Joint session split through middle
Farooq strike with two edges
Take heart from 15-time Randy
Glam-Oscar balm for Lagaan team
National mourning but only for West-struck
George springs security card on rioters
Malik dragged out of meet
Arms price for hostage
Maoist blasts rock Nepal before bandh call
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, March 25: 
For only the third time in over half a century, the two Houses of Parliament will meet at 11 am tomorrow in a joint session to take up the Prevention of Terrorism Bill.

There is little doubt the Bill will sail through because of the comfortable majority the National Democratic Alliance enjoys � as was emphasised by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today � but its divisive nature was starkly in evidence on the eve of the historic session.

�The passage of Poto (as the law is commonly known) is a certainty,� Vajpayee said in Shimla, but still appealed to the main Opposition party, the Congress, to reconsider its objection.

But the Congress was in no mood to listen and instead wondered why Vajpayee was not having a rethink. �Have not voters rejected Poto in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere?� asked spokesman Jaipal Reddy. He pointed out that the BJP had made the law an electoral issue in the recently-concluded Assembly polls.

Vajpayee said: �(The) Congress party should realise that its opposition to Poto is not only not in the national interest, but is also not in the interest of the Congress party itself.�

He reminded the Congress that the BJP had supported Tada, which the Rajiv Gandhi government had introduced and now stands repealed.

Chief ministers of Congress-ruled states � namely Digvijay Singh of Madhya Pradesh and A.K. Antony of Kerala � have said they would not use the law even if it was passed by Parliament. The Congress has governments in 14 states and the Left, which too is opposing the Bill, rules in two. That leaves the majority of states in opposition to the law.

There was no sign from NDA partner Trinamul Congress either of a review of its opposition to the Bill. A Trinamul leader iterated that the party�s MPs will not participate in the voting tomorrow. If that is an embarrassment for Vajpayee, the Prime Minister simply put Trinamul�s decision down to its state-level compulsions.

�They feel that the West Bengal government may use the legislation against them,� he said, adding: �There are no reasons for such an apprehension.�

Fears of misuse continued to be expressed, though. So much so that in a letter to MPs, Muslim organisations appealed that the law not be passed.

The letter, signed by All India Muslim Personal Law Board general secretary Syed Nizamuddin, Jamaat-e-Islami, Hind chief Sirajul Hassan and members of All India Milli Council and others requested MPs �to kindly listen to the call of conscience and vote against the draconian, tyrannical and black law�.

Badly outnumbered, the Opposition is planning to stage a walkout instead of forcing a division, which it is bound to lose. But the decision on a walkout would be taken an hour before the conclusion of the debate.

Opposition parties are split on pressing for a division with one section pointing out the futility of it. Aside from a majority of 37 votes, the government has the support of the ADMK and Sharad Pawar�s NCP. Rejected in the Rajya Sabha by 15 votes, the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha with 264 in favour and 148 against last week.

Almost all 43 political parties represented in Parliament have issued whips to their members.

The joint sitting will be held in the Central Hall and will be presided over by Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker P.M. Sayeed. Every speaker will have to go up to the podium to speak since mikes are not attached to desks, as in the two Houses.


New Delhi, March 25: 
Chief minister Farooq Abdullah�s political timing is perfect.

Twenty-four hours ahead of the joint session of Parliament, where the Prevention of Terrorism Bill will be pushed through by the Vajpayee government, Abdullah has put senior Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik behind bars under the existing Ordinance by the same name.

In doing so, Abdullah has proved that he supports the Centre�s view on the urgent need for a tough new anti-terrorism legislation. At the same time, he has settled his own political score in Kashmir by linking Malik to a hawala racket.

Malik was arrested today in connection with a seizure of $100,000 yesterday that police claim was meant for his Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front. Malik has denied the charge.

The charges against Malik have upset New Delhi�s efforts to persuade the leader to contest the elections later in the year.

According to the Centre�s Kashmir policy planners, Malik, considered a moderate among Hurriyat leaders, has a good public image and could give the National Conference a run for its money if he decided to take the plunge and contest elections.

Abdullah�s friends say the arrest is a brilliant move while those involved in back-channel diplomacy on Kashmir are livid at their plans being upset. �Round one may go to Abdullah, but he will be forced by the Centre to release Malik under whatever laws he may be booked,�� said a negotiator who did not wish to be identified.

During the recent attempt by the Vajpayee government to get the anti-terror law passed in the Rajya Sabha, the National Conference had refused to side with the Centre, saying the Ordinance was being misused and was aimed at the minorities, especially in Gujarat. Later, at a meeting of the ruling National Democratic Alliance at the Prime Minister�s residence, most allies agreed to back the Bill. Abdullah was one of them.

The anti-Abdullah camp believes that Malik�s arrest has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with the elections. Abdullah, they say, does not want to take any chances and would like to make sure Malik spends most of his time in the coming months trying to clear the charges against him.

Malik has said he would quit politics if the police could prove anything against him.

Intelligence agencies say Abdullah may have political motives for arresting Malik, but they do not rule out the possibility that there may be truth in the charges. �We all know that most of the Hurriyat leaders get funds from abroad. The pro-Pakistani leaders get it from their ISI contacts, while the others may be receiving it from different sources. One thing we are certain is that money is sent to the Hurriyat through the hawala channels,�� an intelligence official said.

However, the other point made by the agencies is that the money sent to the Hurriyat does not go to militant outfits, but is used to run the offices of political parties and help rehabilitate families of those killed in the crossfire between militants and security forces.


Los Angeles, March 25: 
This is the city of dreams but India�s will be realised another day.

Despite the high hopes that Lagaan would take home the Oscar for Ashutosh Gowarikar and Aamir Khan, the Indian entry for Best Foreign Language Film was edged out by No Man�s Land, a small-budget anti-war film from Bosnia and Herzegovina directed by Danis Tanovic.

Gowarikar and Aamir got up and generously applauded the winner as he walked to collect the coveted golden statuette in front of 3,100 of tinseltown�s most famous and glamourous folk.

However, they would be justified in feeling more than a little disappointed since Lagaan has had mountains to climb in introducing members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to an unfamiliar genre of film.

The ceremony was held for the first time in its new venue, the Kodak Theater in the heart of Hollywood.

The film that many initially thought would win, the feel-good French entry Am�lie, came away empty handed despite being nominated in several categories.

Despite the disappointment for Lagaan, Aamir and Gowarikar have established an Indian presence in the film capital of the world. Future Indian films will have to seek nomination in many other categories other than Best Foreign Film if Bollywood is really to take on Hollywood in the decades to come.

India should not be discouraged nor cry foul if the experience of one Randy Newman is anything to go by. On 15 previous occasions, he was nominated for Best Original Song. Last night, to everyone�s surprise, including especially his own, he won an Oscar for the song, If I Didn�t Have You, from Monsters, Inc.

He made a telling point when he told the beautiful folk of Hollywood: �I would like first to thank the music branch for giving me so many chances to be humiliated over the years.�

The influence of Indian cinema could be perceived in indirect ways. The musical Moulin Rouge, which, according to its director, Baz Luhrmann, had borrowed heavily from Bollywood, won Catherine Martin, Luhrmann�s wife, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. The latter is a category in which India�s Bhanu Athaiya, who was present at last night�s ceremony and who herself got an award for Gandhi in 1983, could easily have won for Lagaan � if the fight for nomination had been pushed hard enough.

�We decided to concentrate on the foreign film category,� Aamir has explained to The Telegraph.

Hollywood�s interest, though, was in the main categories. If there was one theme that emerged last night, it was the triumph of black actors who have been repeatedly ignored in the past. But the 74th Academy Awards certainly made amends and perhaps even over-compensated, suggesting that the 5,700-odd academy members who vote are open to the political climate in which the Oscars are held.

How else can one explain that Blacks who won included Denzel Washington in Training Day � he beat the much-fancied Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind � and Halle Berry in Monster�s Ball? The latter set a record by having possibly the longest cry in Oscar history and included, among her long list of thank-yous, �my lawyer�.

There was a lifetime achievement award, deserved certainly, for Sidney Poitier. It should also not be overlooked the Oscars were fronted to a worldwide television audience of one billion by a Black presenter, the actress Whoopi Goldberg.

She spoke of the mean-spirited campaign which characterised the battle for the Oscars this year: �So much mud was thrown this year, all the nominees were black.�

Denzel Washington, who plays a corrupt Los Angeles department cop in Training Day, joked: �Two birds in one night. Forty years I have been chasing Sidney. They finally gave it to me, and they gave it to him the same night.�

Aamir and Gowarikar rubbed shoulders with real talent last night. In a sense, they witnessed history being made.

In a moving speech, Poitier spoke of his long struggle against prejudice: �I arrived in Hollywood at the age of 22 at a time that was different from today�s. Back then, no route had been established for where I was hoping to go, no path left in evidence for me to trace, no custom for me to follow. Yet here I am this evening that in 1949 would have been considered almost impossible.�

Aamir and Gowarikar might reflect that they have started a similar odyssey which other Indians will take up. In that sense, Lagaan has won, as was noted by the actress Rachel Shelley � Elizabeth Russell in the film � who was also present last night.

Victory at the Oscars means hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office for the winning films. This year, A Beautiful Mind took awards for Best Picture, Best Director (Ron Award and Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Connelly).

The film, which provides an insight into the life of a real-life schizophrenic math genius, John Nash, also collected an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Ben Kingsley, who was once named Best Actor for Gandhi, was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Sexy Beast but did not collect another Oscar.


Los Angeles, March 25: 
In one aspect the Indians won. They were by common consent the most glamorous group among the most glamorous film folk in the world.

The crowds watched and gawped as the actors and actresses were dropped off by stretch limos at the junction of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue for the red carpet walk into the Kodak Theater for last night�s Oscars in Hollywood.

As the New York Times commented today: �The rewards of red carpet dressing have not gone unnoticed by designers. If anything, Oscar night has ballooned into a kind of franchise of the fashion industry.�

The paper added: �Carlos Sousa, the director of public relations for Valentino, has estimated the designers received $25 million in free publicity last year.�

From that point of view, Tarun Tahiliani, Shahab Durazi, Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla, Bhanu Athaiya and �Poonam�, a woman from a Mumbai boutique called Ramp, should be delighted with the global publicity they have received.

As the Indians left their hotel, Aamir Khan said the love and affection that had been heaped upon him by Indian film fans all over the world �is more important to me than the Oscar�. He and Ashutosh Gowarikar, Lagaan�s director, appeared to have a premonition that things might not go India�s way on the big night.

�Best of luck,� a small group of Indians called out as the Lagaan team left their plush West Hollywood hotel, the Wyndham Bel Age, and went out to bat for India in a white stretch limousine.

For weeks, Aamir and Gowarikar had been receiving goodwill messages from Indians from all over the world. �We are very fortunate to have this kind of love,� said Aamir modestly.

Gowarikar admitted to having gone through an emotional roller coaster. �I have had mixed feelings throughout,� he said. �Sometimes I am confident, sometimes I am nervous but it has been full of excitement. Only I now want to enjoy the show.�

He added: �Indians all over the world have been very confident that we will win. But they should be prepared for the unexpected. They should be prepared for us not to get it.�

This morning in the immediate post Oscar post-mortem, he told The Telegraph: �The event went well but disappointment to hua. I am glad that No Man�s Land got it. It was my favourite film among the other four. It�s incredible, universal in nature and the theme is applicable to our situation in Kashmir. It�s extremely topical.�

At the Governor�s Ball, he disclosed, �the clothes went down very well. Every second person gave us a look and asked us the designer�s name�.

Leaks had suggested that No Man�s Land, the Bosnian film made with a budget of a mere $7,50,000, had pushed the favourite, Amelie, out of contention, and the race was with Lagaan. �If we don�t win I can only say better luck next time,� Gowarikar had said philosophically before leaving his hotel.

It was not only Indian prowess in film making which was on show. Aamir cut quite a dash in his Tarun Tahiliani sherwani, set off with a Shahab Durazi dupatta.

Aamir also had with him a retinue, which included Joginder Gupta, his personal make-up artist, his personal assistant Amos Paul, and his hair stylist, Avan Contractor, who gave him a very street cred, short, spiky gelled look. It was certainly a vast improvement on the baseball cap he normally affects.

In contrast, Gowarikar wore a white sherwani with embroidered collar, created by Bhanu Athaiya. She herself chose to wear a white chiffon �Parsee� sari, with an embroidered orange border.

Gowarikar�s wife, Sunita, wore an off-white sari, designed by Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla, a designer much favoured by the British actress dame Judi Dench, who this year wore a black Escada dress and matching floor-length coat.

Gowarikar�s sister Ashlesha picked a gold choli and matching full-length skirt, made by a friend, �Poonam�, who �works for Ramp, a boutique in Bandra� in Mumbai.

Aamir�s wife, Reena, Lagaan�s executive producer, looked striking in a black Tarun Tahiliani sari with bold red embroidery and a red blouse.

Another member of the Lagaan team, B. Shrinivas Rao, production executive, wore a black tuxedo with a bow tie, and escorted Rachel Shelley in a black dress with a beaded front.

For the record, the Indians matched and possibly outmatched formidable competition.

Jennifer Lopez wore Versace; Nicole Kidman was in a fluttery pink Chanel couture gown; and Julia Roberts had an elegant Armani gown.


Mumbai, March 25: 
While the nation mourns Lagaan�s �defeat� at the Oscars, some people are relieved.

The noise over Lagaan was a measure of how pathetic we are as a country, feel many. They hope there won�t be a repeat, because Lagaan�s LA episode has only proved how hungry Indians remain for the white man�s attention.

�A number of my countrymen have been wagging their tails at the academy. I want to tell them there is no escape route out of this. Once we accept their standards, there is no way out,� fumed filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt.

The Oscar business showed the price we attach to the West�s approval at our own expense, he said. �Why should we need the academy to patronise us? I don�t need the endorsement of the academy.�

Bhatt feels the noisy business of Lagaan going to the Oscars to do India proud and people back home waiting with bated breath was another instance of sucking up to the West.

�It is national mourning � but only for the people who look up to the West,� he said.

The drama over Lagaan at the Oscars has left a section of Bollywood embarrassed. Stressing the importance of being an Indian and having �your own mind�, director Vidhu Vinod Chopra said: �Why should it matter so much whether Aamir Khan gets an Oscar? Why should their approval matter so much?�

Bent on seeing things from the Indian perspective, Chopra is ready to kickstart Indian pride, starting now, after Lagaan.

�When I met a formidable critic from the West, I asked him why there was no song in Godfather,� he grinned.

Actor Naseeruddin Shah seemed to be in agreement. �Why should it matter to Aamir Khan whether he has lost or won?� asked Naseeruddin Shah, adding that Khan did not pay much attention to film awards given in the country.

A filmmaker who would not be quoted said that Lagaan was a good film, but nothing extraordinary and it certainly did not deserve the response it got.

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan said he didn�t have time to discuss Lagaan; there were matters of greater importance.

Adman Prahlad Kakkar said the hype over Lagaan exposed the country for what it was � �a pathetic country where there is nothing. Only a movie, apart from cricket, can provide a gleam of hope here�.

The team Lagaan � the actors of the film who waited with bated breath for the results this morning � is heartbroken. But in words befitting the script of the movie, Daya Shankar Pandey, who played Goli, said: �We are sad. Very sad. But this is not the end.�


March 25: 
Defence minister George Fernandes today sprung the national security card on the rioters of Gujarat, saying the carnage has forced the diversion of armed forces from the border, much to the comfort of the �enemy�.

Without directly holding the Sangh parivar responsible for the violence, he said: �We hope the situation will improve and those creating problems in the state would realise that if they keep fighting among themselves, it gives the enemy an opportunity.�

�It sends a dangerous message across the border. I urge the leaders and people of Gujarat not to engage in any activity that would prove harmful to the nation. We have to send out a strong message of brotherhood,� Fernandes added.

Yesterday, the National Human Rights Commission had indicted the Gujarat government for failing to contain the post-Godhra violence. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today said he was waiting for the final report from the rights watchdog, lending weight to the criticism.

�I have seen press reports. We are awaiting (the) final and full report of the National Human Rights Commission,� Vajpayee told a news conference in Shimla.

But pressure mounted on chief minister Narendra Modi with the Gujarat Congress accusing him of �hoodwinking� Vajpayee by announcing a 13-member committee only for reviewing the work in relief camps for the riot victims.

Congress state unit president Amarsinh Chaudhary said Vajpayee had announced in Parliament that a committee under Governor S.S. Bhandari would be concerned with the rehabilitation aspect of the riot victims. But Modi has done away with the �rehabilitation� aspect, he said.

Asked if his party, whose members have also been nominated to the committee, would boycott the panel, Chaudhary said there were no such plans.

�We will give our opinions and suggestions. We will be requesting Congress president Sonia Gandhi to pressure the Prime Minister on the issue (to make the committee look into the rehabilitation aspect too),� he said.

Chaudhary said, �Ahmedabad police commissioner P.C. Pandey should not have made a statement like �After all policemen are human beings too�. What does this portray?�

Indians in America also applied pressure on Modi, demanding his resignation. Over 200 people marched to the Indian consulate in San Francisco, demanding that the National Human Rights Commission safeguard the human and constitutional rights of the people in Gujarat. They demanded an independent judicial inquiry into the communal flare-up.

But violence continued to simmer in the state with one person being stabbed to death in Surat last night. Rioters also destroyed a place of worship.

Muslims stuck to their earlier decision and did not take out tazia processions in major cities of Gujarat, including Ahmedabad, Baroda and Surat.


Srinagar, March 25: 
Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik was today arrested at a news conference and charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, hours after a couple caught with $1,00,000 �confessed� that the money was meant for him.

Malik, who is head of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and is a Hurriyat Conference leader, was dragged out of the news meet and bundled into a jeep after he refused to accompany the policemen immediately and asked for time to address the reporters gathered at the Hurriyat headquarters.

This is the first time that a Hurriyat leader has been arrested under the anti-terror Ordinance in the Valley.

Chief minister Farooq Abdullah said the government had decided to arrest Malik only after the police gathered �irrefutable� evidence against him.

He said Malik would be taken to Udhampur soon and handed over to police there, who had requisitioned his arrest.

Abdullah�s party, the National Conference, had absented itself from the voting on the anti-terror Bill in the Rajya Sabha but later agreed to support it in tomorrow�s joint sitting.

The police team, led by a deputy superintendent, lobbed about five dozen teargas shells to disperse protesters trying to block their way as they took Malik to Rajbagh police station.

As he was being led away, Malik said he had been arrested as �they consider me an impediment in the coming Assembly elections�.

�I was expecting the arrest as the government has been looking for excuses to arrest me following our decision to constitute our own election commission to hold polls in the three regions of the state.� Earlier, the Hurriyat leader denied any links with the couple arrested under the anti-terror Ordinance in Udhampur yesterday. After the arrests, police had raided Malik�s residence and the JKLF office.

Police said one of the arrested, Shazia, revealed during interrogation that the money was given to her in Nepal by Altaf Qadri, a JKLF leader based in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and was to be passed on to Malik. But Qadri denied the allegation, saying it was �absolutely a false claim, a concocted story which has nothing to do with reality�.

Malik said Qadri had not been to Nepal for the past seven years and denied ever having met Shazia. He added that Dar had been part of the JKLF when it was a militant outfit, but had long since opted out.

�I will quit from the freedom movement and present myself for prosecution if it is proved that Altaf Qadri had ever visited Nepal during the last seven years or the woman who has been arrested with the US dollars was knowing me,� he said.


Imphal, March 25: 
The National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) has ruled out freeing the abducted deputy commissioner of Manipur�s Chandel district till the Centre returns the 15 weapons security forces seized in an encounter with its activists at Pallel on March 16.

General secretary Thuingaleng Muivah announced the outfit�s stand during an interview with the Amsterdam-based Naga International Support Centre.

The Cabinet today met to discuss the demands of the NSCN (I-M) and the United Kuki Liberation Front, which abducted Yambem Thamkishwor on March 18. The UKLF is an ally of the Naga outfit.

The Okram Ibobi Singh-led government is on a sticky wicket. Returning the weapons will be tantamount to accepting an informal ceasefire with the NSCN (I-M) in the Manipur hills.

Sources said the state Cabinet decided to urge the Centre to help resolve the impasse. They said the Union home ministry was not averse to returning the weapons so that the Naga peace talks are not hampered.

The Kuki militants had abducted Thamkishwor after overpowering his securitymen. Manipur director-general of police A.A. Siddiqui said negotiators were working on a plan to ensure the official�s release. �Nothing concrete emerged today, but we are hopeful of a positive development tomorrow,� Siddique said.

In his interview, e-mailed to local newspapers here, Muivah also demanded an apology from the Indian Reserve Battalion for the attack on his cadre. The NSCN (I-M) has been fuming since 11 activists were killed in the shoot-out. The interview made it clear that the abducted official was in the outfit�s custody. The Naga International Support Centre has urged the Centre to order a probe into the Pallel incident.

The reserve battalion had claimed that the militants were killed in an encounter. The state police had even recommended the security personnel for gallantry awards.

Sources said the Congress-led Secular Progressive Front government is trying to secure Thamkishwor�s release without returning the seized weapons. They said the chief minister is worried because returning the weapons could cost him his ministry as the ceasefire issue would come to the fore. Demonstrators today burned Muivah�s effigy in Imphal to protest the abduction.

Manipur People�s Party president O. Joy Singh questioned the ruling coalition�s intentions, saying: �Will the SPF extend the NSCN(I-M) ceasefire in Manipur?�

Democratic People�s Party chief Khaidem Mani charged the government with doing nothing concrete to free the official.


Kathmandu, March 25: 
More than a week before their call for a five-day bandh, the Maoists rocked the Kathmandu Valley this morning with several blasts.

The house of a senior police officer and the first floor of the state-owned Gorkhapatra Corporation complex were among the places that were bombed. According to the police a peon was injured in the complex.

The Maoists also hurled bombs at vehicles in Kalanki, the busiest point in Kathmandu. Four motorcycles were damaged in the adjoining Bhaktapur district.

The first floor of the Gorkhapatra Corporation on the New Road, that publishes Nepal�s oldest daily, Gorakhapatra, and the English daily, The Rising Nepal was shattered at around 11 am, according to the locals. They also said that the police officials rushed to the spot immediately after the blast and cordoned off the area.

They evacuated the building and allowed the employees back in after screening the complex for more explosives.

However, the police sources said that the bomb did not go off. The blast sound occurred when the army personnel defused the bomb but caused minor damages in the process.

This is the second blast at the corporation building. The first occurred last year in the toilet on the second floor.

In another incident in the capital today, the Maoists hurled petrol bombs at the house of the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) in the capital. A nearby parked vehicle was damaged in the blast.

Two cars and four motorcycles were damaged in bomb blasts at Kalanki in the capital and in the adjoining Bhakatapur respectively today morning. Of late, the Maoists have stepped up their terror tactics in the capital, apparently in their attempt to make their upcoming




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