Stolen idol found in temple well
BJP dumps alliance in UP
Hurriyat offers truce, Centre looks other way
Immunisation panic in Assam
Nepal royal dies in crash
Ulfa bride-to-be held

Puri, Nov. 12: 
In a repeat of last week’s theft at Lingaraj temple, a missing idol of Sri Jagannath temple was recovered from a deep well.

The idol of Lord Madanamohan, which was stolen yesterday in a pre-dawn heist from the Sri Jagannath temple, was retrieved from a temple well this morning by a fire brigade staff.

The two-feet-high idol, made of eight precious metals, was found in a well at Nilachala Upabana, a basil garden, situated on the western side of the temple. However, the five-kg silver idol of Amavasya Narayana is yet to be found.

Last Monday, the silver mask of Lord Lingaraj, called Narayana Bigraha, was found in a well in the temple complex, hours after it was stolen.

Earlier, 10 fire brigade personnel drew a blank after they scoured a well near the Vimala temple. Sources said the men were to pump out water from all the 14 deep wells inside the temple complex.

Temple officials said the fire brigade crew pumped out water from the well at Nilachala Upabana. A fireman, Dharanidhar Baral, climbed down 70 feet inside the well to get the idol. A new crowbar was also recovered from the well. However, the astadhatu flute of the idol could not be traced. The idol has been kept in the temple’s storeroom.

With the recovery of the Lord Madanamohan idol from within the temple complex, fingers are being pointed at quarters associated with the temple. Police led by crime branch inspector-general of police Amarananda Patnaik have begun preliminary investigation.


New Delhi, Nov. 12: 
The BJP will have its own manifesto in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, with allies confined to seat-sharing.

Last saturday, at a strategy session for the polls, it was also decided that a number of existing legislators could be dropped to “refurbish” the party’s image and that at least one woman member would be given a ticket from each district.

Central prabari in charge of the state Kushabhau Thakre, general secretary entrusted with poll management Pyarelal Khandelwal, state BJP chief Kalraj Mishra and his four organisational secretaries were present at the session.

Mishra has been authorised by Central leaders to constitute a manifesto committee to prepare publicity material and inputs and coordinate with district-based media.

When the BJP fought the last Lok Sabha elections under the NDA banner, it had decided not to have its own manifesto and went in for a common minimum programme instead, which dropped the “contentious” Hindutva-related issues like the Ram temple, uniform civil code and abrogation of Article 376.

In Uttar Pradesh, however, the decision was reversed apparently to enable the BJP to place some of these planks — notably Ram temple — on its agenda to consolidate the party’s traditional Hindutva votes.

Sources claimed that an independent manifesto would not become a sticking point with allies in Uttar Pradesh as “secularism had ceased to be an issue”. “Rather, it is the desperate need to come back to power at any cost that is the primary consideration with our allies,” they said.


New Delhi, Nov. 12: 
Worried at being sidelined, the Hurriyat Conference today tried to make a comeback with a dramatic announcement of a “comprehensive ceasefire” in Kashmir and spelt out a three-point formula for peace in the valley. But the Hurriyat’s efforts to be counted in any future arrangement on Kashmir left the Vajpayee government cold.

India rejected the Hurriyat’s suggestion that a solution to Kashmir be thrashed out by India, Pakistan and representatives of the people of Kashmir.

“The Hurriyat has been told time and time again that India will not agree to tripartite talks between India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir. The Hurriyat leaders are always welcome to speak to us. But even when an interlocutor has been appointed to begin discussions with all sections of the people, the Hurriyat have refused to talk to him. K.C. Pant has spoken to several sections of people in Kashmir but the Hurriyat leaders refused to talk to him,’’ minister of state for home I.D. Swamy said.

While India is willing to discuss Kashmir with Pakistan, the Centre is not in any mood to involve the Hurriyat in discussions with Islamabad. There is a parliamentary resolution, supported by all parties, that says Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Therefore, Kashmiris can talk to Central leaders about their problems instead of going to a third country.

“Whatever problems there are can be worked out between the people of Kashmir and the Union government, just like in other states of the country,’’ a senior official explained.

Hurriyat chairman Abdul Gani Bhat spoke to reporters in Srinagar a day after US President George Bush said that Washington would urge India and Pakistan to talk on Kashmir and find a solution keeping in mind the wishes of the people in the state.

“We propose negotiations involving India, Pakistan and the true representatives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, simultaneous ceasefire by all involved and a time-frame for resolution of the Kashmir issue,” Bhat said, suggesting the three-point formula.

Swamy said government had no problems with ordering a ceasefire, provided the offer was genuine. “Any militant outfit ready to abjure violence will always be welcomed by us. But what happened last time was not encouraging,” he said.

He also questioned the Hurriyat’s claims to represent the people of Kashmir. “If they have so much confidence, they should stand for elections and prove their popularity,’’ he said.

The Hurriyat has been gradually losing its relevance, painted by chief minister Farooq Abdullah and the Centre as agents of Islamabad. While their criticism does not affect the credibility of the leaders, what has harmed the Hurriyat is its support to Pervez Musharraf’s war against the Taliban.

Most of its former supporters are backing the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.


Nov. 12: 
Vitamin A turned into a lethal dose of poison for the state’s children as a Unicef-sponsored immunisation programme left a two-year-old dead and over a thousand ill since yesterday.

Health minister Bhumidhar Barman said the state government could not be blamed as the vitamin had been supplied by the Unicef. He said he would be visiting Silchar tomorrow where over 1,000 children have been affected.

A Unicef official, Geeta Athreya, said from Delhi, “Our job is to motivate a particular government about a programme and sponsor it if they are inclined.” She, however, skirted the issue of her organisation having supplied the “suspect” consignment.

“We are on the trail and can only let you know later,” she said, adding, “I am surprised at the developments.” She said the fresh stocks of vitamin A were procured from the same source from where it was purchased earlier.

Today’s incident has landed the new-found relationship between the six-month-old Congress government and the UN organisation in rough weather. The Unicef has taken up two other schemes in the state — one to rehabilitate children affected by violence and the other on giving disaster-preparedness tips to schoolchildren.

The victim in Cachar, two-and-a-half-year-old Asha Pagti, was the daughter of a tea worker of Pandu Tea Estate in Lakhipur subdivision. She was rushed to the Labok hospital, 25 km east of Silchar, last night with complaints of vomiting and headache.

The vitamin A “poisoning” comes in the wake of the serial food poisoning incidents in the state. The serial food poisoning claimed three lives and affected over 2,000 people since August.


Kathmandu, Nov. 12: 
The sister-in-law of Nepal’s King Gyanendra died in a helicopter crash today, a new tragedy for a royal family still mourning the massacre of most of its members in June, officials said.

Princess Prekshya, Queen Komal’s younger sister, was one of the six people on board a helicopter that crashed into the Rara Lake, some 550 km northwest of Kathmandu.

Princess Prekshya Rajya Lakshmi Devi Shah was married to the late Prince Dhirendra, the youngest brother of the king.


Siliguri, Nov. 12: 
When Pushpalata Bakat boarded the bus from Siliguri this morning, she was the fiancée of a prosperous businessman. But the Ulfa Dhubri unit’s cultural forum chief was arrested the moment she alighted from the bus at Cooch Behar.

The 26-year-old, who had recently got engaged to a businessman in Bidhan Market, is the main coordinator of the underground outfit’s “action squads” for north Bengal with the separatist Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO).

Cooch Behar police, who had been on the lookout for the elusive militant leader, swooped on her at the bus terminus.

Cooch Behar superintendent of police Parveen Kumar said Pushpalata’s arrest was a big catch for both Bengal police and their Assam counterparts, who have been trying to track her down for the past five years. “On a tip-off that Pushpalata was travelling from Siliguri to Cooch Behar, we lay in wait for her at the Cooch Behar bus terminus this morning. The moment she alighted, we nabbed her,” Kumar said.

“Pushpalata, whose cadre name within the outfit is Shikha Sarmha, has been residing in a Ulfa safehouse in Siliguri since the last one year with another alias, Kalpana Roy. She even confessed that she was engaged to marry a young businessman from Bidhan market in Siliguri,” Kumar said.

The officer said Pushpalata, a resident of Assam’s Dhubri district, revealed that she had joined the banned outfit in 1990 as a 15-year-old and underwent arms training in a camp on the Assam-Meghalaya border that year. Between 1990 and 1996, she participated in armed operations in and around Dhubri, the police said.

But the joint crackdown by Assam police and the army in 1996 forced her to flee Assam.

The militant leader first took shelter in Cooch Behar. But after Cooch Behar police arrested her companion and senior leader Pradeep Chakroborty, Pushpalata shuttled between Dhubri, Cooch Behar and Siliguri. “It was Pushpalata who took over the coordination of the Ulfa in north Bengal following Chakroborty’s arrest. She was mostly co-ordinating with the KLO and basically taking care of arms transhipments and acting as a courier for the Ulfa top brass. She was the Ulfa’s main operative in the Siliguri corridor,” Kumar said.


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