Five hacked in Bihar carnage
DMK for Lanka divide & rule
CBI drags feet on armsdrop
Old boys catch up with Park Street by the Thames
Sena makes peace with politics
Private eyes follow minister

 
 
FIVE HACKED IN BIHAR CARNAGE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Nawada, June 4 
A day after Sonia Gandhi’s warning to the Bihar government on law and order, five members of two Yadav families were massacred early today in Rajbigha village, about 25 km from here.

Over 20 people, believed to be followers of a notorious gangster, raided the village during the early hours armed with revolvers, rifles, chopper and bombs. They dragged the victims from their houses and hacked them to death.

The killing sparked tension in at least six villages around Rajbigha. Police deployment prevented further violence, but when Laloo Prasad Yadav reached Rajbigha around 3 pm, he faced an unruly mob. The crowd, however, was kept at bay by the police.

Rajbigha, which comes under Pakribarwa police station, is located in the hills, making it almost inaccesible. After a stretch of 10 km off the main Nawada-Hazaribag road, there is no motorable road to the village. The Yadav huts are scattered on a patch of open land. Last night several persons were sleeping outside due to the hot weather. There was little resistance to the killers as they sneaked in and tied the victims’ hands tied before killing them.

The dead have been identified as Amrit Yadav, Kamo Yadav, Sudha Yadav, Sikha Devi and Mintu Kumari.

Though Nawada has been bleeding for a long time as the MCC and PWG has been vying for a support base here, the fact that even the 45-year-old Sikha Devi and her 12-year-old daughter Mintu Kumari were not spared rules out the possibility of the militant groups’ involvement. In Nawada, the Ranbir Sena does not have a base either.

Some feel the Ali Sena, a front for the landed Muslims involved in a running battle with the locals, may be behind the killings.

The police, however, are not ready to buy this theory. The Ali Sena usually fights tribals whose land they want to usurp, an inspector at Pakribarwa police station said.

“We have not been able to identify the killers but the name of a gangster has figured in the preliminary probe. We have not divulged his name for obvious reasons,” Bihar police chief K.A. Jacob said. Jacob is camping here to supervise the combing operation.

The police have rounded up 11 persons and they are being interrogated. The most vital clue to this case could be provided by 20-year-old Karendi Yadav, one of the victims, who the assailants left mistaking for dead. He is fighting for his life in Nawada hospital. He may be shifted to Patna soon. The police suggested the motive could be an old dispute in the village. A month ago in an adjoining village, Bastalia, three members of a backward caste were butchered by the same gang over a harvest.

The RJD chief, who reached here with two of his party ministers, expressed shocked at the brutality of the killing. “The anger on a particular caste is clearly designed to foment trouble. There is a bit of an evil plot to destabilise my government. But the killers will not be successful in their mission,” Laloo said, announcing a compensation of Rs 1 lakh and government jobs.

The Nawada massacre pushed up the political temperature in Patna. On Friday, two Dalits were killed in Nalanda, spurring Sonia to remind Rabri Devi about the decline in law and order.

The BJP ridiculed the ruling party for its failure “to even protect the Yadavs, majority of whose members were responsible for electing Laloo Yadav back to power for the third time”.

The Congress remained tight-lipped. But it was felt the killings may cause a fresh fissure in its relations with the RJD.    


 
 
DMK FOR LANKA DIVIDE & RULE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Chennai, June 4 
In a clever attempt to assuage Tamil sentiments, chief minister M. Karunanidhi has suggested that Sri Lanka be divided into two independent countries to resolve the ethnic crisis in the island nation.

But aware that his statement might be interpreted as an open support to the LTTE cause, he immediately qualified it, saying that such a course of action could only be taken if the Chandrika Kumaratunga government continued to ignore the grievances of the Tamil population.

Addressing a public meeting yesterday on his 77th birthday, Karunanidhi said the Lankan government was battling an enemy from within — which was its failure to make the Tamils feel at home.

The government’s devolutionary package had taken years in coming, he said, and added that if the problems could not be solved amicably, divorce was the only way out.

As a precedent, he pointed to the example of Czechoslovakia which had split into two without any bloodshed.

The chief minister also stressed that he was against any military intervention by India in the island’s affairs, even if Colombo requested.

“We need not interfere in the affairs of another family,” he said. “If the husband and wife cannot get along well, divorce is the only way out.”

The chief minister made it clear that he was not taking up the cause of the LTTE and that he was only pointing to the difficult situation in which the Tamils at large were placed in the island.

Tamil Nadu watchers say Karunanidhi’s statement should be seen in the backdrop of the pro-LTTE lobby becoming more active in the state.

Since the DMK government has repeatedly come down on any pro-Tiger demonstration, observers said Karunanidhi’s statements were aimed at silencing adversaries who had started a whisper campaign saying that he had no sympathy for the suffering Lankan Tamils.

Though MDMK leader Vaiko was forced to call off his rally yesterday by the chief minister, another pro-Prabhakaran leader, PMK chief S. Ramadoss, praised Karunanidhi for his statement yesterday. Ramadoss, who was the only Tamil leader apart from Jayalalitha not to greet him on his birthday, today studiously avoided making any reference to Karunanidhi’s anti-Tiger statements in the past. He also paid him glowing tributes at a news conference later.    


 
 
CBI DRAGS FEET ON ARMSDROP 
 
 
FROM CHANDAN NANDY
 
New Delhi, June 4: 
US law enforcement authorities are reported to have tracked down aides of Purulia armsdrop mastermind Kim Peter Davy, but the CBI is yet to send letters rogatory to Washington to push the case.

Well-placed CBI sources said they had reason to believe that over the past year some associates of absconding mastermind Niels Christian Nielsen, alias Davy, had been traced. Leads indicate that two of them —- Robert Dean Child and William Loose (near Denver, Colorado) —- had kept in close touch with Davy after he fled Mumbai on December 27, 1995. The arms were airdropped over Purulia earlier the same month.

Investigations have shown that it was Child, alias Robert Caring, who helped Davy cross the Indo-Nepal border after he escaped from Mumbai. In his late Forties, Child is an American national but lives in Brazil. Immigration records show that he flew in from Singapore, but there is no record of his leaving India legally.

Other US nationals like S. Fordan, alias Dhruba, one Mrs Singh and David Ottee (New York), convicted for a bomb blast in Sydney in the eighties, formed a ring around Davy when he jumped from country to country to evade arrest. One of Davy’s uncles also lives in the US. Davy is believed to have met him in 1998.

Sources said despite “strong indications” that these American nationals “could lead” investigators to Davy, the CBI had done little to push the case in the US. It has neither sent letters rogatory to “competent authorities” in Washington nor has it tried to convince the government that a “logical conclusion” can be reached only if the matter of investigations in the US is given serious thought.

The CBI is, however, planning a brief note for home minister L.K. Advani so that he can take up the matter with Interpol during his visit to Lyons mid-June.

“Inquiries carried out through our own sources have essentially been at informal levels. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, US State Department, ministry of justice and the Diplomatic Security Service have sent in bits and pieces of information. Unless formal letters rogatory issued by a competent Indian court are despatched, we will not get any meaningful assistance,” an official said.

It was the hunt for Davy, primarily by Interpol and CBI, that gave an indication of the worldwide contacts of the fugitive Dane, particularly in South-east Asia, South America and the US. Davy was last spotted in Rotterdam in February this year where he expressed willingness to surrender in a television interview. He was kept under surveillance but before the Dutch police could arrest him, he fled. First sighted in Orebro, a Swedish town, in January 1996, Davy surfaced in Sao Paolo, Brazil, in the company of Caring in January 1998.    


 
 
OLD BOYS CATCH UP WITH PARK STREET BY THE THAMES 
 
 
FROM AMIT ROY AND SUMAN BHUCHAR
 
London, June 4 
Distinguished former pupils of St Xavier’s Collegiate School, Calcutta, who met in London yesterday to hold the first international gathering of their alumni, confirmed their status as pillars of their community. But it was not always thus.

Under gentle prodding, Amit Ghosh (class of 1974), now a respected neurological surgeon, revealed he was the one who had stuck a pin on the chair of “Mr Hassan, the maths teacher”. He could also recall such regular occurrences as being “beaten for having my nails too long, the Monday morning checks and having my hair cut by prefects also because it was too long”. “Our favourite pastime,” said Ghosh, one of the organisers of “Exalus 2000”, with a naughty-boy demeanour, “was hanging around the ice-cream parlour near Loreto, a stone’s throw away.” He summed up one aim of the reunion: “To gel the alumni with international networking.”

More than 30 years on, the mystery of the two fish dangling from the ceiling fan can also be solved. Amit Roy (1966), one of about one hundred old boys who turned up for the reunion from India, the United States, Africa, the UK and other parts of Europe, admitted he was part of the gang of five responsible for attaching the said fish to the fan. “The whole class got caned,” Roy, a senior executive with Electro-Steel in Calcutta, remembered fondly.

There was a serious purpose to the gathering as well. Ina Puri, whose husband, Ravi Puri, an ITC executive, is an old boy, said it was to raise money for Titlee, a school for disadvantaged children run within the boundaries of St Xavier’s in Park Street. “Titlee in Bengali means butterfly and the idea is to bring new life to these children,” she explained.

Cultural functions organised yesterday by Ina Puri, an events organiser in Calcutta, included an exhibition of paintings by the artist Manjit Bawa; a concert by Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, the santoor maestro; a display of sculpture by Divakar Shetty; and a performance of Tumhari Amrita, with Shabana Azmi and Farooque Shaikh.

The reunion was held in the spacious Queen Elizabeth II conference centre just off Parliament Square. Silk saries were hung in the main auditorium to add a touch of elegance, and dinner was served in the Caxton Room overlooking a floodlit Westminster Abbey. A group of current pupils, on an exchange programme in Dublin, held up the St Xavier’s motto, Nihil Ultra (Nothing Beyond), and sang the St Xavier’s theme song.

Earlier in the day, awards were given to famous old boys, including Shashi Tharoor, the suave author and director of communications at the UN. He read a poem by Rabindranath Tagore, who had apparently attended St Xavier’s. The school balanced academic excellence “with a lot of concern for the world outside”, Tharoor said.

Three recipients, India’s cricket captain Saurav Ganguly, steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, and West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu were unable to attend. “His coach, Leslie de Gama, used to say Saurav was good at football rather than cricket,” said one boy from the group visiting Dublin.

The UK contingent included M. Reza Beyad (1971), a successful businessman, who commented: “The overriding thing one remembers are the secular values taught to us. I am a practising Muslim and went to a Catholic school.”

There was also Nirvana Dutt (1966), a chartered accountant, who “had a lovely time, I played cricket”, and Piyal Sen (1982), a forensic psychiatrist, who observed that “this is my club but we don’t go out of our way to advertise we are Xaverians”.

Some remembered Father Camille “Itchy Fingers” Bouche, a former headmaster honoured yesterday with a lifetime achievement award, as a “caner”. But he was defended by Arjun Varma (1980), who runs a restaurant and property business in London: “Loved Father Bouche, he was a gem.”

After an afterdinner pep talk last night by Baroness Shreela Flather, Father Andre Bruylants, the present headmaster who has been in the job 10 years, declared himself a “happy man”.

He had earlier said that the school, founded in 1860, now had 2,300 boys, aged between six and 18, charged fees of Rs 500 a month, and had 1,500 applications for 400 sought-after places every year.

Fr Bruylants, who had come to India from his native Belgium in 1949, emphasised that the school now attached more importance to English books written by Indians, encouraged Bengali and Hindi drama and elocution contests, and offered greater assistance for poorer pupils. “Corporal punishment,” he added, “has considerably declined.” Distinguished former pupils of St Xavier’s Collegiate School, Calcutta, who met in London yesterday to hold the first international gathering of their alumni, confirmed their status as pillars of their community. But it was not always thus.

Under gentle prodding, Amit Ghosh (class of 1974), now a respected neurological surgeon, revealed he was the one who had stuck a pin on the chair of “Mr Hassan, the maths teacher”. He could also recall such regular occurrences as being “beaten for having my nails too long, the Monday morning checks and having my hair cut by prefects also because it was too long”. “Our favourite pastime,” said Ghosh, one of the organisers of “Exalus 2000”, with a naughty-boy demeanour, “was hanging around the ice-cream parlour near Loreto, a stone’s throw away.” He summed up one aim of the reunion: “To gel the alumni with international networking.”

More than 30 years on, the mystery of the two fish dangling from the ceiling fan can also be solved. Amit Roy (1966), one of about one hundred old boys who turned up for the reunion from India, the United States, Africa, the UK and other parts of Europe, admitted he was part of the gang of five responsible for attaching the said fish to the fan. “The whole class got caned,” Roy, a senior executive with Electro-Steel in Calcutta, remembered fondly.

There was a serious purpose to the gathering as well. Ina Puri, whose husband, Ravi Puri, an ITC executive, is an old boy, said it was to raise money for Titlee, a school for disadvantaged children run within the boundaries of St Xavier’s in Park Street. “Titlee in Bengali means butterfly and the idea is to bring new life to these children,” she explained.

Cultural functions organised yesterday by Ina Puri, an events organiser in Calcutta, included an exhibition of paintings by the artist Manjit Bawa; a concert by Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, the santoor maestro; a display of sculpture by Divakar Shetty; and a performance of Tumhari Amrita, with Shabana Azmi and Farooque Shaikh.

The reunion was held in the spacious Queen Elizabeth II conference centre just off Parliament Square. Silk saries were hung in the main auditorium to add a touch of elegance, and dinner was served in the Caxton Room overlooking a floodlit Westminster Abbey. A group of current pupils, on an exchange programme in Dublin, held up the St Xavier’s motto, Nihil Ultra (Nothing Beyond), and sang the St Xavier’s theme song.

Earlier in the day, awards were given to famous old boys, including Shashi Tharoor, the suave author and director of communications at the UN. He read a poem by Rabindranath Tagore, who had apparently attended St Xavier’s. The school balanced academic excellence “with a lot of concern for the world outside”, Tharoor said.

Three recipients, India’s cricket captain Saurav Ganguly, steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, and West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu were unable to attend. “His coach, Leslie de Gama, used to say Saurav was good at football rather than cricket,” said one boy from the group visiting Dublin.

The UK contingent included M. Reza Beyad (1971), a successful businessman, who commented: “The overriding thing one remembers are the secular values taught to us. I am a practising Muslim and went to a Catholic school.”

There was also Nirvana Dutt (1966), a chartered accountant, who “had a lovely time, I played cricket”, and Piyal Sen (1982), a forensic psychiatrist, who observed that “this is my club but we don’t go out of our way to advertise we are Xaverians”.

Some remembered Father Camille “Itchy Fingers” Bouche, a former headmaster honoured yesterday with a lifetime achievement award, as a “caner”. But he was defended by Arjun Varma (1980), who runs a restaurant and property business in London: “Loved Father Bouche, he was a gem.”

After an afterdinner pep talk last night by Baroness Shreela Flather, Father Andre Bruylants, the present headmaster who has been in the job 10 years, declared himself a “happy man”.

He had earlier said that the school, founded in 1860, now had 2,300 boys, aged between six and 18, charged fees of Rs 500 a month, and had 1,500 applications for 400 sought-after places every year.

Fr Bruylants, who had come to India from his native Belgium in 1949, emphasised that the school now attached more importance to English books written by Indians, encouraged Bengali and Hindi drama and elocution contests, and offered greater assistance for poorer pupils. “Corporal punishment,” he added, “has considerably declined.”    


 
 
SENA MAKES PEACE WITH POLITICS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, June 4: 
The recent arrest of a Ranbir Sena area commander from the outskirts of the city has exposed the vulnerability of the private army of the upper caste landlords. It has also highlighted another discomfiting fact: that maintaining a force just for the sake of revenge can be difficult.

Ara area commander Upendra Singh, who has been arrested, was a Bhumihar who failed to cultivate his land because of the Naxalite threat. To take revenge he joined the Sena, thinking that this would help him have an edge over his Naxalite rivals.

Upendra, however, confessed that he had “never seen the top man, Barmesh Singh. I have only executed his orders.”

Asked about the killings he carried out before he joined the Sena in 1996, he said: “Give me a gun, I can just kill, that’s all.”

He has one fear now — the Sena top brass might kill his family members if he spills the beans during interrogation.

Senior superintendent of police Sunil Kumar described Upendra as a prize catch. He was allegedly involved in the massacre of nearly 150 Dalits in Bathe Lakshmanpur, Narayanpur and Khagri Bigha and elsewhere in the state.

Bihar watchers say the killings have betrayed the cause for which the Ranbir Sena was created. It failed to look after the interest of the farmers after leaders like Sunil Pandey graduated to mainstream politics.

While Naxalites continued killing farmers, the Sena as a reactionary outfit lay in tatters, carrying out only sporadic counter-attacks.

The latest blow came after Naxalite prisoners in Jehanabad jail engineered a riot killing two of its top leaders.

In Belam, the village in Bhojpur where the outfit was born, Sena prowess today wears a desolate look. Gone is the earlier arrogance, when the village walls were emblazoned with slogans like “We cannot sit back like Gandhi, so we have decided to be like Subhas Chandra Bose”.

Even the small office of the Rashtrawadi Kishan Mahasangha, the political face of the Ranbir Sena, remains closed most of the time.

The last six months have also seen a steady shift of focus in the relative importance of the two organisations.

While the Sena maintains a low profile, the Mahasangha keeps parleying with political parties for an acceptable deal for the farmers.

Last month, the Mahasangha took out a massive rally in Patna town to protest the killing of prisoners in Jehanabad Jail.

Bihar watchers say the Sena supporters are slowly veering round to the idea that mere revenge killings will not serve its purpose as the writ of Naxalites still runs large. Lands, on which they have declared economic blockade, still lie fallow.

The Mahasangha’s search for political legitimacy — by keeping the Sena under check — has also borne fruit.

In the 1999 Lok Sabha polls, the Sena-supported candidate mustered enough votes to ensure the defeat of the Janata Dal (United) candidate.

The tilt in balance has also affected the status of the common Sena cadre who are used only to carry out revenge killings.

Upendra’s arrest is a pointer to that. Despite his rank, he had to take it easy on his security and fell into the police trap.    


 
 
PRIVATE EYES FOLLOW MINISTER 
 
 
FROM DIPTOSH MAJUMDAR
 
New Delhi, June 4 
N. Shanmugham, minister of state with independent charge, is forever haunted by his political boss and mentor, PMK chief S. Ramadoss. Wherever he goes, Ramadoss’ informers follow him and never let him out of sight. Even his house has not been entirely his own. He had to accommodate one of Ramadoss’ trusted lieutenants to keep vigil on his movements.

Recently shifted from the health ministry by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Shanmugham has joined the coal ministry. So have Ramadoss’ men who include Shanmugham’s private secretary, Atulya Mishra and his officer on special duty, Dhananjay Kumar. Shanmugham has never complained. He knows that if he defies Ramadoss, he will go his predecessor and former Union health minister Dalit Ezhilmalai’s way. Ezhilmalai paid a price for going against Ramadoss and his political career is virtually over after he joined the ADMK.

After Shanmugham’s departure, it is now coming to light to what extent the private secretary and the officer on special duty influenced the minister’s decision-making. Not that the two got along all the time. There was an undercurrent of tension between Mishra and Kumar and this hurt the ministry’s functioning. Officials knew that they did not have to please the minister. It was either the private secretary or the officer on special duty who mattered more.

Mishra is a civil servant who had worked with Ramadoss at some point in his career and has since acquired proximity with the PMK chief. On the other hand, Dhananjay is the Ramadoss’ son-in-law. The joke doing the rounds in Nirman Bhavan is that other than Bal Thackeray, no other politician has perfected the remote control technique than Ramadoss.

“Faxes about Shanmugham’s daily schedule were sent to Ramadoss in Chennai. The minister’s driver would be asked to inform either Kumar or Mishra if Shanmugham had altered his schedule,” recall amused bureaucrats.

And the minister, it appears, could not even relax at home. “Shanmugham had to accommodate Ramadoss’ son-in-law -— the officer on special duty saab — in his own bungalow. Dhananjay refused to stay anywhere else. As a result, the car which should have been used by Shanmugham’s family members was often left at the disposal of the officer on special duty,” they added.

With the officer on special duty staying at Shamugham’s place, the minister could do nothing without Ramadoss’ knowledge. The PMK leader in Chennai was aware of what was happening at Nirman Bhavan. Ramadoss never chose to become a Union minister himself even though he had been approached by the BJP. He gifted the jobs to his senior party functionaries but made sure that they were no better than marionettes.

The tension between the minister’s two subordinates often affected the day-to-day functioning at the ministry. No one knows why Ramadoss allowed the two to continue despite the distance between them. Probably, it was part of the check-and-balance system he had devised to ensure that no one person could rule the roost.

It is easy to explain why Ramadoss was peeved over the reallocation of portfolios. He did not want the network functioning at the health ministry to be upset. Now that the party has been given the coal ministry, the same system is expected to be put in place there. So Shanmugham has not gone there alone. He has taken his personal secretary and officer on special duty along with him.

   

 

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