THE KARGIL FUND Set up by The Telegraph and Anandabazar Patrika
More than a hundred soldiers have already died in the undeclared war in Kargil. Many more are lying injured in hospitals. No assistance is compensation enough for the mother who has lost her son or the wife her husband. But we, the citizens of this country, need to help, in however small a way. The Telegraph and Anandabazar Patrika are setting up a fund with that modest aim in mind. The fund is being started with an intial contribution of Rs 5 Lakh from the ABP Group. If every reader of The Telegraph and Anandabazar Patrika donates a small sum, we can raise a huge amount for the families of the soldiers killed or injured in action. As a token of appreciation, both papers will publish the names of donors contributing Rs 500 or more. This is a time to ask yourself what can you do for the nation.   Only account payee cheques and drafts - payable to 'ABP Kargil Fund' - will be accepted. Put the cheque/draft in an envelope with your name and address. Write 'ABP Kargil Fund' and mail it to or deliver (between 10 am and 6 pm except on Sundays) at  
6 Prafulla Sarkar Street 
Calcutta 700001 
September 4 kickoff for vote in five phases
Pak pullout and talks push begin
Deafening debut for ceasefire
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, July 11: 
On a day the flag of victory unfurled over Kargil, India set out on a long-haul battle for the ballot, with the Election Commission announcing a five-phase poll between September 4 and October 1.

Elections to form the 13th Lok Sabha will be held on September 4, 11, 17, 24 and October 1 with simultaneous Assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Sikkim. Counting of votes will begin on October 5. The election process is expected to be completed by October 8 to enable the constitution of the new House by October 21.

As many as 146 seats in 16 states and union territories will go to polls on September 4, 124 in nine states on September 11, 79 in five states on September 17, 72 in eight states on September 24 and 122 in 10 states on October 1.

Elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held along with other states. Polls in Kashmir will be spread over three days on September 4, 11 and 17. Elections will be held in Kargil on September 4, the first day of the polls. With Operation Rakshak still on to contain insurgency in the valley, there is already a substantial paramilitary presence in the state.

The BJP welcomed the poll dates, saying it is already miles ahead of its rivals because of the government?s handling of the Kargil conflict. Congress president Sonia Gandhi was unaware of the poll schedule this afternoon. ?When?? she exclaimed when reporters asked her for her reaction. She, however, gathered her wits and said: ?We are ready to face the polls.?

The Congress has been forced on the backfoot over the past few weeks. It has not even harped on the intelligence failures in Kargil. The party, however, put up a brave face and said the election would finally end the ?caretaker raj? and pave the way for an able government.

The Election Commission had deferred an announcement of the dates because of the uncertainties arising out of the Kargil conflict. ?The sad situation has ended. We knew that our army would go ahead and do the job,? election commissioner M.S. Gill said.

Last week, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee had informed Gill of the possibility of an early end to the conflict. It was then that the poll panel got down to deciding the dates. Had the war been prolonged, the commission would not have been assured of sufficient paramilitary forces. It had earlier said that without sufficient forces, the elections could not be conducted. For the first time, about one million boys and girls of the National Cadet Corps will be deployed during the polls.

Gill said the Election Commission could consider simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh if the governments approached it. ?Maharashtra seems to have two sets of thought. If they come to us, we will look into it,? he told a television channel.

Polling will be held in phases to allow movement of paramilitary forces from one state to another. During the last elections, the commission had opted for a four-phase schedule. After meetings with state governments, it has realised the need to deploy more forces in sensitive states.

In Bihar, several districts have been identified as vulnerable to poll violence. The Election Commission cannot risk holding simultaneous polls in these constituencies.

For the first time, electronic voting machines will be used in as many as 46 constituencies. During the recent Goa elections, these machines were tried out successfully. They will be used in all seven constituencies in Delhi and three in West Bengal.

The announcement of the election dates sets in motion a period of hectic activity that will pick up pace towards late August. The model code of conduct comes into effect immediately. It prevents the Vajpayee regime and the state governments from taking major policy decisions and misusing government machinery.

Till now, the poll panel has not intervened in disputes over decisions made by the Vajpayee government. Asked how the commission would deal with politicisation of the Kargil war, Gill said it was a hypothetical question.    

New Delhi, July 11: 
Islamabad tonight announced the ?Mujahideen? had begun withdrawing from the Indian side and New Delhi acknowledged ?some evidence? of a pullout in the first official indication from both countries that the Kargil war is drawing to an end.

A jubilant India also ventured to set a tentative timeframe, saying status quo ante along the Line of Control could be restored in seven days.

The formal disclosure of a breakthrough came after a meeting of the directors-general of military operations of the two countries at the Border Security Force post in Attari. However, India is not likely to declare the end of the conflict until mop-up operations, which will take about a week, are over.

In Islamabad, Pakistan foreign minister Sartaj Aziz said military officials of the two countries had ?agreed on modalities for de-escalation, including cessation of ground and air operations, to facilitate the disengagement of Mujahideen?. Pakistan chief army spokesman Brigadier Rashid Qureshi said disengagement had already started in one sector.

Details of the DGMOs? meeting were not available but the fact that it was held on Pakistan?s insistence was a pointer to its outcome. ?You can deduce what the motive was behind this meeting as the ground situation is well-known to you,? additional DGMO J.J. Singh told reporters.

In Delhi, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee apprised Opposition leaders of developments on the warfront at an all-party meeting. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, CPM general secretary H.S. Surjeet and CPI leader Indrajit Gupta attended the meeting.

Vajpayee phoned West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu to inform him about the withdrawal. ?Great news. I welcome it,? Basu told the Prime Minister.

Soon after the meeting, national security adviser Brajesh Mishra said: ?We have some evidence of withdrawal taking place in Kaksar and Mushkoh sub-sectors. The army will verify it.?

Mishra added: ?It is our hope that in seven days, status quo ante along the LoC will be restored if all goes according to plan.?

In Lahore, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he had agreed to withdraw intruders to avert another war with India. Claiming the Pakistan army was one with the government, he promised to answer all questions in his broadcast to the nation tomorrow. The US, instrumental in persuading Sharif to recall the infiltrators, described the withdrawal announcement as ?a positive sign?.

However, there was no immediate word from the United Jehad Council, the umbrella organisation of Mujahideen outfits which had vowed to continue fighting till the ?last drop of our blood??.

Though India officially maintained it will be a week before intruders are flushed out, it did not hold back from going ahead with victory celebrations. Vajpayee and some Cabinet colleagues appeared in the mood to celebrate while watching an exhibition football match between filmstars and Indian cricketers to raise funds for families of soldiers who had died fighting.

On a huge white board at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, the Prime Minister wrote: ?Jai jawan zindabad? ?The meaning of independence is to remain alert. We will continue to keep vigil even after the Kargil conflict is over,? Vajpayee said.

Pakistan indicated it was keen to get back to the negotiations table as soon as possible. Pakistan high commissioner to India Jehangir Ashraf Qazi will arrive in Delhi with fresh proposals to resume foreign secretary-level dialogue. Indications are Islamabad will propose a third country as the venue.

It is clear that, having lost the Kargil war, the Pakistan gameplan is to wrest the diplomatic initiative from India. Islamabad is almost certain that Delhi will turn down its request for immediate resumption of foreign secretary-level talks in a third country.

The Sharif government is not willing to come to Delhi for talks and expects the BJP-led government to refuse to go to Islamabad. It, therefore, feels a third country will be the ideal venue.

India has all along insisted it will return to the Lahore process only after intruders are withdrawn. But it seems doubtful that Delhi will agree to renew dialogue with Pakistan so soon. Besides, holding talks in a third country will legitimise Islamabad?s claim that it has involved outside mediation in the dispute.

However, with the international community eager to see the neighbours return to the talks table, the Vajpayee government may have a tough time convincing world leaders why it is not possible to hold a dialogue now.    

There are no Sundays on the battlefront although we were given to believe for a long while today that it would be a day of rest along the frontier. We had it from authoritative, though inevitably anonymous, sources that Indian forces had been asked to hold fire to provide Pakistani intruders a window to withdrawal. Indian and Pakistani DGMOs were talking at a flagpost in Attari and ceasefire was the byword from Matayen to Drass to Kargil to Batalik.

But if there was a ceasefire in operation on the frontier today, it was a very noisy one. And if the soldier was supposed to be having a day off, it was a very busy one.

?Ceasefire?? asked an officer at a gun position near here incredulously, ?Do you see any evidence of it here?? Not far from him, two newly-positioned Bofors howitzers were coughing direct fire at Rhino Horn, a snow-streaked peak, looming far away over the Mushkoh Valley. From a little ahead of the howitzers, mortars were popping fire on the same target or around it. ?He is still hitting us and we are hitting him,? said the officer. ?We are in the process of cleaning up these areas, at whatever cost. Where is the ceasefire??

It was late in the afternoon and a chilly storm was brewing over Drass and Mushkoh. Peaks marked out by gun positions were fast getting wrapped up in snowclouds and the officer was a little worried about visibility. But what worried him more was the state of infantrymen up the ridges. It had rained all of last night, plunging temperatures even in the Drass Valley below zero, and the elements were conspiring to conjure another wet, freezing night on the heights. ?You can imagine what it must be like to be out in rain and snow on slippery boulders. It is dark and our man is under fire.? The officer shook his head and turned away.

We drove into Mushkoh by twilight. The high valley?s depeopled homes and fields were being sprayed with shell and mortar fire. An officer driving to base in the valley?s depths in his Jonga had a near miss: a splinter grazed his bonnet and ricocheted. ?Near miss,? he said, ?but now that we have taken to operations in Mushkoh, we will sort them out.? But hadn?t he heard the war might be coming to an end? ?Not to my knowledge,? he shot back. ?If they are targeting us, how can this be over so easily?? He drove off then, promising ?good action? in Mushkoh in a couple of days.

A little further down the rubble track, at the first major military post in Mushkoh Valley, soldiers were scurrying about, setting up small bases in the lee of a hill, pitching new tents and shifting ammunition and supplies.

The base had been shelled last night and they were probably moving to securer spots. ?War or no war, we have to stay here a long time. We might as well find ourselves safe places to dig in,? a jawan said.

In his little tent lay three of his mates injured in the action on Tiger Hill. ?We must declare war and finish these fellows off quickly. Why are we taking so many casualties? Let us have war and teach them a lesson once and for all.? The jawan was quite irate at what the conflict had done to his mates. ?Now that we have got the upper hand in this battle, we should go ahead and convince them that intruding into our territory is not a good idea.?

The shells were still falling on Mushkoh?s military bases when we left, and the Bofors guns were still firing on Rhino Horn, the brilliant streaks of each 43 kilo payload of lead and TNT etching the night sky over Drass with an ominous message for the enemy. By the time we got to Kaksar ? the one sector where Indian forces have suffered heavy losses and made no gains ? word of the ?ceasefire? was galloping ahead of us.

?I heard it on the radio,? said a subedar major of the fourth Jat regiment, the unit that has taken merciless casualties in trying to regain ascendancy over Kaksar. ?Whoever is doing this is a very foolish person,? the visibly disgruntled subedar major muttered. ?If we don?t hit them now, if we let them withdraw peacefully, they are going to do this to us again at a future date. Why don?t we learn our lessons from history?? The subedar major?s son, a soldier in the same unit, was up on a forward post in Kaksar, barely 50 metres away from the enemy, and ready to strike.

?For two days now, we have been in a position to overrun him, but there are no orders. We have seen our fellows killed by the Pakistanis, and now that we can do the same to them, we have no sanction,? the subedar major said. ?I don?t mind my son dying in the action on the heights, but we must ensure they don?t repeat this.?

Leaders of India and Pakistan might have agreed to disengage from the conflict, the hostilities between those engaged on the front continue.

Burial of Pak soldiers

The army said the bodies of three Pakistani officers recovered from the front will be buried ?with due regard to the honour of a fallen soldier?, adds UNI.    

Today?s forecast: Cloudy sky with one or two spells of showers or thundershowers

Temperature: Maximum 32.9?C (1?C above normal)
Minimum 25.8?C (Normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 98%
Minimum 67%

Rainfall: 20 mm

Sunset: 6.22 pm
Sunrise: 5.02am

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