Western intelligence spots ranks of saboteurs behind army lines
Delhi peace roadmap
Back from dead to talk of life
Mayavati dumps BJP changes to quota
Jaya gets team of shrinks
New job for Jogi security staff
Advisers encourage Narayanan to fight
Branding goes out of fashion, bond does not
Roy & imagined holocaust
Calcutta Weather

Washington, June 2: 
Sharing intelligence with New Delhi, key Western countries have conveyed their assessment that Pakistani infiltrators, already in Jammu and Kashmir, would wreak unspeakable damage behind Indian military and supply lines in the event of a conflict with Pakistan.

Although the political leadership in New Delhi views this warning as part of a US-led psychological campaign targeted at India to deter it from starting any military operations against Pakistan, it is leaving nothing to chance.

The army has been told to go into every aspect of this intelligence alert and take pre-emptive action to cope with crucial threats to internal security.

The army, in turn, has already withdrawn an infantry brigade from counter-insurgency operations and re-deployed its men to deal with specific aspects of this intelligence warning, according to sources here.

The intelligence, shared with India, paints a grim picture of cross-border terrorism. Sources privy to the warning said nearly 3,000 terrorists and Pakistani regulars had already infiltrated Jammu and Kashmir with detailed plans to blow up bridges in the state, destroy rail links, attack military convoys, seize and destroy army supply lines, disrupt civil defence and kill civilians, including political leaders.

A key target of these saboteurs from across the border would be National Highway 1-A, which links Jammu with the rest of Kashmir.

Cutting off this arterial highway link was one of the objectives of Pakistani regulars, who had crossed into Kargil in 1999. The Indian army then fought fiercely to protect the road which is vital to the defence of Jammu and Kashmir.

India and Western countries are agreed that any such large-scale sabotage behind Indian army lines would be a huge psychological setback for New Delhi in the midst of a conflict.

At the same time, it will enable General Pervez Musharraf to claim that Kashmiris fighting for �freedom� were rising up against Indian rule.

Western countries have in their possession recent satellite pictures of joint exercises by the Pakistan army�s mountain division and terrorist groups massed in occupied Kashmir.

Such training concentrated on laying mines, using rocket launchers, triggering anti-tank devices and detonating explosives. Sources privy to intelligence said these terrorists, along with regulars from the mountain division, have since been sent across the border into Jammu and Kashmir in batches of up to 10 operatives.

US secretary of state Colin Powell�s statements last week about continuing infiltration across the LoC must be seen in the context of such detailed intelligence gathering.

In exchanges with the armed forces of the US and its allies in Afghanistan, Pakistan�s army establishment has candidly shared their assessment that the morale of the Indian army in Kashmir has been shattered by recent attacks on army depots, residences and other establishments, which Islamabad claims, were launched by Kashmiri �freedom fighters�.

This claim has lent credence to conclusions in Western capitals that such attacks behind Indian lines would be an important part of Pakistan�s military strategy in the event of war.


Almaty, June 2: 
India is willing to enter a process of military de-escalation with Pakistan, if there are signs on the ground that President Pervez Musharraf has put a stop to infiltration and dismantled the militant camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

After such evidence, as a first step, India would begin by a partial demobilisation of its troops on the international border, official sources said.

This is in keeping with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee�s statement on the morning of his departure for the capital of Kazakhstan that �if we see the result on the ground of General Musharraf�s statements, we shall certainly give it our serious consideration�.

He ruled out a meeting with Musharraf in Almaty, where they are attending the Conference on Interactions and Confidence Building Measures in Asia.

The Pakistan President iterated his eagerness to talk. �I�m ready to meet anywhere and at any level,� he said on his way to Almaty.

It is understood that in the event of Musharraf delivering on his promises, India would reciprocate and attempt to lock Pakistan into a mechanism for de-escalation of the military standoff.

However, official sources suggested that there is unlikely to be any immediate de-mobilisation of troops along the Line of Control (LoC) and the working border in Jammu and Kashmir. The demobilisation would be along the international border � India�s western front with Pakistan. And there, too, the withdrawal of troops initially would be partial, the sources said.

India, these sources suggested, would look at the scaling down of the violence in Jammu and Kashmir as a sign of Pakistan�s sincerity. However, they also said, India�s reaction to another provocative terrorist incident would not be knee-jerk. It would weigh that incident along with the reduction of infiltration and other steps being taken by Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism before reacting.

This, the sources suggested, was in recognition of the fact that there were extremist groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad, over which the Pakistan President had little control. However, it was also clear to India that the Pakistan establishment exercised full control over Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizb-ul Mujahideen.

Commenting on the statement of US secretary of state Colin Powell that the end of infiltration must be permanent, a senior government official said that this was the result of the Americans taking into account the Indian perception that Musharraf was likely to curb these activities only for six to eight weeks. Then the rains would set in, making any military action by India virtually impossible.

The US has apparently told India that it believes Musharraf has given orders to stop infiltration and that there has been some progress on the ground. However, Washington also admits that this is not enough. So, India will watch the situation on the ground.

Intercepts of wireless messages of the militants by India, these sources claimed, painted �a confusing picture� � while some suggested that orders had been given to stop infiltration, others seemed to tell the militants that �they should be ready�. However, what was a good sign, New Delhi believes, was that Pakistan had reduced the power of wireless transmissions by the militants, virtually cutting off links between those in PoK and those in Jammu and Kashmir.

India, the sources said, was also happy that Musharraf�s assurances on curbing terrorism were being given to the international community and not only to India.

This, they felt, would also help Musharraf domestically as he cannot be seen to be doing all this under Indian pressure. The international pressure on Musharraf, they claimed, was tremendous with phone lines burning between the western capitals and Islamabad � each call conveying the same message: �This must be stopped�.

There is a belief that China, though a close ally of Pakistan, would not open up the eastern front if India acted militarily.


Ahmedabad, June 2: 
Everybody saw him, arms folded and tears welling up in his eyes, in one of the most telling pictures of the Gujarat riots, everybody read how he just about survived the bloodbath, and now Calcutta can hear him.

Qutubuddin Ansari, 29, will visit Calcutta at the end of June to share his nightmarish experience of the communal carnage in Gujarat that shows no sign of ending. He will talk about life after that horrific moment when the mob attacked him and his family. How he was pleading with the police and the RAF to save their lives and, after six hours of ordeal, how they heaved a sigh of relief when the army took over.

Ansari, a tailor, will bring a message of peace and harmony. He says he will tell Calcutta how the army saved Muslims. �I will tell them (that) my elder brother, who is also a tailor, was paid two months� salary by his Hindu owner even though my brother was sitting idle at home. I will tell them how my Hindu friends hugged me when I went to the shop to start work again. I will tell them (that) not all Hindus are responding to the VHP�s call to boycott Muslims.�

Ansari hasn�t drowned in rancour, and that�s exactly why Mansoor Ahmed went all the way to Ahmedabad to trace him. �I want them to know all these positive things� people will realise how valuable life is and how important it is to have peace and harmony,� said the minority leader from Calcutta.

Ahmed, founder-president of the All-India Muslim Students� Federation, has invited Ansari to address a gathering of prominent persons from all walks of life. �The basic idea is to raise funds to rehabilitate riot victims and provide a reasonably good amount to Ansari so that he can start his own shop,� Ahmed told The Telegraph.

Ahmed, who is camping here to find out the needs of riot victims, has promised Ansari money to start his own business � a dream for the man who gets Rs 3,200 as salary for working in a readymade garment store.

When Ahmed came all the way from Calcutta and told Ansari about his plan, he was surprised and could not believe him. Even when Ahmed managed to convince him, the first thought in Ansari�s mind was: �What if my shop is burnt again?�

The deep scars left by the suffering has left Ansari unsure and traumatised. Ask him about the day he was clicked pleading with Rapid Action Force personnel to rescue him and his family from a violent mob that had torched his dwelling in the city�s riot-hit Bapunagar area, he is at a loss for words.

He chokes with tears even three months after the arson that left more than two dozen people dead and reduced to ashes the source of livelihood of several families.

Ansari is unable to utter a single word, but his unending tears say it all � the hell he went through. After staying in a relief camp for four days, he returned to his house where the memories of March 1 still haunt him.

But he is not bitter. The ordeal has not shaken his faith in humanity � he feels grateful to the army that brought a semblance of normality in areas overrun by mobs.

He says his outlook has actually broadened and he has become more humane, compassionate and a firm believer in humanity and secularism. That is the message he will bring to Calcutta.


Lucknow, June 2: 
Chief minister Mayavati reverted to the old formula of reservation for scheduled and backward sections, rejecting outright the amendments made by her predecessor Rajnath Singh, to circumvent the Supreme Court�s stay on the execution of the amended Uttar Pradesh Public Services Act of 2001.

The government�s decision was finalised at a Cabinet meet presided over by Mayavati today, surprising many of her party members.

Singh had constituted the Social Justice Committee under then parliamentary affairs minister Hukum Singh on June 28 last year to review the old system of reservation for backward sections on the pretext that it allowed maximum quota benefits to certain upwardly mobile castes.

Many, however, saw it as a move to woo Ati Dalits and Ati Pichharas in the run-up to the Assembly elections.

The committee�s report, presented on August 31, endorsed the view that the Jatavs from the scheduled castes (SCs) and the Yadavs from the other backward classes (OBCs) had cornered a bulk of the reservation benefits under the previously framed system.

Acting on these observations, the Rajnath government implemented a new policy through an Ordinance on September 15 last year.

Later, the Assembly endorsed it by passing the Uttar Pradesh Public Services (ST/SC and OBC Reservation Amendment) Act, 2001.

The Supreme Court, however, stayed its execution following a petition filed by former BJP minister Ashok Yadav.

The ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has now decided to ignore the reservation policy proposed by the previous BJP government ostensibly to ease the bottleneck on recruitment from these sections.

Making the announcement, state chief secretary D.S. Bagga pointed out that the government�s step was prompted mainly because the Apex Court�s stay order has resulted in around 28,700 vacancies in the state for different categories, including admission of students in colleges.

But the move has surprised party activists since Mayavati had backed the new reservation policy at the time of its introduction. One BSP worker, on condition of anonymity, pointed out: �She (Mayavati) had lampooned Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav for opposing the new law and even expelled two of her party MLAs for not backing it.�

Even after assuming the mantle of the chief minister, Mayavati had reiterated that her government would plead the case of the new reservation system before the Supreme Court.

Explaining the government�s sudden shift in policy, Bagga pointed out: �The Social Justice Committee�s report, implemented in letter by the Rajnath Singh government, had increased reservation for OBCs by one per cent, from 27 to 28 per cent. But of that, only five per cent reservation had been marked for the Ahir\Yadav category, while the most backward classes enjoyed nine, and the extremely backward castes (EBC) 14 per cent.�

Moreover, all the 22 backward Muslim castes had been categorised under the EBC.

Jatavs, who form more than half of the total scheduled caste population in the state, had been given a mere 10 per cent of the total 21 per cent reserved quota for Dalits, while the remaining 11 per cent went to the 66 Dalit castes, said Bagga.


Chennai, June 2: 
After a string of suicide attempts at the secretariat over the last three months, the chief minister�s special cell will now have an additional permanent staff of 10 psychologists to counsel distressed petitioners.

The psychologists are supposed to make the process of submitting petitions to chief minister Jayalalithaa easier for the petitioners. The special cell receives an average of 3,000 petitions every day which are promptly referred to the departments or district collectorates concerned for further action.

The suicide series started when a couple from Coimbatore consumed poisonous dye at the secretariat on March 27, the state budget presentation day, and later succumbed at the General Hospital.

Though the suicide was initially seen as an exceptional event, it opened the floodgates to a string of similar attempts in the following weeks.

As many as nine suicides have been attempted in the last three months, resulting in three deaths. The latest attempt was made just 10 days back by Ashok Kumar, a tailor in need of a sewing machine.

With the local media beginning to see a trend in these attempts, Jayalalithaa�s daily darshan was fast becoming a major source of embarrassment for her government.

The chief minister recently issued a statement saying she could not be held responsible �in any manner� for the suicide attempts at the secretariat.

She said it was with �good intent� that she began to directly receive petitions from the people every day to help speed up remedial actions. But she hardly knew it would turn into a �source of grief� for her.

When a journalist recently asked the chief minister, rather naively, �Madame, are you not tired of receiving so many petitions daily?� Jayalalithaa replied: �I am only doing my duty.�

Official sources said Jayalalithaa, unlike her predecessor, put �more life and concern� into her daily interface with the public by deciding to directly receive petitions from them whenever she came to office. This, despite the security risk she was facing, particularly from the LTTE.

�Such suicide bids by petitioners is very unfortunate and stems from their sheer poverty and desperation,� said an official.

In the hope of bringing about some sort of an order in the exercise, the state administration has announced a specific time when the chief minister would meet the crowds that gather in the portico leading to her office.

The chief minister�s office is particularly worried about attempts by desperate petitioners to somehow grab the chief minister�s attention.


Raipur, June 2: 
Chief minister Ajit Jogi�s security detail these days has an additional brief � stay alert for depressed, disgruntled, demoralised and tragic-looking men who choose to hang around in front of the Mukhya Mantri Niwas. Chances are they are also carrying a bottle or packet of pesticides to attempt suicide.

At least three suicide attempts were made since April 22. One man succeeded in taking his life while two others were rushed to hospital with foam rising out of their mouths. A fourth man was arrested before he could gulp down his bottle of poison.

Though the chief minister himself is hardly connected with any of the suicides � the reasons varied from unemployment to suspension from the police force and property disputes in the family � Jogi expressed grief for every attempt. The perplexed chief minister, however, has not been able to explain why these attempts are being made in front of his residence nor has he issued a statement till date over the issue.

A 45-year-old man, identified as Imtiaz Hussein Khan, consumed pesticide last week while standing in front of the chief minister�s residence.

As Khan gulped down the pesticide, the chief minister�s security personnel rushed to prevent the misfortune. �Stop it! Stop him! Hey, don�t do that,� one of them screamed, but it was too late. Khan was admitted to the Medical College Hospital and is now out of danger. A case under Section 309 IPC (attempt to commit suicide) has been registered against him.

According to police, Imtiaz is the brother of I.H. Khan, a senior police officer heading the intelligence branch. He had apparently purchased the pesticide bottle from a medical store around 4.30 pm. Half-an-hour later, there was pandemonium outside the chief minister�s residence.

Top police officials, already dealing with three previous suicide bids, hurried to the hospital to get a first-hand report and record the man�s statement before he succumbed.

In his statement, Khan said he was tired of living a life devoid of success. He was married, had two children, but while his brother was doing well as one of the state�s senior-most police officers, he had failed to find a job. His family set up a PCO booth for him but he sold it off. They bought him a jeep so he could rent it out and make a living, but he failed at that too.

Even his wife left him last week and went back to her parents. Khan decided he had to end his life, but before doing so he had to vent his wrath on someone successful and powerful, unlike him. He chose chief minister Ajit Jogi.


New Delhi, June 2: 
The NDA government is getting jittery over President K.R. Narayanan�s refusal to opt out of the race for a second term in office days after Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee bluntly told him that the ruling coalition would not back him.

In the last 48 hours, President Narayanan held consultations with legal and constitutional experts, academicians and educationists on the pros and cons of contesting polls. While Narayanan�s friends are tight-lipped about these parleys, indications are that the President has been advised to take on the �communal forces�.

Those favouring Narayanan to contest against the official NDA nominee argue that throughout his tenure, the President spearheaded the campaign against communal forces. He articulated these sentiments even in the regular Holi-Diwali messages. Now that the time for the �big fight� has come, he should not opt out.

His move to contest may be unprecedented and unconventional, but extraordinary times require extraordinary measures, they point out.

If the need arises or propriety demands, the President should not hesitate to step in and fight elections as an ordinary citizen, they say.

Narayanan�s deliberations have triggered a chain reaction among key political players. Union parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan held discussions with Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu whose party�s support would be crucial if Narayanan agrees to contest as an Opposition nominee.

Mahajan told the Desam chief that the government had an open mind on the Presidential nominee, provided the NDA allies were prepared to accept a BJP candidate, either Bhairon Singh Shekhawat or Vishnu Kant Shastri, as Vice-President. On his part, Naidu favoured the elevation of Vice-President Krishna Kant to Rashtrapati Bhavan and floated the name of Bengal governor Viren Shah as Vice-President.

The BJP is lukewarm to the idea of promoting Krishna Kant. Leaders close to the Sangh parivar favour Maharashtra governor P.C. Alexendar as his elevation would nullify Sonia Gandhi�s prospects of becoming Prime Minister.

The Sangh and the BJP hardliners are counting on its propaganda machinery to launch a whisper campaign in the next general elections on the plank of �two Christians� holding the two top constitutional posts. Moreover, the BJP hopes to get the backing of the Samajwadi Party and the Nationalist Congress Party in favour of Alexander.

Kant is also lobbying hard and had invited CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet ostensibly to see his ailing mother. But the meeting remained focused on the Presidential polls. The CPM leader made it clear that his party was committed to support Narayanan.

Surjeet also questioned Kant�s move to appoint disgraced former BJP chief Bangaru Laxman as chairman of a parliamentary standing committee. Kant clarified that, as chairman of the Rajya Sabha, he merely acted on the ruling party�s recommendations.

A section of the Congress is keeping close tabs on Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson Najma Heptullah, who is also vying for the Vice-President�s post. A lobby working against her is reporting to Sonia Gandhi how Heptullah is going �out of the way� to solicit support for herself.

Heptullah�s camp is, however, confident that her proven track record, clubbed with the politically correct gesture of empowering women to hold key posts, would influence Sonia in favouring her.

Besides Heptullah, Pranab Mukherjee is another aspirant for the vice-president�s post.


Ramnagar (Champaran), June 2: 
Kanchan Ram can�t sleep at night � the nightmare refuses to go. It�s the same horror every night. Four musclemen overpower him and pin him down. A red-hot branding rod, fresh from the fire, is pressed into his upper abdomen. He screams as he smells the strange odour of burning of skin and then falls unconscious.

About a decade and a half after this incident, Kanchan Ram, 70, was rescued from his landlord�s house by the Champaran district administration. He was serving a 30-year bondage as a farm labourer.

When a group of human rights activists recently interviewed him at the Dalit colony in Manchandwa village, about 15 km from here, the new generation of young Dalits heard spellbound as he recalled his life as a bonded labourer.

In 1985, Kanchan Ram had spotted a small patch of land on the banks of Singha river, about 12 km from his landlord�s estate, one of the largest in this area. Thrilled at his discovery � unclaimed government land is free to sow, at least temporarily � he went with his wife and children to till the land and claim it as his own.

However, Kanchan Ram did not know this would provoke the wrath of the landlord. �The landlord called me to his house. When I reached I found the musclemen of my master were present. I was accused of trying to break free from the bondage and be on my own by grabbing the land. Despite my timid defence, he called a man, got an iron stick heated and pierced it in my abdomen,� he recalled.

Like Kanchan Ram, Ravi Majhi Sukul Ram had to carry the tattoo of his landlord�s name on his wrist as an identification mark till his death.

For the new generation of bonded labourers, however, branding has been replaced by torture and back-breaking workload, often with payment of due wages.

Some of the younger bonded labourers have to make do with just 700 gm of coarse rice for 10 to 12 hours of rigorous work, district labour officials admitted.

�Branding the labourer is a cruel means of identifying the defiant ones by the landlord. There are examples of killing and for this poor man, his landlords� next step would have been that,� said Bagaha police superintendent Arvind Ambedkar, who has been instrumental in freeing bonded labourers in Champaran district.

The police have freed over 276 bonded labourers after their identification. However, the superintendent said, the Dalits of the area were still �living in psychological bondage. We are fighting to end this first�.

According to Ambedkar, the Dalits of the region worked in servitude in the worst of circumstances, without being aware of their sub-human existence. Ganesh Ram was born when his father was a bonded labourer to one of the district�s landlords. When his father died, the bondage fell on the 12-year-old who used to carry loads of 30 to 40 kg for his master.

His mother said a 40-kg rock once fell on his chest. �He developed a breathing problem,� said his mother Parvati Devi.

But he had to continue working for another five years after this incident before he could be released, the police said. In Manchandwa alone, more than 17 such bonded labourers were released last week.

State labour secretary Vivek Singh said the system of bonded labourers was widely prevalent in Champaran. In a survey on the orders of the Supreme Court in 1983, Champaran and Deoghar districts recorded the highest incidence of bonded labour.


London, June 2: 
Arundhati Roy is being brave again, the prize-winning author has told the British people. Nuclear war or not, she is staying put at her home in Delhi, she has pledged in an article in today�s Observer.

Her comments come at a time when the British, American and some European governments, such as the French, have advised their nationals not to go to India or Pakistan or return home if they are already there.

This advice is likely to be ignored by the bulk of UK nationals in India because most of them are of Indian origin visiting their families. Pakistan is not much of a holiday destination for the British. What the British government is probably most concerned about are white Britons, including students, who go backpacking, elderly folk who like being garlanded on arrival in palace hotels and women who head for Kerala for �ayurvedic massage�. Stephen Byers, who just resigned from the Cabinet as transport minister, is said to be on holiday in Goa.

Today�s papers report that British Airways has been advised to prepare a fleet of aircraft to pull Britons out of India if an emergency evacuation becomes necessary. Although the reports have been denied by the airline, it is likely there has been some contingency planning.

The consensus of opinion in Britain, judging from comments in chat shows on radio and television and the like, is that India and Pakistan are equally bad and Britain should not sell arms to either.

Meanwhile, Arundhati Roy, who is known to be against India�s nuclear stance � she has not said much about the West and China or indeed Pakistan possessing nuclear weapons � has made it clear she is staying put in her article titled �Under the nuclear shadow�.

�This week, as diplomats� families and tourists quickly disappeared, journalists from Europe and America arrived in droves,� she began.

And continued: �Most of them stay at the Imperial Hotel in Delhi. Many of them call me. Why are you still here, they ask, why haven�t you left the city? Isn�t nuclear war a real possibility? It is, but where shall I go? If I go away and everything and every one, every friend, every tree, every home, every dog, squirrel and bird that I have known and loved is incinerated, how shall I live on? Who shall I love, and who will love me back? Which society will welcome me and allow me to be the hooligan I am, here, at home?�

Her conclusion: �We�ve decided we�re all staying... Life�s normal, only because the macabre has become normal. While we wait for rain, for football, for justice, on TV the old generals and the eager boy anchors talk of first strike and second strike capability, as though they�re discussing a family board game. My friends and I discuss Prophecy, the film of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the dead bodies choking the river, the living stripped of their skin and hair, we remember especially the man who just melted into the steps of the building and we imagine ourselves like that, as stains on staircases.�

She wrote: �Terrorists have the power to trigger a nuclear war. Non-violence is treated with contempt. Displacement, dispossession, starvation, poverty, disease, these are all just funny comic strip items now.�

What no one, Arundhati Roy included, has been able to point out is that the West, despite paying lip service to notions of democracy, is treating a military regime on a par with a lawfully elected democratic government.




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Minimum: 28.3�C (+1)



Relative Humidity

Max: 88%
Min: 62%

Sunrise: 4.55 am

Sunset: 6.14 pm


Partly cloudy sky turning generally cloudy. Possibility of rain, accompanied by thunder, towards afternoon

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