Advani finds govt guardian in RSS
Adamant bandit�s links alarm SC
Laloo turf bleeds in revenge strike
Digital signature age dawns
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, Oct. 17: 
Amid mounting criticism from the Opposition and the Church, L.K. Advani today defended his presence at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh�s mahashivir, saying there was no question of the BJP dissociating itself from the organisation.

�It is a historical bonding. How can we dissociate ourselves from the RSS?� Advani said when asked to respond to the criticism.

Speaking to reporters here, the home minister, who was present at the grand camp in Agra where RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan made strong anti-Church remarks, agreed that the outfit �has a moral influence� on the Vajpayee regime �as Gandhi had on the Nehru government�. �The relationship between the two is one of mutual respect and regard,� he said.

Advani, who is being viewed in the BJP as the natural successor to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee if the need arose, said the �relationship between the RSS and the government is no different from the relationship between the Nehru government and Mahatma Gandhi or for that matter, the relationship between the Morarji government and JP (Jayaprakash Narayan)�.

Advani�s statement on the ties between the RSS and Vajpayee�s National Democratic Alliance government may be unpalatable to a few key allies who remain deeply opposed and allergic to the RSS. These include the Telugu Desam, Trinamul Congress, National Conference, Samata Party and Biju Janata Dal.

It is the strong opposition of these allies to the RSS agenda that has forced the BJP and the NDA to keep contentious issues like Ayodhya, Article 370 and the uniform civil code on the backburner.

Advani said he �need not explain� his presence at the convention or how the RSS sarsanghchalak (Sudarshan) could make statements against the Church and ask Muslims to look to their Hindu roots. �The Nehru government was never asked to explain its position on issues like cow slaughter, brahmacharya and economic issues,� he retorted.

Falling back on history, the home minister said: �Nobody objected to Nehru and Sardar Patel visiting Gandhi at his ashram or Morarji Desai visiting JP. But if anybody has raised questions on BJP leaders now in government having shared the RSS platform, they should not forget how the BJP itself was born.�

He immediately narrated how Jan Sangh leaders stood firm and did not dissociate themselves from the RSS despite intense pressure from the Janata Party. �The BJP came into being because the Janata Party wanted that Jan Sangh members should dissociate themselves from the RSS. We did not agree and formed the BJP,� Advani said.

Advani said that �as BJP leaders, we have no hesitation to meet RSS leaders at Nagpur�. To drive home the point, the home minister argued that even the Prime Minister visited the RSS headquarters in Nagpur and described himself as a �swayamsevak�.

However, Advani said the RSS �does not dictate government policy� and the Vajpayee government has been functioning independent of Sangh control.

Advani had also made the point on the government�s independence from the RSS during a recent television interview, saying: �Many of the economic decisions that we have taken have not been liked by the RSS, but we have taken them in the last couple of years.�    

New Delhi & Calcutta, Oct. 17: 
As Veerappan sent a seemingly uncompromising message to the governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu on the release of Raj Kumar, the Supreme Court confronted the two with uncomfortable questions on the bandit�s links with �secessionist elements�.

�We are extremely distressed. There is no doubt that anybody will be extremely distressed over the relations between Veerappan and secessionist elements,� the bench of Justices S.P. Bharucha, D.P. Mohapatra and Y.K. Sabharwal said.

The judges made the remarks during the hearing of petitions challenging Karnataka�s decision to free 51 Tada detainees who are suspected associates of the brigand. Veerappan has also asked for the freedom of five jailed Tamil extremists. The hearing is scheduled to resume tomorrow.

The court�s comments came a few hours after S.A. Govindaraj, Raj Kumar�s son-in-law who was released last evening by Veerappan, said in Bangalore the brigand was adamant on his demand for the release of Tada prisoners in exchange for the Kannada star.

The judges said that �as far as we are concerned, the onus lies with the state governments to satisfy us as to why one man, who has committed so many atrocities, has not been apprehended for the last so many years�.

The court said the Veerappan problem cannot be solved merely by obtaining the release of the Kannada star. Justice Bharucha pointed out that the brigand �will kidnap someone else tomorrow if he releases Raj Kumar today on the acceptance of his demands by the governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka... unless he is apprehended and dealt with in accordance with law�.

The court�s remarks could come as a blow to those hoping for an early end to the 77-day standoff.

The four government emissaries, who returned today to Chennai in separate groups, said they would continue with their mission despite the failure to persuade Veerappan to relent.

Thamizhar Dheseeya Iyakkam leader P. Nedumaran, Nakkeeran editor R.R. Gopal and the two human rights activists, Kalyani and Sukumaran, met Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi and briefed him on their negotiations.

In a joint statement later, they said Govindaraj was freed as a result of their pleadings. But Govindaraj said in Bangalore it was only because of his poor health that his captors had let him go.

The negotiators refused to say what the hurdles to Raj Kumar�s release were and how they proposed to cross them.

Raj Kumar�s family members have opposed a commando strike for rescuing him. �We oppose any commando operation as we cannot risk the life of our father,� Raj Kumar�s eldest son Shivarajkumar said in Bangalore.    

Patna, Oct. 17: 
The battle for supremacy in Siwan continued to take its toll with suspected Yadav assailants butchering five members of a Muslim family late last night in a macabre reprisal.

The toll would have been higher but for the alarm raised by Harijans living in hamlets adjoining Adlitola, home to 36 backward class Ansari Muslims. The village is close to Laloo Yadav�s home district of Gopalgunj.

The widening rift between Muslims and Yadavs has set off the alarm in the RJD as their alliance had so far formed the basis of Laloo�s unbeatable political formula.

The latest slayings appear to have been in retaliation to Friday�s massacre of a Yadav family of 11 in Mujahidpur village, allegedly by suspected supporters of Mohammed Shahabuddin, RJD MP from Siwan. Shahabuddin has denied any involvement.

Around 11.30 pm yesterday, 35 armed men tiptoed into Adlitola, located about 6 km from Siwan town, and targeted the family of 90-year-old Rahman Mian whose house was the nearest to the village entrance. The assassins dragged the old man out of his bed and slit his throat.

Each of the other four males in the house, including an eight-year-old, was executed in similar fashion.

The killers were preparing to pick out other families when some Harijans living in nearby villages rushed out of their homes and alerted other hamlets. This forced the assailants to retreat.

The administration suspects that Lalbabu Yadav�s gang is behind the carnage. �His gang has obvious links with Satish Pandey, who operates on the Uttar Pra-desh-Bihar border,� Bihar home commissioner U.N. Panjiyar said. Pandey, an upper caste don, is said to be backed by the Samata Party.

Police sources believe the clashes to be a fallout of the intensifying battle for political supremacy between Shahabuddin and a state minister.

The minister began distancing himself from Shahabuddin during the last Lok Sabha elections. Shahabuddin won, but his margin was reduced because he got fewer Yadav votes. The minister, the sources said, asked the Yadav villages to back the CPI(M-L) Liberation, bitter rivals of Shahabuddin. An enraged Shahabuddin slapped the minister in public after the polls.

The sources believe the minister is now taking the help of gangsters led by Lalbabu Yadav to settle scores against Shahabuddin.    

New Delhi, Oct. 17: 
Last month, Mahesh Singhania had to fly over to Europe at two days� notice to sign a dream leather export contract. He clinched the deal but missed his daughter�s birthday.

If he had waited till tomorrow, he could have just shot off an e-mail, rounded off with his customised digital signature, and bagged the contract with the click of a mouse from the peace of his GK-II home.

The Information Technology Act 2000 is becoming operational tomorrow. It makes e-commerce recognisable by law.

�We will notify the IT Act 2000 tomorrow, so that e-commerce and e-governance become legal,� infotech minister Pramod Mahajan told the Economic Editors� conference here today.

The law offers to do away with paperwork and the bullock-cart age. According to the Act, if a company enters into an agreement with a supplier over the Internet, e-mails can be used as official contract papers.

Digital signatures � a scanned signature which can be used online � will ensure authenticity of the documents. The signatures will be encrypted � with �keys� given to both sender and recipient � to prevent misuse or duplication.

Mahajan also announced the appointment of C-Dot executive director Kailash Nath Gupta as controller. Gupta, who will be responsible for selecting certifying authorities for validating digital signatures, will have a three-year term. �The new controller will be responsible for implementation of the IT Act, and e-commerce and e-governance will become a reality in India,� Mahajan said.

Keen to ensure that the designation �controller� does not resurrect ghosts of the licence raj, Mahajan hastened to add: �My controller will work like a promoter.�

With the implementation of this Act, India will join the elite club of 12 nations which have a comprehensive infotech law and recognise digital signatures, Mahajan said. It was the foremost duty of the government to give a legal framework to the fast-developing sector of infotech, he added.

It is a contradiction to frame laws in the borderless territory of virtual reality, but the infotech Act 2000 was overdue.

The legislation � Parliament had passed the Bill on May 17 � is a big boon to the corporate world. Though fortunes are already being made or marred online, only with the Act in place will it be possible to clinch deals legally in cyberspace.

Mahajan added that the enforcement of the law signals the launch of the battle against cybercrime. He said the training of a police force wielding a �mouse� and not a �lathi� is of utmost importance to implement cyberlaws.

The Act lists a number of cybercrimes, including hacking, creation of viruses and forcibly taking over a computer network.

The government will appoint adjudicating officers who will decide whether a cybercrime has been committed or not. The Act also makes e-mails admissible as evidence in a court. Till now, the judiciary was reluctant to accept e-mail as evidence.

However, experts have found some shortcomings in the Act. Says Cyberlaw Asia founder and Supreme Court lawyer Pawan Duggal: �The crimes defined are not exhaustive. Cyberoffences like �cybertheft, cyber-stalking, cyber-harassment and cyber-defamation are not covered by the Act.�

Duggal also says that the Act does not protect domain names; neither does it make it obligatory for the government to accept e-mails as official documents.

But corporate houses need not worry. With exports having grown from Rs 10,940 crore in 1998-99 to Rs 17,150 crore during 1999-2000 and e-commerce transaction is expected to grow from Rs 450 crore in 1999-2000 to Rs 3,500 crore during the current year, it�s only matter of time before the Mahesh Singhanias acquire their digital signat- ures.    



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