Left-out Opp. scoffs at Agra �late� update
Wah! Taj and Taj for Pervez
Laloo lays bridge over digital divide
Delhi traders pull Pak goods out of closet
Bloodbath in shadow of radical unity
Downpour fuels flash flood fear in Orissa
Cop admits to sheltering Ulfa
Holes in police suicide claim
Messiah memorial turns hoodlum haven
After chatrooms, a cyber police station

New Delhi, July 8: 
On the eve of an all-party meeting convened by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the Indo-Pak summit, discordant notes have emerged from among the Opposition.

At least 35 political leaders are expected to attend this meeting, which is part of the consultation process initiated by Vajpayee. However, the general view of the Opposition is that the effort was made a �bit late in the day�.

As CPM Rajya Sabha MP Nilotpal Basu remarked: �We have openly raised the issue about the Centre not being consistent in its stand. It has taken contradictory steps. For example, there was so much hoopla about lifting the ban on cricket matches, but so far no such official announcement has come. On top of all this, the all-party meeting is taking place at such a late stage. We don�t know how far our inputs will be factored into the final framework of talks.�

Basu stressed that the Centre should have taken the Opposition into confidence much earlier and shared with it its broad strategy for the meeting.

Samajwadi Party leader and former defence minister Mulayam Singh Yadav criticised the government for the �hush-hush� manner in which it planned the summit. �While the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, was speaking his mind out on the various issues expected to figure prominently during the parleys, the Centre was curiously reticent,� he commented.

CPI national secretary D. Raja felt the Centre�s reluctance to keep the Opposition informed was in keeping with its overall approach to Kashmir. �First the government announced a ceasefire on the border but this was not followed up with concrete measures. Then they withdrew the ceasefire but through all this there was no proper consultation with political parties,� he said.

However, despite their grouse against the �belated� consultation, most Opposition parties seemed clear about what they would convey in the meeting and what they would expect the Centre to clarify. Almost all the leaders said they would ask the Prime Minister to clarify his government�s stand on the Hurriyat Conference following Musharraf�s keenness to meet its representatives. They would also ask the Centre to outline its strategy for the summit in the context of the latest salvo fired by Pakistan on alleged human rights violations in Kashmir.

The Opposition�s unanimous view was that the Hurriyat should not be involved in the talks at any stage. �Any attempt to give a tripartite colour will not be acceptable to us,� Basu said. Congress spokesman Anand Sharma said both sides would have to create a �conducive� atmosphere for the summit�s success and not just indulge in �worn-out clich�s and rhetoric�.

Congressman K. Natwar Singh advised Pakistan to �exercise verbal restraint�. �They should realise there is so much at stake and act with a sense of responsibility. Both sides are well aware of each other�s position on outstanding issues,� Singh said, implying there was no need to make statements that could vitiate the atmosphere.

The CPM said it would seek a clarification on home minister L.K. Advani�s remark that Vajpayee�s initiative would create a �conducive atmosphere in the direction of formation of a confederation of India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Nepal in the days ahead�.

The convener of BJP�s foreign affairs cell, S.K. Arora, said though Pakistan had demanded that Kashmir top the agenda, the two countries should first discuss �peripheral� issues like introducing measures to increase people-to-people contact, trade and cultural ties.


New Delhi, July 8: 
If the magnificent Taj Mahal fails, the lilting voice of Shubha Mudgal and the soothing beats of Zakir Hussain�s tabla may help Pervez Musharraf take a break from trying to resolve the Kashmir tangle.

Though the President may like to spend time with the Prime Minister to break the �the core issue of dispute between India and Pakistan�, a packed schedule awaits him in Agra � the summit�s venue on July 15.

Musharraf, who arrives in Delhi the day before, leaves for Agra at about 9 am. He will then be taken to Amarvilas where he will relax in a presidential suite � with all the rooms getting a view of the Taj � before leaving for Jaypee Hotel to meet Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

If all goes well, the one-on-one meeting may be followed by delegation-level talks between the two countries. Lunch will then be hosted by Vajpayee.

At 4 pm, boarding an environment-friendly electricity-run vehicle � made by Bharat Heavy Electric Limited � Musharraf, his wife and a few others will visit the Taj Mahal.

Later, a select group of editors and intellectuals will interact with the Pakistani leader. This will be the second time that Musharraf will exchange views with the Indian elite as the day before in Delhi, a similar meeting with members of Indian think-tanks is being planned.

Uttar Pradesh Governor Vishnu Kant Shastri will organise a dinner for Musharraf at Amarvilas, where dishes from different regions will be on the menu.

This will be followed by a cultural programme organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, where Shubha Mudgal and Zakir Hussain will be among the performers.

The talks may continue on the last day � July 16 � and a statement is supposed to be issued. If separate statements are issued, the summit will not be considered much of a success. A joint press conference will not follow, though the two sides may brief the media separately on the summit�s outcome.

However, a joint statement will be ideal as it may promise further interaction between the two leaders in the near future. But even if it happens, it will be a surprise since neither sides are keen on a joint statement at the moment.

In the afternoon, Musharraf and his delegation are scheduled to leave for Jaipur. Thereafter, he will visit the dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti. The President will then return to Jaipur before leaving for Islamabad in the evening.


Patna, July 8: 
In a major shift from his earlier stand on information technology, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav has agreed to son-in-law Sailesh Kumar�s suggestion that Bihar be made a frontrunner in the IT revolution.

As a step in this direction, Patna will host an international convention on IT on November 25 and 26, organised by the Information Technology Society of India, the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Bihar Industries Association.

The guest list for the convention includes information technology minister Pramod Mahajan, whose party is often a target of the RJD chief�s barbs. Other guests include Kanwal Rekhi, Prithipal Singh and Mohan Rai.

The state government hopes that the convention will lead to a flow of investments in the IT sector for which it has assured many sops. Investors will then be invited to set up a technology park in the state.

The government claims that it has roped in a section of NRIs after Sailesh Kumar, a computer engineer, motivated bureaucrats on the need for a change in the IT policy.

�What use are computers?� Laloo Yadav had cynically asked last year when his party came to power for the third time in the state. In a country like India, where there is largescale unemployment, information technology does not have priority, he had said.

However, despite this hostility towards computers, the Bihar government has been interacting with various firms for enhancing efficiency in the state.

Today, the RJD chief said: �I had once said that IT could not be a panacea for the country�s ills. But now I feel that IT can expedite the growth rate and it can of course increase the scope for investment in the state.�

He was, however, noncommittal on whether his government was ready for reforms in the administrative set-up to facilitate the IT revolution.

At today�s press conference, Laloo was flanked by Sailesh, NRI Ramesh Yadav and IT expert Manoj Saraf. �There is an east-west disparity in IT growth. It will now be bridged,� said Ramesh Yadav.

�A knowledge-based economy is independent of geography. From Silicon Valley to Bihar may be a remote route map for the IT march, but if the investors are convinced about the potential of the state, they will definitely build the bridge,� Sailesh Kumar said.

He blamed the media for creating a wrong image of Bihar and felt there was a need for �an exercise in image building�. The convention would go a long way in polishing the state�s image.


New Delhi, July 8: 
Colourful blankets, patterned cloth material, bright dupattas and janamaaz (prayer mats) jostle for space at the shops in Meena Bazaar near Jama Masjid while anxious shop-owners wait for customers for the videshi goods at throwaway prices, which have come from Pakistan through clandestine routes.

Though little formal trade exists between India and Pakistan, goods from the neighbouring country are sold at the walled city � be it Meena Bazaar, Chandni Chowk or Sadar Bazaar. Some of the commodities are also available at Karol Bagh.

The goods are brought by travellers to India, who come down to meet their relatives. �Pakistanis have a limit on the currency that they can bring to India. Therefore, they get goods from their markets which are popular in India like dry fruit, carpets and cloth material to make extra money,� said a shopkeeper in Meena Bazaar, who is married to a Pakistani.

The visitors generally come to India by Samjhauta Express that operates between Delhi and Lahore. Or they take the bus route between the two countries.

�Four years ago, when the visa procedure was relaxed, travellers would sell Pakistani goods in the market. But recently, because of the stringent visa policy, fewer people are making it to the market,� said Shamim Ahmed Khan, general-secretary of the Meena Bazaar Shopkeepers� Union.

However, it is not a one-way trade for the clandestine goods. Indian wares are also sold in Pakistan. �I travel to Pakistan once a year since a part of my family has migrated there. So when I visit my cousins, I take a couple of Indian products to Pakistan,� said a shopkeeper. Betel leaves, mint, lungis and jewellery are very popular across the border.

�Pakistanis like buying Indian goods. Whenever we travel to Lahore or Karachi, they enquire about the quality of Indian products that are new in the market,� said another shop-owner. A shopkeeper proudly displayed his collection of silk janamaaz. �These mats are manufactured by the Butt Silk Mill in Gujjranwala. They cost Rs 110 in Pakistani currency and are sold in India for Rs 170.�

�When I went to Pakistan, I spoke to the mill-owners on sending the mats to India. Since we don�t have any trade agreement, they said Dubai was the only route through which the goods could be sent to India. But this was not cost effective and I dropped the plan,� he said.

The shops sell a wide array of Pakistani georgette material with mukesh and floral works. The suit pieces are sold here for Rs 2,000. And the buyers are not confined to the housewives. �The materials are very popular with fashion houses. Boutique-owners in Greater Kailash and South Extension purchase these fabrics and have no qualms that they are manufactured in Pakistan,� the shop-owner said.

�We want trade between the two countries to be formalised since goods coming from both the countries are popular among the people,� said a shopkeeper.

Others remain silent as selling Pakistani goods openly invites trouble �We have the CID and the Intelligence Bureau coming to our shops to make inquiries. They make our lives miserable,� they said.


Raxaul (Nepal border), July 8: 
For the first time, Left radical groups in the subcontinent have joined forces for �regional cooperation�, breaking the tradition of localised aggression in their respective areas of operation.

Sources said that the killings of 40 policemen and a series of strikes earlier in Nepal have to be viewed in the context of the integration of divergent Left extremist groups a fortnight ago. The policemen were killed in Lamjung district coinciding with Nepal�s new king Gyanendra�s birthday.

A confederation of Left revolutionary groups issued a statement last week in Lamjung saying: �The forum has been set up to unify and coordinate the activities of the Maoist parties and organisations in South Asia to stem the spread of expansionist forces and propagating the spirit of protracted people�s war in the region. This is a historic step of far-reaching consequences.�

Calling itself the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Groups in South Asia, the grouping is monitoring the movements in Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland Manipur, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and plans to chalk out its strategies in the context of these struggles.

Evidence of some sort of exchange between extremist groups in India and Nepal already exists. Two People�s War Group activists from Bihar were arrested in Nepal on July 2.

Similarly, Bihar police picked up two Nepali youths from Kaimur Hills, reportedly receiving training from the local Maoist Communist Centre camp.

Referring to the developments in Nepal, the committee�s statement said the massacre of the royal family was intended to ensure that power remained in the hands of the diehard sections of the ruling class and thwart the democratic movement.

The committee perceives India as a part of US expansionist moves in South Asia and alleges that �it had a sinister design in weakening the traditional monarchy and placing the reins on a more repressive ruler.�

Similarly, it lashed out at the BJP-led govenment in India branding it a �Hindu chauvinist force toeing the line of US imperialists to suppress people�s movements in the subcontinent�.

The Committee has resolved to intensify �people�s movements� in the region and beyond in conjunction with their comrades in Peru, the Philippines and Turkey.

Since the formation of the confederation, there has been a marked change in the pattern of Left aggression. The groups have broadbased their sphere of activity from sporadic hit-and-run strikes at the local level. The operations are now guided by strategic considerations.

For instance, in Bihar the Maoists find it difficult to operate during the monsoon as vast tracts of land are inundated and their escape routes sealed. So they shift base to the Western Hill districts of Nepal and concentrate more on training recruits. Barring isolated local clashes, there have been no major strikes in Bihar of late.

The groups are now working in tandem to mobilise arms and manpower in areas where they choose to strike. According to an intelligence official entrusted with security in the border districts, over 500 Bihar Naxalites have migrated to Nepal. Following an intelligence alert, border vigil has been stepped up.


Bhubaneswar, July 8: 
Torrential rains in the state continued for the seventh day today fuelling fears of flash floods in several coastal and western districts of Orissa. Heavy rains claimed three lives in Koraput and Kalahandi districts.

Addressing newsmen here today, Orissa revenue minister Biswabhusan Harichandan said Kalahandi was the worst-affected district. The district headquarters town of Bhawanipatna remained cut off from the rest of the state since Saturday due to the floods.

Kalahandi witnessed a record rainfall of 594 mm in June and early July against an average of 228.3 mm during this period, the minister added.

In western Orissa, Bolangir, Phulbani, Koraput, Bargarh, Sambalpur, Nuapara, Boudh, Sonepur, Sundargarh, Mayurbhanj and Nawarangpur districts have been affected.Crops and houses in coastal Orissa districts like Balasore, Bhadrak, Jajpur, Puri, Khurda, Cuttack, Ganjam and Gajapati were damaged, the minister said.

All these districts received more than 300 mm rainfall after the onset of the monsoon. Ironically, western Orissa districts like Bolangir and Nuapara were in the news recently for a severe drought that swept through the region.

�The situation is grim. But the state is prepared for any eventuality. There is no need for panic,� the minister said, adding that all district collectors had been alerted and asked to take relief measures as and when needed.

However, the minister could not say how many people have been affected and the area of crop land affected by the rains. The downpour has been so severe that the state has received one-third of the average annual rainfall.

In June, Orissa received a record 316 mm rainfall against the month�s average of 219 mm. Last year, it received 216 mm during the corresponding period.

In the first week of July, 115.6 mm of rainfall was recorded as against the month�s average of 372.66 mm. Several rivers including Bansadhara, Indravati, Tel, Hati, Devi, Kushabhdra and Baitarani in both coastal and interior districts are flowing well above the danger level.

Mahanadi, the largest river in the state, almost crossed the danger level by Monday after authorities opened the sluice gates of Hirakud reservoir. The flooded Baitarani river in Bhadrak district has caused eight breaches in an embankment waterlogging several thousands of crop areas.

The capital has also been hit by the continuous downpour as houses in several low-lying areas were flooded. The authorities have employed suction pumps to drain out water from residential areas.


Guwahati, July 8: 
North Lakhimpur additional superintendent of police (security) B.C. Buragohain has �confessed� to sheltering an Ulfa �corporal� at his official residence, but claimed it was only a �temporary arrangement� as the rebel was planning to surrender anyway.

North Lakhimpur deputy commissioner L. Phangsou, however, said the police official�s claim was unconvincing. �Buragohain kept the government in the dark about it for over a year. It was not the right thing to do,� he said.

Phangsou, who is conducting an independent inquiry into the matter, said Buragohain disclosed everything during an interrogation session yesterday. �Buragohain�s claim that he assisted the militant to come overground does not hold water,� he said.

Buragohain went on leave on July 4, a day before the arrest of Myanmar-trained Ulfa militant Joon Kalita, alias Gajen Bhuyan, from his official residence at Nakari in Lakhimpur town.

After arresting Kalita, the army apprehended two more militants who had been helping him establish an extortion network in Lakhimpur district. A 9 mm pistol, five rounds of ammunition, a country-made revolver and a sheaf of extortion notices were seized from the two militants. Chief minister Tarun Gogoi told The Telegraph over the phone from New Delhi that he had directed state home commissioner Himangshu Sekhar Das to conduct an inquiry into the matter. The report will be submitted to Gogoi when he returns to Guwahati tomorrow. The deputy inspector-general of police (northern range), who has been asked to conduct a departmental inquiry, today began interrogating Buragohain. Police sources said the arrested rebels were interrogated as well by a team of officials from the special branch of Assam police. They have been remanded to three days in police custody by the chief judicial magistrate.

The arrested militants will be produced before the court again on Tuesday. Minister of state for home Pradyut Bordoloi yesterday declined to comment on the government�s possible line of action.

He merely said the government would �take action� against the police official if it was proved that he had been hobnobbing with the Ulfa.


Nayabasti (Bholaganj), July 8: 
The fear of retribution by police gripped the twin hamlets of Dharambasti and Nayabasti in Meghalaya a day after Dayal Ram Kachari�s body was exhumed, but a couple of key witnesses said they were not afraid of speaking the truth about the alleged custody death.

The police claim Kachari, who had been arrested on charges of misappropriating postal department funds, hanged himself. But his wife Monika and a section of villagers have charged the police with torturing him to death.

Sources said the police, jittery after the case hit the headlines, yesterday warned the villagers of dire consequences if they talked about what happened after Kachari was taken into custody on April 30.

�The police were angry with us for speaking to reporters when Kachari�s body was being exhumed. They obviously did not expect his death to become a major issue,� a villager said.

However, 13-year-old Nitush Das � a key witness � said he was not afraid of speaking the truth. He said the police treated Kachari like a �poshu (animal)� from the moment he was arrested at Dharambasti over two months back. �I saw the police chasing someone. The man ran across the football field in our village. He hid in a nearby jungle, but the policemen continuously pelted stones at him, forcing him to come out. It was only after they arrested the person that I recognised him as Dayal Ram Kachari,� Das said.

The teenager said the police kicked Kachari on his chest and lower abdomen. �They hit him with sticks as well�.

Das said a short-statured policeman with a moustache � a description that fits the official who led the police team � kicked Kachari thrice on the groin.

Sudhan, another teenager from the village, said he saw the policemen hitting Kachari with sticks and dragging him towards Ichamati. Naresh Sinha and Bhobendra Singh, who were at the Sohra police station when Kachari was taken there, said they saw him in a �half-dead condition�.

Sinha, who had been arrested on a �flimsy charge�, said the police freed him after he paid Rs 1,000. �However, they showed no mercy to Kachari. They kicked him on his private parts, making him whine in pain,� he said.

Several other witnesses said they did not know how Kachari died, but confirmed that he was tortured. All these witnesses hail from Dharambasti, from where Kachari was arrested.

�We could have kept mum because the victim was from Nayabasti and not from our village. But we are God-fearing people and cannot hide the truth,� one of the witnesses said.

Both the villagers are located in the Bholaganj area, bordering Bangladesh. A case dating back to 1995 was pending against Kachari, but it is not known whether a warrant had been issued for his arrest. As Kachari�s body was being exhumed, a senior police official was heard telling his widow that it was �a genuine case of suicide and there was no justification in pursuing it�. He asked her if she was under pressure to file a case against the police.

Sohra circle inspector C.K. Sangma, who was present during the exhumation, gave a clean chit to the police.


Ara (Bhojpur), July 8: 
Even 15 years after his death, messiah of the Dalits Babu Jagjivan Ram remains a footnote in his native village, Chandwa, about two km from here.

His memorial, which was once slated to become a �Mecca� for the Dalits, is now a happy hunting ground for miscreants and stray dogs alike.

Flanked by a rapidly encroaching Ganga, Chandwa remains forgotten for the better part of the year. However, it springs back to a semblance of life during the time of Ram�s death anniversary. The Dalit leader died on July 6, 1986, and was cremated the next day according to his last wish.

This year, too, his relatives, political personalities, social organisations espousing the Dalit cause and partymen thronged the dilapidated memorial in the heart of the village. Surrounded by a marshy lowland and overgrown weeds, all that remains of the symbol of Dalit resurgence is a concrete slab with painted slogans proclaiming: �Garibon ka massiha up pradhan mantri amar rahe (Long live the messiah of the poor)�.

The visitors put the blame for the sorry state of Ram�s memorial on �a political conspiracy by the ruling party to send his legacy into oblivion�. Ram�s grandson Sashi Kumar said: �The government�s apathy to this memorial is a national shame and it speaks of the politics we are practising.�

Chandwa, located just a couple of kilometres from the Ara district headquarters, is home to over 600 Dalits. But the birthplace of the messiah cannot even ensure the basic amenities for Ram�s followers. These marginalised castes remain illiterate and languish in abject poverty despite their leader�s attempts to emancipate them.

Not much has changed since Ram began his Dalit resurgence movement from this village after Independence. Villagers still recount vividly tales of Ram�s participation in the freedom struggle and his mobilisation of the Dalits for the cause. As a result, several social organisations, including Ram�s Gandhi Peace Foundation, are still based in the village. These serve as mute reminders of Chandwa�s former glory.

With Ara being the bloody battleground for the caste wars ravaging the riverine central Bihar districts, the Dalits live under the constant shadow of the guns trained by the upper-caste militia. The red radicals have also made inroads in the district to provide counter-protection. In the tumult, Ram�s message of peace lies in tatters.

The successive governments at the Centre have been lackadaisical in perpetuating the leader�s legacy. On Ram�s death, then President Zail Singh and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited the site and announced that a mega memorial would be set up at the cremation ground and all his personal belongings would be preserved there in a memorial. His vast collection of books would also be put on display to inspire his brethren. The Centre even sanctioned Rs 60 lakh. However, enquiries about the money and the project drew a blank. The district authorities were unable to trace the money and pleaded ignorance about the entire �affair�.

Prime Minister Narasimha Rao had allocated an additional Rs 20 lakh in 1991 for the beautification of the area, but the amount was also �squandered�. The site remains derelict.

Government sources in Patna said the funds were sanctioned during the Congress regime and a part of it was utilised to set up a library. The balance was distributed among the various social organisations working for Dalits.

Rao�s money was released during Laloo Prasad Yadav�s tenure as chief minister. But the money was returned after the state government failed to cough up a matching grant.


Bangalore, July 8: 
In the battle with Hyderabad for cyber superiority, Bangalore is set to score with the government setting into motion plans for creating a cyber police station, the first such facility in the country.

The virtual station, to be housed in the headquarters of the Corps of Detectives (COD), will be manned round-the-clock by a trained senior police official of the rank of deputy superintendent of police. A team is being trained with the help of professional organisations and the CBI.

The cyber police station is the brainchild of ace investigator and inspector-general of police R. Sri Kumar, one of the key men in the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that tracked down the pro-LTTE assassins of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. �The people in the industry all over the world look towards Bangalore for inspiration on how to fight cyber crime. That is the kind of reputation this city has,� Sri Kumar said.

�The idea is to investigate quickly borderless cyber crimes. What is required is quick action when a computer-related complaint is received. We will investigate with the help of a multi-disciplinary group of experts from various fields,� Sri Kumar told The Telegraph. The COD plans to get useful tips from the cybersavvy 80-strong special unit in London.

The COD has already got its act together. Its cyber crime cell, formed in April, is investigating into a case of hacking of a Bangalore-based company�s website in North America.

The response to the concept has been positive. �The idea certainly is good. As the Internet penetrates into India, it is important for regulations and implementation of the regulations also to come in at the right moment,� said K. Vaitheeswaran, vice-president, marketing, Fabmart India.

�It is a good idea. This will deter people from trying to commit cyber crime,� said Ramanathan, Guhesh Ramanathan, CEO of a computer servicing firm. �Cyber crimes are taking place. I know even bank accounts are being targeted,� he said.

Ramanathan recalled his experience when his VSNL account was hacked. �The VSNL provided a list of telephone numbers from where my account was accessed. But I did not pursue it with the police. With a cyber police station in place, we will be able to actually complain. This will definitely act as a deterrent,� he said.

According to Vaitheeswaran, training is a key to the success of the venture. �The issue is training. If the police force is adequately trained on the Internet, the expected issues, the challenges and the implementation procedures, they should be able to police cyber crime as well,� he said.

Sri Kumar said the cyber laws, ratified in the Parliament last year, equipped the police with enough powers to tackle cyber crime. �The good thing about the cyber laws is that India is among a handful of countries having a cyber law. Of course, being a first time effort, there are some gaps that need to be plugged,� said Vaitheeswaran.

Complaints ranging from abusive mail and hacking, to fraud on the net will be investigated by the cyber police station. Persons found guilty of sending abusive or hate mail can be jailed for a minimum of two years.

The cops will also keep watch on sex abuse through the net, a growing menace world over. A slew of pornographic sites will also come under scrutiny. The ministry of information and technology has already made a public appeal against �undesirable exposure of children to sexually-explicit and other harmful content over the Internet�.

Children, the future nation-builders, can be lured to such content over the Internet, affecting their �moral, social and personal upbringing� the appeal said.


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