Cremation row stokes Manipur embers
Mid-July date at city of Taj
Home harps on benevolence
Defence theatre of reform war
Calcutta Weather

Imphal, June 19: 
Helicopters buzzed overhead and soldiers patrolled deserted streets with orders to shoot anyone violating a curfew as tension ran high in the violence-scarred Manipur capital over the administration’s refusal to allow the mass funeral of the 13 protesters killed in yesterday’s police firing.

Influential groups, including the All-Manipur United Clubs’ Organisation (Amuco) and the All-Manipur Students’ Union (Amsu), declared the victims as “martyrs” who sacrificed their lives to protect the state’s “territorial integrity”. Both organisations have asked the 60 legislators and three MPs from the state to resign by 6 pm Thursday.

The administration refused permission for a mass funeral, fearing that it could spark fresh tension. The bodies are still lying in the morgue at the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences. Post-mortem could not be conducted because of the standoff.

Senior officials, including the two advisers to Governor Ved Marwah, reviewed the situation and decided to persuade the victims’ families to see reason. However, the organisations stuck to their demand that the bodies be cremated together.

Undercurrents of tension flashed through the state a day after the mass uprising. Picking their way through streets strewn with burnt tires, smouldering wood and stones and shards of glass, more than a thousand additional troops took up position across Imphal. Sources said more jawans are likely to be sent in the next few days.

The apparent calm in the morning led the Centre, which is in charge of the state now, to believe that normality could be restored soon. “It (the situation) was tense yesterday and was in control this morning. By now, in the evening, it is limping back to normal and by tomorrow, it would be absolutely normal,” a home ministry spokesman said in New Delhi.

Imphal West district magistrate Imocha Singh hinted at the possibility of relaxing the curfew for a few hours from tomorrow to enable people to buy essentials.

But the pent-up anger boiled over later in the night as two groups of protesters defied the curfew and set on fire the Manipur State Congress Party’s branch offices in Porompat and Nambol. The party’s Imphal office was the first target of the mob yesterday.

Nearly 80,000 people took to the streets last morning in protest against the Centre’s decision to extend the ceasefire agreed with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) to areas in Manipur. Manipuris fear that attempts could now be made to slice territories out of their state to be handed over to Nagaland as part of the demands of the NSCN(I-M) for a Greater Nagaland. Angry protesters torched the Assembly building, the chief minister’s office and nearly 14 bungalows belonging to MLAs, Governor’s advisers and the Speaker.

The 48-hour deadline set by the Amsu for the 60 legislators and three MPs to resign expired at 5 pm. Though none of them have complied, at least three senior politicians — former chief ministers W. Nipamacha Singh and Radhabinod Koijam and BJP leader H. Bhubon Singh — have offered to resign.

Assam bandh

Taking the cue from Manipur, four organisations have called a 48-hour bandh in Assam’s North Cachar Hills district from 5 am tomorrow to protest against the ceasefire extension.

The four organisations are the Autonomous State Demand Committee (Progressive), the Dimasa Students’ Union, the North Cachar Hills District Students’ Federation and the Dimasa Students’ Federation.


New Delhi , Karachi & Mumbai, June 19: 
Capping days of speculation, India and Pakistan today announced that the summit between Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf would be held between July 14 and 16 in Agra.

According to the schedule announced simultaneously this evening from the two capitals, Musharraf will be given a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan forecourt when he arrives on July 14.

Musharraf is expected to fly to Agra the same day but the Indian foreign office said the final itinerary was being drawn up.

“At the invitation of the Prime Minister, chief executive of Pakistan Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Begum Musharraf will visit India from July 14 to 16,” an official of the external affairs ministry said.

Musharraf will also pay a visit to the dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer. Besides his wife, Musharraf is likely to be accompanied by key ministers.

In Agra, the Indian Prime Minister and the Pakistani chief executive will try to seal an agreement that could be placed before the public.

The choice of Agra as the summit retreat came as a surprise as the government had earlier shortlisted Goa, Bangalore and Hyderabad as possible venues. Agra was eventually chosen because of its proximity to Delhi, which will allow the leaders to get down to business without wasting any time.

The dates were announced after Vajpayee reached home from Mumbai, where he had undergone a knee surgery.

The Prime Minister used the hospital departure limelight to address domestic concerns on the summit. “There should not be any question of our position on Kashmir. It is very clear. Jammu and Kashmir is part of India. There is absolutely no change in that position and it will be made clear during the meeting,” Vajpayee said, before leaving Breach Candy hospital with his reinforced knee.

Vajpayee, who was in a wheel chair, added that Pakistani-occupied part of Kashmir, too, would feature in his talks. “I hope a solution will be found.”

The Prime Minister said he would call an all-party meeting before his talks with Musharraf. “This meeting will review India-Pakistan relations and decided the future course of action.” Vajpayee’s 12-day hospitalisation was shadowed by the summit with resident and non-resident Indians e-mailing him their apprehensions. The proposed meeting dominated his first post-operation news conference as well.

After the failed bus diplomacy, Vajpayee hoped the summit would pay off. “I am an optimist. I have invited him in the hope it would create a proper climate to resolve various issues and pave the way for greater cooperation.”

Vajpayee said he counted “tension-free” relations with the thrice-fought neighbour among his “achievable dreams”. He said the ceasefire in Kashmir had brought down tension along the Line of Control. “So another diplomatic step has been taken.”

The 76-year-old leader, who now needs a walker now, said he hoped to walk unaided in a week. “I have come to say goodbye to you for the second time. I hope I won’t have to do it for a third time. after all I have two knees only,” a smiling Vajpayee added.


New Delhi, June 19: 
Greeted by the Manipur flare-up on his first day out of hospital, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said the violence was the result of “misunderstanding” over the ceasefire even as the home ministry tried to control damage by highlighting the largesse it had doled out to the state.

Shortly before leaving Breach Candy hospital in Mumbai, Vajpayee appealed to the youths of Manipur to shun violence and sit at the table to solve their problems.

“People of Manipur, especially the youth, may have some grievances, but violence is intolerable. No issue can be resolved through violence,” he said.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that there were reasons other than the truce-related misunderstanding for yesterday’s outpouring of rage, but refused to spell them out.

Vajpayee tried to assure the people that their state would “not be affected” because of the ceasefire extension. “There will be no change in Manipur’s boundaries, or for that matter in the boundaries of any other north-eastern state,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s statement was echoed in New Delhi by a home ministry spokesman who said the “territorial integrity of Manipur… would never be changed or altered”.

Amid mounting criticism over the Centre’s handling of the situation in a state which is under its direct rule, the spokesman conceded that there had been “no consultation on the issue with the chief secretaries of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh” before the decision was taken to extend the ceasefire with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) to neighbouring areas dominated by Nagas.

The home ministry sought to douse the fire by focusing on the Rs 10,270 crore it had sanctioned for the development of the Northeast and enlisted a series of “development plans” announced for the region.

The spokesman said every Central ministry has been asked to earmark 10 per cent of its total funds for the development of the Northeast and if the money remained “unutilised”, it would go to the “non-lapsable Central pool” to ensure that the states in the region, irrespective of which party was in power, could utilise it.

Home minister L.K. Advani spoke to Manipur Governor Ved Marwah, who has come under flak for having failed to gauge the mood of the people.

Advani met the Centre’s peace emissary to the Northeast, K. Padmanabhaiah, who is negotiating between Delhi and the militant outfits in the region.

The home minister held a “review” meeting in the morning before rushing to the airport to receive Vajpayee. Later in the evening, Padmanabhaiah “apprised” Advani of the developments in the state.

Padmanabhaiah refused to talk to reporters, saying: “I’m not in government proper. You ask the government.”


New Delhi, June 19: 
A powerful conglomerate of Indian and foreign private companies raring to get into defence production is keeping fingers crossed after trade unions today called a strike on July 23 and 24 to protest the Centre’s policy of throwing open the sector.

The strike has been called by trade unions influenced by or affiliated to Citu, Intuc, HMS and the BMS. A referendum of the employees will be conducted in all defence production establishments from July 3 to 6 in accordance with labour laws. This would involve employees of the 39 units of the Ordnance Factory Board, installations of the Military Engineering Services, vehicle depots, dockyards, research and development laboratories and army, navy and air force establishments that employ civilian staff.

Should less than 70 per cent of the staff vote against the strike call in any of the establishments, that outfit will not participate in the strike. Nearly 5.6 lakh workers are employed in defence production across the country.

Leaders of the defence employees’ unions who met over two days here were confident they would have the support of all workers because all their associations are supportive of the strike call. The BMS’ affiliated Bharatiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh, which had earlier called for an indefinite strike from July 9, has now shelved its programme. But differences among the trade unions persist primarily over the question of foreign participation in defence production.

Though the BMS was a signatory to the joint declaration by the unions today, it is particularly rankled by the proposal to allow foreign direct investment of up to 26 per cent in the sector. The BMS’ ideas on privatisation are ambiguous, but it is known that they would champion a “swadeshi” line.

The other unions are sceptical about what the BMS’ attitude will be if the Centre decides to amend its policy and throw open the sector to private Indian companies only. The BMS is angry that a sector so strategic as defence production should become a playground of multinationals.

Major Indian companies — the Kirloskars, Mahindra & Mahindra, Larsen and Toubro, Godrej, Bharat Forge, Ashok Leyland and the Tatas — which were planning a foray into defence production are biding their time to see how the Centre reacts to the protest. Though none of them admit it, Indian companies are wary of multinational presence in the sector.

These companies have been supplying to the defence forces for years.

But none has so far been allowed into the area of lethal weaponry. The Central policy announced on May 9 — as a result of intense lobbying by industry led by the CII — can lead to the opening up of the sensitive area, too.

However, the Centre is yet to proclaim a detailed notification that will state clearly how its policy will be implemented.

“The Centre’s policy has come after 50 long years. And it is clear that it will ensure a level-playing field (between the public and the private sector) and that the effort will be towards indigenisation. The objective will be to discourage imports and source requirements from within the country,” said the deputy director-general of CII, Sushant Sen.

“We are also concerned about the country’s security. The government has also made it clear that only companies with a proven track record will be given licences. It is unfortunate that the unions are saying that the new policy will end up compromising our sovereignty,” Sen said.

“Once the government notification is issued, I believe there will be a great number of companies coming into the sector. We appeal to the unions to reconsider their decision,” the CII deputy director-general added.

It is unlikely, however, that the unions will withdraw their call immediately. The joint declaration makes four demands. These included the withdrawal of the decision to allow 100 per cent private participation in defence production with 26 per cent foreign direct investment, the shelving of the policy to corporatise defence production, full utilisation of the production capacities in defence establishments and filling up of all vacancies.

“We had the Tehelka scam this year. It exposed how corrupt defence deals can be even when it is under government control,” said S.S. Chauhan, working president of the Intuc-affiliated Indian National Defence Workers’ Federation.

“Can you imagine what private entry on such a scale in this sector can lead to? The decision to shift defence production from the restricted category to the licensed category was hastily done,” added Chauhan.

Saila Bhattacharjee, general secretary of the All India Defence Employees’ Federation, said the groundwork to throw open the sector had already been carried out by the Nair Committee that studied the restructuring of the 39 ordnance factories.




Maximum: 31°C (-3)
Minimum: 25.2°C (-2)


5.3 mm

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 98%,
Minimum: 84%


One or two spells of light to moderate rain in some parts
Sunrise: 4.54 am
Sunset: 6.21 pm

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