Ghising attacker shot dead
Girl dies after long wait for medicine
Naxalites in police net
Five held for spreading rumours
Under-fire Atal turns to mediator RSS
Sadhus snub Rajnath secret formula
Ayodhya seethes in silent fury
Army called out in Gujarat
Mayavati herds flock out of unsafe UP
Budget held up

Siliguri, Feb. 28: 
The man who led the ambush on Subash Ghising last year was gunned down in an encounter with police today in the Banarhat jungles in Jalpaiguri district bordering Bhutan.

Kumar Thapa alias Kumar Chettri alias Nakkata, 35, had been on the run since the failed attempt on the Gorkha National Liberation Front chief’s life at Chilauney-Dhura on Pankhabari Road in Kurseong on February 10 last year.

Sleuths investigating the Ghising ambush had identified Kumar Thapa as the main executioner in the six-member hit squad. While two security personnel and one militant, identified as Kamal Thapa, were killed, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council chairman escaped with shrapnel and pellets from a grenade lodged in his neck and skull.

A police squad was despatched to the jungles bordering the Red Bank tea estate under Banarhat police station this morning after information from military intelligence that a militant group had taken shelter there.

Jalpaiguri police superintendent Siddh Nath Gupta said: “Around 10.35 am, the police party spotted a militant camp across the Diana river. On being challenged, the militants fired, injuring the assistant sub-inspector leading the party. In the brief encounter that followed, one militant was killed while another surrendered. A third managed to escape.”

The raiding party recovered a sophisticated Chinese rifle with 19 rounds, a carbine with 31 rounds and four empty shells from the spot. A Nepalese driving licence issued from Bhudabari in Jhapa district was recovered from the dead militant. “It gave his identity as Kumar Chettri alias Nakkata or the noseless one,” Gupta added.

Interrogation of the surrendered militant confirmed that his dead compatriot was indeed Thapa, the prime accused in the ambush case.

Gupta said the district’s crack commando force has launched a search in the area to apprehend the third member of the gang. Police are also investigating how the militants managed to set up camp at the spot.

“We are probing their links with the Maoists. It was apparent that members of the ambush squad had spilt into separate groups to evade detection and were lying low in Maoist hideouts in Nepal. The group could have been sent on some errand by the Maoists. From what we have gathered so far, we believe the militants were here on some specific purpose.,” Gupta added.


Behrampore, Feb. 28: 
A teenage burn victim died in a state-run hospital here this morning for want of medicine.

Mamoni Majhi, 13, was admitted to Behrampore New General Hospital under Dr S.K. Sen on Wednesday morning with third degree burn injuries.

Madhusudan Majhi, the girl’s father, said the nurses called the patient party around midnight and asked them to buy some medicines. They rushed but returned empty-handed as all the shops were closed.

There is no medicine shop in Behrampore that remains open round-the-clock. There were three in the market which used to remain open till late at night, but they have been demolished.

Mamoni’s relatives requested the nurse to provide the medicine from the hospital stock. They even offered to pay.

But Mamoni did not receive any medicine. She died in the morning. “As soon as the shop opened in the morning, I bought the medicine and rushed to the hospital. But Mamoni was no more,” her father said breaking down in tears.

“I was on night duty and found the condition of the girl deteriorating. I gave the prescription to the nurse at 8.30 pm. I do not know why it reached the patient’s relatives around midnight,’’ Dr Sen said, adding that the medicine was not available with the hospital.

As soon as the news spread, neighbours and locals gathered at the hospital. They demanded punishment for Sen.

“Neither the doctor nor the nurse asked us to buy medicine during the day. If I had got the prescription on time, I could have bought the medicine and my daughter would have been alive,” Madhusudan said.


Eighteen People’s War Group activists, including a woman, were arrested from Ranibandh and Sarenga in Bankura after a combing operation in the dense forests yesterday. The police are investigating whether they were involved in the murder of CPM leader Rampada Majhi early this month.

District superintendent of police Basudeb Bag said they were experts in handling sophisticated arms and had been hiding in the forest areas of Bankura. They were involved in a number of crimes, including attacks on CPM supporters and the police.

Acting on a tip-off, a large contingent of policemen sealed the escape routes from the two forests at Ranibandh and Sarenga yesterday and launched a combing operation. After a night-long search, the police nabbed the group.

About 25 activists used to stay in the camps. Police believe seven of them managed to elude the dragnet. “We have recovered leaflets threatening CPM supporters. The group planned to attack police stations and some prominent CPM leaders in the district. We are investigating whether the group is involved in the murder of Rampada Majhi, who was killed by a group of PWG activists early this month,” Bag said.

CPM-Trinamul clash

At least 20 persons were injured when CPM and Trinamul Congress activists clashed at Birsinghapur in Bankura. Police have arrested 10 persons.

The Trinamul activists demanded that they be employed at Hindustan Seal Ltd as some CPM supporters had been appointed a few days ago. Violence broke out when the agitators tried to stop some workers from entering the factory.


Calcutta, Feb. 28: 
Police picked up five persons today for spreading rumours even as the government sounded an alert across Bengal in the wake of the communal frenzy in Gujarat.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee appealed to people not to be provoked and to maintain communal harmony.

“Certain remarks of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders have been making the situation complicated,” he said at Writers’ Buildings. The chief minister reviewed the situation with chief secretary Sourin Roy, home secretary Amit Kiran Deb, director-general of police Dinesh Vajpai and city police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty.

Bhattacharjee will hold a meeting again tomorrow before leaving for a CPM politburo meeting in Delhi.

The chief minister said he was in constant touch with the Centre. “The Centre has given specific instructions on how to tackle the problem in case of any incident of communal disharmony,” Bhattacharjee said.

Police said the port division control room received complaints from Ekbalpore, Watgunge and Garden Reach that miscreants armed with sharp weapons were roaming the localities.


New Delhi, Feb. 28: 
The RSS today stepped in to mediate between the Centre and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on the Ayodhya issue even as Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee got the wrong end of the stick from some of his own MPs in full view of the Lok Sabha.

Senior RSS functionaries H.V. Seshadri, Madan Das Devi and Mohanrao Bhagwat had an hour-long meeting with Vajpayee today. Home minister L.K. Advani, BJP president K. Jana Krishnamurthi and sports and youth affairs minister Uma Bharti attended the meeting. Bharti, whose political career is rooted in the VHP, headed straight for its head office after the meeting to deliberate with its leaders.

Revealing that the RSS was playing mediator, Devi said the crisis could be resolved keeping in mind the legal position on the disputed and acquired land in Ayodhya.

“The government spelt out its responsibilities and compulsions vis-à-vis the law and the courts to us and how these should be enforced. We will see what can be done,” he said. But Devi also made it clear that given the legal position on the 67 acres acquired by the Centre after the demolition of the mosque, it could not do anything. The VHP’s case was that as the ownership of this land was not legally contested, the Centre could hand it over to the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas for construction.

RSS sources said the crisis could be resolved or at least staved off if the Centre promised that the restrictions on kar sevaks in Ayodhya would be removed and the VHP would be permitted to stockpile the pillars readied for the temple on the “undisputed” land without actually starting construction.

“The government should say that the Ram sevaks who are quietly doing the yagna miles away from the disputed land would be given protection and not harassed unnecessarily. Also, a portion of the undisputed land can be given to the Nyas to place its stockpile of pillars with the caveat that no construction would start,” said Sangh sources.

The RSS has proposed to the Prime Minister that he should try and call the sants and dharamacharyas for a meeting and give them these assurances.

“He should be able to convince them that he is sincere about solving the problem and if they are convinced, they may even defer their plans keeping in mind the nation’s interests,” said sources.

But they emphasised that the government should give the VHP and the sants a “tangible” face-saver.

The beleauguered Centre faced a major embarrassment when a five-member core group of BJP MPs from the Hindutva stream threatened to defy the whip not to raise the Godhra incident in the House today. Fifteen minutes before the budget session began, the MPs, including two former Bajrang Dal chiefs — Vinay Katiyar and Jaibhan Singh Pawaiya — walked up to Vajpayee and Advani and demanded to know why they should not speak about the Gujarat killings.

When Advani pleaded with them not to vent their ire on the day of the budget, the MPs shouted back: “You are using lathis, cancelling train reservations and denying Ram sevaks their ration and food. You are behaving just like Mulayam Singh Yadav. If Hindus are thrashed, we will not suffer in silence.”

The MPs also told the Prime Minister that he was only interested in talking to Muslims and not Hindus. The MPs have served a cut motion for a discussion on the Godhra incident tomorrow.

BJP sources maintained that the MPs were “extremely upset” with Vajpayee’s appeal to the VHP. “If he had only cared to put a line that he would crush those who attacked the train, it would have soothed our nerves. But asking peace-loving Ram sevaks to exercise restraint is unreasonable,” they said.


Ayodhya, Feb. 28: 
Sadhus in Ayodhya have rejected the compromise formula that Uttar Pradesh caretaker chief minister Rajnath Singh today secretly brought to Ram Chandra Paramhans, the chairman of the Ram Janmabhoomi Trust.

A dejected Rajnath maintained a stony silence when asked about the outcome of his hour-long discussions with the powerful sadhu. Pressed further, he only said: “We have put before the sadhus our appeal and expressed the anxieties of our Prime Minister.”

Sources close to Paramhans, who is also president of the Ram temple construction committee, said that instead of listening to the proposal authored by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he had put forth a plethora of his own demands.

Paramhans, the sources added, was also angry with the Centre’s “shoddy” handling of the Gujarat crisis. “The Centre failed to tackle the situation properly,” he said. “Instead of cracking down on the perpetrators of the Godhra tragedy, they are asking us to postpone our programme.”

Paramhans made it clear that as of now the sadhus had no plans of postponing or calling off their programme on March 15, the day they plan to storm the disputed site.

Two lakh kar sevaks are being mobilised to instal prefabricated pillars to mark the beginning of the temple construction process.

Paramhans said he was “thinking” about Rajnath’s appeal, but asserted that “nothing has affected my programme (and) nothing will”. To drive home his point, he added that he did not understand the concerns of the government as he had pledged to carry out the agitation peacefully, keeping in mind the welfare of Ayodhya and its residents.

The sadhus have asked the government to immediately withdraw the stringent security measures in Ayodhya, a proposal the Centre could find difficult to accept.

They have also demanded that kar sevaks coming to Ayodhya be allowed to enter. Following a directive from Union home minister L.K. Advani, the state government has diverted trains coming to Ayodhya and is sending back kar sevaks.

Additional director-general (law and order) A.K. Mitra went to the extent of saying that if the need arises, the administration would provide buses and other transport facilities to send back kar sevaks to their home states.

As the deadlock continued in Ayodhya, a call from New Delhi had Vishwa Hindu Parishad international secretary Pravin Togadia rushing in the evening to meet the Prime Minister and other senior BJP leaders.

In the morning, Togadia had told The Telegraph that there was no way the agitation would be affected by yesterday’s Godhra incident in which 58 people were burnt alive on a train.

“If anything, there is more zeal and fervour in the temple construction process,” Togadia said. “The construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya is a fight against those groups trying to disrupt society.”

In an indirect warning to the BJP central leadership, he also said those who had abandoned the temple issue would suffer politically and be isolated soon.

However, what would come as a relief to Vajpayee is Paramhans’ assurance that he would do nothing to topple the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre.

“At this time of crisis that would be very unfair on the nation,” Paramhans said. The sadhu leader also said he would “talk out the issue” with other senior sadhus.


Karsevakpuram, Feb. 28: 
There is a screaming silence in Ayodhya.

For some, the silence is full of quiet rage; for others, it is just fear in its most vulnerable form. For Kalpanaben, however, the silence is full of guilt and an inarticulate resolve for vengeance.

Her face like a dormant volcano, Kalpanaben says: “I knew the family of Nityaben Panchal who was killed along with her husband and three daughters. Someone has to answer for this. So many helpless, charred bodies…,’’ she trails off, a multitude of emotions jostling on her quivering lips.

Kalpanaben, a kar sevak from Ahmedabad, decided to stay back in Ayodhya for a couple of days despite Nityaben pleading that she accompany her on the fateful train home. That saved Kalpanaben’s life.

Now, the frail 35-year-old says she will stay back till March 15 when the Vishwa Hindu Parishad takes its troops to the disputed site to begin temple construction. “The temple has to be built, we can’t live in fear like this,’’ she says with a finality that is disconcerting.

The hordes of kar sevaks streaming into Ayodhya have dried up into a trickle. But the mood in Karsevakpuram has changed from premature celebration to a death wish.

Pehle to khwaish thi, ab to laksh ban gaya hai (earlier it was a desire, now it has become a mission),’’ says Govardhan Patel, rallying other kar sevaks around him.

The administration, though, is not taking any chances. Sandwiched between the renewed zeal of the kar sevaks to storm the disputed site on March 15 and the threat by terrorists to attack Ayodhya, it is on its toes.

Police arrested two youths posing as kar sevaks this morning and claim they have divulged important information.

Only yesterday, A.K. Gupta, commissioner (Faizabad division), quoting intelligence reports, said terrorists masquerading as kar sevaks were planning to converge on Ayodhya.

Schools and colleges have been shut and vehicular traffic coming to Ayodhya is being diverted.

Once again, Ayodhya has been barricaded and fortified. The police are issuing passes to local residents who have to frequently move in the city. No car, unless armed with special passes, can enter Ayodhya.

Says ADG (law and order) A.K. Gupta: “We already have 43 companies of paramilitary forces here, we are getting 47 more. The threat perception could not be any bigger.’’

Confirming that the police had intercepted a message about transferring 8 kg of RDX — “enough to blow up Ayodhya” — and 25 AK-57 rifles, he adds: “The threat was always there, now it is at its most potent.”

Faizabad city superintendent of police Rajendra Singh says all hotels and dharamshalas are being combed.

“Though it will be difficult for kar sevaks to do any mischief on March 15, the real fear is from terrorists on hit-and-run missions,’’ he says, his office teeming with people seeking “police passes”.

The VHP, too, has decided to step up security for kar sevaks by posting Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena activists at railway stations and other sensitive areas.

At Karsevakpuram and other parts of Ayodhya, the Godhra massacre has fuelled a seething distrust and condemnation of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani.

“Why did Advani take out a rath yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya if he and other political leaders were never serious about it?’’ asks Prem Shanker Tripathi, a local businessman.

“These leaders are the ones who have been exposed as opportunists who have misled an entire nation for the perks of power,’’ he says.

“Ayodhya never wanted a new temple, we were happy with the 14,000 temples we already have. Godhra ke asli hathyare to yeh log hain.’’


Delhi, Feb. 28: 
As the situation in Gujarat seemed to be spinning out of control, the Vajpayee government ordered the army to be deployed in the state. The decision was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security, which reviewed the reprisals triggered by the attack on the Sabarmati Express yesterday.

Defence minister George Fernandes will go to Ahmedabad tomorrow to review the situation even as the army moves into position in the state. The CCS meeting was chaired by the Prime Minister and attended by home minister L.K. Advani, Fernandes and other officials.

Advani kept in close touch with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi throughout the day. He also rushed 11 companies of paramilitary forces earlier in the day to assist the state authorities. The home minister would have flown to Ahmedabad tomorrow but stayed back as he has to make a statement in Parliament on events in Gujarat.

The Prime Minister’s camp is inclined to take tough administrative steps to stop the communal frenzy while keeping the lines of communication open with the VHP.

The CCS also said an all-out effort had to be made to stop the communal violence from spreading to other states. The possibility of the situation being exploited by Pakistan or terrorist groups was also considered.

There is growing suspicion among senior members of the Vajpayee Cabinet that a conspiracy to stoke communal passions in the country has been hatched by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence or rogue elements within it to embarrass India at a time when relations between the neighbours have plummeted to a near freeze.

The involvement of “outside” elements in spreading communal passion is still in the realm of speculation. But even before a full inquiry has begun, broad hints to this effect have been made. Minister of state for home I.D. Swamy has talked of possible ISI links of those who attacked Sabarmati Express, and so has Fernandes.

A desperate government is hoping to use the ISI bogey effectively against those bent on a path of collision with the Centre. The subtle message to the VHP would be that it could fall into a trap laid by the ISI or anti-national jihadi groups to destabilise the country.

Taking questions outside Parliament, Fernandes spoke openly of the possibility. “ (The) ISI has in the past tried to create a divide between Hindus and Christians by attacking churches in the southern parts of the country. A thorough inquiry into yesterday’s attack has to be carried out.”

PTI quoted Fernandes as saying that with the armed forces on alert along the border, the Pakistani intelligence agency could have hit upon the idea of fanning communal tension within the country.


New Delhi, Feb. 28: 
Afraid of poaching by Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayavati today brought all her 98 Uttar Pradesh MLAs to Delhi for the legislature party meeting.

The MLAs were brought to the venue of the meeting at the Indian Social Institute amid tight security.

Asked why the meeting was being held here, instead of Lucknow, Mayavati said she wanted to attend the budget session of Parliament and so the break from convention.

The BSP legislators are under strict vigil and none of them is being allowed to speak to the press. Barring a few confidants, no party office-bearer was allowed to attend today’s meeting.

Mayavati, who was unanimously elected leader of the legislature party today, is likely to call on the Uttar Pradesh Governor in two to three days to stake claim to form the government. “Our strategy will be disclosed at an appropriate time,” she said after the meeting.

Despite the BJP proclamation that it would sit on the Opposition benches in the Assembly, the BSP and the BJP have begun a fresh joint initiative to form a government in Lucknow.

Talks are on between interlocutors of both the parties to strike a mutually-agreeable arrangement, BSP sources said.

Mayavati, who had talks with Union home minister L.K. Advani on Tuesday, wants the BJP to back her as chief minister for at least one year in exchange for her joining the coalition at the Centre to bolster Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s numbers.

But there is still no consensus in the BJP on Mayavati’s proposal. The saffron party is insisting on a government led by it. Mayavati could be accommodated in the Union Cabinet, it feels.

The BSP leader declined to say whether she was in touch with the BJP and other political parties to muster additional support. “It would be disclosed at an appropriate time,” she said.

As Mulayam, too, has not been able to muster the requisite numbers yet, in the event of both he and Mayavati not staking claim, the state may head for President’s rule.

Though Mayavati claimed that her party is united behind her and that she could split other parties if the need arises, there are risks in keeping her 98 MLAs idle for long.

The BJP is worried as its allies are also being lured by the Samajwadi leadership. The Rashtriya Lok Dal with 14 MLAs, the Janata Dal (United) with two and the Lok Jan Shakti Party with one MLA are soft targets.

“We are keeping a strict watch on political developments in the state. I will inform you when I am going to meet (the) Uttar Pradesh Governor to stake my claim to form the next government,” Mayavati said.


New Delhi, Feb. 28: 
The Godhra station carnage and the Ayodhya issue delayed budget presentation in the Lok Sabha today by 15 minutes.

Order was restored after home minister L.K. Advani said he would make a statement in the House tomorrow after ascertaining the facts from the Gujarat government. Congress president Sonia Gandhi had demanded a statement from Advani.

Later, the business advisory committee meeting, chaired by Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi, agreed to take up the temple issue after the discussion on the motion of thanks to the President’s address to both Houses beginning next Monday is over.

Soon after the House assembled for the day, BJP members, including Vinay Katiyar and Ram Magina Mishra, trooped into the well waving newspapers in protest against the Godhra tragedy.

Some Shiv Sena members were seen supporting the BJP MPs. Repeated pleas by Balayogi to maintain decorum fell on deaf ears. Order was restored after 10 minutes when new members took oath before finance minister Yashwant Sinha could present the budget.


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