5 inmates die as forces crush revolt
Party image, Panja haunt BJP allies
Art icon who was moved by the Cross
Jaya visit salve on Dalit Christians
Newton, who? wonders Modi
Sabarmati Express boy loses legs

Chapra, March 30: 
The Chapra jail revolt was crushed this evening with the military police smashing their way into the prison that the inmates had captured on the night before Holi.

At least five inmates were killed. Fifteen people sustained bullet wounds; of them, five were policemen.

“We were restrained and cautious till 4.30 pm,” said Chapra superintendent of police Kundan Krishnan, who was also injured in the firing. “But when police were attacked from inside, the jawans opened fire. The deaths of the inmates were unavoidable.”

Till late in the evening, the district administration was busy restoring order in the jail. Sources said hundreds of inmates had nothing to eat for the past few days.

“We are trying our best to restore peace inside and control the situation. Doctors have been sent inside to treat the sick, and we are providing food,” jail minister Ashoke Chowdhary said.

Trouble started on Wednesday night when a sadar sub-divisional officer of Chapra, Ramnaresh Singh, went to the jail with an order to transfer to Nawada jail five inmates who were involved in last month’s land killings of Dalits at Nacha in Chapra.

Rumours were doing the rounds that the transfer was only a pretext to stage false encounters. Only the previous week, two prisoners were reported as having escaped from custody while being transferred to Nawada jail — a euphemism for “encounter death”.

This had put the inmates on guard. So, when Ramnaresh Singh came with the order at 1 am on March 28, they begged him to not execute it. But when he did not relent, there appears to have been some kind of a spontaneous uprising with 200 inmates forcing him to stop.

One of the inmates put a revolver to his head. Soon, more inmates joined them, and it was open revolt.

Almost all the inmates — numbering some 1,300 – joined in the melee, snatched the prison keys and threw out the 30-odd jail guards. The inmates then locked themselves in. Some 200 female inmates are believed to have also taken part in the revolt.

The prisoners then threatened “violent retaliation” if police attempted to “subvert their rule”. Police threw a security ring outside the prison and pleaded with the prisoners to give up. But the prisoners targeted them with stones and shards of glass. They smashed jail furniture.

Today’s attack was led by Harjot Kaur, the Bihar inspector-general of jails. Four of those killed were among the five who were to be transferred to Nawada. Sources said they had stockpiled arms inside the jail and opened fire on the military police today.

The jail minister claimed the prisoners had “cooked up stories of encounters” to drum up support.

The actual problem of the jail, he said, was overcrowding. “The jail has a capacity for 400 people. Because of pressure from the administration, the jail is forced to accommodate 1,400 inmates. If the court fails to release undertrials on bail, it is not possible for the state to take the burden of so many inmates. Ninety per cent of the inmates are undertrials,” the minister added.


New Delhi, March 30: 
Key BJP allies, the Telugu Desam Party and the Trinamul Congress, vocal critics of the Vajpayee government’s handling of the Ayodhya issue and the Gujarat carnage, find themselves in a bind.

For Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee, the growing bonhomie between Ajit Panja and the BJP leadership is a cause for concern. A section of the BJP leadership in league with Panja have not only launched a renewed effort to split her party but also to prevent Mamata’s reentry into the Union Cabinet when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee expands his council of ministers, possibly after the Budget session of Parliament.

Mamata had issued a whip to ensure that Trinamul members, including Ajit Panja, stayed away from the special session on March 26. Sources said Panja consulted parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan, who told him to ignore the whip, as it did not stand the scrutiny of House rules.

The joint sitting over, Panja and two Trinamul MPs attended a dinner hosted by L.K. Advani. The home minister had also ensured that Panja got adequate security to reach the central hall to vote. A large posse of policemen had escorted the Trinamul rebel to Parliament on March 26.

BJP leaders are livid that Mamata’s party not only stayed away from voting on the terror law in the Lok Sabha but also boycotted the joint sitting of Parliament. As a last ditch effort, Vijay Goel, minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, had desperately tried to contact Mamata before the joint sitting to plead for her support.

Even Opposition parties like the ADMK, NCP and the BSP supported the anti-terror legislation, “but she had the temerity to oppose such an important piece of legislation for the government”, said an NDA leader.

Desam chief Chandrababu Naidu’s problems are different. With the BJP stock plummeting every passing day, Naidu is seriously considering distancing himself from the saffron party. Sources said Naidu was deliberately going slow on deciding whether the TDP should accept the post of Lok Sabha Speaker.

A fortnight ago, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee had spoken to Naidu and reminded him of the vacant slot in the Lower House following G.M.C. Balayogi’s untimely death. Subsequently, Pramod Mahajan and NDA convenor George Fernandes also spoke to the chief minister, but sources said Naidu was reluctant to accept the post and may continue to support the ruling coalition from outside.

Advani was scheduled to go to Visakhapatnam and Hyderabad on March 28 and was supposed to have talks with Naidu. But the home minister cancelled his trip following a “throat infection”. Reports said Naidu, who had a 45-minute one-to-one meeting with West Bengal chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee, was disinclined to have a one-to-one meeting with Advani.


Calcutta, March 30: 
Francis Newton Souza, who died in Mumbai on Thursday evening at the age of 78, belonged to the elite group of artists that, in the late ‘40s, gave our new-born nation an art that reflected its hopes, future aspirations and thoughts.

Along with his coevals he formed the Progressive Artists Group that spearheaded the modern art movement in 1947. Three years earlier, the Calcutta Group, which had a similar agenda, took shape in what was then the cultural capital of the country.

For the past 30 years, Souza had made New York his home. But, like a homing pigeon, he returned to the city where he grew up to breathe his last.

In his last years, Souza had become frail and had mellowed. But he was fit enough and certainly had not lost any of his mental faculties. It was only on Thursday that he complained of chest pains when he was taken to a nursing home. Souza died there after a heart attack and was interred at the Sewri Cemetery Chapel in Mumbai on Saturday.

Souza was born in Portuguese Goa in 1924. His Catholic upbringing had left a strong impression on his young mind and images of Christ on the cross, of the Last Supper and of saints recurred in his paintings of the ‘50s and ‘60s. As he said in an interview, the icons and statues were remembrances of his frequent visits to church as a boy.

It was only in Mumbai that Souza became an artist. He joined the Sir J.J. School of Art in 1940. He lived in London for 20 years (1949-67), and then moved to New York, a city which made a tremendous impact on him. “It hits you by its magnificence,” Souza used to say.

The religiosity of his upbringing notwithstanding, Souza will be remembered for his voluptuous nudes, landscapes, still life and flowers in molten colours. “For a virile man”, he said, “a woman is the most beautiful creature in universe”.

Souza’s art, in fact, could be interpreted as a reaction to the cloistered world of piety. For Nature, and not God, was to Souza the sole principle.

Tremendously productive even in his last years, he used to experiment with form. At his only solo in Calcutta held at Galerie 88 exactly a year ago, Souza exhibited savagely distorted heads battered out of shape.

During his lifetime he had held several exhibitions in galleries of international repute.

A little known quality of the artist, who spoke in measured sentences, was his ability to write beautifully. He was a pathbreaker in the true sense of the term.


Chennai, March 30: 
After the pain, comes the balm.

The remedy may have come late, but Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa’s visit to a remote hamlet where Dalits were at the receiving end of upper-caste violence sent across a message of reconciliation.

The Tamil Nadu chief minister today visited Sankaralingapuram in Tuticorin district, where Dalit-upper caste clashes claimed one life in November last year. The chief minister visited a church on a day that falls between Good Friday and Easter, signalling that her government would not alienate the Dalits, most whom are Christian converts in the village.

Last year, violent incidents in November claimed a constable’s life and subsequent ransacking of several Dalit houses at Sankaralingapuram. Political parties and human rights activists have been demanding action against erring police officials, adequate relief to the victims and withdrawal of cases against 179 people.

Jayalalithaa sought to avoid a replay of Kodiyankulam, where caste clashes in 1995 also contributed to the ADMK’s rout 1996 Assembly polls.

She chose to visit the violence-affected village even as a 12-hour bandh in Coimbatore district called by the Hindu Munnani to protest against the killing of a RSS pracharak evoked mixed response.

Twenty buses were damaged in stone-pelting incidents in Coimbatore and Tiruppur.

Jayalalithaa, who also met the slain constable’s family and other affected policemen at Sankaralingapuram, urged the affected Dalit families to put aside the “bitterness of the past” and cooperate with the government to restore peace and harmony in society.

The chief minister distributed Rs. 13.33 lakh as compensation to 145 affected people.

Jayalalithaa also visited houses that were targeted in the alleged counter-violence and surveyed damaged household goods like cots and cupboards.


Mumbai, March 30: 
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi today said he had never alluded to Newton’s theory of “action and reaction” to describe the communal flare-up in his state, saying as an arts student such scientific expressions were beyond him.

At a news conference here, Modi also claimed that Atal Bihari Vajpayee had praised him on his handling of the riots when he met the Prime Minister earlier this week.

Modi, who had come in for sharp criticism for the alleged reference to Newton, said “such a theory of action-reaction can emerge only from a fertile brain”.

“All my life I have been a dedicated student of arts. Never in my life I have ever said or written anything like that,” he said, blaming the daily that had attributed the controversial remark to him.

The chief minister lauded his officials for containing the riots. He distributed statistics showing the “diminishing” curve of the communal violence to say the situation was under control and the ongoing violence was only “stray killings”.

As Modi — under attack for the role his government allegedly played in provoking the riots — entered the BJP office, where the conference was held, a group of activists from the organisation, People for Secular India, rushed towards him.

Police arrested about 50 of the demonstrators who shouted slogans against the chief minister and called him “murderer”.

Modi said the Prime Minister lauded his efforts at tackling the rioters. “Main apni tarif kyase karun?” the chief minister asked.

He said his government “has not decided” whether to invoke the anti-terror law against those who were behind the Godhra massacre and the violence that followed.

Modi asserted that though the riots had affected industry, Gujarat was strong enough to tide over the crisis. . “This morning itself there were two or three people with queries for e-governance and e-commerce in the state,” he said.

On why a retired high court judge, and not a sitting judge from the Supreme Court, was chosen to constitute the enquiry commission on the riots, Modi said sitting Supreme Court judges did not have enough time.

About the recent transfers of police officials who allegedly did not comply with government orders and took measures against the Bajrang Dal and VHP-led mobs, Modi said they were routine transfers.

The chief minister took exception to the use of phrases like “butcher” and “ethnic cleansing”, asserting that the violence was “never (a) one-sided affair” and had claimed lives from both the communities. “This is the first communal violence in the country in which 25 per cent of the casualties were the result of police firing on arsonists,” he said.

Asked if he had discussed holding snap polls with Vajpayee, Modi said he was against mixing religion and politics.

Pressed further on whether he favoured early elections, he said “elections are due in 2003”.


Bhopal, March 30: 
Sabarmati Express, the target of the mob attack in Godhra, was back in the news today as it emerged that a ticketless boy lost his legs after he jumped from the train.

The boy and his companion jumped from the train when it was about to stop after other passengers asked them to leave as the two did not have tickets.

The incident near Guna fuelled rumours that the boy was thrown out of the moving train but railway authorities said the two had jumped on their own. The boy’s friend suffered minor injuries.

The officials said the train, on its way to Ahmedabad from Faizabad, was allowed to leave the station only after it was verified that it was an accident.

Gujarat clash

In Gujarat, indefinite curfew was re-imposed in Kadi town of Mehsana district following violence in which one person was killed, adds PTI.


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