SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Poll campaign: CPM begins on ‘wrong note’
Violates HC order, holds big rally at Brigade Parade Ground
Kolkata, February 8
Violating the Calcutta High Court’s orders, the CPM organised a massive rally to launch its Lok Sabha poll campaign at the Brigade Parade Ground here today. Makeshift kitchens, serving snacks and other foodstuff to party workers and supporters, were also seen functional on the green ground.
Supporters of the Forward Bloc, a constituent of West Bengal’s ruling Left Front, march holding party flags to attend rally in Kolkata Supporters of the Forward Bloc, a constituent of West Bengal’s ruling Left Front, march holding party flags to attend rally in Kolkata on Sunday. — AFP

Congress workers indulge in ‘senior bashing’
New Delhi, February 8
If Congress president Sonia Gandhi expected the day-long convention of the party’s district and block presidents at the Ramlila Grounds to be a mere show of sycophancy, she was in for a real surprise.



EARLIER STORIES



SP-Kalyan Ties
Cong must not object: Mulayam
Lucknow, February 8
After opening locks of the Babri Masjid and getting the “shilanyas” done, the Congress should not object to my “friendship” with former BJP leader Kalyan Singh, declared Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav today.

UP: Scramble for Brahmin vote bank
Lucknow, February 8
With the Lok Sabha elections round the corner, political parties in Uttar Pradesh are vying with each other to woo the Brahmin community to brighten their electoral prospects in the state where 80 seats are at stake.

Snap ties with Pak: BJP
Nagpur, February 8
BJP today strongly advocated snapping of all ties with Pakistan and recall of the Indian envoy from there, accusing Islamabad of failure to initiate action against perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage and also to hand over wanted terrorists.

Lankan conflict to be major poll issue in TN: Survey
Chennai, February 8
The Sri Lankan conflict will be the major issue in Tamil Nadu in the forthcoming Parliament elections and a majority of the people is angry with the Centre’s approach, according to a survey conducted by People Studies Centre, affliated to Loyola College.

Student killings: Andhra to take up issue with US
Hyderabad, February 8
Worried over the alarming rise in the attacks on Telugus living in the United States in recent times, the Andhra Pradesh government has decided to take up the matter with the American government and seek urgent measures to ensure their safety and security.

Gujarat Riots
DSP held for inaction, tampering with proof
Ahmedabad, February 8
Valsad Deputy Superintendent of Police KG Erda was today arrested in a 2002 Gujarat riots case by special investigation team on charges of dereliction of duty and tampering with evidence, the first police officer to be arrested by the Supreme Court appointed panel.

Surgical strikes against terror feasible, says Army chief
New Delhi, February 8
Against the backdrop of much-debated option of surgical strikes against terror infrastructure in Pakistan post-Mumbai terror attacks, Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor has said that such strikes are “very much feasible” militarily.

Pranab, PC talk tough on terror
New Delhi, February 8
Underlying the UPA government’s zero tolerance policy towards terrorism, India today asked Pakistan to live up to its commitment and bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

PM’s stitches removed
New Delhi, February 8
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who underwent a coronary by-pass surgery a fortnight back, today had all his stitches removed by doctors who said he was now leading a “normal” life and meeting officials.

Vajpayee’s condition stable
New Delhi, February 8
Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who is undergoing treatment at AIIMS for chest infection, was stable and responding well to treatment, doctors attending to him said.

Singur land will not be returned: Buddhadeb
Kolkata, February 8
A day after the Trinamool Congress (TC) gave a seven-day ultimatum to the West Bengal government to return land at Singur to the “unwilling” farmers, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today asserted that it would not be returned but utilised to set up industry.

After free cycles, puncture allowance for girls in MP
Bhopal, February 8
“Cycle dee hai, to puncture bhee lagwao” (If you have given the cycle, you should get the puncture fixed too”), was the constant refrain of letters received by the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister’s secretariat from the parents of girl students who had received free bicycles from the government.

Navy rubbishes China’s submarine story
New Delhi, February 8
Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta today rubbished reports that China’s warships on anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden had ‘forced’ an Indian submarine in the area to surface.

Book brings to fore changing face of China
New Delhi, February 8
The divorce rate in China has increased over the years and one of the reasons for it can be the fact that there is such a premium on having a male heir. Because of the one-child policy, if the only child born is a girl, the man sometimes divorces his first wife in order to marry again to try for a male child.

Sene warned against disrupting V-Day celebrations
Bangalore, February 8
In the wake of right wing Sri Ram Sene’s threat to marry off couples found celebrating Valentine’s Day, the city police today warned such outfits against indulging in any illegal activities on the day.

Prez inaugurates largest pagoda in Asia
Mumbai, February 8
President Pratibha Patil today called upon the people to repudiate violence and terror in order to bring about lasting peace. In Mumbai to inaugurate the largest Buddhist pagoda in Asia, the President lamented that the ideologies that preach hatred are being actively spread in the name of religion.

Podhu Brahmins’ hold on temple ends
Chidambaram (TN), February 8
It was an end of an era in the 1,500-year-old Chidambaram temple with the Madras High Court rejecting the plea that it was a private temple, paving way for direct state administrative control.

Lankan commits self-immolation in Malaysia
Chennai, February
8
A Sri Lankan national has committed self-immolation in Malaysia yesterday espousing the cause of Tamils, who were subjected to killings by the military troops in the war-torn island nation. Raja (27), a Lankan national working in Malaysia had set himself ablaze in front of a temple at Rahankottai in Malaysia.

Babri panel regroups after 14 yrs
New Delhi, February 8
The long-defunct All-India Babri Masjid Action Committee today held an emergency meeting in the Capital and regrouped to meet what it described as a “fresh challenge from the communal and secular political fronts.”

Collector, SP shifted in Churu firing case
Jaipur, February 8
The Rajasthan government has shifted Churu Collector and SP for allegedly firing at protesters yesterday, resulting in the death of one person and injuries to six others. While Krishankant Pathak has been posted as the new collector in place of Bhaskar A Sawant, Vipin Pandey would be replacing Hinglaj Dan as the SP.

IAF plane makes emergency landing
New Delhi, February 8
An Indian Air Force Dornier plane had to make an emergency landing after it developed a technical snag in one of its engine during a routine flight today. “The IAF aircraft, with three crew members onboard, had to make emergency landing after fuel supply in one of its engine was shut off,” sources at the airport said.

NSCN-IM cadre held in Nagaland
Kohima, February 8
An NSCN-IM cadre and six others, has been arrested with arms and ammunitions in Dimapur town, the police said here today. On receiving a tip off, the police raided a house at the Lotha colony yesterday, and apprehended seven persons for possessing arms and ammunition.





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Poll campaign: CPM begins on ‘wrong note’
Violates HC order, holds big rally at Brigade Parade Ground

Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, February 8
Violating the Calcutta High Court’s orders, the CPM organised a massive rally to launch its Lok Sabha poll campaign at the Brigade Parade Ground here today. Makeshift kitchens, serving snacks and other foodstuff to party workers and supporters, were also seen functional on the green ground. There were also reports that the party cadres assaulted some press photographers when they tried to click pictures.

Addressing the rally, party secretary Biman Bose asked the leaders and workers to launch a door-to-door campaign to inform the electorate about the party’s agenda and priorities. He alleged that neither the Congress nor the BJP could serve the interests of the poor and the working class. “While the BJP is bent upon destroying the nation by dividing people in the name of caste and religion, the Congress-led UPA is selling the country to the US and other capitalists’ lobby,” said Bose.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee declared that the land acquired at Singur would in no case be retuned to the farmers. It would be utilised for setting up new industries, he said, alleging that Mamata Banerjee and some other reactionary forces were trying to destabilise West Bengal for their vested interests. He advised Mamata to give up her ‘nefarious activities” and help the state government in implementing the industrialisation programme for solving the unemployment problem.

Meanwhile, CPM leader Rabin Deb said the party would inquire into the incident of attack on the mediapersons and assured that the ‘guilty’ would not be spared. The party secretary Biman Bose, however, denied involvement of party workers in the incident. He claimed that it was handiwork of outsiders who wanted to tarnish the party image.

Notably, Chief Justice SS Nirjjar’s division bench will hear a case pertaining to the anti-pollution drive in the maidan areas on Monday.

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Congress workers indulge in ‘senior bashing’
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, February 8
If Congress president Sonia Gandhi expected the day-long convention of the party’s district and block presidents at the Ramlila Grounds to be a mere show of sycophancy, she was in for a real surprise.

Grassroots workers did some plain-speaking before the Congress top brass today. Speakers did not shy away from hitting out at their party seniors for promoting their kith and kin and ignoring the bottom-rung workers. Angry zilla and block presidents charged that all those leaders who drive around in “lal batti” cars promptly disown them once they come to power.

Rajesh Tiwari of Chhattisgarh set the ball rolling when he said the party had too many leaders in their state and it was only their “chamchas” who got a chance to go ahead.” He said there was sufficient evidence with them to show how the Congress lost the recent assembly polls because of bitter infighting and internal sabotage. Huge amounts of resources were used by party leaders to get their own candidates defeated, he alleged.

Ubaid Sheikh of Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, made equally scathing comments on rootless party “netas”, stating that most of them have been winning by invoking the “Nehru-Gandhi” name.

A number of speakers urged the Congress leadership to ensure constant interaction between Central ministers and party workers. Digivijay Puri cited the example of a senior Central minister who ignored party workers when he visited Kangra recently for an official programme. “We don’t ask for much but party workers should not be ignored either...it demoralises them,” he added.

Speaking in the same vein Senapati Venu from Kerala appealed to the party leadership to consult the block and district level office bearers before finalising the list of candidates for the upcoming LS poll.

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SP-Kalyan Ties
Cong must not object: Mulayam
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, February 8
After opening locks of the Babri Masjid and getting the “shilanyas” done, the Congress should not object to my “friendship” with former BJP leader Kalyan Singh, declared Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav today.

“It was the Congress that was instrumental in getting the locks of the Babri mosque opened and had conducted a ‘shilanyas’ for the Ram temple at the disputed site,” recalled Yadav.

Addressing a press conference, the SP president said, “Even at that time I had asserted that the ‘shilanyas’ would weaken the unity of the country. It must be understood that the Congress cannot wash its hands off the responsibility for the demolition of the Babri mosque.”

Urging the Congress to avoid unnecessary controversy by criticising his friend Kalyan Singh, Yadav underlined that his party was still supporting the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre.

Responding to the future of his party’s alliance with the Congress, Yadav clarified that it was on from his side, as he would not betray anyone.

Coming in support of Kalyan Singh, Yadav said he was an independent politician who had not joined any party. He repeated that Kalyan Singh had already owned moral responsibility for the demolition as the Chief Minister and had even faced a symbolic jail sentence.

According to Yadav the only aim in joining hands with Kalyan Singh was to ensure the welfare of farmers. “We both belong to similar background and culture. We have come together for a common cause,” he emphasised.

Describing the Muslim anger against the Kalyan- factor as “non-existent”, Yadav claimed that all ulemas were supporting the party.

Commenting on his old party colleague Azam Khan, he said they shared old ties and differences between them would melt away the moment they meet. “The media should not even imagine that it could create problems between us. I expect my party leaders to talk to me directly instead of doing it in full public view,” he said.

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UP: Scramble for Brahmin vote bank

Lucknow, February 8
With the Lok Sabha elections round the corner, political parties in Uttar Pradesh are vying with each other to woo the Brahmin community to brighten their electoral prospects in the state where 80 seats are at stake. The recent developments in Mayawati’s fiefdom attest the political significance of the once-sidelined community - mostly because of the way it helped the BSP’s ascension in the state.

Now, as the BSP plans an encore of its 2007 Assembly polls social engineering formula in the Lok Sabha elections, others are chipping in with pro-Brahmin slogans to appease the community. Six out of the 64 ministers are from the community and Mayawati has assured the Brahmins of equal and suitable participation, if the BSP comes to power at the Centre.

The main Opposition Samajwadi Party (SP) had already organised a similar meeting of its leaders with prominent faces of the community from 40 districts.

Party leader Shivpal Singh Yadav said, “Brahmins have been humiliated the most under the BSP government. Your interests are safe in the hands of the SP.” State SP spokesman Rajendra Chaudhary said some more Brahmin Maha rallies would be organised before the polls. The dates are yet to be finalised.

The BJP, which lost out on Brahmin votes against the BSP, is making an all-out effort to woo them back. Party leader Hriday Narayan Dikshit said, “The BSP’s love for Dalits and Brahmins is not genuine. Initially, the BSP was against the “manuvaad” and used it to consolidate her Dalit vote base.” To woo Brahmins, the Saffron party is banking on leaders like Kalraj Mishra, the LS poll in charge in the state, and state unit chief Ramapati Ram Tripathi. The party has given tickets to nine Brahmins out of the 38 declared so far.

A Congress spokesman said, “The party does not go by caste politics in selecting candidates. As far as the state is concerned, UPCC chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi and Congress Legislature Party leader Pramod Tiwari are the party’s (Brahmin) faces.” Brahmins, who constitute about 10 per cent of the electorate, are evenly populated in Uttar Pradesh, with central and eastern parts having a major concentration. — PTI

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Snap ties with Pak: BJP

Nagpur, February 8
BJP today strongly advocated snapping of all ties with Pakistan and recall of the Indian envoy from there, accusing Islamabad of failure to initiate action against perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage and also to hand over wanted terrorists.

BJP's political resolution, moved by senior party leader Arun Jaitley at its national council meeting here, said the party had demanded that all those responsible for the 26/11 attacks and also those who conspired and abetted the strikes must be handed over to India and face trial in the country. India should sever all trade, transport, tourism and cultural ties with Pakistan and recall its High Commissioner from Islamabad as that country had failed to initiate action against the terrorists involved in the Mumbai strikes, it said.

Lashing out the Congress-led UPA, the resolution alleged that its "soft approach" has made the country a soft target. The country has become vulnerable during the UPA rule, it said, noting that the Mumbai attacks were planned with military precision under the guidance of Pakistani establishments and the ISI.

The BJP resolution said, "It was an attack on India's pride and at the same time exposed our sheer vulnerability.” The repeal of POTA, even though constitutionally declared valid by the Supreme Court, was hailed as a triumph of secularism by the ruling coalition, it said.

The resolution said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had committed a "colossal diplomatic blunder" by describing Pakistan as a victim of terror and proposing a joint mechanism for fighting terrorism.

The resolution referred to the Left parties withdrawing support to the UPA and said it was only now that the Congress has declared its intentions of not having any alliance at the national level. The resolution said that the Left parties were again entertaining an "illusion" of a third front not realising that its relevance had gone a long back. It also flayed the UPA for the handling of the Bangladeshi migrants, saying the Home Minister had only expressed concern over the infiltrators but strong and effective action had not been taken to contain the situation.

The party has demanded that all illegal Bangladeshi immigrants must be identified and deported in a time-bound schedule. — PTI

‘If elected to power, Afzal decision within 100 days’

The BJP has assured that if the NDA was voted into power, it would recommend within 100 days to the President the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. Party's prime ministerial candidate LK Advani, who gave the assurance, also questioned the government's handling of issue.

"Now the UPA regime is coming to an end, will the Prime Minister tell the nation why his government chose not to hang Afzal Guru despite clear verdict of Supreme Court, upholding death sentence?" Advani said in his concluding remarks at the end of three-day BJP national council meeting.

Posing questions to Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi on internal security, Advani demanded a high-level judicial probe into the Mumbai attacks to unearth what went wrong and recommend ways of preventing such incidents and asked why it had not been done.

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Lankan conflict to be major poll issue in TN: Survey
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, February 8
The Sri Lankan conflict will be the major issue in Tamil Nadu in the forthcoming Parliament elections and a majority of the people is angry with the Centre’s approach, according to a survey conducted by People Studies Centre, affliated to Loyola College.

According to the survey, 30 per cent of the people said it would be the only poll issue, while another 30 per cent opined that it would be the major issue, along with some other issues.

The people’s anger is directed against the Centre rather than the Sri Lankan government itself, since 44.5 per cent of the respondents held the Centre responsible for the killings of innocent children and women in the island compared to 25.2 per cent people, who blamed the Rajapakse government.

An overwhelming 86 per cent of the people opined that the Centre was supporting the Sri Lankan government’s military offensive.

More than 70 per cent of the respondents felt that Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi was avoiding a conflict with the Congress and opined that he should act boldly without worrying about power. If the DMK sacrificed power on the issue it would be voted back, 58.5 per cent of the respondents said.

About 84.5 per cent respondents were of the view that the parties at the Centre and the state governments would take a beating, if the conflict was not resolved till the elections. Within this, 39 per cent felt that the prospects of the Congress would be affected, while 21 per cent respondents said the DMK’s chances would be affected. Another 24.5 said both the DMK and the Congress would be rejected.

More than 90 per cent of the people favoured an immediate ceasefire, while only two per cent felt that the war should continue till the LTTE is annihilated.

While 68 per cent of the people supported a separate homeland for Lankan Tamils, 21 per cent said autonomy for the Tamils would solve the problem.

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Student killings: Andhra to take up issue with US
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, February 8
Worried over the alarming rise in the attacks on Telugus living in the United States in recent times, the Andhra Pradesh government has decided to take up the matter with the American government and seek urgent measures to ensure their safety and security.

During the last 15 months, eight young workers and students from AP were murdered in the US, most of them becoming victims of attacks by robbers. The attacks, occurring with disturbing regularity, have caused widespread public outrage in the state.

Taking a serious view of the trend, the state government summoned the US Consulate-General in Hyderabad Cornelis M Keur and conveyed to him the growing concern over attacks.

“It is a very bizarre circumstance. We all know that Andhra Pradesh is disproportionately represented among Indian students, knowledge workers and others in the United States, but at the same time, it is a statistical anomaly that of the eight victims in the last 15 months, they all hailed from AP,” Cornelis said.

Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy, who left for Delhi today, will call on External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and brief him about the violent incidents targeting Telugus in the US.

Last week, another young NRI Sudhir Kumar, a 31-year-old mechanical engineer with Toyota Motors in Atlanta, was murdered by miscreants. He was the eighth such victim from AP in the last 15 months.

“We will take up the matter with the US through proper channel and ask them to take all necessary measures ensure safety and security of our people living there,” Mohammad Shabbir Ali, Minister for NRI Affairs, said.

The United States is likely to issue an advisory soon containing dos and don’ts to Indian students, knowledge workers and others in an effort to minimise such incidents.

Shabbir said the state government would press for a joint mechanism and formulation of a policy for protection and security of the Indian citizens in the USA.

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Gujarat Riots
DSP held for inaction, tampering with proof

Ahmedabad, February 8
Valsad Deputy Superintendent of Police KG Erda was today arrested in a 2002 Gujarat riots case by special investigation team on charges of dereliction of duty and tampering with evidence, the first police officer to be arrested by the Supreme Court appointed panel. Erda, who was posted at Meghaninagar police station as an inspector during the post-Godhra riots, was arrested in connection with the mob attack on Gulbarg society that left 38 people dead, including ex-Congress MP Ehsan Jafferi.

“We have arrested Erda, who is presently posted in Valsad, in the Gulbarg society case under various charges,” chief of the Supreme Court-appointed SIT, R K Raghavan, told PTI. “One of the charges against Erda is inaction on duty amounting to abettment of crime. Another charge against him is tampering with evidence (collected from Gulbarg society),” Raghavan said. — PTI

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Surgical strikes against terror feasible, says Army chief

New Delhi, February 8
Against the backdrop of much-debated option of surgical strikes against terror infrastructure in Pakistan post-Mumbai terror attacks, Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor has said that such strikes are “very much feasible” militarily.

“Surgical strikes are definitely feasible but whether you wish to take that decision or not is a separate issue,” he said. “Definitely yes. Whether you would like to look at doing it (carrying out such strikes) by air or artillery or by another means or physically there,” he said in reply to questions.

Asked if the armed forces were ready for such strikes if the political leadership had given the go-ahead, Kapoor said, “We are the Army which has been involved in operations in Kashmir and Northern Command on a perpetual basis and on an ongoing basis. Therefore, the question of not being ready is not relevant. And we would have been fully ready to do our task.” During the wide-ranging interview, the Army Chief also sought to dispel the impression that there was no clarity about the nuclear command when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was hospitalised last month.

Kapoor said “Yes, I can say that as far as we are concerned such things keep coming up in the media at times and normally you find the Prime Minister does not talk about it. But as far as we were concerned, there was a lot of clarity. There was no confusion.”

Asked about apprehensions in the West of a conflict-like situation emerging in the wake of Mumbai terror attacks, the Army Chief said over the past few weeks there seemed to have been a gradual acceptance of the reality of involvement of outfits based on Pakistani soil in the Mumbai attacks amongst the Pakistani establishment. — PTI

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Pranab, PC talk tough on terror
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 8
Underlying the UPA government’s zero tolerance policy towards terrorism, India today asked Pakistan to live up to its commitment and bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

Both External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P Chidambaram asserted that the government would spare no efforts to wipe out terror, whether from external forces or internal.

Speaking at a conclave of Congress district- and block-level office-bearers in the Capital on Sunday, Mukherjee said Pakistan must show sincerity in fulfilling its promise to the international community that it would not allow the misuse of its territory for terrorist activities. “Don't try to divert the attention of the international community. Act now and bring forces behind terrorist acts to justice, he said.

In an attempt to take the thunder out of the Opposition’s attempt to run down the government on the issue of terrorism, he said nobody should be under the misconception that India was helpless in dealing with terror.

Assuring that the menace of terrorism would be confronted with courage and fortitude, he said all options were open for dealing with terrorism emanating from Pakistan. “Perpetrators of (Mumbai) terror attacks must be punished. Nobody should think that this country is helpless and cannot tackle the situation arising out of terrorism,” he said, adding, “All options are open”.In an indirect attack on the Opposition that has been accusing the Congress-led government of soft-pedaling terrorism for minority appeasement.

He cautioned against linking the problem of terrorism to any religion.

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PM’s stitches removed

New Delhi, February 8
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who underwent a coronary by-pass surgery a fortnight back, today had all his stitches removed by doctors who said he was now leading a “normal” life and meeting officials.

“His stitches have been opened. Some were removed yesterday evening while others were removed today at around 11 am. His condition is alright,” the Prime Minister’s personal physician Dr KS Reddy told the media.

The Prime Minister “is making a good progress and is in good health,” a PMO spokesman said after the stitches were removed by Dr Ramakant Panda at Singh’s 7 Race Course residence.

Panda, who is from Mumbai’s Asian Heart Institute (AHI), had led the team of doctors which performed the successful 11-hour-long coronary bypass surgery on Singh to overcome multiple blockages in his heart on January 24 at AIIMS.

The 76-year-old Prime Minister “is leading a normal life and having normal food. He is allowed to meet his officials,” said Dr Vijay D’silva from AHI, who was part of the operating team. — PTI

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Vajpayee’s condition stable

New Delhi, February 8
Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who is undergoing treatment at AIIMS for chest infection, was stable and responding well to treatment, doctors attending to him said.

“His condition is stable. He is making progress. We expect that he continues to make progress ahead. He is still on the ventilator but is responding to the treatment,” Dr Sampath Kumar, head of cardiac thoracic vascular sciences department of AIIMS, said. “All basic parameters like his heart, kidney, liver and blood pressure are normal and his lungs are recovering.” — PTI

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Singur land will not be returned: Buddhadeb

Kolkata, February 8
A day after the Trinamool Congress (TC) gave a seven-day ultimatum to the West Bengal government to return land at Singur to the “unwilling” farmers, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today asserted that it would not be returned but utilised to set up industry.

“Why are they (TC) opposing (the acquisition)? They are going to Singur and demanding that the land be returned. The land will not be returned. It was taken for industry and an industry will come up there,” he said, addressing a mammoth Left Front rally here to kick off the campaign for the Lok Sabha polls.

Just because the Tatas abandoned the small car project at Singur, it did not mean that no industry would come up there, Bhattacharjee said.

Stating that thousands of young people at Singur were looking up to the government for jobs, he said, “many of them want the Tatas to come back. We must save Singur. We can’t betray its people.” — PTI

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After free cycles, puncture allowance for girls in MP
Tribune News Service

Bhopal, February 8
“Cycle dee hai, to puncture bhee lagwao” (If you have given the cycle, you should get the puncture fixed too”), was the constant refrain of letters received by the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister’s secretariat from the parents of girl students who had received free bicycles from the government. And the CM has indeed agreed to the demand. An annual grant of Rs 200 per student is likely to be announced for the “maintenance” of the bicycles.

Under a scheme launched in 2005, the state government had decided to provide bicycles free of cost to girl students of class IX, who had taken admission in a school located outside their village. The idea was to discourage the girls from giving up further studies due to lack of school in their village. Two years back, the scheme was extended to girls studying in class VI as well. So far, around 6 lakh bicycles have been distributed. The maintenance allowance would cost the government around Rs 1.5 crore annually.

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Navy rubbishes China’s submarine story

New Delhi, February 8
Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta today rubbished reports that China’s warships on anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden had ‘forced’ an Indian submarine in the area to surface.

Vehemently denying the Chinese claim, he said, “There is no such incident that had happened where an Indian Navy submarine had to surface, that’s what I can say.” Earlier, the Navy had said the vessel “was not” an Indian one at all.

Dismissing Chinese media reports with regard to the purported incident, Mehta told reporters after flagging off a vintage car rally here that no one in the government has ever said anything about occurrence of any such incident.

The Indian Navy had earlier rejected claims by the Chinese media that the two Chinese destroyers had spotted an Indian submarine tracking them in the Gulf of Aden and forced it to surface. Chinese newspapers and websites had reported a week ago that their warships sent to fight piracy in waters off Somalia were stalked by an Indian attack submarine and the two sides became locked in a tense standoff for at least half-an-hour.

They also claimed that after rounds of maneuvering during which both sides tried to test for weaknesses in other’s sonar system, the two Chinese warships managed to force the Indian submarine to surface. — PTI

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Book brings to fore changing face of China
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 8
The divorce rate in China has increased over the years and one of the reasons for it can be the fact that there is such a premium on having a male heir. Because of the one-child policy, if the only child born is a girl, the man sometimes divorces his first wife in order to marry again to try for a male child.

Linked to the increasing incidence of divorce is the ‘master-of-our-own-fate attitude’ among girls who are controlling the course of their lives. The needs and expectations of Chinese women are also increasing. They want money, romance, sex and security. This and other fascinating aspects of the Chinese way of life have been illustrated in an extraordinarily simple and interesting manner by Poonam Surie in her latest book, “China: A Search For Its Soul (Leaves From A Beijing Diary),” which would be released here next week by Vice-President M Hamid Ansari.

Surie, wife of a top Indian diplomat, who did a stint as the Indian ambassador to China, brings to light the ethos of Chinese society and also seeks to explore the links between India and China from the ancient times. About the status of youngsters there, the 362-page book says prosperity has brought with it wider avenues and freedom which has changed the norms of morality. Marriages are falling apart as the opportunities for meeting members of the opposite sex has increased.

So far, tightly controlled and segregated, men and women kept their distance, following the straight and narrow paths laid down for them. Marriages were often alliances of convenience. But now the winds of change are blowing fast and strong.

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Sene warned against disrupting V-Day celebrations

Bangalore, February 8
In the wake of right wing Sri Ram Sene’s threat to marry off couples found celebrating Valentine’s Day, the city police today warned such outfits against indulging in any illegal activities on the day.

Without directly naming the Sene, Bangalore Police Commissioner Shankar Bidari said certain organisations and individuals have threatened to forcibly prevent persons from observing Valentine’s Day as they consider it not consistent with Indian culture. “This is not correct and such acts will amount to an offence under Section 153 (A) of the IPC,” he said.

He said necessary protection would be given to bars, pubs, restaurants and shops selling Valentine’s Day cards if their owners apprehend any obstruction or danger to their business from individuals or groups on February 14. — PTI

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Prez inaugurates largest pagoda in Asia
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 8
President Pratibha Patil today called upon the people to repudiate violence and terror in order to bring about lasting peace. In Mumbai to inaugurate the largest Buddhist pagoda in Asia, the President lamented that the ideologies that preach hatred are being actively spread in the name of religion. “The fact is that all human beings are one and our behaviour should be based on this basic truth. People create distinctions in their own mind and believe them to be true. Today, it is the perceived differences that are dividing people,” Patil said in her speech.

The Global Vipassana Pagoda has been constructed at Gorai in North Mumbai adjacent to the Esselworld amusement park.

The pagoda has been built by the Vipassana foundation said to have been propagated by Lord Buddha. “In a world full of strife, stress and strain, the need for calming the agitated mind is extremely important,” President Patil said in her speech.

Apart from the President, a number of dignitaries like Priyanka Gandhi, Sharad Pawar, Chhagan Bhujbal, Praful Patel attended the inauguration. The pagoda measuring 325 ft in height, billed as Asia’s largest, has been built entirely with Jaipur stone and lime eschewing the use of cement and concrete in its main structure.

It took 11 years to build and cost more than Rs 100 crore. The structure has the relics of the Buddha entombed in it.

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Podhu Brahmins’ hold on temple ends

Chidambaram (TN), February 8
It was an end of an era in the 1,500-year-old Chidambaram temple with the Madras High Court rejecting the plea that it was a private temple, paving way for direct state administrative control.

The centuries-long hold of Podhu Dikshitars on the temple, a small well-knit Brahmin community, which believes that its forefathers have directly descended from Lord Shiva’s abode Mount Kailas to administer the Chidambaram temple, has finally ended last week, following an order of the Madras High Court after a prolonged legal battle.

Justice R Bhanumathi’s order rejecting the plea of the 3,000-strong Dikshitars community that the 5th century AD temple was a private one and they had ‘untrammelled rights’, paved the way for direct administrative control of the state government. She upheld the appointment of an executive officer to administer the temple.

The temple with its four imposing towers rising 175 ft above the ground has a unique place in the Hindu mythology as it holds the key to ‘Chidambara rahasym’ (secret of Chidambram).

A small corner next to the idol of Lord Nataraja has a curtain with a golden garland in the shape of ‘bilva’ leaves, which according to scholars, is an example of permeating omnipresence of God.

Dikshitars who were not willing to give up their traditional hold on the temple have gone in for an appeal to the larger bench of the High Court.

C Navathandava Dikshitar, president, Thiruchitrambalam Annathanam Arakkatali Trust, said Dikshitars have been performing poojas and selling prasadams for many centuries and blamed the politicians behind government’s resolve to take over the temple.

The legal tussle began years ago when the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) department appointed an executive officer (EO) to administer the temple which was challenged by the Dikshitars.

HR and CE officials said EO had already been posted and he functioned from outside the temple and moved in, to takeover after the court’s order.

The Janata Party and Hindu organisations have opposed the government taking over of the temple. — PTI

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Lankan commits self-immolation in Malaysia

Chennai, February 8
A Sri Lankan national has committed self-immolation in Malaysia yesterday espousing the cause of Tamils, who were subjected to killings by the military troops in the war-torn island nation. Raja (27), a Lankan national working in Malaysia had set himself ablaze in front of a temple at Rahankottai in Malaysia.

The Malaysian police have also recovered a letter addressed to US President Barack Obama from him.

In the letter, he appealed to Obama to visit Colombo to ensure ceasefire in the strife-torn nation and take steps to enable the Tamils in Lanka to live in peace.

Identifying himself as Raja, born in Sri Lanka, he said he had come to Malaysia for a job in October 2006, and worked as a car cleaner in the day time. During nights he was working in a Chinese hotel to support his income. He said he was ending his life demanding immediate ceasefire in Lanka.

The self-immolation of a Lankan national in Malaysia, comes in the wake of similar incidents in southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu where three people — Muthukumar, Ravi and Ravichandran had ended their lives for Lankan Tamils cause. — UNI

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Babri panel regroups after 14 yrs
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 8
The long-defunct All-India Babri Masjid Action Committee today held an emergency meeting in the Capital and regrouped to meet what it described as a “fresh challenge from the communal and secular political fronts.”

Reorganisation of the committee is significant in the wake of the BJP’s call at Nagpur yesterday to build the Ram Mandir. It is equally inspired by the recent tie-up between the Samajwadi Party and Kalyan Singh.

Speaking to the Tribune today, Javed Habib, newly chosen chairman of the committee, said the Muslim world was shocked by the unholy alliance between Mulayam Singh and Kalyan Singh and was shaken into action lest Babri Masjid issue was further politicised.

“This is a mockery. We had to reorganise ourselves to chalk out a fresh plan to meet these new challenges ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. We will release our resolutions on February 10 after holding consultations with the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid. He is not in Delhi today,” he said.

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Collector, SP shifted in Churu firing case
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, February 8
The Rajasthan government has shifted Churu Collector and SP for allegedly firing at protesters yesterday, resulting in the death of one person and injuries to six others.

While Krishankant Pathak has been posted as the new collector in place of Bhaskar A Sawant, Vipin Pandey would be replacing Hinglaj Dan as the SP.

Notably, CM Ashok Gehlot found himself in an embarrassing situation after the incident, as his party had taken the BJP to task over use of bullets to suppress protests during the latter’s regime.

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IAF plane makes emergency landing

New Delhi, February 8
An Indian Air Force Dornier plane had to make an emergency landing after it developed a technical snag in one of its engine during a routine flight today.

“The IAF aircraft, with three crew members onboard, had to make emergency landing after fuel supply in one of its engine was shut off,” sources at the airport said.

The plane, which was associated with Palam-based Dornier Squardon, landed safely on the secondary runway at around 4.15 pm, along with the crew members, they said. — PTI

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NSCN-IM cadre held in Nagaland

Kohima, February 8
An NSCN-IM cadre and six others, has been arrested with arms and ammunitions in Dimapur town, the police said here today. On receiving a tip off, the police raided a house at the Lotha colony yesterday, and apprehended seven persons for possessing arms and ammunition.

One M 20 pistol with seven rounds, a .9mm pistol with four rounds, a .32 pistol with five rounds, three knives and seven cellular phones were seized from their possession, the police said. — PTI

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