Hijacker handed over to Kashmir police
Sonia birth off statute panel agenda
Honeymoon after horror interlude
Calcutta weather

Dec. 30: 
On the eve of the new year, the Centre appears determined to forge ahead with its peace initiative in Kashmir ignoring the defiance of some militant groups.

Both the Prime Minister’s Office and the North Block housing the home ministry emitted signals that Delhi would not be lacking in any effort — political, diplomatic or administrative — that could help protect the peace process.

The dramatic return of Hashim Quereshi on a Scandinavian flight from Copenhagen is being seen as part of the manoeuvres being played out behind the scenes by the Centre in concert with “neutral do-gooder” Western countries.

Quereshi has been openly anti-Pakistan on the Kashmir question, but its a matter of debate whether that alone can be interpreted as a pro-India stance. Almost his first public statement after returning home was that he had come back to secure “freedom” for Kashmir.

The self-exiled Kashmiri was today handed over in remand to the Jammu and Kashmir police as he had hijacked a plane from the state in 1971. Quereshi will be brought to Srinagar tomorrow. A superintendent of police has been rushed from Srinagar to Delhi with an arrest warrant. Sources said the state police would arrest Quereshi after “transfer of custody” from Delhi police. He will be produced before a judicial magistrate before 4 pm on January 1.

The Farooq Abdullah government, which plans to go ahead with panchayat polls in the state despite opposition from the Hizb-ul Mujahideen, is also banking on Quereshi’s propaganda potential.

“Quereshi would be able to tell the people about the conditions in which our brethren are living in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,” Abdullah told PTI in Jammu.

The decision to allow Quereshi to return to Kashmir, though in custody, may also be part of the Centre’s gamble. His return after nearly 29 years is bound to create political ripples, though their impact is uncertain.

If he is a part of the larger peace-game Delhi is playing, Quereshi will be allowed more public access and prominence than what would have been usual for a hijack offender.

The Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Liberation Front is almost defunct, but Quereshi is still the chairman of the political outfit he founded after falling out with the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leadership.

His equations with the All Party Hurriyat Conference are still unclear. Already divided, the Hurriyat may be initially wary of Quereshi and the baggage he is bringing on board. “We don’t know why he has returned. Why now? We don’t know how he came. Only time will tell. Nothing can be said now. We will wait,” said Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone.


New Delhi, Dec. 30: 
Despite the hype generated on barring people of foreign origin from contesting polls and occupying the offices of Prime Minister and President, the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution might not take up the issue at all.

Former Chief Justice M.N. Venkatachalaiah, chairman of the commission, said no paper on the issue has been submitted so far and no member has raised it.

The only political member in the commission, former Speaker P.A. Sangma, who severed ties with the Congress on the issue of Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin, was not present at the meeting held yesterday. He had opposed her candidature as party president and, thereby, prime ministerial candidate.

However, Venkatachalaiah said in case a member brought up the issue, the commission would take note of it but that would not necessarily mean that a separate paper for public debate on the subject would be prepared and circulated.

“If any member raised the issue, it would be first discussed within the commission,” he said.

The former Chief Justice made it clear that the commission is not in favour of “tampering with the basic structure of the Constitution nor any discussion on the presidential form of governance or for that matter any other system other than parliamentary democracy”.

“I had accepted the assignment to head the commission only on the conditions that there should not be any attempt to alter the basic features of the Constitution and also no suggestion to replace the present parliamentary democracy,” Venkatachalaiah said.

He added that the study paper on poverty alleviation has been finalised and the commission should focus on more “constructive” subjects like this.

The commission will also study the impact of economic liberalisation and circulate papers for public debate. Another important debate will be on automatic disqualification of a legislator by a court if found indulging in corrupt practices.

The commission will release its first set of papers for public debate by the first week of January, and by the second week of February, all the papers will be released. After the debate, the actual work on recommendations of the commission will start and by the end of March, the suggestions will be submitted to the government.

The commission has already finalised seven papers for debate, including review of the working of political parties, reforms and review of election law and liability of the state in tort law and sovereign immunity.

Papers prepared so far also include the immunity of the legislators and their manner of voting inside the House, the much-debated issue in the JMM bribery case.


Mumbai, Dec. 30: 
Emerging unscathed from the debris of street violence in Kathmandu, Hrithik Roshan has returned to work, breaking the rigour of shooting with the pleasure of honeymoon.

The star left for New Zealand on Thursday night to shoot for Aap Mujhe Achche Lagne Lage, accompanied by wife Suzanne and his co-star of Kaho Naa... Pyar Hai as well as the new film, Amisha Patel.

“It was a mixture of work and honeymoon for Hrithik. He wanted to get both going at once,” father Rakesh Roshan said. The shooting will continue there for over three weeks.

Kathmandu was calm today and cable operators started beaming Indian channels again. Indian business groups asked the Nepal government to protect them.

Barely a week after he tied the knot with Suzanne in Bangalore, Hrithik found himself sucked into a storm in Nepal’s capital following an unsubstantiated allegation that he denigrated the country and its people.

“It hurt him and also us because he was being penalised for remarks he had never made,” Roshan Sr. said.

The family was struck most by the absurdity of the charge. “How can an interviewer ask an actor which country he hated most as the protesters claimed?” Rakesh asked. “It was concocted and the poor chap had his name dragged into a baseless controversy.”

The Roshan family has suffered several blows since Kaho Naa... made Hrithik a star overnight.

Rakesh was shot at and wounded in January. Early this month, a mob plot targeting some stars, including Hrithik, was unearthed.

But the Nepal controversy was the most disturbing one, the Roshans feel. “He had just got married when this happened. It was terribly upsetting,” the father said.

On the day the controversy erupted, Hrithik was “absolutely shattered”, said Simi Grewal, who had interviewed the actor in her talk show on December 6. “I spoke to him at length immediately afterwards and he just could not believe it.”

But the actor pulled himself through. “He has steeled himself. If anything, he is more determined today to work for films,” Rakesh said.

Attempts to fish in troubled waters are being made on this side of the border, too. In Indore today, the Congress’ student wing threatened to stop the screening of Champion, starring Manisha Koirala, who hails from Nepal, in retaliation to the violence in Kathmandu.

Yesterday, college students blocked a bridge linking the Mahakali region of Nepal with Uttaranchal’s Pithoragarh, preventing Nepalese citizens from entering Indian territory for about two hours, adds PTI.




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