12 shot dead in Bihar midnight massacre
Rajiv-type last farewell for Pilot
BJP braces to back Governor
Sidhu pitches for paaji
Manoj appeal in fund booklet
Court order on Cup telecast
Killing fields bury terror, wait for balm

 
 
12 SHOT DEAD IN BIHAR MIDNIGHT MASSACRE 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
 
Worsaligunge (Nawada), June 12 
Less than 10 days after the massacre of eight backwards in this central Bihar district, 12 members of an upper-caste family were gunned down in their sleep early today.

Over 50 armed men in paramilitary uniform stormed Afsar village well after midnight and opened fire on 15 people sleeping on a terrace. As the victims lay writhing in pain, their throats were slit with long swords.

Eleven people died on the spot. Of the remaining four, one succumbed to injury on way to the hospital. The dead include a four-year-old and a 10-year-old. Two schoolboys who tried to escape when the firing started, are now fighting for their lives in Patna Medical College. The victims were Bhumihars.

“I was awake the whole night. I heard the footsteps of men climbing up. I thought they could be policemen watching over us because tension was prevailing for some time. Then I heard suppressed gunshots. As I tried to stand up, two gun shots were fired at me,” said Babulal Sharma, a 67-year-old survivor. “I wanted to die with them. Why did I survive?” he said, breaking into sobs as he fingered the bullets that had missed him.

Hours after the massacre, hundreds of Bhumihar youth fanned out in Nawada town and began to smash passing vehicles. They also set a morning train on fire near here. The blaze was put out by railway staff.

About 100 residents of surrounding villages gathered at the carnage site and refused to hand over the bodies, which are lying under the blistering sun and already showing signs of decay, to the police till the Governor and the Union home minister arrived.

Senior police officers, including director-general of police K.A. Jacob, and home secretary U.N. Panjiyan were camping in the area till late evening.

Caste tension has been brewing in this part of Nawada after an Independent candidate, Aruna Devi, the wife of alleged gangster Akhilesh Singh, was elected to the Assembly. Her husband, who had helped several senior leaders get elected from the constituency, was allegedly under attack from the Yadav gangs after Aruna’s election.

Following a protracted face-off, Akhilesh Singh’s gang abducted three Dalits and killed five Yadavs, including a minor, on June 3 at Pakribrahma village under Rajobigha block. The incident sparked severe tension, bringing Laloo Prasad Yadav to the village.

The inspector-general of police, Magadh and Patna range, ruled out the involvement of Naxalites in the massacre.

Following angry protests from villagers who alleged the complicity of a deputy superintendent of police, P.K. Mandal, director-general Jacob has promised a probe. Mandal had allegedly visited the Bhumihar family a night before the massacre assuring them full police protection.

The killings will mean fresh trouble for the Rabri Devi government, already under fire from the Opposition and ally Congress for the deteriorating law and order. The National Democratic Alliance today demanded the dismissal of the chief minister for her failure to stop the massacres. The Opposition is expected to step up its campaign against the government.

Neither Rabri Devi nor Laloo Yadav have visited the carnage site. However, the chief minister condemned the killing and said that the next of kin of the dead would be given adequate financial assistance. She also has directed the Nawada police to launch a crackdown on the Akhilesh Singh and Ashok Mahato gangs.

The backward caste gangster who allegedly led today’s attack has been identified as Ashok Mahato. He is believed to be close to a minister in the Rabri Devi Cabinet who is an Independent MLA from Nawada.

The victims were relatives of Bhumihar gangster Akhilesh Singh. Akhilesh’s brother, Rajo Singh, was among the dead. Their mother Malti Devi alleged that a day before the massacre, some unknown men from Rajobigha had asked where their relatives lived. “I had shown them this place without knowing they would eliminate all the male members,” she said.

With tension running high in Nawada, the picturesque town is set to go the Jehanabad way. As this correspondent was returning, an upper-caste gangleader said: “Hope to see you soon at another similar site.”    


 
 
RAJIV-TYPE LAST FAREWELL FOR PILOT 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 12 
Friends, party colleagues and mourners bid a tearful farewell to Rajesh Pilot who was cremated at Nigambodh Ghat here today. The funeral pyre was lit by Pilot’s son Sachin.

Throughout the day, thousands of farmers, party workers and admirers had gathered at Pilot’s 10 Akbar Road residence and the Congress headquarters at 24 Akbar Road to pay their last respects. The Union Cabinet observed two minutes’ silence in the leader’s memory.

The presence of a large and spontaneous crowd and the public expression of grief on the streets of Delhi once again confirmed that the former squadron leader of the Indian Air Force had a mass following — something most Congress stalwarts lack.

The procession took three hours to cover the six-kilometre stretch from Akbar Road to Nigambodh Ghat as party workers and members of the public queued up on both sides of the road.

A reminder of Rajiv Gandhi’s funeral procession, the public response to Pilot was a rare sight in Delhi which is otherwise a city known for its indifference.

Draped in the Congress tricolour, Pilot’s last journey began from a hall in 24 Akbar Road where he had addressed the media a fortnight ago on price-rise and the deteriorating situation in Kashmir.

His supporters raised slogans like “Neta nahin fakir hai, desh ki taqdeer hai” and “Rajesh Pilot amar rahe” even as colleagues Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and Ahmad Patel sobbed uncontrollably.

Earlier, supporters of the Gujjar leader demanded a place for Pilot in the Rajghat area which has samadhis of former Prime Ministers and Mahatma Gandhi. They gheraoed Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee when he visited Pilot’s residence and repeated the demand in the presence of President K.R. Narayanan.

But sources said the Centre was not in a position to concede the demand due to paucity of land in the Rajghat area. Besides, it did not want to set a precedent as a samadhi for Pilot would have led to similar demands in future. So far, except for Sanjay Gandhi, only former Prime Ministers and Presidents have found a resting place near Mahatma Gandhi’s samadhi.

When the situation was about to take an ugly turn, Pilot’s wife Rama reprimanded supporters and asked them to desist from making the demand for his cremation at Rajghat a “political issue”.

“I appreciate your feelings and sentiments. But there should be no attempt to create a political issue by pressing for such a demand,” she said.

She said it was up to the government to make suitable land available for the cremation of political leaders. One Prithvi Singh, however, tried to prevail upon her. “Pilot was your husband but he was our leader. Let us get him what he deserved,” he said.    


 
 
BJP BRACES TO BACK GOVERNOR 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 12 
Close on the heels of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Laloo Prasad Yadav’s meeting with President K. R. Narayanan, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Congress president Sonia Gandhi to drum up support for recalling the allegedly partisan Bihar Governor V.C. Pande, the BJP has decided to launch a counter offensive to back the Governor.

The party plans to start a campaign to back Pande. “We will bring it to the notice of the Governor that the RJD is trying to bring political pressure to influence the cases against Yadav and his chief minister wife Rabri Devi,” a senior party leader said, adding: “The RJD leadership is trying to act smart by making false allegations against the Governor.”

Party sources said the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will soon launch an agitation, seeking the resignation of Rabri as chief minister and also to blunt the misinformation against the Governor by the RJD. The campaign will also target the Congress,an ally of the RJD.

The carnage in Nawada district yesterday, in which 13 persons belonging to the upper caste were killed, has come in handy for the party to launch a fresh offensive against the RJD and the Congress. The party today demanded the resignation of Rabri as her government singularly failed to prevent the series of massacres.    


 
 
SIDHU PITCHES FOR PAAJI 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 12 
Former cricketer Navjyot Singh Sidhu is said to have denied knowledge of Kapil Dev allegedly offering Rs 25 lakh to Manoj Prabhakar to underperform in a 1994 match.

Sidhu, who was examined by the CBI for the second time today, reportedly said he was not among the four Indian cricketers in whose presence Prabhakar alleged he had been approached by Kapil in a Colombo hotel room. The match in question was finally washed out.

Sidhu’s interview may come as a blow to Prabhakar, who had secretly videotaped his meetings with several cricketers and cricket officials, including Sidhu.

While his hidden camera was rolling at Sidhu’s Patiala residence, Prabhakar asked whether the former India opener would take Kapil’s name before the CBI. Sidhu had flatly turned down Prabhakar’s request, saying “he owed a lot to paaji (Kapil)” and would not betray him. Agreeing it was “chacha Choudhary” who had come into the hotel room, Sidhu said it would be very difficult for Prabhakar to prove the allegation.

During his one-and-a-half-hour interview today, Sidhu owned up to what he told Prabhakar as recorded on the videotape.

CBI sources said they were not happy with Sidhu’s account since his indication to Prabhakar that it was “chacha Choudhary” who was the biggest better was in contradiction with his statement that he would not tell on Kapil because “he was indebted to paaji for everything”.

The CBI is yet to come across concrete evidence on match-fixing. It plans to examine former cricketer Ravi Shastri, former India coach-and-manager Ajit Wadekar and wicket-keeper Nayan Mongia, who also had been filmed by Prabhakar.    


 
 
MANOJ APPEAL IN FUND BOOKLET 
 
 
FROM SUCHANDANA GUPTA
 
Bhopal, June 12 
Raids on the Indore office of the investment firm allegedly floated by Manoj Prabhakar have thrown up evidence pointing to the former cricketer’s involvement with the firm which he has disowned, police said.

Additional superintendent of police, Indore, Bhagwant Singh Chouhan, said that during the June 5 swoop on the premises of Apace Indian Corporation Limited, a magazine was recovered in which Prabhakar, as director of the company, has issued a signed appeal to investors, urging them to put their money with the chit fund company.

Besides, Chouhan said, a photo album, a banner mentioning Prabhakar as one of the directors and counterfoils of fixed deposits signed by the former cricketer were found.

Two of the complainants who lodged cases with the police said they are past employees of the company who coerced people into investing with the Apace group. The police said that these employees, unaware of the intentions of the company’s promoters, themselves deposited Rs 50,000 each in a money-double scheme. Apace’s Indore branch started in December 1997.

A police team from the city will leave for Delhi shortly to interrogate Prabhakar.

Devendra Singh Sayangar, the superintendent of police in charge of the case, said: “We will very soon send a police team headed by a deputy superintendent to New Delhi to question Prabhakar and two other main accused in the case. We are still working on the numbers to determine the gravity of the fraud, the exact amount of money and the people who have been cheated. Once we have foolproof evidence, the police party will be sent.”

The former all-rounder, who has denied all allegations, faces four cases of fraud and cheating lodged by the police in Uttar Pradesh.    


 
 
COURT ORDER ON CUP TELECAST 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 12 
Justice Basudev Panigrahi of Calcutta High Court today passed an interim order restraining International Cricket Council (ICC) and its president, Jagmohan Dalmiya, from taking further steps on its decision to reopen bid tender for telecast rights of the World Cups to be held in South Africa, Kenya, and West Indies, till further orders.

The judge passed the order on a petition filed by J. Talwar, a shareholder of Zee Telefilms Limited. The petitioner’s lawyer, Sudipta Sarkar, told the court that in 1999, ICC had invited tenders for telecast rights and Talwar put the highest tender of Rs 2,700 crore.

Recently, the ICC had invited a fresh bid of tender ignoring the earlier one.

The matter has been fixed for hearing on Friday. The petitioner has been directed to serve petition copies to the respondents in the meantime.    


 
 
KILLING FIELDS BURY TERROR, WAIT FOR BALM 
 
 
FROM GAJINDER SINGH
 
Pakhariwal (Gurdaspur), June 12 
For 10 years, this small hamlet in the district described as the cradle of terrorism lived under the constant shadow of the gun. Seven years on, the shadow has gone but the darkness remains.

Tucked in a corner 16 km from Gurdaspur on the Dera Baba Nanak Road, Pakhariwal is basking under an excellent crop of wheat. With the monsoon arriving ahead of schedule, the farmers in this village of 300 are expecting a windfall rice harvest.

“Peace has helped us concentrate more on our fields,” said Gurmukh Singh, a small farmer owning 16 acres. “Earlier, when the kharkus (terrorists) moved around unchallenged and forced us to part with a good amount of our harvest and earnings, the world seemed to have collapsed around us. Each day began with stories of how the kharkus were operating and killings and extortions. There was no administration then, only the terrorists,” he added.

Another villager, Pritam Singh, who said he had lost many relatives in the fight against militancy, said terrorists had halted all development. “We don’t have industries and even our filmi MP Vinod Khanna seems to be content resting in airconditioned comfort during his visits here, which are becoming less frequent. Gurdaspur needs a balm on the wounds it suffered during militancy. People want to forget those dark days but unfortunately nobody in the government seems to care,” he said.

The Hindus, who had mostly fled to safer cities like Ludhiana and Jalandhar, have trickled back to their villages and fields and businesses. “For 10 years we virtually lived in fear. The period from 1983 to 1993 was scary. Wherever we fled, it seemed the kharkus followed us.We had become refugees in our own state,” said Ram Lall, who owns a general store in Gurdaspur.

He returned in 1993 after the Beant Singh government assured the community of full protection. “While the government did instil in us some sense of security, it was the local population which gave us the confidence to return. We have not felt discriminated against after our return,” he added.

Most Hindus praised the local Sikh community for welcoming them on their return. The Sikhs, who bore the brunt of the terrorists’ ire, feel the credit for rooting out militancy should go to them.

“The facts prove that the common Sikh was responsible for the end of terrorism in the state. We were the Khalistanis’ first target. When we refused to toe their line for a separate nation, they trained their guns on the Hindus. It was a ploy to force us to obey their dictates. But the community stuck to its guns.

The majority of those killed during militancy have been Sikhs. Credit should also go to the Hindus. They too gave their blood to ensure that Punjab remained a part of India,” said Harvinder Singh, a constable who was critically wounded in a shootout with terrorists in Gurdaspur.

Though more needs to be done for the development of the district, the cash-strapped Akali-BJP government has asked the Centre for funds to alleviate some of the problems faced by people living close to the international border.

“From Ferozepur to Amritsar and Gurdaspur, the entire belt is too sensitive for the state to handle alone. This is the reason why we have petitioned the Centre for funds. Punjab’s problems are the nation’s problems and the Centre has a major role to play in solving them,” a senior Punjab government official said.

Most villagers in Gurdaspur felt that terrorism, as witnessed in the eighties, is unlikely to resurface. “The Khalistan slogan will continue to be heard in the years to come mainly because of the destruction of the Akal Takht and damage to the Golden Temple during Operation Bluestar in 1984. Everybody talks of Operation Blue Star but no one mentions Operation Black Thunder. The people know what they had to go through during those dark days. Militancy can never find roots here again,” said Parampal Singh in Bimial, a village close to the border.

The local administration, however, is not leaving anything to chance. “Politically, the situation is dangerous. The chief minister (Parkash Singh Badal) is facing numerous challenges from militant Akali factions and terrorist activity has increased on the border with Jammu and Kashmir,” a senior district official said.

He added that there were intelligence reports of terrorists regrouping and the dumping of a large quantity of arms and ammunition in the district.    

 

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