BJP jittery on Lanka spillover
Kapil considers pullout from Asia Cup
Benoy Chowdhury dead
Terror alert crawls to Delhi
Murder charge stains uniform

 
 
BJP JITTERY ON LANKA SPILLOVER 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, May 6 
The BJP is worried about the fallout of the Sri Lanka crisis in case the Tamil Tigers continue with their marauding march, notwithstanding the government’s assurance to its southern allies that it will not send military help to the island.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has called an all-party meeting on Monday to voice the BJP’s fears that if the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) gains more ground, it could have serious implications for India.

The government, sources said, also wants to get an endorsement from the parties on offering humanitarian assistance to Lanka, if the island’s government asks for it.

The BJP is not overly concerned about having to take a strategic decision immediately because the feedback is that the situation could soon ease. However, the Tigers’ advance towards Jaffna has forced the government to think about a contingency plan in case the brimming crisis snowballs in the northern peninsula.

The BJP also dismissed suggestions that by refusing military help to Lanka, it could spark a diplomatic cold war with Colombo, especially if other countries offer assistance. The party feels that even Israel, which Lanka is eyeing for possible military aid, will find it logistically difficult to fight in the unfriendly terrain of Jaffna.

Spelling out the government’s worries, a BJP leader said the party is keen on a “united Sri Lanka” as it apprehends that too much leeway to its Tamil Nadu allies — and, indirectly, to the LTTE — would encourage the Tigers to stoke separatist sentiments in the state.

The LTTE has gained in strength over the years and is believed to have acquired more sophisticated weapons than the Lankan army.

Sources said that Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi, while giving a free hand to Vajpayee on the Lanka question yesterday, also cautioned him that any action to weaken the LTTE could have its fallout in the state as a large number of Tamils would flee the island to take refuge.

Among the refugees will be hordes of Tiger guerrillas in disguise, Karunanidhi is learnt to have told the Prime Minister. In the aftermath of the IPKF fiasco, thousands of rebels had sneaked into Tamil Nadu and created a law and order problem.

The state has already taken steps to beef up security for its fishermen. A fast-moving boat will be attached to the naval detachment and efforts are on to get a naval ship to patrol the coastal belt of Nagapattinam district.

The BJP is treading on tiptoes as it wants to avert any crisis for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. Apart from Karunanidhi, both MDMK leader Vaiko — a vocal supporter of the LTTE — and PMK chief S. Ramadoss are averse to the idea of the government participating in any form of military exercise on the island.

The BJP’s fears were echoed by Tamil Maanila Congress leader P. Chidambaram, who said all parties should welcome any decision taken by the Centre which did not affect regional security.

Chidambaram, however, regretted that Opposition parties in the state were not consulted by the Centre. ADMK chief Jayalalitha parroted her former ally in criticising the government.    


 
 
KAPIL CONSIDERS PULLOUT FROM ASIA CUP 
 
 
BY LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Calcutta, May 6 
National coach Kapil Dev, who has been sucked into the match-fixing scandal, may opt out of the May 28-June 8 Asia Cup in Dhaka, India’s first engagement after cricket’s biggest crisis erupted last month.

Of course, Kapil himself didn’t specifically say so when contacted by The Telegraph this afternoon, but did indicate making himself unavailable was a possibility.

In fact, those close to Kapil confirmed he is “seriously” considering opting out.

Not because of former Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Inderjit Singh Bindra’s allegation that he offered the Rs 25-lakh inducement to Manoj Prabhakar (September 1994), but because he (Kapil) “should occupy the moral high ground”.

Kapil, by the way, has already moved on the legal front: his lawyers have served notice on Bindra.

[Meanwhile, according to PTI, Kapil broke down during the recording of BBC’s Hardtalk India interview, to be telecast on Wednesday. “I will commit suicide rather than take a bribe. Take all my money. I come from a family where pride is more important than anything else... I feel ashamed that I played cricket,” Kapil said emotionally.]

As a source put it: “When the scandal broke and Indian names began circulating, Kapil suggested that India take a six-month break (from international commitments) till the air cleared. Now that his own name has been dragged in, Kapil has to be seen as setting a personal, though significant, example.”

These still are early days but, if it comes to that, the BCCI may request Kapil’s predecessor Aunshuman Gaekwad to stand in.

Speaking from New Delhi, Kapil said: “As of now, I’m looking to the Cup probables’ camp (in Pune from May 15-24)... I would like to talk to all the boys first, before saying anything else. For me, the boys have always come first. That won’t ever change.”

Twenty-three of the 25 probables will be present in Pune — Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid, currently in England, have been exempted. Captain Sourav Ganguly, also in England, will not miss the camp.

Kapil, who took over from Gaekwad last October (the two-year appointment was made a month earlier), hasn’t been on the best of terms with everybody in the BCCI. So, it is to be seen whether the powers-that-be will persuade him to reconsider should he actually be unavailable.

Informally, a couple of senior BCCI mandarins have begun “talking” about the possibility of Kapil opting out.

However, frenetic behind-the-scenes activity, typical of the BCCI, should really begin tomorrow when Jagmohan Dalmiya returns after chairing the International Cricket Council executive board’s meeting in London.

Dalmiya, after all, is most influential within the BCCI though he holds no post. Indeed, Dalmiya himself hand-picked Kapil.

As Kapil, in any case, may only miss the Asia Cup, the BCCI won’t have to look beyond a stop-gap arrangement — India’s next engagement will be in Singapore in early August.

Logically, India A and colts’ coach Roger Binny should get the summons, but sources insist he “won’t be disturbed” as he is also associated with the Academy, launched amid much fanfare last Monday in Bangalore.

So, there’s a good chance that the BCCI may fall back on the Gaekwad option. But, then, it could also spring a surprise.    


 
 
BENOY CHOWDHURY DEAD 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 6 
Veteran CPM leader and freedom fighter Benoy Chowdhury died tonight after a prolonged illness. Doctors attending to him at SSKM Hospital said Chowdhury passed away around 10.15 pm.

Chowdhury, 89, was in hospital for the past one-and-a-half months. Jyoti Basu described him as “one of the most sincere Communist leaders in the country”.

On Tuesday, Chowdhury’s body will be taken to the CPM headquarters, the Assembly and Writers’ Buildings. It will later be handed over to NRS Hospital as Chowdhury had pledged his body to medical science.

Obituary

Benoy Chowdhury’s demise marks the end of an important era of the communist movement in Bengal and the freedom struggle that preceded it. Chowdhury was considered a “political sanyasi” because of his simple life-style, lack of ambition, personal honesty and integrity. In his death the CPM has perhaps lost its last crusader against corruption.

A firm believer in value-based politics, Chowdhury became totally disillusioned with the CPM’s style of functioning and the state government’s performance towards the fag end of his life.

The main builder of the panchayati raj system in Bengal, Chowdhury was born on January 14, 1911, in an affluent “petty-jotedar” family of Burdwan.

His uncle was an associate of Nibaran Ghatak, a poet and teacher, who initiated Kazi Nazrul Islam into revolutionary politics. Another relative, Panchanan Chowdhury, was detained without trial for his links with Bengal revolutionaries.

In 1924 Chowdhury attended a public meeting addressed by Deshbandhu Chitta Ranjan Das in Burdwan. Deshbandhu’s call to the people to join the freedom struggle left an indelible impression on his mind.

After passing the matriculation examination in 1928, Chowdhury and Saroj Mukherjee, his boyhood friend, came to Serampore in Hooghly where they got in touch with Bengal Congress leaders like Atulya Ghosh and Prafulla Chandra Sen. Chowdhury eventually joined Jugantar party, the well-known revolutionary outfit and also took an active interest in the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army of Bhagat Singh.

At the same time he was drawn to Gandhiji’s non-cooperation movement. He took part in the salt satyagraha and was arrested and sentenced to six months’ jail.

The circle, to which he belonged at that time, thus included some of the best-known communists and Congressmen of later years like Saroj Mukherjee and Atulya Ghosh who dominated West Bengal politics for nearly two decades.

The small group often found itself torn between Congress, communist and revolutionary politics. It split ultimately with Mukherjee and Chowdhury devoting themselves to the communist movement and Ghosh staying back in Congress.

In 1931 Chowdhury attended the Karachi Congress as a delegate. But the Congress’ mild attitude towards the landlord class, who were exploiters in his eye, disillusioned him.

Subsequently he came into contact with Abdul Halim who introduced him to Muzaffar Ahmed, one of the founding fathers of the Indian communist movement. He became a member of the communist party in October, 1938.

In the turbulent forties Chowdhury worked on the party’s peasants’ and workers’ fronts and later organised movements of colliery workers in Asansol-Raniganj.

Although Chowdhury never violated party discipline, he neither allowed communist dogma to influence his thought process. This was evident from the manner in which he disapproved of the communists’ assessment of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. “Some comments made by People’s War (the party’s mouthpiece) about Netaji were unfortunate. His honesty, patriotism and integrity were beyond question,” he said in an article on January 23, 1997.

Chowdhury entered the Assembly for the first time in 1952 after defeating Burdwan’s Maharaj Udaychand Mahtab. For the next two decades Chowdhury was engaged with land reforms which helped the CPM build a strong rural vote-bank.

Chowdhury became the minister in charge of land and land reforms when the Left Front came to power in 1977. He served in the same capacity for 19 years till 1996 when he decided not to contest Assembly polls following serious differences with Jyoti Basu.

Sattam Ghose    


 
 
TERROR ALERT CRAWLS TO DELHI 
 
 
FROM CHANDAN NANDY
 
New Delhi, May 6 
An intelligence intercept about a terrorism conclave took over a month to reach the Union home ministry, exposing bottlenecks in the lines of communication when the government is scrambling to live down the Kargil slumber.

The vital piece of intelligence on plans of organisations operating in Jammu and Kashmir was picked by operatives in late March, but North Block received it mid-last week. It was only on Thursday that messages, highlighting possible strikes, were faxed to all states and Union Territories.

On March 29, the Border Security Force intercepted a message which said commanders of Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, along with top functionaries of the United Jihad Council and officials of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, had met somewhere in occupied Kashmir and decided to expand the intelligence network of terror groups.

The message suggests that Pakistan-based outfits are planning to spread out across India, especially in border-states and the south.

March and April are crucial months as terrorists take advantage of the melting snow and sneak into India with help from Pakistani Rangers and army formations which carry out heavy shelling as covering fire.

The intercepted message also indicated that several unknown ISI modules were still in the country and were likely to be activated once the mercenaries sent word to agents in various states.

But officials are stumped about the long time it took the input to reach Delhi. They said the BSF “may surely” have shared the information with other intelligence “consumers” such as the army, paramilitary forces, the Research and Analysis Wing, the Intelligence Bureau, the National Security Council and the Joint Intelligence Committee.

The delay is a reminder of the way intelligence was handled in the run-up to the Kargil crisis. The Centre has recently formed a group of ministers to tone up the intelligence mechanism.

The tardiness also has a parallel with the mishandling of information supplied by the British MI6 to RAW on an impending armsdrop in Purulia in 1995. RAW had despatched three reports to the home ministry, but officials sent the inputs to West Bengal by ordinary post.It took nine days for the envelope to reach Calcutta. By then, the arms had been dropped.    


 
 
MURDER CHARGE STAINS UNIFORM 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Basai (Uttar Pradesh), May 6 
At 84, Hari Singh lost his voice. At 19, Barsha is battling the odds against not losing the child in her womb. Their ordeal began on May 2, a day after he lost his sons and she her husband. The body of Jaspal Singh — Hari Singh’s son and Barsha’s husband — was found in the field on Tuesday morning along with those of three other young farmers, Vijay Singh, Satvir Singh and Sugreev Singh. The four bodies, found by women who went to fetch water, had gunshot wounds on the temple and other parts of the head. Then, beneath one of the bodies, they found a police cap — the first piece in a cold-blooded jigsaw that was still falling into place. The village is now convinced that the four farmers — all in their twenties and Dalits — were killed at point-blank range by law-enforcers eager to prove that they had solved a dacoity at a masjid in which four people were murdered. As an enraged Basai — a village of about 3,000 farmers near Ferozabad — refused to hand over the bodies to the authorities, the administration struck back with an iron fist. The district magistrate asked police to open fire, killing a villager. The police then went on a rampage, beating up women, children and the elderly. The wives of the dead, clinging on to the bodies of their husbands, were assaulted. Barsha, eight months pregnant, was kicked on her stomach. She is being treated by a team of doctors. Vijaylakshmi, the 20-year-old wife of Sugreev Singh, has a broken arm. Hari Singh has lost his power of speech after learning about the death of his sons, Jaspal and Vijay. Santosh Singh, the lone survivor of the police “encounter”, is struggling for his life in a private hospital in Agra. There are bayonet marks all over his body. The villagers, who took him to the clinic surreptitiously, fear for his life as he is the sole eyewitness of the “encounter”. The beleaguered Ram Prakash Gupta government, unable to explain the police action and aware that another killing of Dalits may spell trouble, has transferred the district magistrate, commissioner and superintendent. It has also ordered a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the each next-of-kin of the dead. But the embers are still smouldering. “First, the police said they were not responsible. Then, when we found a police cap under one of the bodies, they said the boys were dacoits. But they were our children who had gone to earn their bread,” cries Bhogilal, a villager. “These boys had just come back from Tundla (near Aligarh) after unloading potatoes. They are not criminals. The Dalits are always soft targets,” says Nihal Singh, a villager. The villagers are appealing for a CBI inquiry.    
 

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