This is Veerappan speaking, I am ready to surrender
CM price for terror support
Old stock shadow on Vitamin A
Bhuria slams conversions
Sangh lines up roadshow against Dhaka
Dynasty war spills to GeneratioNext
Two killed in BSF border shooting
Curse and praise, without a look
Security ring tightened at remand homes
Extortionists, smuggler lynched

 
 
THIS IS VEERAPPAN SPEAKING, I AM READY TO SURRENDER 
 
 
FROM M.R. VENKATESH
 
Chennai, Nov. 17: 
Forest brigand Veerappan has offered to surrender to the Tamil Nadu government.

But the offer, in the form of a taped audio message to A.S. Mani, editor of Tamil weekly Nettrikann, came with a rider – withdrawal of the joint special task force of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

“This is Veerappan speaking and I have decided to surrender,” the bandit opens dramatically in the tape. “But first let the STF from both the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka sides withdraw. The dialogue process could then be initiated if you, after conveying my decision to Jayalalithaa and the government, announce your intent to come to the forest with a trusted aide.”

The overture comes almost a year after the release of Kannada screen icon Raj Kumar. Veerappan had declared himself an extremist during the abduction saga, claiming to fight for the “Tamil underdogs”.

Sources said the bandit made the offer apparently after feeling the heat of the special force operations, headed by Rambo cop Walter I. Davaram.

This morning, Mani played the seven-minute cassette to the media at a hastily-erected shamiana near the magazine’s office here.

For now, withdrawal of the task force is the only condition Veerappan has set. “There are some other demands too,” he tells Mani in the tape. “I had asked for a general pardon, but let us see.”

The Tamil Nadu government has already said there is no question of considering a pardon, and that the joint man-hunt would continue till the bandit is caught.

Veerappan makes it plain in the cassette that he has approached Mani this time because the government’s emissary on earlier occasions, R.R. Gopal, editor of the Tamil biweekly, Nakkeeran, had “betrayed him”.

“Once you let me know through the press and All-India Radio that you are ready for talks, I will immediately send one of my associates who will help kick-start the process regarding my surrender,” Veerappan says, emphasising that the task force should first quit the scene.

Veerappan also denied a report that some of his associates were involved in “ransacking” shops in Andhiur, close to the forest area where he operates. “Why should I do it when I can send a truck-load of provisions to the police?” he says with characteristic bluster.

Mani said he received the cassette through one of Veerappan’s aides on November 7 and two days later had faxed a message to chief minister O. Panneerselvam for an appointment to hand over a copy of the cassette. “However, till last night, I have received no reply,” he said.

Panneerselvam, who is in Delhi, said the state government has not received any tape from Veerappan. “No tape has been received as yet. We don’t know whether it is a genuine offer,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the chief ministers’ conference on internal security.

Mani expressed hopes that the government would respond positively to the surrender offer and put a stop to the mounting cost of operations which have run up to nearly Rs 3,000 crore.

Mani expects Veerappan to send another audio and a video cassette soon.

   

 
 
CM PRICE FOR TERROR SUPPORT 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT AND G.S. RADHAKRISHNA
 
New Delhi and Hyderabad, Nov. 17: 
Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu has wangled an assurance from the Centre that the People’s War Group will be put on the list of terrorist organisations.

Naidu, who is here for the Inter-State Council meeting and the chief ministers’ conference on internal security, offered support to the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance but demanded some modifications.

Naidu held separate meetings with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani yesterday. Sources said he discussed a host of issues, including the PWG’s firepower.

The Centre had last month listed 23 organisations as terrorist outfits, but the Naxalite group had been left out. Sources said the omission was because of a communication gap between the state and the Central leadership despite the fact that Naidu has called on Advani several times and also written to him on the PWG menace.

The chief of the Telugu Desam, an important ally of the National Democratic Alliance government, has been demanding “a unified approach and coordinated action” to eradicate the problem of extremism from the half-a-dozen affected states.

Naidu has been asking for more funds to modernise the state’s police force, but the response from the home ministry has been lukewarm. Sources said the home minister assured him that the PWG will be put on the list of banned terrorist outfits.

In his speech at the chief ministers’ conference on internal security, Naidu raised the issue of including the PWG under Section 18 of the anti- terror Ordinance. “I am disappointed to note that the PWG, which has been indulging in terrorist activity not only in Andhra Pradesh but in several other states, has not been included,” he said in a prepared speech.

Stressing on the need to ban the outfit, Naidu said the PWG had killed 40 Andhra policemen this year. State home minister A. Madhav Reddy had died in a landmine blast set off by the group.

“There is disturbing information that the PWG is forging alliances with other terrorist groups such as the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN), the MCC of Nepal and the United Liberation Front of Asom,” he said.

The PWG, he told the meeting, held its national congress in March this year and had decided to create a Compact Revolutionary Zone in the forest belts of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Andhra and Maharashtra.

Naidu defended the promulgation of the terror Ordinance, but demanded that adequate safeguards be taken to eliminate the scope of abuse.

He drew the Centre’s attention to Section 3(8) and Section 14 of the Ordinance and called for suitable modifications to “protect the freedom of the press, which is the hallmark of parliamentary democracy”.

Naidu also opposed the concept of a federal investigative agency along the lines of the FBI.

He said law enforcement agencies and investigative wings of the states were “best equipped and best suited” to counter challenges to internal security.

   

 
 
OLD STOCK SHADOW ON VITAMIN A 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Nov. 17: 
The vitamin A “poisoning” case took a twist today as evidence emerged that Unicef may have supplied “old stocks” in some places inhabited by the poorest of the poor after three children died at a relief camp in Kokrajhar district.

The vitamin A solution for the children in the relief camp came with the “conventional” 2ml spoon instead of the “modern administration technique” of 5ml cups.

Sources alleged that the bottles of vitamin A in the Kokrajhar camp had the expiry date of August 2002, whereas the solutions given in the rest of the state had a June 2003 expiry date.

Kokrajhar deputy commissioner Ashis K. Bhutani, a medicine expert, said the Unicef’s claim of “illness due to overdose” was out of question as the vitamin doses administered to the “unfortunate children in the Balagaon Adivasi relief camp was through the earlier spoon system and not with the 5ml cups”.

He said the three latest deaths “punches holes in the (UN body’s) contention that there was nothing wrong with the vitamin A solution supplied by them”. He called for an examination of the seized samples to know the cause of the deaths. But the Calcutta-based Central Drug Laboratory, which the Assam government says will analyse the Unicef consignment, was yet to receive any sample.

Sources in the Kokrajhar administration accused the “providers of the vitamin solution of dumping old stocks in the relief camps where the poorest of the poor live.”

Unicef’s official spokesperson Geeta Athreya was not available for comment at her Delhi residence tonight. On November 14, the Unicef launched Project Aashwas for children affected by violence in the state and the three latest victims would have come under the scheme.

Following the outbreak of vitamin A “poisoning”, Unicef officials have been maintaining that the stocks were “fresh with measuring cup modification” and procured from the same sources — Nicholas Piramal India Ltd and Nestor Pharmaceuticals — from where they had come earlier.

Of the three deaths at the Adivasi relief camp, three-year-old Duli Hazda and five-year-old Doler Hazda died on Thursday afternoon, while three-year-old Bijoy Toppo died this morning. With the three latest deaths, the vitamin A immunisation related toll in the state has gone upto 10.

Bhutani said the bodies of the Hazda sisters were exhumed this afternoon and were brought to Kokrajhar. “We will conduct the post-mortem on all the three bodies and send the viscera to the state forensic science laboratory for necessary tests,” he added.

The deputy commissioner has directed his officials to visit all the 54 relief camps in the district to ascertain the condition of the minors who were covered by the immunisation drive.

   

 
 
BHURIA SLAMS CONVERSIONS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 17: 
The chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Dileep Singh Bhuria, today dismissed religious conversions as “useless”.

“Religious conversions are not going to change the status of Dalits,” Bhuria said.

The commission chairperson, who was presenting the panel’s sixth annual report to President K.R. Narayanan, came down heavily on the Centre and states for continued atrocities on Dalits — particularly in the Hindi heartland. Uttar Pradesh tops the list with over 6,000 cases of atrocities, followed by Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

“It is necessary to strengthen the investigation and judicial machinery,” Bhuria said. Stressing on the backlog of pending cases, he demanded special courts to clear the mess.

At the core of Bhuria’s presentation was the plight of Dalits despite decades of reservation. Though the literacy gap between SC/ST and non-SC/ST students is closing, the drop-out rate among Dalits is still high.

   

 
 
SANGH LINES UP ROADSHOW AGAINST DHAKA 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 17: 
The RSS today said it would launch a week-long countrywide campaign from December 1 against the Bangladesh government to protest the alleged atrocities on Hindus ever since Khaleda Zia came to power.

The announcement came barely hours after two persons, believed to be infiltrators from Bangladesh, were gunned down late on Friday night. The incident occurred when Border Security Force jawans opened fire in the Krishnagunge frontier area in West Bengal’s Nadia district.

The decision to launch the campaign was taken at a closed-door meeting of the Sangh’s annual council, the Pratinidhi Sabha.

RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan, former BJP president Kushabhau Thakre and representatives of parivar members like the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, the Kisan Sabha, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram attended the session in Jashpur, Chhattisgarh.

A statement issued by RSS general-secretary Mohan Bhagwat condemned Bangladesh for its “sheer ingratitude and thanklessness” by “treating the Hindus the way they do”.

He recalled that it was the Indian Army which had “liberated” Bangladesh from the “clutches of Pakistan”. “In view of this recent history, the conduct of the Bangladesh government stands condemned before the civilised world,” Bhagwat said.

Bhagwat said the RSS’ patience had run out and called upon Indians to contribute for the rehabilitation of Hindus who had fled Bangladesh to escape the Khaleda Zia regime’s alleged oppression.

   

 
 
DYNASTY WAR SPILLS TO GENERATIONEXT 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, Nov. 17: 
The acrimony between the two branches of the Nehru-Gandhi family is now percolating down to the next generation with Maneka Gandhi’s son, Varun, preparing for a political role and the Congress projecting Rahul and Priyanka as “true inheritors” of the legacy.

Varun, who was fond of cousin Priyanka, is a changed man now. The third year student of London School of Economics was last seen at 10, Janpath in February 1997 for Priyanka’s wedding.

Even birthday greetings and occasional telephone calls have ceased. While the young Gandhis are reluctant to attack one another, Maneka and Sonia’s close aide, K. Natwar Singh, are only too eager to launch a verbal assault.

Maneka misses no opportunity to assert that it was Varun’s sense of outrage against writer Katherine Frank that prompted her to file and win damages against the author for allegedly depicting Sanjay and Indira Gandhi in poor light. Sanjay’s widow has claimed that Sonia was responsible for the biography’s publication.

In Maneka’s own words, “according to the book, Indiraji was upset, could not even wear a sari without ‘her’. And in comes this shining foreign angel bringing culture to home. The book says ‘she’ brought up my son.”

The Sonia camp was quick to remind the “nation” about the circumstances and the manner in which Maneka made common cause with the detractors of Indira Gandhi and eventually accepted the “post of a junior minister” in the BJP-led coalition.

About the charge that Sonia was responsible for Frank’s book, Natwar Singh said: “It is preposterous and false. It is widely known that Sonia Gandhi zealously guards the dignity and privacy of her family.”

Congress leaders are wary of speaking about Varun, though they keep a close tab on his movements. A Congressman said Varun’s entry into politics ahead of Priyanka might wean away some disgruntled sections of the party.

   

 
 
TWO KILLED IN BSF BORDER SHOOTING 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 17: 
Two persons, believed to be infiltrators from Bangladesh, were killed late Friday night when Border Security Force jawans opened fire on them at the Krishnagunge frontier area in Nadia district. However, none of the deceased has been identified so far.

The incident comes close on the heels of a similar one in which a girl was killed and her brother injured in BSF firing when they were trying to cross the border to North Bengal recently.

Officials at Writers’ Buildings said the home department will shortly review the situation on the border districts, including Nadia, Murshidabad and some districts of North Bengal, after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee returns from New Delhi.

Bhattacharjee is in the capital to discuss the influx problem with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani.

Inspector-general of police, law and order, Chayan Mukherjee, said tonight that he had asked the superintendent of police, Nadia, Ramphal Pawar, to probe the matter and submit a report. He said the district policemen have also been directed to sit with BSF personnel to sort out the problem.

“Better co-ordination between BSF jawans and district policemen is required to prevent such incidents,” he said, adding that it was yet to be ascertained whether they had to infiltrate into the Indian territory under compulsion or not.

According to reports reaching the state police headquarters, the incident took place near Khajirbagan BSF outpost at midnight Friday when the two men crossed the no-man’s land and entered India. As soon as the jawans noticed the two, they opened fire.

Later, the jawans found two bodies from the paddy field. They also found a cutter the two Bangladeshis had used to snip the barbed fencing. A bundle of clothes was also found.

Tension mounted in nearby villages when local people heard about the shooting. They gathered near the border and alleged that several thousands were crossing over to the Indian territory after having been persecuted by the Khaleda Zia government.

The BSF, however, gave a different version of the incident. They said both the deceased were smugglers and were shot while they were sneaking goods over to Bangladesh.

Border Intelligence officials said they were verifying whether the two deceased were smuggler or shelter-seekers. “Apparently, no smuggled articles were recovered from their possession” said an official.

Local residents were adamant and not ready to accept the BSF version. “Smugglers never die in encounters,” said one. “We have a feeling the two were Balgladeshis trying to cross over to India,” he added.

   

 
 
CURSE AND PRAISE, WITHOUT A LOOK 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Nov. 17: 
Jyoti Basu is convinced Taurus is a “bad portrayal” of Lenin’s life.

No matter he hasn’t seen the film.

Nor has Anil Biswas, who has risen in defence of Taurus and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who saw the movie and liked it.

Basu took exception when Biswas yesterday quoted Lenin’s biography compiled by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to give the film a clean chit. “Anil has not seen the movie and should not have made the statement,” the former chief minister said.

“I find the movie’s theme very painful. It shows a paralytic Soviet leader having sex with a woman. I wonder how a Russian director made such a film. I have seen Lenin in October and consider it a much better film,” Basu said.

He added that Bhattacharjee had seen the film at the just-concluded film festival and had promised to arrange a show for him at a later date.

The state CPM appears practically divided on their assessment of Taurus. Basu and Biman Bose are ranged against Biswas who not only rejected the party stalwarts’ charges about the film showing but also indicated that they should not have criticised the movie without watching it.

The chief minister has informed Biswas that the film depicts “the last painful days of Lenin’s life”. “It picturises how a political personality of great magnitude can suffer from mental anguish in the wake of a physical ailment. This has nothing to do with any attempt to denigrate him or distort his role,” he told the state party secretary.

Bose, who had said the film was not based on historical facts and criticised the festival authorities for its selection, was not available for comment. Biswas and Bhattacharjee, however, found an unexpected ally in Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee. “The film showed Lenin as an old and sick man being nursed by a woman towards the fag-end of his life. What is wrong in it? After all, Lenin was not a super human being,” she said.

Veteran actor and chairperson of the film festival committee, Soumitra Chatterjee, also found the current controversy over Taurus “quite healthy”. “I am really enjoying it,” he said at an open forum on the final day of the festival at the Paschimbanga Bangla Academy.

“I didn’t see anything objectionable about the film or any thing that could belittle Lenin. It simply shows a man at the fag-end of his life battling disease just like any ordinary man. In fact, I was impressed with the sympathy that shone through, the beautiful portrayal of a great man’s last moments. I particularly cannot forget the smile on Lenin’s face in the last scene,” Chatterjee said.

Biswas said Taurus was not a documentary but a feature film. “The film shows the last days of Lenin in a story form,” he said. Contradicting Basu’s complaint that Lenin was shown in the film as having an intimate relationship with a woman, Biswas said: “Helping a sick man take his bath or put on his clothes on is part of nursing and has nothing to do with sex. The fact is that a lot of people have issued statements on the film without seeing it.”

   

 
 
SECURITY RING TIGHTENED AT REMAND HOMES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 17: 
In the wake of 18 inmates escaping remand homes, the state government has decided to tighten security at centres for juvenile delinquents and destitutes in the city.

The government also asked the authorities of state-run homes the staff strength that would be required to stop people from escaping.

“We are chalking out plans to beef up the security arrangements in the state-run homes. I have called meetings with our departmental officials,” said state welfare department director J. Sundara Sekhar.

The director said the security measures at different homes would be examined thoroughly. “I have written to the district magistrates and police superintendents of different districts to chalk out a plan to tighten the security systems at state-run homes,” he added.

The measures were initiated following the escape of 18 delinquents from Dhrubashram last week. The home authorities have caught eight of those who escaped. The North 24-Parganas district police have rearrested one of the inmates after a seven-day search. Nine boys are, however, still at large, one of them even leaving the police fuming.

Gopal Baidya alias Chapta, was arrested from his Jadavpur residence on Wednesday. But 13-year-old Tapas Dey, who also resides in Jadavpur, proved smarter than the police.

After arresting Gopal, a team of police officials started hunting for Tapas. “The police officials did not have a photograph of Tapas, so it was very difficult for them to identify him,” said an official of Belgharia police station.

   

 
 
EXTORTIONISTS, SMUGGLER LYNCHED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 17: 
Five persons were lynched in two separate incidents in the districts today. While four men were beaten to death in Gaighata in North 24-Parganas, one youth was lynched in Nadia.

At dawn, villagers of Gerapota under Hashkhali police station in Nadia district discovered that several cattle were missing from their sheds. The villagers formed a posse and soon discovered the tracks of some smugglers making their way towards the Nadia border. Some men were soon seen leading the stolen cattle away.

The villagers managed to catch one of the rustlers. The 25-year-old man, later identified as Prafulla Mahanta, was dragged to the village, where an angry mob beat him mercilessly. A police team from Hashkhali rushed to the spot and rescued the youth. Mahanta was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was declared “brought dead”. Tension was palpable in the area.

In a separate incident, a group of six persons went on an extortion spree in Gaighata village at 10 am today. After threatening some villagers with dire consequences for not meeting their demands, the extortionists started abusing an elderly gentleman for protesting against their cowardly acts.

After a brief scuffle, one of the men pulled out a revolver and tried to shoot at the man. Local youths, armed with rods, then snatched away the revolvers carried by the extortionists. While two of the gang members fled, the youths started beating up the other four. They were taken to the hospital, where they were declared dead.

   
 

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