Jethmalani goes to war
Eleven die as Bengal blood trail spreads
Atal in Trinamul-CPM crossfire
Mianpur murderer spills beans
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, July 27 
After being prevented from making a statement in Parliament, ousted law minister Ram Jethmalani today mounted a scathing attack on the Prime Minister, the chief justice and the attorney-general and defiantly released the 18-page statement addressed to the Rajya Sabha chairman to the media.

Addressing a news conference at his official residence, Jethmalani sought the removal of attorney-general Soli J. Sorabjee, made allegations against the chief justice and criticised Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, saying the “PM did not have even the courtesy to phone me even while seeking my resignation”.

Jethmalani, who some senior ministers were persuading not to go public with his statement, dared all to take action against him for what could amount to a violation of the Official Secrets Act.

Asked to elaborate his grievances against Vajpayee, Jethmalani said: “Look, I can give you two illustrations: he (the Prime Minister) did not even ring up to seek my resignation — it was sought through others — and he never met me despite my repeated requests to discuss issues of national importance.”

He added that Vajpayee was misled by “those who had the ear of the Prime Minister which I did not have, at least on the crucial day”.

Jethmalani argued that the observations made by the Supreme Court against the Centre in the Bal Thackeray case would not be part of the court records as in every case, judges ask the counsel various questions and make oral observations.

This, he claimed, was not told to the Prime Minister by the attorney-general who misled Vajpayee into believing that the remarks were part of a judgment.

Asked whether possession of documents and the correspondence he had with the chief justice and the attorney-general would not amount to violation of the Official Secrets Act, Jethmalani retorted: “Let them prosecute...I shall the possession of correspondence between me and others would amount to violation of any law.”

However, law minister Arun Jaitley said he would call for an inquiry to ascertain how his predecessor photocopied documents classified as “secret and confidential”.

Jethmalani even cited the correspondence and his telephone conversation with chief justice A.S. Anand on the land deal involving the chief justice’s family in Madhya Pradesh.

Jethmalani said he was trying to record Anand’s version and was handling the file seeking sanction to prosecute the chief justice.

This, according to Jethmalani, provoked Anand to make adverse remarks against him during an unconnected case — the Srikrishna report. “I had made no comments on that report or its implementation,” Jethmalani said.

“The propriety of the chief justice in making the observations which he did is questionable. The case before the Supreme Court was about the non-implementation of the Srikrishna report,” the former minister said.

Jethmalani argued that Sorabjee should have apprised the judges that his (Jethmalani’s) observations had nothing to do with the issue before the court.

Jethmalani said it was the attorney-general’s duty to seek instructions from the Centre as the chief justice’s attack that “my government was not a civilised government” and “the notion of collective Cabinet responsibility seemed to be totally missing” were “not only directed against me, but the entire government”.

“I resigned without a murmur because what the attorney-general did or did not do during the hearing of the Justice Srikrishna case was the culmination of a series of incidents which tell their own tale and give to the last act of Mr Sorabjee the effect of the last straw on the camel’s back,” Jethmalani said.

“I would not continue to be a minister for a minute had I to sacrifice my self-respect,” he added.    

July 27 
After Keshpur, another theatre of violence emerged in Bengal today as 11 people were killed and several seriously injured in a fierce clash between armed CPM and Trinamul Congress supporters at Nanoor in Birbhum district.

The clash, centering round tilling rights, rocked four villages for two hours from 7 am, police said.

As the Nanoor killings erupted in the Assembly, the government despatched land minister Suryakanta Misra to assess the situation. It avoided making a statement in the House — for which the Opposition was clamouring — pending Misra’s report.

The Trinamul claimed that all those killed were its supporters. Party chief Mamata Banerjee has left New Delhi for Nanoor via Bolpur. She will reach tomorrow morning. Her aides said she would visit the hospital where the bodies have been kept.

Suchpur, Khujutipara and Nabasta villages reverberated with cries for blood as a few scores of men armed with spears, scythes, crowbars and crude firearms savaged one another over tilling rights.

Contesting the Trinamul claim, CPM officials said “the dead were outsiders who had come armed to snatch lands from bargadars (sharecroppers) for local landlords. Their attacks had provoked the villagers into resistance in which several outsiders were killed”.

In Calcutta, Youth Congress president Paresh Pal called a dawn-to-dusk Bangla bandh on Monday.

Trinamul spokesman Pankaj Banerjee demanded deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya’s resignation for failing to contain violence in the state. “Did we do any harm seeking President’s rule?” he said.

“The CPM is spreading terror before the Assembly elections. CPM activists pounced upon small farmers who went to cultivate land. The Trinamul had been helping these farmers to resist CPM land-grabbing in Nanoor,” Banerjee said.

The killings sent shockwaves through legislators. Congress and Trinamul MLAs condemned the killings on the floor of the House.

District magistrate S.K. Thade said that around 7 am, two groups of Trinamul and CPM supporters clashed over tilling of land.

He said that new police camps were set up at Nabasta, Dhanyapara and Harmul in addition to the existing one at Basapara.

Director-general of police Dipak Sanyal said 21 people had been arrested till evening and nightlong raids will continue. Jawans of the Eastern Frontier Rifles have been kept on standby.

“Our men were hacked and bludgeoned to death with sharp and blunt weapons. Crowbars have been used to pierce noses,” said Sushovan Banerjee, former Bolpur MLA and Trinamul leader.

Banerjee said a group of armed CPM activists attacked peasants who had gone to till a 30-bigha land which was not under barga.

Reports from the district said the 30-bigha land belonged to a landlord Babu Mian. Those who died were Babu Mian’s men who used to till the land for him.

“The CPM workers had gone to the land in the morning with the intention to grab it from our supporters. They came heavily armed. Our supporters were no match for them,” Banerjee said.

Most of the victims belonged to the minority community. Till evening, bodies of 10 persons, all aged between 30 and 37, were identified.    

New Delhi, July 27 
The bloody battle between the CPM and the Trinamul Congress in West Bengal is spilling over to Delhi, with both sides petitioning the Prime Minister to intervene.

Following the killing of 11 Trinamul activists in Birbhum, party leaders today called on the Prime Minister with a renewed appeal for sacking the Jyoti Basu government.

The CPM leadership is meeting President K.R. Narayanan this evening with the plea that the Centre should rein in railway minister Mamata Banerjee and prevent her from ‘meddling’ in the state government’s functioning.

CPM leaders had knocked on the doors of the Prime Minister yesterday, drawing his attention to the lawlessness unleashed by the Trinamul. The party alleged that the Trinamul had turned into the “Ranbir Sena” of West Bengal.

Trinamul leaders today told the Prime Minister the CPM is “frustrated” after its defeats the in Panskura and Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) polls and is ‘’bullying” its opponent.

“There is no rule of law in Midnapore district and the adjoining districts of Hooghly and Bankura.The only way to protect the poor and peace-loving people of the state is by imposing President’s rule,” the Trinamul said in a petition to the Prime Minister.

In the Lok Sabha, Trinamul members tried to raise the issue of the Midnapore killings even as the House erupted over the Ram Jethmalani issue.

They rushed to the well to get the Speaker’s attention. But with the Jethmalani row dominating the House, Trinamul leaders had to be content with a press conference.

Since CPI nominee Gurudas Dasgupta lost the Panskura seat to Trinamul, there has been a new edge to the violence between the Left and the Trinamul. Losing the CMC mayor’s post has made the Left doubly aggressive and the Trinamul more ambitious.

The CPM Politburo, which is in session in Delhi, will review the situation in West Bengal. The leadership is wary of the Assembly elections next year.

The failure to forge a mahajot or a ‘grand alliance’ of all Opposition parties in West Bengal did come as a boost for the Left Front. But its worries are far from over.

An aggressive Trinamul will receive tacit support from the BJP at the Centre, even though the imposition of Article 356 seems a remote possibility.

In Calcutta, Youth Congress president Paresh Pal has reiterated his sympathy for Mamata by calling a 12-hour Bangla Bandh on Monday over the killings. Pal left for Birbhum in the afternoon.

Earlier, during the killings in Keshpur in Midnapore district, Pal had accompanied Mamata to the trouble-torn area and faced criticism from a section in the party which is anti-mahajot.

A team of Trinamul leaders comprising Rajya Sabha MP Jayanta Bhattacharya and MLAs Dipak Ghosh, Pulak Das and Biplab Roy Chowdhury left for Bolpur in the afternoon.    

Gaya, July 27 
Police have arrested a key accused in last month’s massacre at Mianpur and secured vital clues to the strategy of the Ranbir Sena, which carried out the operation. Forty people were butchered in the raid.

Ram Vijay Sharma, a frontline member of the dreaded landlords’ army, was arrested from Katangi village in Jehanabad late last night. Two constables and a couple of plainclothesmen picked him up from Ullas Deora Market in Jehanabad. Sharma was brought to Gaya and interrogated through the night.

“The arrest is an eye-opener for the state police as for the first time, we have some specific names of members of the outfit. So long we had been making random arrests on the basis of suspicion without much headway,” said Gaya’s police superintendent R. Sankaran.

On June 16, a group of 42 Ranbir Sena activists ringed Mianpur village in Aurangabad district and shot dead 40 people in a macabre show of vendetta violence.

Most of the victims were lower-caste Yadavs and included 20 women and six children, including infants who were shot through the head. It was the first time that the outfit had targeted Yadavs.

Sharma’s interrogation has thrown up startling facts on the carnage. An investigating officer told The Telegraph that the Ranbir Sena had used advanced guerrilla tactics to mount the raid. “The operation, codenamed Ram Lakshman, was planned to the minutest detail and carried out with precision,” the officer said.

Sharma revealed that two days before the massacre, Ranbir Sena boss Barmeswar Singh had convened a meeting at one Prashita Sharma’s residence in Senari, three km from Mianpur. The job was entrusted to the outfit’s action squad chief, Butan Sharma, a resident of Puran village in Jehanabad.

On the afternoon of June 16, four men from Senari were sent to Mianpur to study the area and the pattern of the settlements. According to Sharma, one of the members of the recce team, Avinash, told the unsuspecting villagers that they had come to look for “missing buffaloes from Senari”.

The 42 Ranbir Sena men, led by Butan Singh, were divided into six squads of seven members each. Their brief: to kill anyone they came across, man, woman or child. “Catch them and kill them,” was Barmeswar Singh’s whip to his army of assassins.    

Temperature: Maximum: 31.8°C (normal) Minimum: 26.3°C (normal) RAINFALL: Trace Relative humidity: Maximum: 90%, Minimum: 68% Today: Light rain may occur in some places. Sunset:6.18 pm Sunrise: 5.08 am    

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