Atal wades into ?personal? battle
Blast kills BJP nominee in Anantnag
Kashmir spectre in way of Timor role
Siege on police in Dara zone
Safety test on ABP building
Shootout in racing cab
Sachin returns home first
Don?t waste Sachin for short-term gains
IFA puts off decision
To Our Readers

Sept. 7 
The mud-caked poll campaign snowballed into a direct confrontation between the Prime Minister and the Congress president today with A.B. Vajpayee vowing to go to any lengths ?to prove his patriotism? and Sonia Gandhi asserting that she would not be ?frightened into silence? even if it threatened her life.

Vajpayee?s unusually sharp outburst against Sonia coincided with a BJP allegation that she had called him a ?gaddar? (traitor) at a rally in Ujjain yesterday.

The Prime Minister said in Lucknow, where he filed his nomination papers, that his patriotism had been called into question for the first time in his career.

?I cannot speak like Sonia Gandhi. I cannot stoop so low. Allegations are levelled in a democracy, but the language has to be moderate and decent. The Congress president has transgressed such limits,? Vajpayee said, overlooking the fact that his lieutenant Pramod Mahajan started the personal attacks with his Monica barb.

In Delhi, the BJP, too, accused Sonia of ?stooping to levels unthinkable in Indian politics?.

In a swift reaction, Sonia told a rally in Kerala: ?I want to tell them from here, I am not scared of them. I have charted for myself a path of service to the people. They are not going to frighten me into silence regardless of anything they may do even if it means giving up my life for it.?

Stepping up the offensive on the Opposition later during an address on Doordarshan, the Prime Minister urged voters to vote against ?irresponsibility and opportunism? and teach ?destabilisers? of his government a lesson.

He charged the Opposition with toppling the BJP-led government without providing an alternative. ?Their irresponsible action has once again imposed an untimely and costly election on you,? he said.

In Lucknow, for the first time, he spoke about the personal charges levelled against him and his government and said he was ready for an ?open debate on every accusation in Parliament?.

?The Congress has been saying that infiltrators entered the country and we were asleep. This is an attack on my sense of duty towards the country and I will prove such charges wrong,? the Prime Minister said.

He said it was a lie that he had asked for forgiveness from the British so that he could be released from jail. ?I was arrested in 1942, but did not ask for forgiveness. Nor did I give any witness (in favour of the British),? he said.

Saying an ?atmosphere of engineered destability? had been thrust upon the country, Vajpayee said on TV that the electorate should ?teach our opponents how to sit in Opposition for five years?.

In Lucknow, he kicked off his speech by saying: ?You and I have a new relationship from today. You are voters and I am your candidate.?

Both on Doordarshan and in Lucknow, the Prime Minister said: ?If one vote could defeat my government, your one vote can restore my government.?

The rest of his Doordarshan speech was devoted to the BJP-led government?s achievements. Vajpayee?s idiom seemed culled out of the RSS dictionary. ?Ekta, Rashtra, Prem and Swabhiman are our people?s greatest source of strength,? he said.

EC petition

The Supreme Court will hear tomorrow an application by the poll panel on its notification banning publication and telecast of opinion poll results in the media.    

Srinagar, Sept. 7 
The BJP nominee for Anantnag, Ghulam Hyder Noorani, was killed when a landmine planted by militants exploded in south Kashmir today. Noorani?s driver Shaukat Ahmed and a party worker, Ghulam Rasool, were also killed. Noorani?s personal security officer was wounded.

Noorani was returning from an election meeting when his car ran over the landmine and blew up in Thajwar village near Bejibehara this evening. The militants, who had laid an ambush, opened fire as soon as the vehicle blew up.

Police officers rushed to the spot and the area was cordoned off. The body was taken to Bejibehara. The state administration has ordered that security be beefed up in Anantnag and Baramullah.    

New Delhi, Sept. 7 
India has turned down a request from the United Nations to be part of its peacekeeping effort in East Timor for fear of bringing back the focus of the international community on Kashmir.

In a referendum last week, East Timor had voted overwhelmingly in support of independence from Indonesia. The UN secretary general?s office had approached India to be part of the United Nations Assistance Mission in East Timor (Unamet). But India turned down the request to pre-empt possible efforts to draw a parallel with Kashmir.

The recent developments in East Timor, particularly the violence in Dili (Report on Page 3), can force a resolution at the forthcoming UN General Assembly in New York on September 14.

If there is a resolution, India will be in a double bind. If it opposes the UN initiative, India will be isolated. If it supports the resolution, it commits itself to the right of self-determination for East Timor. In that case, there can be a demand for applying the same principle in Kashmir.

Pakistan has already demanded that an East Timor-like referendum be held by the UN in Kashmir. This position is likely to be reiterated by Pakistani officials at the General Assembly which begins in New York.

It was the sovereign right of any country to decide on matters relating to its own situation, Indian foreign ministry spokesman R.S. Jassal said today. Referring to Pakistan?s demand for a similar referendum in Kashmir, Jassal said: ?Pakistan?s position on Jammu and Kashmir is well-known but it is completely untenable to India.?

Jassal added it was for the Indonesian government to take a final decision on East Timor. On India?s non-participation in the UN effort, he said ?a process is going on and we will see how the events unfold before taking a final decision.? In private, however, ministry officials said Delhi was silent on East Timor keeping in mind Indonesian sensitivity.

As part of the agreement between the Portuguese and the Indonesian government, all resolutions before the General Assembly become invalid once the referendum is held. But the continuance of violence by the pro-government militia in East Timor may force the Security Council to discuss the latest developments.

A strong statement against Indonesia?s failure to curb the activities of the militia can also lead to similar resolutions being moved at the General Assembly.

?We are aware of what Pakistan plans to do if such a resolution is moved at the General Assembly,? an official said.

The possibility of India joining forces with others to condemn the Taliban and Pakistan?s support to Islamic fundamentalists may prompt Islamabad to counter it by raising the Kashmir issue.    

Bhubaneswar, Sept. 7 
Villagers today attacked the police with rocks and staves and detained them for more than two hours in Purnapani in Mayurbhanj district after they arrested a close associate of Dara Singh, prime suspect in the slayings of an Australian missionary, a Muslim trader and a Catholic priest.

Villagers turned on the eight-member police team, led by officer-in-charge of Thakurmunda police station, B. Sagar, after it picked up a sleeping Raju Mohanta, Dara?s associate. Mohanta, on the run since the January 23 killings of Graham Stewart Staines and his two sons in Manoharpur, was picked up from his house in Purnapani, barely 4 km from Pariabeda, where Sheikh Rahman, a garment trader, was hacked and burned to death allegedly by Dara and his gang on August 26.

A high-power police team, led by deputy inspector-general of police S.K. Pradhan and superintendent of police Pradeep Kapoor, rushed to the village and wielded the baton to rescue the police squad.

Six policemen, including a woman constable Lakshmipriya Rout, were injured in the rock-throwing. Eight villagers, including six women, were hurt. The injured were taken to a hospital in nearby Karanjia town, but were released after first-aid.

The BJP staged a demonstration in Karanjia to protest the police action. It said the police had ?tortured? villagers, especially women, during the dawn raid. The BJP has called a dawn-to-dusk strike in Karanjia tomorrow to protest ?police atrocities on women?.

Police sources said Mohanta confessed that he had been a polling agent of the BJP candidate from Keonjhar in the last Lok Sabha elections.

Mohanta said he had also worked for an influential panchayat member in the last panchayat elections.

Nine villagers, including six women, have been arrested for attacking the police and illegally detaining the police squad.

Acting on a tip, the police team raided Mohanta?s house around 4.30 am. But his father, Kartick Mohanta, refused to let the police in, saying his son was out. He also asked the police not to go in as his daughter-in-law was sleeping alone in his son?s room.

But the policemen forced their way into the house. Mohanta tried to escape, but was arrested immediately. But his father shouted that the police were torturing the women in the house.

The neighbours pelted the police with rocks. The police team was blocked by stave-toting residents from leaving the village and was held up on the road for more than two hours.    

Calcutta, Sept. 7 
Senior Calcutta Municipal Corporation officials said after a visit to ABP Ltd?s office that preliminary findings revealed the structure is safe.

Kanti Ganguly, member, mayor-in-council (conservancy), along with Pradip Guha, city architect (north), and Aurobindo Santra, chief engineer (building), examined the building. They said the structural engineer would have to submit his report before the building is officially declared safe.

Early Friday, a blaze ravaged the top floor of the building. The third floor, which was reduced to ashes, housed the editorial department of the Anandabazar Patrika and the circulation, advertisement and accounts sections of the company.

Fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee today asked the fire services director, B.B. Pathak, to expedite the process of issuing a no-objection certificate so that repairs can be started on the first and second floors which were partially affected by the fire. The fire brigade, too, will have to study the building?s structure before issuing the certificate.

The municipal affairs minister, Ashok Bhattacharya, said the five-member committee, which was constituted yesterday to investigate the fire, today visited various newspaper offices to see whether fire-fighting systems there are adequate.

?If committee members feel fire-fighting systems are inadequate in certain offices, we will direct those concerned to take necessary action. The offices will have to implement these proposals,?? Bhattacharya said.

The minister added that the committee will meet on September 17 to review the probe. Bhattacharya and the city architect will be present at the meeting.

Yesterday, Narayan Ghosh, DC (DD), said it was surprising the smoke alarm did not function despite the power connection being intact.

He ruled out short circuit as the cause of fire and said the police were looking at the sabotage angle.

Bhattacharya said the government is also investigating the same angle. ?The fire brigade has told us that the fire-fighting system in ABP Ltd was modernised. What is worrying us is that after ABP Ltd took preventive and precautionary steps such a massive fire broke out. We have to probe the sabotage angle,? he said.    

Calcutta, Sept. 7 
A kidnapped constable shot dead two criminals inside the speeding taxi in which he was being taken away early this morning.

Shiakat Khan and Jhantu Majumdar, constables of Tollygunge police station, were kidnapped at gunpoint by five criminals while on anti-crime patrol in the Manoharpukur area, deputy commissioner of police (south), Ranjit Pachnanda said.

The policemen were keeping a watch on vehicles at the crossing of Manoharpukur Road and S.P. Mukherjee Road and searching some of them.

Suddenly, they spotted a taxi with five men inside. Finding the group suspicious, Khan asked the driver to stop. But he swerved towards Manoharpukur Road and tried to race away.

Majumdar began running after the taxi when it stopped abruptly. Three men, armed with revolvers, got out. They pointed their weapons at the policemen and ordered them inside the taxi.

Once inside the cab, the criminals stuck revolvers to the policemen?s heads. The taxi sped towards Sarat Bose Road. At the crossing of Sarat Bose Road and Rash Behari Avenue, the gang threw Khan out of the taxi. As the car moved towards Kalighat, the criminals began talking about how to get rid of Majumdar.

Seeing two policemen coming from the opposite direction as the vehicle neared the junction of Rash Behari Avenue and S.P. Mukherjee Road, Majumdar screamed for help. But his captors gagged him with a handkerchief.

Majumdar then whipped out his service revolver from his belt and fired at both the criminal next to him and in front of him. One was hit on the head, the other on the chest. Both men died. The driver panicked and rammed the taxi into a tree. The three remaining criminals fled, leaving a dazed Majumdar inside the taxi.

A police van on night-patrol rushed to his help. They chased the criminals but could not catch them. Later, Tollygunge police station officer-in-charge Apurba Som Chowdhury and Pachnanda rushed to the spot. One of the dead criminals was identified as Pintu. The name remains unidentified.

?They fled, leaving our men and the bodies of two of their group inside the damaged car,?? Pachnanda said. While Pachnanda gave out the official version, police sources said the story is riddled with too many holes.

How was it possible for five criminals in a taxi to kidnap two armed constables? The police version says constables were chasing the taxi. The car stopped, criminals got out and whisked away the policemen, something sources found ?highly improbable?.

One of the constables was thrown out of the vehicle. The other, however, managed to get hold of his service revolver even as three criminals were holding guns at their heads.

There are no police records against Pintu.    

Calcutta, Sept.7 
Sachin Tendulkar will return home, in all probability Thursday, and then leave for Australia with Dr Anant Joshi.

?Yes, I?m returning ?- in fact, I would have done so tomorrow itself had rain not halted today?s final (vs the West Indies),? Sachin told The Telegraph late this evening.

Speaking from Singapore?s Holiday Inn Park, Sachin added: ?I haven?t been able to talk to Dr Joshi, over the past few days, but I?ll be guided by what he says. And, yes, he?ll travel with me (to Australia).?

Travel plans will be finalised as soon as the visas have been procured.

Sachin clarified that Shane Warne hadn?t recommended his personal orthopaedic surgeon ?- as has been reported for the past many days.

?While it?s correct I?ll be going to Australia, I have no plans to meet Warne?s doctor... As I?ve said, I?ll go along with what Dr Joshi suggests. A one-to-one session with him is first on my agenda.?

The Mumbai-based Dr Joshi couldn?t be reached for a comment ?- he was away in Pune ?- but just a few days ago, he?d revealed having shortlisted two centres in Australia.

One is the North Sydney Orthopaedic Centre and the other is the Australian Institute of Sports, in Canberra. Both have excellent rehabilitation programmes, specially for back injuries.

Asked whether he?d aggravated his back, by playing in Singapore, Sachin replied: ?It?s not that... Basically, I wish to take some precautions and, so, would like to seek top advice.?

Sachin has already opted out of the three-match series against the West Indies, in Toronto (September 11-14), and could even miss the Nairobi quadrangular.

But was the problem (localised in the lower back region) weighing him down?

Sachin ducked smartly: ?At the moment, my only worry is this final... Hopefully, tomorrow will be a different ball-game (in the replay).?

Dr Joshi, it may be recalled, had called upon Sachin to take at least a ten-day break at the ?earliest,? pointing out that a shorter self-imposed lay-off would serve no purpose.

Belatedly, Sachin has heeded the advice of one who is more than just an orthopaedic surgeon for India?s top cricketers.    

Injuries are but an occupational hazard of a sporting career, and there has hardly ever been a top-level sportsperson who has not suffered from them.

An injury can well be a minor one, forcing the person to miss the odd international event, and not necessarily a serious one that puts him out of sporting circulation for a few months. Injuries usually occur during competition or at practice, but they could well strike at home or at the office or at the club ? and while not playing the sport he or she is proficient at.

The physical ?comeback? takes time, but it is the psychological recovery from a fear of the injury that takes longer and can actually turn out to be a major setback to a career.

The Monica Seles stabbing incident is a very good example of this ? where, though the physical recovery takes its normal course, the psychological recovery is not quite complete.

Seles was the commanding No. 1 in women?s tennis when she was stabbed by that person describing himself as a Steffi Graf fan. Though Seles came back to the game, it was only after two years during which she underwent psychological restructuring and, while she remains a dangerous opponent, that aura of invincibility is gone forever. She even looked frightened on court during the early comeback matches, and seemed to be constantly looking over her shoulder for another madman to attack her.

The Seles-Graf rivalry had made women?s tennis a very attractive proposition for promoters of the game. It all went to zero with that one stab.

There have been fatalities too. Ayrton Senna?s car crashed while coming off a turn and it led to his death, leaving the sport of motor racing poorer for he was admired by all, including his fellow participants ? and in the cut throat business of Grand Prix racing, that itself is an achievement.

Today Michael Schumacher is out of action after he was lucky to survive a crash and, though the marvels of modern medicine and surgical practices will bring him back on the track much sooner than a similar injury a decade or so ago, there will be tremendous interest to see how he copes with it psychologically.

Boxing too has seen some serious damage being done to some and Mohammad Ali, ?The Greatest?, is an example. Though he was seriously injured only once ? when his jaw was broken ? it is the blows that he took during his career that has led to the Parkinson?s disease that has left him a pale shadow of the boisterous athlete that the world followed and many loved to hate.

Physical contact sport always has the risk of a player suffering serious injury and rugby, American football and even soccer and hockey are sports which have seen injuries cutting short promising careers and leaving the sport the poorer for it.

In the world of cricket too there have been some horrible injuries. Who can forget the blow to Nari Contractor that almost killed him? Though the gutsy Contractor came back to the game, the selectors did not want to take a chance and he was not picked for Tests again.

Those were, of course, the pre-helmet days when a batsman relied on his eye to get out of the line of a screaming bouncer. There were plenty of broken fingers then, because the equipment was not as good as it is now..

The injuries that players suffer are mostly muscular, and one of the reasons is that minor injuries are carried into the next game simply because there is no time for rest and recovery. A minor injury soon becomes a major one. The competition for places is intense that no player wants to miss out due to an injury and let a competitor seal that place in his absence.

Little Champion Sachin Tendulkar, of course, has no such fears. His back injury has caused immense concern to millions of his admirers who are keeping their fingers crossed, not just for a speedy recovery but for a complete recovery. He still has a good ten years of plundering runs ahead of him and it is important that, rather than seek a short term solution, he should look to his future and get the correct diagnosis and then take proper measures to see that it does not recur.

The injury first flared up in Chennai, which is hot and humid right through the year, and again in Colombo, which has a similar weather. At the time of writing, he is likely to play in Singapore but to do so after the pain he had during his century knock in Sri Lanka may not be a wise thing. Of course, he alone knows the pain and how much he can bear, and there is no doubting his fierce commitment to Indian cricket. Still, the feeling generally is that he should get investigations done where his back is monitored 24 hours if necessary to see if there are certain types of movements that bring the spasm on.

He may be the captain of India and the best batsman in the world but he is still a little kid who wants to play all the time. Those close to him must make him understand that his problematic back needs proper treatment and corrective therapy. He is a national treasure, and such treasures are rare in India.

So Little Champion, take care of your back, so that you can continue to bring glory to the country for a long long time !

Professional Management Group    

Calcutta, Sept. 7 
The IFA as usual, failed to make up its mind today. Its league sub-committee heard the four Mohun Bagan players summoned, but said it wanted to speak to more players before taking a decision.

The sub-committee meets again on September 14 for that, when a decision on what to do about the referee manhandling issue in the August 31 tie versus East Bengal may be taken.

Chima Okerie, Samuel Omollo, Debjit Ghosh and Dulal Biswas deposed before the sub-committee today, but IFA officials said they want to listen to four more. Even referee Bikash Mukherjee, match commissioner Sumanta Ghosh and the linesmen could be asked to depose. Video clippings of the match could also be viewed.

Chima said: ?The referee?s report says I had tripped him during the incident but I did not even touch him. I admit that I had committed a mistake by taking off my shirt and I am ready to be penalised for that. But the issue here is different ? was the referee manhandled or not. I stick to what I have been saying. I didn?t touch him.?

The match commissioner, Chima said, accused him of provoking teammates to abandon the match. Chima denied that too.

He urged the IFA to review the video clippings of the match and said any decision without that would be unfair.

Chima said he did not break anything at the Salt Lake Stadium dressing room. He said he was actually trying to stop some others from doing that.

He said he was yet to decide whether he will stay in India but said that he was disappointed with the whole thing. ?I am losing faith in things and just can?t understand why everybody is against me,? he said.

Omollo said the referee?s report charged him with pushing, while the match commissioner accused him of ?chasing? the official. He denied both.    

The Telegraph website today is a truncated edition because of Friday?s fire. Apart from the front page, links are available only to the East section.    
The Telegraph website is a truncated edition today because of Friday?s fire with links to the east section. We hope to bring you the full edition soon. Please bear with us.   More on ABP's fire on 3rd September 1999

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