Nuke draft clouds US ban waiver
Siege on Kashmir army camp
Sonia in Amethi for double duel
Poll panel curtains on Kargil show
From Rasheed to Ramayan
Naga leader gunned down
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, Aug. 19 
Keeping up the tempo of critical statements since Delhi released the nuclear doctrine draft, the US and other G8 members today announced the decision to defer non-basic human needs funding by international financial institutions to India.

But India brushed aside appeals from the world community not to go ahead with weaponisation, saying it was its sovereign right to decide what is in its security interest. Foreign minister Jaswant Singh said there was no chance of an arms race between India and Pakistan.

Singh said he was scheduled to meet US secretary of state Madeleine Albright on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next month, and ?if the US wishes to take it up with us, I am ready to discuss it?.

The blanket decision to defer non-basic human needs funding by international financial institutions to India seems a setback to the process of easing sanctions clamped by the US after the Pokhran nuclear tests.

Till now, each case was being treated on its individual merit. For instance, even while sanctions were in place, Andhra Pradesh got a loan for power sector reforms under the head of humanitarian aid. After today?s decision, a move by some US Congressmen to give President Bill Clinton the authority to waive sanctions on India and Pakistan is likely to be delayed.

India tried to play down the concern voiced by the West about the recent developments in South Asia. The ruling coalition also tried to tell the domestic audience that irrespective of international pressure, it was in no mood to make a compromise on national security.

As part of this exercise, Indian foreign ministry officials called US President Bill Clinton?s letter to Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee over the weekend ?part of regular correspondence?. A ministry spokesman said Vajpayee will soon reply to the letter.

It became clear from the remarks of foreign ministry spokesman R.S. Jassal that the release of the draft nuclear doctrine was also a move to force Pakistan to come out with a similar document.

?This very act shows an abiding responsibility and transparency that India has shown in nuclear deterrence and disarmament. It will be a welcome development if other countries also had such transparency in the nuclear doctrine and publicly committed themselves to the goal of early elimination of weapons of mass destruction,? he said.

Reports from Islamabad suggested that Pakistan will soon release such a document. ?Pakistan?s own nuclear doctrine is in the final stages of being evolved,? Pakistan foreign minister Sartaj Aziz was reported to have told a Pakistani daily.    

Srinagar, Aug. 19 
In the deadliest strike in the current spate of audacious raids on security forces, militants today mounted a marathon attack on a key infantry camp in Kupwara, killing five soldiers.

The militants struck at 3.30 pm, firing rockets and rocket-propelled grenades and raining bullets on the heavily-guarded Chowkibal camp. The pounding stretched late into the night.

Armymen returned fire, killing four militants. Heavy reinforcements have been rushed to the camp and senior army officers from Kupwara have reached the spot. The troops are trying to encircle the militants.

Four armymen have been wounded seriously. It is not known if they have been shifted to hospital. The Hizbul Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the attack. A spokesman for the militant outfit called reporters to own responsibility.

Police sources in Kupwara said this was the fiercest attack on security forces in the north Kashmir district, a favourite target of militants. In the first-ever strike on a troop base, militants had stormed an army camp in Kupwara on August 7, killing a major and six other soldiers.

The following day, another camp in the same district was targeted. A colonel and two jawans died in the attack. Even during the Kargil war, no officer of the rank of colonel had been killed.

Soon after, militants struck at another camp in the district, killing one jawan and injuring six. Army camps elsewhere in the Valley have also been attacked since.

Stung by the consecutive attacks, the government drew up a seek-and-destroy plan to cleanse the Valley of militants. Security in Kupwara was also beefed up.

After reviewing the situation at a meeting on August 9, the Centre had concluded that ?such attacks are expected to continue unless the security forces launch massive seek-and-destroy operations, especially on the heights?.

At least 1,000 militants are believed to have sneaked in while the Kargil conflict was on.

Today?s strike has heightened tension in the area. The explosions and gunfire could be heard from a distance, sources said.

The security situation in the Valley will be reviewed at a high-level meeting in New Delhi later this week, sources said. Chief minister Farooq Abdullah and state officials will be present.

In Srinagar, a joint team of the Border Security Force and the Jammu and Kashmir police special protection group today encircled a house at Hyderpora and ordered the militants holed up inside to surrender.

Instead, the militants opened fire, killing one Special Police Officer and injuring four police commandos. Troops shelled the house, killing all three militants.

Five soldiers of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were seriously injured and the truck they were travelling in was damaged in a powerful blast at Nihalpora in Baramullah district this afternoon.

The injured jawans were shifted to hospital. Their condition is stated to be critical. The area was later searched.    

New Delhi, Aug. 19 
Congress president Sonia Gandhi today announced she would contest from Amethi as well in a bid to dispel the charge that she ?fled? to Bellary looking for a ?safe seat?.

The decision has come as a shot in the arm for a beleaguered Uttar Pradesh Congress which is trying to make a comeback after drawing a blank last time. Sonia returned from Karnataka last night to find partymen from Amethi at 10 Janpath. They insisted that they would not leave unless ?madam? gave an assurance about contesting from Amethi.

Close advisers of Sonia, including son Rahul and daughter Priyanka, deliberated over the issue and decided that the AICC chief should announce her intention to contest from Amethi immediately. The move was aimed at countering criticism in the media that Sonia had opted for Bellary as it was a ?safe seat?.

The leadership also had to comfort jittery partymen from the state who made it clear that Sonia?s candidature from Amethi was directly linked to the party?s fortunes in the state, which sends 85 MPs to the Lok Sabha.

An upbeat AICC secretary Anil Shastri claimed the decision, on the eve of Rajiv Gandhi?s 56th birthday, was ?Soniaji?s gift to the people of Amethi?. He said there was no doubt about her winning both seats. ?In Bellary, she would be like an aandhi and in Amethi, she would be like a toofan,? he added.

Satish Sharma, who lost to Sanjay Singh in Amethi, is tipped to contest from neighbouring Sultanpur. The Congress plans to field rebel BJP leader Ashok Singh against Arun Nehru in Rae Bareli, Indira Gandhi?s constituency. Singh won from Rae Bareli in 1996 and 1998 on a BJP ticket.

Congress strategists dismissed Sushma Swaraj?s chances against Sonia in Bellary. They alleged that Sushma?s adversaries within the BJP had made her a ?scapegoat?. Shastri accused the BJP leadership of a ?gender bias?, saying the BJP had chosen to make a woman its ?scapegoat?.

Senior Congress leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Oscar Fernandes feel Sushma will not be able to make any impact on Sonia. ?Statistics are misleading. The combined votes of Lok Shakti and the Janata Dal in Bellary in 1998 were more than the Congress. But what is to be noted is that the Janata Dal had not joined hands with the BJP so a large number of Muslims may have voted for them, which will not be the case this time,? an AICC functionary said.

The party leadership is planning to make Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee chief S.M Krishna and senior leader Dharam Singh in-charge of Sonia?s campaign in Bellary.    

New Delhi, Aug. 19 
A day after grounding the Prime Minister?s media entourage, the Election Commission today targeted the BJP-led coalition?s biggest election trumpet: the Kargil campaign.

Asserting that Kargil has emerged as ?the major issue in political debate at the moment?, the commission barred the government from screening any documentary on the conflict before the elections.

?The screening of a Kargil documentary at this juncture is not in consonance with the code of conduct. It may be done from the evening of October 3, when voting is over,? the panel said.

The commission pointed out that the soldiers? sacrifice had been recognised with gallantry awards. The President and the Prime Minister had also paid tribute to them.

?It is necessary that the defence forces step back out of the limelight and allow the political system of India to argue it out before their masters ? the people,? the commission said.

?The internationally acclaimed neutrality of the Indian armed forces should not in any direct or indirect manner be brought into comment and criticism. The defence ministry, too, should keep this in mind, since the minister (George Fernandes) is a major political figure and likely parliamentary candidate in this election,? it said.

The new directive came even as the BJP contested the commission?s decision not to allow reporters to accompany the Prime Minister on his campaign tours.

The commission had said yesterday only a Doordarshan camera team and one correspondent would be allowed to board the Prime Minister?s ?special official aircraft?.

The party said the commission?s directive was discriminatory as all other leaders, who charter private aircraft, could take journalists with them. The Prime Minister travels by special Air Force planes for security reasons.

?We are going to take up the matter with the commission and seek its permission to let media personnel accompany the Prime Minister. After all, the Prime Minister cannot go in a private aircraft,? BJP spokesman Venkaiah Naidu said.

The BJP claimed the commission?s directive ?amounts to discrimination as it was allowed in the 1998 elections?.

But the commission rejected the charge, saying the bar on allowing reporters on Air Force planes was a long-standing one. It said restrictions had been applied to successive Prime Ministers, including H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral.

The commission said it ?did not agree to let Mrs Gujral travel with the then Prime Minister?.

Justifying the denial of permission to Vajpayee, the commission said ?it is bound to maintain a consistent stand which is well known to all concerned?.    

Kozhikode, Aug. 19 
P. Ramayan got a place in a reputable school of arts to train in Kathakali. Palathody Abdul Rasheed, though, was turned down.

Irony is, Ramayan and Rasheed are the same person.

He would have given anything to learn Kathakali, a dance form with its roots in the Puranas and Hindu mythology. But the Kalamandalam Institute ? where Rasheed applied five years ago ? rejected him, saying that allowing a Muslim to perform as a Hindu god could trigger a controversy. The 22-year-old changed his name to Ramayan.

On July 10, 1994, another prestigious school, Gandhi Seva Sadanam, accepted Rasheed and granted him full scholarship. But Rasheed had turned the anger of his own community upon himself.

His house ? at Tirur in Malappuram, 40 km from here ? was torched. His father?s tea-stall was forced to down shutters, his mother and six sisters were subjected to lewd gestures from passers-by.

Fundamentalists filed a false case against Rasheed?s father, Palapetti Khader, alleging that he ran a brothel in his house where he stays with his wife and six teenage daughters.

On July 30, extremists set Rasheed?s house on fire at midnight when the family was asleep. The police at Tirur said the incident was the handiwork of those who ostracised Rasheed?s family, but have made no arrests.

Rasheed is a hunted man now and speaks to journalists at his own peril. When The Telegraph contacted him at his residence in Thekkan Kuttoor a week after the fire, his parents refused to speak. Rasheed later met this correspondent at a photo store in Tirur town.

?Every time I meet a reporter, I am picked up by these men at night and tortured,? he said. ?Last time I spoke to a journalist, I received a death threat.?

It is the price he has paid for pursuing his passion. In Malappuram, a district in south India where 66 per cent of the people are Muslims, no one in Rasheed?s family could have imagined the backlash that would disfigure their lives.

Fundamentalists have informed the family that they are being ?punished? for ?daring to send their son to learn Kathakali and act as a Hindu god and permitting him to change his name to a Hindu one?.

Rasheed won the third prize for Kathakali in the government-sponsored Keralaotsavam held in Kollam last year. ?My teachers advised me to change my name. They said with a name like Abdul Rasheed, I could not teach or perform a dance form where I am required to portray Vishnu,? he said.

?I was inspired by Kalamandalam Hyderali, a Muslim who is regarded as one of the best Kathakali singers,? Rasheed said.

But the fundamentalists were not impressed. When Rasheed?s neighbours spotted him at a concert performing under the name of P. Ramayan, retribution followed swiftly.

?Our tea-stall was the only means of sustenance. They ordered locals to stop patronising the shop. Fearing punishment, no one stepped into the stall and my father was forced to close it down,? Rasheed said. His father now vends vegetables on a cart.

?Our neighbours and friends have deserted us. My sisters had to give up learning Bharatanatyam. But my parents have stood by me,? he said.

Though Rasheed cannot attend classes regularly, he travels to the institute in Pathiripala, nearly 100 km away, once a week.

The police are yet to arrest the culprits who set fire to his home. Neither the ruling Left nor the Opposition Congress has taken up Rasheed?s case for fear of antagonising north Kerala?s predominantly Muslim votes.    

Aug. 19 
General secretary of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) Dally Mungro, 45, and two other activists were gunned down by rival insurgents at Jotsoma, nearly 4 km from Kohima last night.

Sources said nearly 30 militants armed with sophisticated weapons surrounded the house where Mungro and his wife, Thokuli, were temporarily staying. They broke open the door, dragged out Mungro and killed him nearly 100 yards away from the house. Sources said the killers were suspected NSCN(Isak-Muivah) activists.

An official spokesman of the NSCN(I-M) said the outfit would clarify its position in a couple of days.

The militants also raided the adjacent house and killed two of Mungro?s men hiding there. One of them, Zhekhevi Sema, was the secretary of the outfit?s Dimapur unit while the other, Zubenthung of Pangtong village, was a self-styled corporal. Sema was gunned down inside the house and Zubenthung was killed outside along with Mungro. The Khaplang faction leader?s body was taken to his native village, Longkhum, in Mokokchung district after a brief funeral service in Kohima. Shops in the city remained closed following the killing. A pall of gloom descended over Jotsoma village and a large number of Congress leaders and NSCN(K) cadres gathered there to pay their homage.

Mungro?s wife Thokuli said the incident took place at around 9 pm. ?The assailants ignored my husband?s pleas to speak to me before his death,?? she said. When asked why Mungro did not have any armed bodyguards, she said, ?We did not want to violate the unilateral ceasefire which prohibits carrying of arms in public.?? Mungro had come to the Angami village with his wife four days ago , Thokuli said. A senior NSCN(K) member admitted to an intelligence lapse on part of the outfit and hinted at the possibility of Mungro being betrayed by his own men. This is the first major incident of NSCN rivalry after the extension of the ceasefire on August 1. A high-level emergency meeting was held at the chief secretary?s office in Kohima today to take stock of the situation.

Police sources said security has been tightened to thwart retaliatory violence and massive combing operation was underway in the residential areas of the state capital. Mungro?s killing has put a spanner in the efforts of the Naga Hoho, the apex tribal council, which was preparing modalities for the unification of all militant outfits in the state.

The killing is likely to intensify the ongoing feud between the two NSCN factions?the Isak-Muivah and the Khaplang? and have a cascading effect on the peace process as the Centre was trying to bring the Khaplang faction to the negotiating table. The faction recently responded to the Centre?s call for a peaceful settlement but laid down certain pre-conditions for talks. They demanded revocation of the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act, withdrawal of the ?disturbed area?? status for Nagaland and wanted the Centre to declare the outfit as legal. The NSCN(K) had also responded positively to the Army?s unilateral ceasefire offer.

The killing will also compound the insurgency scene in neighbouring Manipur as most of the Naga inhabitants of the state are supporters of the Isak-Muivah faction. The NSCN(K) is active only in Chandel and Tamenglong districts, but the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) of Manipur had recently teamed up with the Khaplang faction.    

Today?s forecast: A few spells of light rain with one or two showers or thunder showers.

Temperature: Maximum 29.2?C (3?C below normal)
Minimum 26?C (Normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 98%
Minimum 88%

Rainfall: 88 mm

Sunset: 6.03 pm
Sunrise: 5.17 am

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