Asked about this, Venugopal said: �The team had also heard complaints from the other side.�

Addressing newspersons, the team said there the people were feeling very insecure. �The government is unable to control the law and order situation and we are afraid that it can spread further.�

Observing that what they have seen today was �inhuman�, the team members said whichever government was in power, or whoever was elected MP from the region, their basic duty was to protect the people. �Families were broken, homes were burnt, crops were stolen. This is perhaps the first instance in India where a series of villages were looted and burnt and people killed in a single district,� said Suresh Jadav, the Shiv Sena MP from Nawada in Bihar.

�The state government here is a namard sarkar for not being able to give proper protection to the people,� Jadav pointed out while addressing Trinamul activists at Chhutargeria, about 30 km from here. He had spoken to three young widows whose husbands was allegedly killed by CPM�s bullets.

�In most places, we tried to speak to the police, but they did not open their mouth. This shows how much the ruling party has control over the police. In fact, the party machinery and the government appeared to be clubbed together in the state, which should not be�, Venugopal said.

There have been a series of inhuman dastardly acts and the administration seems to be committed to the ruling party, the team observed. The team, alongwith local Trinamul leaders, first visited Ramnagar, which is 20 km from the district headquarters.

At Ramnagar, Arifa Bibi, 36, told them that the CPM cadre had attacked their village on July 2. �They first broke the tube-well and then set fire on my house,� she says.    

New Delhi, August 12 
Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala�s decision to impose professional tax, increase house tax and �complicate� the sales tax structure has annoyed his ally, the BJP.

Newly-elected state BJP president Rattan Lal Khataria said, as an ally of the Indian National Lok Dal government, his workers had a lot of explaining to do to traders, who are the party�s main support base.

Khataria said the traders� cell in Jagadri closed shop for 15 days last month and the state observed a bandh on Wednesday to protest Chautala�s policies.

Resentment among the traders is not the only source of widening rift between the Lok Dal and the BJP. Khataria said the state unit felt that by riding piggyback on regional outfits, the BJP�s base had shrunk.

This was evident from its strength in the Assembly, which dwindled by half after the last elections.

�We feel that alliance politics has not helped the BJP to grow in Haryana,� said Khataria, adding that in the next polls, he would demand that his party contest all 90 seats.

He alleged that his repeated pleas to Chautala to �treat the BJP state unit in the same way as he is treated in the NDA� and to fulfil a �simple� demand of setting up a coordination committee went unheeded.

Another concern of the state unit is that since the Lok Dal is synonymous with the dominant Jat community, the BJP cannot attract the Dalits and OBCs into its fold.    

Lucknow, Aug. 12 
The rape-charge controversy against a Rajya Sabha member threatened to snowball today with the alleged victim levelling a series of explosive allegations and vowing to knock on the doors of the country�s high-profile women leaders.

Durga Bharti, a college principal who has accused Samajwadi Party MP Sakshi Maharaj of raping her, has threatened to set herself ablaze �before the whole nation� if the Uttar Pradesh government failed to provide her security and justice.

The 30-year-old Bharti said she had a long list of women, many of them college students, who had been raped by Sakshi and his cronies. Savitri, an inmate of an ashram run by Sakshi in Etah, corroborated Bharti�s allegation and said that others �like her� were willing to come forward with their statements if the state promised to protect them.

Throwing an open challenge to Samajwadi chief Mulayam Yadav who has decided to �storm� Etah on August 17 with a posse of party leaders and workers, Bharti said she, too, will be in the town that day to see how far politicians can go to �harass and victimise a woman�.

Warning all politicians against meddling in her battle with Sakshi, Bharti said she would soon visit Delhi to try and enlist the support of women leaders. �I will meet Sonia Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, Sushma Swaraj and Jaya Jaitly and plead for help. I am only hoping they will,� she said.

Opening a can of worms, Bharti claimed that her �physical relationship� with Sakshi lasted four years. Rubbishing Sakshi�s claim that she was his adopted daughter, Bharti alleged that he raped her for the first time at his Tagore Park Ashram in Delhi in October 1996 when she approached him for a job.

�He threatened to wipe out my entire family if I told anyone about what happened in Tagore Park,� Bharti said. �This time, too, when he saw that his threats were not working, he called up my brother Ram Sharan and offered him Rs 4 crore if I agreed to bury the case.�

Sakshi, who has obtained anticipatory bail after arrest alerts were issued by the Uttar Pradesh government, has denied the charges and accused the BJP-led administration of maligning him for leaving the party.

�Durga is not so much at fault. It is a conspiracy totally hatched by the BJP. I managed to thwart them in the last Lok Sabha elections. My slogan now is Lok Sabha mein kar diya tha BJP ka haar, aanewala Vidhan Sabha chunao mein kar dega BJP ko saaf (I had defeated the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls and I will ensure it is wiped out in the Assembly elections.)�

Sakshi said Bharti was being exploited by the BJP. �She was a girl who used to make beedis and I brought her to her present position. So I do not want to comment on her. But I am sure I will get justice,� he added.

Bharti, however, has vowed not to rest until she brought Sakshi to book, and said she was forced to go public with her charges after the MP started asking her to supply girls from the Veerangana Avantibai Degree College of which he had made her the principal.

�You may call it the extreme step of a wronged woman. I thought he would marry me after being with me for four years, but I was wrong. I had already wasted my life with him, the least I could do was to ensure that other girls did not get trapped by him,� she said.

Maintaining, that it was now or never, Bharti, who is pursuing a Ph.D in political science from Agra University, said: �I am aware of the danger but the only way anyone can now shut me up is by taking my life.�    


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