Bloodbath in Bihar revenge belt
King Commission to send troika on India mission
Tamil refugees shut out mid-sea

Mianpur (Aurangabad), June 17 
Shattering a year’s uneasy calm, the Ranbir Sena mowed down 40 people last night in a macabre show of vendetta violence.

Among those killed were 20 women and six children, including infants who were shot through the head. At least 16 people are battling with death in a Gaya hospital.

Most of the victims were backward Yadavs. By taking on Laloo Yadav’s caste for the first time, the Sena has thrown a direct challenge at the Bihar strongman.

The attack on this speck of a hamlet around 190 km from Patna is believed to have been provoked by last week’s massacre of 12 upper caste Bhumihars in neighbouring Nawada.

Eyewitness said they saw a group of men dressed in black commando uniform moving around the village at 7.30 pm. “Asked where they had come from, they said they were looking for their buffaloes which had strayed into the region from Senari, 3 km away,” said Baldeo Yadav, a 55-year-old man whose son and daughter-in-law were among those gunned down.

Not convinced by the strangers’ explanation, the villagers informed the police outpost in Saharsa. The policemen scouted the area and went away, saying there was nothing to fear.

“As the policemen left, the firing began from three sides of the village,” said Bachcha Narayan Yadav.

At least 100 Sena cadre, all clad in black and carrying SLRs, swooped down on the village and began firing.

“Some of our men were yet to return to the village from their farms. Hearing the gunshots, they hid outside. Hence, most victims are women,” said Rebati Devi.

Located on the border of three districts — Aurangabad, Gaya and Jehanabad — and not accessible by road, this backward village of 100 families was like a sitting duck for the assassins. Escape routes are few and the killers ensured they blocked all.

Survivors said the assailants shouted slogans for the Ranbir Sena before leaving. “Long live Ranbir Sena. We have taken revenge on Senari,” the villagers quoted the killers as saying.

Over 30 Bhumihars were butchered by lower-caste assailants in Senari in March 1999. The Ranbir Sena, a private army of upper caste landlords, had vowed to take revenge but had laid low.

Of the 40 killed in Mianpur, 26 were Yadavs, nine Paswans and the rest belonged to the Mistri caste.

Under pressure to halt the soaring crime graph, Laloo, accompanied by half a dozen state ministers, reached the spot only to be greeted by a hostile crowd.    

New Delhi, June 17 
The Edwin King Commission investigating allegations of match-fixing in South Africa has received diplomatic clearance to send a team to India. The three-member delegation is expected to arrive next week.

The commission wants to build a foolproof case against guilty cricketers and would like to talk to Delhi police and the CBI to find out details about the bookies with whom sacked South African captain Hansie Cronje may have collaborated.

The panel will also try to get hold of the audio-tapes with the police and make its own assessment of the recordings.

In return for their assistance, Delhi police will try and drive a hard bargain with the commission. The police are willing to hand over the audio-tapes implicating Cronje provided the South Africans explain the implications of the government’s amnesty offer to the sacked captain.

The police want Cronje to testify in courts in India to add teeth to their case against him and the three other persons they want to chargesheet — actor Kishen Kumar and bookies Rajesh Kalra and Sanjeev Chawla.

The CBI, on the other hand, wants only the transcripts of all the depositions made before the King Commission.

The South African high commissioner to India, who is in Pretoria now, is expected to brief officials on the possibilities of cooperation from Indian investigating agencies. She will also hand over India’s permission to the King Commission representatives to visit the country.

The cooperation between the two countries suggests that they have decided to forget past misunderstandings. Pretoria had initially been dismissive of the Delhi police’s revelations and had doubted their credibility. Cronje’s confession and the subsequent disclosures by other cricketers have convinced South Africa that India was not carrying out a diplomatic witchhunt.

The Thabo Mbeki government in South Africa appears to have been satisfied by India’s argument that the Cronje saga is a simple case of corruption and Pretoria should not unnecessarily stick out its neck to save an “overwhelmingly white-dominated United Cricket Board” by turning it into a diplomatic tussle.

Hunt for MK

The CBI has launched a massive hunt for a Mukesh Gupta, who it believes is the “MK” named by Cronje. The former South Africa captain had said the bookie had led him astray after a meeting arranged by Mohammed Azharuddin in 1996.

The CBI, in collaboration with Delhi police, has raided Gupta’s house in Defence Colony as well as his jewellery shop in South Extension several times.

CBI officials believe that unlike big-time bookies like Mohan Khattar, Gupta may not have found time to leave the country. They have alerted the airports and copies of his photographs have been distributed.

The investigators believe that if they are able to pin down Gupta and inquire into his financial transactions over the past few years, they might be able to trace his association with a few Indian cricketers.

The only hitch is that Gupta had been trying to disassociate himself from the bookies and the sleuths are not sure whether he was in business in 1996. All the money he made appears to have been invested in the jewellery shop that he owns in South Extension in partnership with his wife and his father.

The shop was inaugurated only three months ago. Gupta’s father has been at pains to explain how his son, who was a clerk with Syndicate Bank only 10 years ago, acquired so much wealth. Gupta’s Defence Colony bungalow, which he bought in 1995, is valued at Rs 3 crore.

The elder Gupta’s claim that his son dabbled in real estate for some time after leaving his bank job is failing to convince the police. The CBI, on the other hand, is aware that Gupta shared good rapport with bookies.    

Chennai, June 17 
In a dramatic policy reversal, India today slammed doors on a batch of Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka and allowed them to be shipped back home in a vessel sent by the island nation.

This is the first time that refugees from Lanka have been turned back mid-sea, signalling a hardening of stance by the Tamil Nadu government and the Centre.

The refugees, numbering around 50, had been offloaded by Jaffna fishermen near an island-like formation off Rameswaram on the south-eastern coast. However, unlike on previous occasions, their pleas to Indian Coast Guards and fishermen plying the route to take them to the Tamil Nadu shore fell on deaf ears.

In the evening, a Lankan naval vessel appeared and all the refugees were forcibly herded into it. Sources in Rameswaram told The Telegraph that the operation was masterminded jointly by Indian and Lankan authorities. It was on an Indian tip-off that Lanka sent the vessel, they added.

Officials in Chennai were tightlipped and those in Rameswaram were quoted as saying that since the action took place “in Lankan waters”, they had no comment to offer.

Karunanidhi has been supporting the cause of the Tamils, but he had been making it clear that he would not like to be burdened with more refugees who could become a law and order problem. The state now hosts more than 65,000 refugees in 120 camps. In the last few months, over 1,200 refugees have reached Tamil Nadu.

Today’s closed-door policy could create problems within the ruling coalition at the Centre as leaders like Ramadoss and Vaiko are not expected to support the move.

So far, the state and Central governments were only discouraging the influx of refugees, but never orchestrating their return before they set foot on Indian soil.

In the eighties, which saw a massive exodus from Jaffna, the refugees were given a red-carpet welcome. However, in the next wave in 1990 — after the IPKF-Tiger confrontation — the boats ferrying refugees were regularly impounded. But the refugees were allowed to stay back.

Despite the boat seizures, thousands continued to arrive. India also allowed special ships to bring in supporters of Tamil groups which had joined hands with Delhi.

During Jayalalitha’s regime, over 30,000 refugees were forcibly repatriated, but the drive was suspended following protests from human rights groups. But the administration imposed a series of restrictions on the refugees, making life difficult in the camps.    


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